Last week, I wrote about the beginning of my relationship with my ex and how in hindsight, there were red flags and warnings all over the place. Like last time, I’m not sure where this post will go.
While we were dating, I remember one particular fight where he had gotten upset (I mean, really mad) that I had gotten a ride home from the university with a friend of mine. Enzo was quite nice to look at and we became friends after I sat by him during research study meetings. However, the more I had talked to Enzo, the more I knew I could never date him (he once asked me what to do after he scheduled three dates in one night… definitely not my type!) None of this mattered to my ex though, so I turned down future offers for a ride home and took the shuttle bus instead.
For the first few years of our marriage, I thought he was a calm person. I learned, though, that his temper could flare and it wasn’t predictable, and it didn’t matter who was around. We had a party for my dad’s 50th birthday at our house. Things were going pretty well until one of my brother’s kids hung on the side of a drop-leaf table and flipped it over, sending several 2-liter soda bottles tumbling to the floor. My ex shouted and cursed at the kid and everyone stood there awkwardly for several moments before my sister-in-law announced they were leaving. Everyone else followed. I never had another family gathering at my house.
We had our first son five years after we were married. This brought an increase in short temper. For a long time, he worked an overnight shift so he would sleep during the day- ever try keeping a toddler quiet all day? As time went on, I noted that his temper became worse if he was tired, didn’t feel good or he was stressed about anything. I still have a note my ex wrote me when our first son was six weeks old. He was hurt that I didn’t trust him to be left alone with our son during the day while I was at work.
I managed to not recollect many instances of cursing or unreasonable physical punishment, probably because if I did, it would be hard to justify why I stayed. I do remember many times stealing sideways glances at my parents after my ex would hurt, curse, or yell at the kids. I could tell by clenched jaws and closed eyes that they saw/heard. So, I tried to limit the amount of time we spent with them.
When our first son was three, there was an incident in public and I panicked when I saw a lady nearby stopped walking to her car and stared. Our son had pulled my ex’s work jacket off the hanger while getting in the truck’s back seat. My ex yelled/cursed at him and hit him with the hanger. I told him to stop because a lady was staring and, thankfully, he did.
Why didn’t I leave?
I believe that marriage is (or should be) forever- for better or for worse, and he wasn’t a monster all of the time. I rationalized that a son needs his father.
When I was pregnant with our second son, there were many times that I cried and apologized to my unborn baby and God because I felt I’d married the devil. My ex’s anger and negativity had become almost constant and difficult to bear. He never laid a hand on me, but I was always on edge- watching closely so I could step in if he got too rough with our kids. I grew frustrated with constantly asking him to not curse. His response was that was how a childhood therapist instructed him to vent his anger. So, basically, it wasn’t going to change.
Then there was the time when a friend from junior high was in town and I met up with her to visit. I wanted her to meet my kids because it had been many years since I’d seen her. My younger son was a little fussy, so my ex took the kids for a walk. Kristy and I visited for another fifteen minutes or so before he came back and asked if we were almost done because it was “f-ing hot”. I was embarrassed by him (again) and with that, the visit with my friend was over.
In 2009, twelve years after we married, and when our second son was three, my ex had a major temper fit. He ended up breaking a drawer of his nightstand and terrified our younger son with his yelling. I stayed in the other room and cried, leaving his mother to deal with it. (She was visiting because he just had thyroid surgery.)
She relayed to me that he told her his outburst was my fault because I was too “f-ing busy” (to do what he wanted me to do right then) and he was upset because I made more money than him, and he didn’t feel like he “ruled the roost.” Oh, and the pain medication was the reason for his outburst, so he was going to quit taking it. I was frustrated because the temper and anger was there before the medication. He went to a few sessions of counseling, but that was it. This was the first time I started checking into what our house might be worth and what my half of the sale might be.
But I didn’t act. I wasn’t ready to accept that I failed at marriage. I wasn’t ready to let my parents know they were right. I didn’t talk to anyone about what was going on because I didn’t want their judgment if I didn’t leave. I felt helpless, confused and alone.
This was about the time I threw myself into writing fiction.