*This is the fourth chapter of a story that left off here last week.
Things have happened over the course of my marriage that I never thought would have happened. Kind of like the whole “things I never thought I’d have to say to my kids” thing between moms. Only, this isn’t funny. Some of it is crazy, for sure. But not funny. At all.
For many of these incidents, there are a few common themes. Besides anger and rage, an ongoing, continuous accusation of infidelity based on nothing, and an unrelenting marathon of arguing that usually goes into the wee hours of the morning — sometimes as late as 4 a.m.
He wouldn’t leave me alone. Wouldn’t let me sleep. If I answered him, or defended myself, I was “making excuses.” If I just shut up, and took it, I was avoiding and acting suspicious. I literally couldn’t win. And, all I wanted to do was get out of the argument. Because, usually, it started with something ridiculous.
Like the time he chased me down the driveway as I pulled away in my car and he threw a full soda at my car. I parked in disbelief that he had done that. For everyone to see. And then he stood there and appeared to be screaming at the top of his lungs. His face was red and he was just spewing. He told me later he wasn’t even making a sound. Just mouthing it.
I mean, you have to be some kind of pissed to mouth something that hard that your face turns red and your neck bulges out.
How did that start? Because I dropped his medication off for a refill but didn’t stay and wait for them to fill it. I went through the drive through with four kids in the car, trying to avoid the death trap that is kids in a Walgreens — waiting and asking for every single thing in the store. So, I used the drive thru, that they invented for convenience.
Nope. I was accused of not “following through” and “not giving a shit.” Why would I even offer to drop it off, he said, if I wasn’t going to do the job the whole way? I told him I could go pick it up that night on the way to the concert I had been excited to attend for months. No big deal. I’ll swing by and grab it, even though he still had a couple doses downstairs and didn’t immediately need the refill.
He continued. He then railed on me for failing to cook him dinner before I left for a night out that I literally hadn’t had in years. Years. I left to go to the concert. He chased me. I cried. I got the stupid medicine, got him a burger, called my friends to tell them a kid had thrown up and I would miss the show, and came home. And the fight went on for hours.
“If you don’t go to that concert, we are getting divorced tomorrow,” he screamed at me into the phone. “I will not be held responsible for this.”
How could I go anywhere after the way he had yelled at me and treated me? Seriously?
Other things. Well, the computer in the wall. The broken flat screen. He punched a wall so hard his hand was swollen for a few days afterward. Like his whole hand.
He took a baseball bat to a cupboard in our garage and literally annihilated it. And left it there for me to see. He was great at slamming doors, multiple times, to get his point across. So good the kids would jump in their beds as I put them to sleep.
One time, during a marathon session, he decided to light a cigar at about 4 a.m., go into the kitchen (which is steps from the kids’ bedrooms), turn on music and all the lights, and fry up a pound of bacon. He smoked up the kitchen, cooked the bacon and passed out on the couch.
The burner was still on.
Another time, at about 5 a.m. following another marathon session, he turned on the TV — loud — in the room next to our bedroom and started yelling the news to me as he smoked a cigar in the house (which he never, ever does, unless it’s an attempt to show he’s the man).
When I didn’t respond to his nonsense, he came into our bedroom, turned on the overhead lights, pulled back the covers I had on, and turned on our TV — loud — and walked out. I turned it off, turned off the lights and laid back down.
When I did, he came in and stood over me, next to our bed, and silently smoked his cigar, blowing smoke at me as he exhaled. I got up to get ready for work, and he stood next to the shower curtain, smoking his cigar and blowing smoke into the shower.
He threw a massive pub-style glass in our basement out of frustration, sending glass everywhere. He would take my cell phone in the night, look through it, download tracking apps, and then put it back like nothing had happened. He would go into our phone bill and check the call and text logs, then make accusations. He would check my google maps activity and ask questions about where I had been — sometimes wondering where I had been two years previously, as if I could remember.
When he wouldn’t leave me alone during a fight, I would try to get away by going outside in the backyard. He would follow me, and then lock me out in the backyard in the middle of the night. I remember once being so exhausted from the whole thing that I just laid on the grass and cried, in a heap. It was all I could do. Plus, it was like 3 a.m. and I had to work the next day.
He would text me constantly while at work. If I didn’t answer right away, he’d call. If I missed the call, he’d call the office. If I missed that call, he’d text me and say he was on his way over. Just insanity. Utter insanity.
There was one time that I had asked him to leave, I can’t remember why exactly. But it was bad and he stayed at his mom’s house for a night. He came back at like 3 or 4 a.m., came in the house, and took my phone that I had right next to my pillow. He hid it. And, wouldn’t give it back.
I was terrified. It was the middle of the night. He had come back in the house. And, I had no way to notify anyone if I needed help. It was so messed up, and until the day he had cornered me with that table, the most scared I’ve ever been.
I always half-joke and say, “I watch Dateline. I know what can happen.” But, seriously. People snap every day. And, when he took that phone from me, I was shaking.
And still — still — I didn’t believe in those moments that I was in an abusive marriage. It was just a series of really bad days. In my mind. That’s how hard the jump is — the jump from “what a horrible day” to “this is abusive and I need to leave.”
One day, while at work, and in between a barrage of texts and phone calls from him, he sent me one that said he was on his way to my office — his big threat. But, he never showed. Or, I never saw him. And he told me I wasn’t in the office when he came, but I was there all day.
He then followed with a text that said he had just gotten in an accident. He had to go to the hospital. He would need an MRI, but “you don’t give a shit.” When I asked what hospital, he wouldn’t tell me. When I asked if he was okay, all he said was how little I really cared.
He was fine, he told me later. The MRI didn’t reveal anything. But he had a bloody nose and got blood on his shirt. Someone had rear-ended him, he said, and that someone didn’t have insurance. So the kid got a ticket.
He told me every last detail. And I worried about his neck, thinking he may have whiplash the next day. He might be sore. He complained of some soreness, actually.
And the next day, he told me he made the whole thing up. He had taken his truck and deliberately backed it into a wall to try and get my attention. There was no accident. No MRI. No soreness. It was all fake.
And that’s why I didn’t believe him a few weeks later when I walked into our bedroom and saw his medication bottles tipped over and empty. All of them were empty. A few beer bottles were scattered around the room, and he was laying in our bed, somewhat woozy. But was he acting woozy?
“Do I need to call someone to help you?” I asked him.
He told me to leave him alone, in a groggy voice. I told him I wasn’t about to have an ambulance show up at our house and traumatize our kids if there wasn’t any reason for one. I didn’t believe him from the get-go.
I googled what an overdose on his medication would look like. I learned it would take hours and possibly days to see a side effect. It wouldn’t be mere minutes. And a few minutes later, after I called his mom and told her, he was up and going and out the door, talking fine and leaving the situation as if nothing ever happened.
I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve been accused of cheating on him. He would look at my dirty underwear and insist I had been with someone else. Once, he took a pair of my dirty underwear and circled spots on the underwear that he said were clearly residue from someone else. He took them to get tested, he said. Another lie.
He once thought I was cheating when I pulled off to a coffee shop to finish a little work before heading home to the insanity of all of our kids, and he drove to the coffee shop (using my google maps) and walked in barefoot. He left the house so fast he never put on shoes, and in the process left our kids home alone, when the oldest was 8. Another time, he made up an elaborate story about a new business lead, a local construction company, to try to see if I would fess up to something.
It wasn’t a business lead. It was someone he thought I was hooking up with based on my google maps. He thought I had been frequenting an older gentleman’s house to sleep with him, and by older I mean he was a grandpa, when really I was about two doors down getting checks and signing paperwork at the home of my PTSO treasurer. He was so sure of it, he drove to the guy’s house once, again leaving the kids home alone.
It was just utter craziness.
While on vacation once, in a dining room full of rude Asian tourists, he insisted I was checking out other men while eating breakfast with our family. I like literally couldn’t even respond to that accusation. I just cried in the tiny bathroom inside our hotel room after he berated me all the way back to the room from the dining area.
Here’s the thing. The accusations were one thing, but the insults and name calling that followed, coupled with the fierce looks he would lob my way — they were debilitating. So demoralizing. I mean, my kids would hear his accusations. They could feel the energy. And I had done nothing wrong. At all. Ever.
It was like I was always cornered — even if there wasn’t a table pressed against me.
It got to a point that I felt I could only avoid confrontation and accusations if I just looked at the ground while I was out. So that’s what I did. I barely talked to anyone else, even if someone was just making friendly small talk. I didn’t want to give him any ammo for another all-nighter. Because there was always one lurking.
Most regularly though, I’ve been accused of never cooking for my family. Not “giving a shit.” Not focusing on my family or him. Neglecting him. Choosing to go to work over dealing with other issues. Lying. Cheating. Not loving him enough — and not showing it.
It was exhausting. And it was a cycle, for sure. Every few weeks, if I was lucky. Sometimes it would be more frequent than that.
I literally couldn’t win. I was never enough no matter what. What I did was never enough.
But I’d soon realize I was enough. Because I’d have to start figuring out things on my own. For me. And for my kids.