After years of being married and thinking I was losing my mind, I decided to see a therapist to help with a ‘communication problem’ my then husband kept telling me I had. His line to me always was that I didn’t know how to communicate and after years of hearing that line I believed it. I believed it so much that I couldn’t formulate a simple sentence to express myself when he and I were speaking. I had so many things going through my mind that I could and wanted to say, but when I opened my mouth to speak nothing came out and instead I would tremble and break down and cry.
This ‘communication problem’ started affecting other areas of my life, work, friends, anyone to whom I needed to express coherent thought would get a great big jumble of nothing while I suffered stomach pains, headaches and panic attacks. I decided the best thing was to keep to myself. The less I engaged in conversations and social situations the better it was for me. Then no one would see.
The day I decided to see a Therapist was my biggest blessing. I was extremely nervous for my first appointment, but I’d promised myself that I would be open and honest and just tell her about my problem as best I could. To help me to do this, I spent days before my appointment making notes to help me remember what I wanted to say. I had pages and pages of situations to support my inability to communicate at home, at work and with friends.
At my appointment, after reading my many pages of notes and answering many questions from the therapist, I learned that my marriage showed signs of emotional abuse. The constant put downs, ridicule and shaming in front of friends and negative comments and mean stories told in jest, all these things came together to erode my self-confidence and self-worth. I was surprised! How could I have let that happen to me? The therapist asked me to think about what my marriage had been like over the years starting from day 1 to the day I came to see her and write it all down so we could discuss it.
This is what my marriage was like:
The first year we were together after we met was bliss. He listened to everything I had to say. We went on long walks, traveled, went to movies, dinners, spent time with friends, shared the chores, he followed me around all the time. He’d say I was so beautiful and he was so lucky to have me that he wanted to see me all the time so he wouldn’t think he was dreaming.
The second year we were together, he met my family and charmed them the same way he charmed me. They all fell in love with him. He was wonderful with my mother, doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen after meals…and we visited my mom every weekend so that’s a lot of dishes. My sisters and brother-in-law did the 101 questions and he passed their test with flying colours. In everyone’s eyes we were the perfect match. He was my forever, my prince charming.
The third year we were together, we got married and got pregnant almost immediately, this was something we planned. Having children was at the top of our list and we both wanted 4 children. After I got pregnant things started to change. He spent a lot of time at work, or out with friends and was unreachable when I tried calling. He complained about the meals, the state of the house, the fact that I was gaining weight, and a million other complaints. He started making jokes about my appearance and telling stories that were hurtful and demeaning when we were with his friends. He no longer helped with chores or listened to what I had to say. As a matter of fact he repeatedly told me that I had poor communication skills. He would correct me at every turn and imply that I was stupid by asking me if I thought something I said was smart. We no longer spent time hiking or doing any of the fun things we did in the first year of our relationship. Instead every day we fought about something and whatever that something was, was usually my fault.
As my pregnancy progressed, there would be times when he would accidentally bump into me hard enough that I would either fall into the wall or on the floor. Or accidentally elbow me in the stomach. Everything was accidental and if I said anything about it I was told my pregnancy hormones were causing me to imagine things that are not happening. Money started disappearing from our account without explanation. I would ask about the missing money and was told that I’d spent it and was trying to blame him. He started coming home intoxicated and told me that he had to stay drunk in order to be with me as I’d become disgusting to look at. He would make puking noises as I came into a room, then laugh.
When I talked to him about the changes in our relationship, he would tell me that I’m the only one who changed. That he was stressed at work and that my cooking was no good anymore. He would tell me that if I was able to communicate properly, he would be coming home to me and not hanging out late with friends. Nothing was ever his fault.
After our daughter was born, things became even worse. He would go through everything, every time I left the house and returned he would search my purse, the stroller…he was looking for anything the men I went to see left behind. He accused me of cheating. Of flirting with his male friends and co-workers. He would get upset if he saw me talking to any males, including our next door neighbour who helped to cut our grass and clear our snow.
After 8 years together and many attempts on my part to work out our problems while being told that I had a ‘communication problem’, everything was my fault and I was too stupid to understand, I went to see a therapist.
I am no longer in that marriage. I decided it was time to love myself again and to teach our daughter that women and men are equal and deserve the same amount of respect. I have spent many years with my therapist and in support groups working on healing from the effects of emotional abuse.