One of the first times I really knew something wasn’t quite normal in how my marriage partnership was functioning was the time that I was telling three close friends about what I had just done a few days prior.
I had turned the thermostat up in the morning to a temperature that I was comfortable with as the weather had become chilly. At the end of the day (meaning, just before my then-husband came home), however, I remembered that I needed to turn it back down. I noticed it wasn’t dropping to the temperature it was “supposed to be” so I stood there in front of my thermostat fanning it frantically and, get this, begging Jesus to make the number go to where it was supposed to be. Yes, I really did that. Oh, and I was crying. I was a Lifetime TV movie right there. I was one of those women, but I couldn’t see it. So I was telling my friends this story, thinking they’d be like, “Oh yeah, I do that all the time,” but instead I saw three sets of eyes looking back at me with a mixture of shock and pity. “Wait, you guys don’t do that?” I asked. I got three resounding no’s, and one even said, “My husband just wants me to be warm and comfortable in my own home.” “He does??” I was floored. And that’s when I think I really knew…something wasn’t right between us.
People who haven’t lived in this cannot understand this. So, let me give you one example of how, early in my marriage, I handled a recurring issue. We’d be at the grocery store. I would put something in the cart. And I would be asked, “Why do you need that?” I would either attempt to argue with, “Well, I don’t need it, per se, but I’d like it,” or, knowing I wouldn’t “win”, I would just take it back out and put it back on the shelf. (Side notes: we were the same age…in other words, both adults. And though those were lean years, we were doing fine financially. Oh, and it’s not like I was tossing a fur coat in there…it was like, I don’t know, a bag of chips.)
I would then seethe, holding in my anger (and, deep down, sadness) over the injustice at least until the car, if not all the way home. Then I’d unleash my wrath, usually in a rage, sometimes with tears and sobs punctuated by me having to stop to catch my breath because I was so upset I was on the verge of hyperventilating. I would say things like, “Either we should both have to ask and have veto power, or we should both be able to put whatever we want – within reason – in the cart.” There was really nothing else for me to say except this one sentence over and over again. It felt like common sense to me. It felt fair. It felt equal. And I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand this inequity among us.
No headway would be made. No headway on this issue of fairness was ever, ever made.
So we would go back to the store and do the same thing, again and again. Until, I just stopped going to the store with him. And then a couple years later, I began receiving a monthly allowance for things like books, clothes for me and the kids, toiletries, etc. and with that money, I would buy food I wanted to buy for myself. Nothing resolved, by any means, but a band-aid that kept me quiet and somewhat satisfied.
I know. You must be thinking right about now, “What the hell? Why didn’t you just put the bag of chips in the cart and keep them in there?” I don’t know. Well, I probably tried; but I’m guessing they were just taken back out. You don’t really know what you’d do in a situation like this until you’re actually in it. But I felt all I had to try to persuade were my words; and they weren’t working. So I just sucked it up. And I sucked it up in a thousand ways just like that for almost nineteen years.
Here’s perhaps how I would handle the exact same situation now.
Pre-next-hypothetical-marriage: go grocery shopping together and see if I can put something in the cart without having to fight for it. If I toss something in, and my partner said, “Why do you need that?”, the 42-year-old Beth would say, “I don’t need that. I want that.” And I will keep it in the cart and keep walking. If he were to take it out without a discussion, I believe I would have to end the relationship because that would (SHOULD) be a huge red flag that I hadn’t learned anything and I was willingly (albeit subconsciously) choosing to relive my first relationship all over again.
How it should go: I toss something in, he tosses something in. We keep on walking. And they lived happily ever after. 😉
Looking back I should have known I was in trouble too when I was the one working full time and making a good wage and the x was not working. This was at the very beginning of our marriage. I wanted to order something from a catalogue and he said no, I did it anyway and there was hell to pay.
So would I look for red flags as you’ve described? You bet.
Time and time again I am completely stunned that someone else has lived my life experiences too. And I am so sad to know that others like yourself have suffered as I. I did not rage. I lost my voice, my rights, and myself. The pictures you painted are identical – and the ones I can paint on my own would have anyone cry “criminal behavior” as to my treatment during my marriage. I stayed for 23 years for the sake of a vow – but the vow I made was never the life I lived. I did not take a vow before God giving this man the right to punch, slap or spit on me, call me vulgar and demeaning names daily, withhold financial covering, and every other million minor infractions like heating and groceries. It was only when the Lord showed me this and gave me a dream – these coupled together led me by faith out of a painful prison and into peaceful green pastures (where the gentle live). My uncle gave such great counsel and wisdom when he said, “Angel, you were a widow and divorced your entire marriage.” I cried buckets of mourning when recognizing this truth.
So true ladies.
Last line comment…YAY! Growth and change is sooo hard at first but sooo wonderful when you start to feel the empowering effects eventually. I am finally getting there and it’s great 🙂
It’s so strange how I can relate to so many of your posts. I could have written this, Beth. Word for word. Except the allowance part for the last few years. He kept “our” account at zero and did the shopping himself because he knew best what we “needed”. Indentured servitude is what it was. And I desperately wanted a partnership and kept being assured that’s what we had! It’s just that I didn’t know how to do anything the right way. Wow.
I have been reading your blog, faithfully now for over 2 years. Never once have I really heard you TELL all…only little bits and pieces that I can read between the lines — but it was very apparent — YOU did fight for the marriage, YOU did the hard and now you are free…released. I even remember the blog post where you shared how he had asked you for a divorce – it was him that initiated it. I remember that post so vividly as I was trying to hold onto my marriage and I knew that I knew, my husband wanted me to ask him for a divorce…as then it would be ‘easy’ for him. ( He was caught in adultery – long soul ties and long time affair..over 4-5 years ) ….But God did not release me. God was very loud in my head and reminded me often – to be still and wait and to show grace and mercy. God is so sweet. HE knew, that HE was going to restore the marriage and restore the trust I had in my husband….our stories are so very different and yet SO the same. As before the revelation….I had lost myself…I had no voice at times and yet in other situations I was the ‘man’ or the leader — how God has brought us out of the muck…but…I say all that to say – finally – I think today – I know exactly how you lived — I watched that …still am watching that with my mom and my dad….I have seen what happens after almost 49 years of it….wow! Bless you Beth….Thanks for sharing your heart and always being respectful of the other person – thank you.
I will say that I initiated the legal separation (which I’ve written about) per my elder board’s counsel, and three months later I was served divorce papers. Just wanted to make that clear.
But I am so glad to hear that he restored your marriage…that is a beautiful story and really encourages me.
I was in a marriage just like that. Scary. I knew when I was with some friends and one’s husband casually asked, “What’s for dinner?” She said, let’s just have cereal tonight,” on the phone. I asked her, “Is he okay with that? ” The other girls all chimed in saying, “Oh yes, sometimes it’s just sandwich or cereal night, laughing. I laughed right along with them, but I knew I would be berated if a full course, hot meal wasn’t prepared (regardless of when my former H would be arriving home). That was when it really clicked that our marriage wasn’t a partnership. We existed for his benefit.
Similar story here, Beth. In a really cold winter our heating is not enough. so I put the oven on. in the morning when he is sleeping or during the day when he is not in.
We have an electric heater, but I am not allowed to use it: it would cost too much. Once it was very cold in our bedroom as the heater was not working, so I told him I was going to use the electric heater. All of a sudden, he didn’t mind to go and fix the one in the bedroom, whereas he had told me it was not possible to fix it before.
Groceries,the same.I stopped going to the shops with him a long time ago.In fact,I don’t go with him anywhere unless it is unavoidable.
I was told I was dramatising my health problems,so when I needed to go and see a doctor in emergency it was a problem. He had to go to work and that was more important. I left the children with him and it was a problem – he could not got to work. Once he was with me in,the hospital and I was so ashamed of his behaviour that I had to turn the other way so that the stuff did not see the tears coming into my eyes.I eventually sent him home, I figured out, it would be less stressful without him.
I could go on and on. no headway was never made either.and he doesn’t care. When I admit all these things, I get really angry and upset, but God has not released me from the marriage.
I must also say that things were much better when I had my own income and had fairly enough to cover my needs and the needs of my children, but it is not the case any longer.
So there remains a question, why is it called a partnership when what realy happens is that one person is controling the other?
I am sorry, I am rambling. But it does hurt a lot.
Wow, I am amazed at how many of your posts hit home! When my second son was a baby we drove 14 hours to visit my sister. It was a hot humid day, my stbx would not let me put the air conditioning on saying it would cost more money. When we arrived my baby was lifeless, I panicked and made him take us to the ER. Just waiting in the waiting area my son started to squirm and move around. He had heat exhaustion. Why I allowed that an many other things I don’t know. I hope if I will take notice of red flags in the future!