Originally published on Role/Reboot and published here with their permission.
(Content Note: abuse, suicide, ableist slurs, anti-fat sentiment)
Do you remember the first time I said that to you?
You insisted the phrase “hey you” was a subtle way of flirting. Every e-mail you sent started with “hey you” thereafter. I admit, my heart danced every time I read those words or heard you speak them during one of our long conversations.
I loved you before I knew I loved you. When you married someone else, I cried myself to sleep. I was with someone at the time, but it still felt like the worst betrayal. I had a hard time looking at him the next day. But I had to move on, and he seemed like a good choice. He reminded me of you, in small ways. His smile, his laugh, his easy going manner were all reminiscent of the one person I really wanted to be with.
Little did I know six months later you’d be on the other end of the phone telling me you were coming home and getting an annulment. “Would you like to maybe get an apartment together?” you asked.
I said, “YES!” without a second thought.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have hung up the phone and never spoken to you again. You were a master liar, carefully crafting your public image. I bought it without a moment of hesitation.
You, my dream, became my worst nightmare. The first year of our marriage was wonderful. We laughed so much and had many adventures. There were warning signs, but I ignored them.
The second year was worse. I knew you were doing things behind my back that no self-professed devout Christian man would ever do.
It became very clear to me that we had different ideals and that you didn’t want a wife, you wanted a surrogate mother. I had no idea how to confront you and became really good at lying to myself: “It doesn’t matter. He loves me.”
No, you didn’t.
By our third year, I finally gathered the courage to confront you and tell you how I felt about it. You called me crazy. You lied. You eventually came clean and promised you’d stop. You blamed me. You told me it was my fault that all of this was happening. I wasn’t a good enough wife, I wasn’t obedient, I didn’t meet your needs fast enough.
That feeling of not being “enough” deepened; I tried harder. I told myself, “I made these vows. I can’t just give up on him.” I can’t tell you how much I wanted to. You made me feel worthless, silly, ugly, scared, hated, unattractive, and lower than I can ever describe. I doubted myself, despite my screaming instincts.
My mom told me, “If you can just get to seven years, everything will get better. I promise.” Another lie. I couldn’t imagine getting to four, let alone seven.
But I tried.
I swallowed every measure of pride I had, every last ounce of self-worth, and I tried. I played the role of the happy, little working housewife. I cleaned, laundered, scrubbed, and cooked my ass off. I planned surprise parties. I cooked fancy dinners and took care of your every need. My entire life became about you. My entire identity became wrapped up in being your wife.
And you knew it.
You used this as a weapon, cutting me with words like: fat, crazy, unattractive, dumpy, lazy, and unwanted. Our sex life became about your pleasure and your pleasure alone. Eventually that stopped altogether. I yearned for you. I yearned for that person I thought you were, the man who never really existed and I kept trying.
I tried so hard, for so long, I started to hate myself. I hated the weak person I had become – easily destroyed by a single word.
And then I did your laundry. I found your underwear smeared with semen. Seven pairs of them. My heart beat faster, my palms slick with sweat, I vomited all over our floor. I never said a word and just cleaned up the mess, carefully washing your black underwear in cold water.
When I cried myself to sleep that night, you rolled over and told me to stop.
When I found out about the last girl, you started telling people I was suicidal. You went to my best friend and told him awful things about me, none of which were true. That night, you told me everything he said in return, and I knew you were trying to make me feel alienated and alone.
We had our fifth wedding anniversary that year, and you bought me toilet seat covers as a present. My heart sunk when you pulled them out of your briefcase, shoving them into my hands. Later, I found out you were with her that night; you smelled like her perfume.
Months later, I looked through your briefcase. When I found the card from her, a shock went through me. My skin tingled, my breath quickened, I gritted my teeth in a seething rage. I became angrier and angrier just looking at that damn card. The shell of solitude and self-hate I built around myself shattered.
I confronted you. I screamed. I yelled. I told you everything I ever wanted to say to you.
I smashed that picture of us on our third anniversary. I hated you.
And you tried to make me kill myself. You held that bottle of pills under my mouth and you told me, “I want you to die.” I slapped them out of your hands and asked you, “How can you tell people you are a devout man when you do the things you do?” You told me, “My relationship with Jesus is none of your business.”
Grabbing the bottle of pills, you held them out to me: “I want you to die.”
A little part of me did. The part that loved you died right then. I packed my bag and left, checking behind me the whole way for fear you’d followed. Walking into the hotel room, I ran for the bathroom, dry heaving through wracking sobs. When you came to apologize and bring me home, I went. I went back into the safe enclosure of what had been my home for the past five years. I went back to what was comfortable.
Somewhere along the way, I finally woke up, fully.
Leaving you was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Thank you for that. Thank you for allowing me to see just how truly awful you are. Thank you for bringing me to my lowest point and for helping me find that strong girl I’d buried under loads of self-hate. I’m stronger in spite of you.
This year would have been our tenth anniversary. Our divorce finally went through, nine months ago. You made the entire year leading up to it a fresh kind of hell, and I admit there were moments where I wanted to pack a bag, empty my bank accounts, and disappear into the woods to escape you.
But I prevailed. Nothing you did this past year compares to the five years I spent being tortured by you.
So, thank you.
Thank you for freeing me from the bonds of forced Christianity. Thank you for making me less naïve. Thank you for helping me bring my game up, because I will never fall for another one of you.
Sarah Blohm is a pseudonym, as the author still fears for her safety.
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