From work will set me free, to the truth will set you free.

March 20, 2019 at 9:44 pm (My Marriage, Uncategorized)

I was afraid. More afraid, in retrospect, than I had been in some time. She was angry and I had no idea what would come next. She had been quiet for a few hours, in and of itself not a bad thing; but she had opened a bottle of wine. I knew then there would be a problem. I tried to offset the danger with kind words—all of which were shrugged off. I even started hoping that she would drink faster and maybe the rage would have subsided before it was midnight. We were not out, so that minimized the threat of physical pain. Something she preferred in public where she knew I could not respond, or leave.

Once   started there was no reprieve, no space, no ground to give and no place to hide. Nothing was off limits, a form of unrestricted warfare better suited to the Great War. Pure hatred manifested in the woman that I loved. From these moments I understood both extreme depression and the idea of a demonic possession—all in the features of her face. I chose to believe that it wasn’t her. How could it be her, without contradictions we are forced to find the misplaced premise—what was mine?

This was becoming routine, one upon which my life crashed against time and again under the shifting sands of her various triggers. Triggers that would justify any action. Without regrets she would tear into my very being, my family, friends, character; all were subject to castigation. For over a year I dug deeper into the perpetual cycle only now recognizable as control and manipulation. Over a year of increasing isolation—I was alone, friends, family and my principles abandoned in the hopes of appeasement. Forever reproaching myself to save me from the inevitable renunciation of who I was for her needs. The illumination of hindsight showed me the exploitation, laid bare the control, and the depths in which I had fallen.

I was afraid of the truth. The truth that what I was involved in was not love. A phone call to a friend, sometime just before the end, laid bare this fact. In the back of my mind I knew what I was dealing with could not be typical. It didn’t matter how many times I was told that it was ordinary. “Call your friends and ask, they will tell you, it is normal.” Friends who she had already stated were horrible spouses, and in marriages that had failed. She had set the conditions for the trap. I also knew deep down that if I called, they would tell me that it wasn’t right. I did not want to know. I hid from the truth for with the truth I would be forced to act. It would have been the final break between who I had been, and the person I had become.

Then it happened; I was drowning. My insecurities had reached their final resting point, somewhere between life and death. I called a friend only to hear how amazing his life was. A family with children and happiness. The call started as all calls do—pleasantries of hello, generalities that are the grease of conversations. It opens for the subtilties of a deeper connection. A friend of many years saw through the forced small talk and stated “you don’t sound all that great brother.” Light hints at what had happened, things that had been said or done, over a cell phone as I walked the streets of Monterey. He asked me if I understood what I was saying—what it was I was experiencing. I said no, and then again, no. I wasn’t ready to hear the truth. His response—Abuse. That was the first time it was said out loud. My response was, “I know.” So natural, it just sprung up from somewhere inside, I had known, I knew. Now what?

I became withdrawn, more than just sullen. A condition that was more on the inside than on the outside as my spouse required the presentation of happiness and spontaneity—even when none existed. It was once again more important to look right than be right. I know that my response was not assertive and kind, it was passive and meek. A condition that I had resigned myself to in order to keep peace. Of course, it never brought peace. Much like my first firefight, I would relive every choice and decision over and over; to find the fault of my actions. Had I been more assertive, had I been more caring, had I said I love you one more time. It had to be me, my past, my statements, my failures as a man, as a person, and as a husband. It was the final point of despair, the recommittal to the belief that it was my fault while simultaneously knowing that it wasn’t.

I broke a short time after that. Knowing the truth of the situation and knowing that there was no way to fix it. I broke on the inside. In a way that none of my military training had done, I broke. I placed the complete failure and loss of who I was in an empty bottle of scotch which I emptied from sunup to noon. Clutching the bottle, I wondered my house muttering to myself, crying, demurely laying waste to all the lies in which I had lived. Reciting every act, every threat, every devaluation, every cut and blow that had laid me down. My mantra in repetition, a compilation of all my faults and mistakes. I repeated to myself everything she had ever said to me about my friends, parents, and me. I even repeated to myself over and over that I was a murderer for the actions I took in Iraq and other locations. All of the fractures and injuries of my being, no mater how small were voiced. All of the pain of failure, of love, of despair came from the deepest part of my being and entered the empty spaces of a shattered home.

I woke up in the kitchen for just a minute, as I had passed out on the floor. I was covered in items from the fridge, I was watching my spouse pour ketchup on me while calling me names. In my stupor, covered in ketchup and mustard and cheese and whatever else was there, I said to myself I deserve this. This is what I get for being week. For being all the things that she had ever said. And I slipped back into sleep. That was the end of who and what I had become; for all intents and purpose I had ceased to be a person, let alone a man—there was nothing left to give. She had asked for my sacrifice, and gladly I laid down on the alter of her making. Only to find that it wasn’t enough.

The pain woke me up much later in the evening. She had left at some point, as she did from time to time. Never telling me where, just gone. I would text to ensure that she was ok, to state my love for her. Not tonight, tonight was different. It was the end, or the beginning. It depends on which version of me you ask. I was forced to choose between the “thing” that I had become, or the man that I think I once was. Each day became a chance to gain just a millimeter back, not in defiance of her, but rather in defiance of what I was. She could see the changes, or at least sense them, and with this the pressure increased, her temper exacerbated. She shifted from attacking me, to those that I cared about, even those that were or should have been off limits. The untouchables in my life, my mother became a C-word, my friends became gay miscreants cheating on their wives with me and other men, my father became an abuser, and a number of others.

Those were the good days. Those were the days that I knew it was wrong. It was the weekly assaults on my credibility as a man that were tough. Tough because where I was once strong and had been weakened to the point of believing them. I knew that I could not sexually please her like her old boyfriends. I knew that she loved her ex-husband more than me, and her ex-boyfriend more than me; I knew this because she told me so. I was learning to accept that it was a lie. That the faults of mine where the workings of her own concerns. That it was a mirroring of sorts, recognizing that what was being said was what was on the inside. It made me ashamed of who she was. The love I had for her began to erode. And these days were just, ok, not bad.

Bad was when she hurt me, when she gripped my side in public until I bled. Broken computers, hate speech, midnight rants to friends of all of the above, the constant threats. The legal threats, the threats on my life, the threats on my friends and their lives, families and careers. All ending in a conversation with our therapist, where she laughed about threatening to tell my commanding officer that I physically abuse her. She laughed and the therapist laughed—this should have been more concerning than what it was at the time. Even as I was convinced to sit back down, I should have recognized that the system would be set against me. From the therapist room to the courts, she would have the advantage.

The realization that I still had no control was a devastating moment. I should have known it much sooner than I did, but I had grown to love the one that hurt me. As I could not admit to the abuse, nor could I admit to the loss of control. Even as she sunk her nails into my side, in public, daring me to do something so that she could call the police for. I dreamed that I was an equal in the relationship—or at least maybe I deserved it. I will always remember the feeling of helplessness when she sexually assaulted me against my will. Yes, I had the power to stop it, physically—but not emotionally. I gave in, capitulated in a number of varied situations. I was damaged to the point where I believed that the only way to say no was to use physical force—of which I was terrified, given the conditioning of labels like murder and PTSD—or to pretend it didn’t matter.

As if the abuse before wasn’t dangerous, as if there could be level of tolerance, scratching but not punching, asshole not faggot, as if character had a limit on its defamation; she added a new level of threats. Before the final joint therapy session, she began to have me followed. While in Ohio she tracked my phone. Then while I was in D.C., her friends went as far as to grab bar receipts. Old friends that I had dinner with became the subject of new attacks and threats of subpoenas. After moving back to D.C. my car was broken into–the police have only one suspect—and a Private Investigator waited for me outside of my front door. In a desperate act she called my parents and told them secrets of my life—things I am not proud of, mistakes, transgressions and experiences from the war. This phone call forever changed my relationship with my own family. Following this she then began to take my life apart piece by piece.

By the time we were not living together it was just shy of three years, including our courtship. In the first month of separation, and almost a year into therapy, I would call every day and ask how she was doing, ask about her search for a job. I would ask if she needed anything. She would rarely ask for anything, but would instead fall back into some minor attack, some statement of my reputation in D.C. It was clear even then that it was the reputation that she cared about, and the less I cared the more frustrated she became. It was then she emptied over half of our assets, then late in the middle of the night, after being paid she took almost a month’s income. She then called my work after trying to blackmailing me into paying even more monies to her. She even reached out to powerful senators in Washington to continue the attacks against me. She found a friend of mine, turned much earlier by the lure of sex and her adoration, who advised me that I was wrong.

It was in this moment that I realized that I needed help. Not just the therapy that had remote diagnosed her with Border Line Personality Disorder, but a lawyer. For years she used legal jargon and threats to stop me in my tracks. Her legal expertise has yet to be proven; yet as I have none, I found security in the services of a boutique law firm. My attorney was able to turn what seemed insurmountable into the normal, the day to day. Calming my fears with promises of safeguarding my position. Armed with my own growth, a therapist, and a lawyer I was able to bring control and order back to my life. As much control as I wanted to believe I had reclaimed, I knew, and will forever know, that my position is built on the infirm ground of a system that will not recognize the abuse that I received. As I needed out, the negotiations would be skewed in her favor even as she waited for almost over a year to respond to my plea for a divorce.

Over the next year while living in the middle of Africa I was able to reclaim my financial stability. I spent the year reducing the threats to smaller problems; I was able to plan, coordinate, seek out help and minimize her affects on my life. After a year of delay and indifference she is now participating in the divorce process, once again throwing accusations, and threats. She is now asking for the money I have made since leaving, all the while with no ability to answer the very specific question of “how do you want this to end.” It is possible that she has yet to decide that it should end. Fortunately, I have a year a healing, a year of help, a year of distance and a reaffirming of my right to exist. From this position I am once again as (presumably) unbreakable as I was when I went combat, passed selection for special forces, or graduated ranger school. In reality I am stronger, and more compassionate, than I ever was.

The recovery was not easy, nor fast. The complete loss of self-esteem and the need to rebuild from scratch is a daunting task. My fortune comes from family, and extended family of close friends that raced in to fill the gaps of my life that were lost in my marriage. With a quickness they depended on me, asking questions, advice, and help; in things so small and at times so large that it forced me to dig deep in my expertise and confidence. To be brought back into the fold. To be forgiven, or told that I need not be forgiven at all. These men, and women upon whom had accomplished immeasurable feats, needed me. Or were at least kind enough to need me for those moments.

It has been over a year, in fact almost two years of recovery and over a year of divorce. I am a better man, and happier than I have been in a long time. I forget the damages done, and am only now just free as the Military has finally stopped indulging my ex in groundless investigations. I have started a new life and am not afraid or angry at women, though I have found it hard to trust. I am looking forward to my next adventure as I return to the states from East Africa and get ready to travel to North Africa.

 

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Smile

September 4, 2017 at 5:52 pm (My Marriage, Uncategorized)

I used to tell her “smile, its ok.” Sometimes I would shorten the command to just one word “smile.” I never understood her displeasure with this form of motivation. I couldn’t make the leap she tried to share with me that it was the epitome of my male privilege to tell her that she should be happy. It had been used or directed at me for most of my youth. Maybe my parents assumed that I should just be happy. Maybe my lack of a smile was a judgment or grade of my parents’ skills. Though, I never thought that when I would grin from ear to ear and say, “smile” to her. My prodding was an attempt to lighten the darkening mood that I would find her in. Socially, the same command was used, in public at times, though I do not remember ever shouting the word as a command. But non-the-less in the world around us I would ask her, beg of her and at times order her to smile. My continued prodding failed each and every time to secure the response that I so intensely desired. I tried changing the approach over time, yet found myself falling back on the most simplest of words.

In retrospect and with the barely scratched glasses of hindsight I have found that perhaps it was me who should have been smiling. That maybe that alone would have been enough. This of course leads you to the slippery slope, which is logic, right to the conclusions that my lack of strength was and is the reason that she could not find happiness with me. Where did my smile go? My friends will not dismiss my sarcastic side and my less that optimistic side, but they would have told you to a man and woman that I was going to grin at every opportunity. So where had my smile gone? I will not attempt to answer that question in the next page or so, nor will I play the victim, even thought the reading could be quite enjoyable. Instead I want to tell you about a vacation, an island, and a birthday party. Though not for me, it turns out that I might have walked off with the best gift possible. By now you must know what I found—a smile.

The pessimism and sarcasm in my life over powered my better angles and left me wondering with my head and eyes towards the ground. It was a beating that those pour creatures could not bear and they succumbed to the abuse, shackled and chained over time, the bonds as formidable as any trial that I had faced in my past. From this position, I found that the opportunities to smile, to truly embrace happiness where fading. Oh, I smiled, as I told others to do so. I picked my head up and did as I have told numerous others in their times of need. I got up each morning, made coffee, put my clothes on and continued to work as hard as I could each and every day. I told myself that I could work my way through this impending crisis only to find that the crisis never ended. I smiled as adults do, as the down trodden, as those who contemplate way worse endings than that of which I will find—a smile without happiness.

This was what I had when I landed in Puerto Rico. I used it as I toed the waters of kindness. I threw it out and assumed, wrongly, that I was receiving the positive responses that I remember, but then again what could I have remembered. My life from before was separate, cut off and left behind. My identity, friends and even at times my family were compartmentalized and removed for my self-preservation. And yes, here again we will avoid the slipper slide towards the obvious response. Why is it that we have friends, family or an identity if not for the sake of self-preservation? It is as close to a drowning man believing that the life jacket will weight you down.

Salt breezes, crashing waves, fine sand and a relentless sun greeted me each and every morning. I saluted all that I saw with a cup of coffee in one hand and book in the other. I would, in a weeklong ritual as spiritual as a first communion, great the day each morning, read my book, and patiently await some of the best friends that a man could ever ask for. Like the island I was visiting, I disconnected from the world that I had left, news, emails, and even my phone were sacrificed for the opportunity to worship along the beach, to paddle the luminescent coves and to dine with the company of whom all smiled on impulse. It was disconcerting at times to see how fluid and natural their happiness was, their interactions—all without blame, without each phrase being taken personally in the way that I had come to expect.

I am not slightly off topic. I practiced happiness and smiling with my friends, with the bar tenders. When I was uncertain I was doing it right, I practiced with the pool, with the ocean, and on occasion with the books that I was reading. At night I was patient and would look and find Orion along the horizon, his arms held high with the lion and the club. I would look to him, as I have for all of my life for a sense of strength and purpose. He shouted down at me the answer that I had needed. The heavens did not provide me with the herculean tasks that I had come to expect, but rather a clarity of purpose, using the simplest words, was and still is “to live.”

At this point I could hear in my mind the thousand times I had said this phrase, or had this phrase said to me; “smile.” The physical representation of living fully to me was the same. It echoed in my head and without thought, and slowly, my grin formed and widened. The cosmos had answered me, through the crashing roar of the waves, past the blinding glare of the sun, and the omnipresent winds. In the most clearest of voices possible and contrary to the work of Christopher Hitchens the cosmos shouted down to me to smile, to live, to remember. And surely enough I did. Without difficulty it came to me, without pressure I used it, and with the greatest of joys I found it in the response of those around me. I could see the light reflected off their faces and back to me. I smiled and found myself living again.

 

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