Trauma Response

I read a great quote the other day:

There have been times during this divorce process I have felt ashamed for my actions. Things I’ve done that were ways of coping.

One of the hardest things is that I have learnt to shut down. I have done things in order to escape the pain. I have isolated myself.

The truth is that right now I’m a bit of a mess. My counsellor asked me the other day to write down the times I stood up to my husband. I can count very few. Once was when he was going to hang himself (manipulation), and I told him that he could do it just not in the front yard where my kids could find him. He stopped threatening that for a long time. The next time was after he had smashed a door and I made him leave for two weeks. Another time was when he wanted a threesome with my friend and I refused and he wouldn’t speak to me, but I didn’t care. Lastly was probably when I left him.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try. It’s that it so often felt useless. He would bully or manipulate his way no matter what I said.

Since the separation it has been hard. Looking back on so many times I have given in for years to his suicide threats. I gave in for years to his control. The days on end he wouldn’t speak to me while I tried to ‘fix it’. Walking on eggshells so I don’t upset him. I slowly did get stronger and learnt to ignore the moods, but it didn’t hurt any less.

I was stuck. Trapped. In a country I wasn’t entitled to welfare, I was a SAHM and had no job and no financial support.

He would create a fight every time I went to a woman’s night. He would distance me from my friends. He even changed our phone number once so my Mum couldn’t call me. If he didn’t get sex he would create an argument until 4am until as a tired Mum of five kids I would finally relent. #coercedconsentisnoconsent . He would want anal sex, and every time we had sex (it was a lot) he would try to make it anal and I would constantly have to be redirecting him. I would wake in the night to him on top of me having sex with me. #unconciouspeoplecantgiveconsent ! He wanted a threesome with my friend and I said no, then one day woke up to already being in the middle of one #nomeansno

At the same time I was raising five kids. I was carrying the entire mental load of the family, while dealing with his constant mood fluctuations and demands. He wanted a servant, not a wife.

The problem is when you put up with things, they never change. You learn to live in the boiling pot until one day you are so defeated, so tired from fighting for your marriage, for your kids, for your own headspace that you break. And I broke. My breaking included having an emotional affair. I escaped into a world where someone was kind. Where they saw me. Where I was noticed.

The truth is, while it seemed this broke us up because I wanted someone else, the truth is that it broke us up because it finally gave me the strength to say enough.

But going through the divorce is really no different. I’m still carrying the mental load. I’m still backing down to ‘appease’ him. Because I want a harmonious family for my kids.

When he was here staying (he is living in a different state) I backed down and allowed him to sleep in my bed due to lack of room. I allowed him to cuddle me. I allowed him to massage me a couple of times – until I realised it wasn’t about me, but his own sexual gratification. I allowed him to kiss me even though I hated it – because I am always trying to keep the peace due to the repercussions being harder than putting up with something. When I woke up to him getting me off, I didn’t say anything even though I felt sick to my stomach – firstly at him for touching me while I was sleeping and secondly for my body betraying me and orgasming.

I’m still carrying the mental load of our kids. I’m still carrying the mental load of renovating so we can sell the house. On top of that I’m realising so many of his behaviours were abusive, and having to deal with the emotions I kept buried for years in order to ‘get through’.

After the separation I did quite well, until the other man pursued me to have an affair with him. To be fair I considered it, then rejected it. I am worth too much to be someone’s bit on the side. His wife is worth too much for him to cheat one her – as a side note, he still contacts me. I’m going to send my boys to see him this week to let him know they know and it ends now. But after that I was so devastated at the let down I escaped into smoking again. I escaped by spending almost every night at my neighbours – it was the one place I could go and watch tv, or listen to music and not think. My mind is tired. I’m tired. I also escape my sleeping. I believe I escaped in our marriage by overeating.

One thing I have realised in the last week is that I am so drained by carrying all of this. The guilt, the decision to end the relationship and the weight that holds, the house, the kids. I’m exhausted. I need help. Counselling has been great and also incredibly painful as it brings up so many emotions. Like why did I not stand up to him more? Why do I still always try to ‘keep the peace’. Why do I ‘shut down’?

But it’s time to stop escaping. It’s time to get this journey done and dusted. I’m having my kids over for dinner in a couple of days and I’m asking for their help. For them to step in where I am unable.

1. I want it clear there will be no reconciliation

2. I want them to understand where I am at

3. I want it clear when ex moves back in three weeks I will not visit them, but my door is always open

4. I want them to understand I won’t do ‘family’ birthdays.

5. I need them to help me finish the house.

6. I want my boys to go sort other married man out (non violently)

7. I need their help. I don’t just want it, but I need it. I’m scared of my future – of being homeless due to lack of housing. I’m scared of buying and making a mistake. I’m scared of being alone forever even though I know I’ll cope.

Trauma binds us. It traps us. I refuse to stay trapped in trauma or in a marriage that is abusive. I will move on from this. I will learn how not to shut down, escape, or freeze, or stand up for myself. Because I need to. I cannot become emotionally healthy without it.

The future has so much hope. By 2022 I want my life to be mine, I want to be on a journey where the trauma is healing, where I am not afraid, and where I have confidence and faith in my own decisions.

Dear Mr X (Part one)

Dear Mr X,

So much has happened the last 15 months. I wish I had written more. The hurts, the disappointments, the hopes, the dreams, and finally the resolve.

I struggled with our break up. After years of hearing how much God hates divorce, I berated myself and beat myself up because I just didn’t have it in me anymore to try. The brokenness. The longing for a dream that will never be a reality. And finally a resolve. A resolve that I am loved by God. That I deserve to be noticed, I deserve to be important, I deserve to be free. Oh it hurts my heart that it could not be us, and the letting go has been a mix of push and pull, of inside knowing we are over but allowing the guilt to wash over me in waves. The days of missing the good that we had, but knowing unless I was doing all the work and the sacrificing there was very little holding us together.

Do I miss you? Sometimes yes. I miss having someone to go out for coffee with. I miss being a ‘family’. I miss planning a holiday and knowing I will have someone by my side. I miss having someone to discuss the kids with.

It’s scary out here alone. I have had to learn to relax and let go and let God. Trusting God has been hard because I sometimes feel he let me down. But it wasn’t him was it. It was me letting me down, or you letting me down.

I have struggled to get it right. And I have done so much wrong throughout our break up. More than anyone knows. I got messed up because a ‘good Christian man’ tried to (didn’t) take advantage of me, and it led me down a massive black hole away from God. I’m still trying to claw my way out of it. To find my freedom. I’m fighting for me all over again and it’s tough. The worst thing was when I told you what happened, when I told you what he had said to me, what he had asked me to be involved in – you blamed me. You blamed me – I was a victim of his desires. But you told me it must have been my fault. I must have done something to lead him on. Yet I had NO idea he had any thoughts of me, and in fact had hardly talked to him. I still can’t believe you said those things. I told you how much it messed me up. Another Christian man letting me down. I got to a point where I didn’t ever want to look at a Christian man again, let alone trust them.

Do I wish I didn’t leave our marriage? Sadly no. There is so much of life ahead, and even though it’s scary and uncertain, I can finally see hope again. I can see sunny days and fun coming.

Recently you told me how much you wanted me back. How much you had changed. But have you? (Not really) And does it even matter? It is too late. I left our marriage utterly broken – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The first couple of months after I told you I couldn’t do it anymore I slept. Like four sleeps during the day. Not to escape, but because I was absolutely exhausted.

Years of trying, working, being a wife and Mum, and doing 90% of it alone broke me. Much like the lies and broken promises. I was scared to move away with you. It didn’t feel a safe place. I couldn’t leave our kids behind – they are my world, and I’m so thankful for them. Looking back, with all that happened I’m so pleased I didn’t move away with you. I would have become more broken, more disheartened.

It makes my heart sad that our marriage wasn’t a safe place. It wasn’t a place I could be honest. It wasn’t a place I could have friends. It wasn’t a place of joy and laughter. It wasn’t a place of love.

It was a place of control. I didn’t even realise the extent until I left. Every decision, every message, every time I saw a friend – there were constant questions, constant text messages, phone calls. Everything I did outside of home I always worried I would be late and upset you. I walked on eggshells to keep you ‘happy’. I always did things so not to irritate you, so you wouldn’t sulk, you wouldn’t not talk to me, so you wouldn’t take away from the good time I had because you thought I should be home with you.

That isn’t a marriage. That is control. It isn’t freedom, it’s a prison. You kept me bound to you in unhealthy ways. You manipulated and used me so your life would be how you wanted it. You broke so many of my friendships over the years simply because you didn’t want to share me with anyone, because you were jealous, because you need to control.

Since we broke up – which I remind you – was at a time I had given up work to work for you… Covid hit right at my final decision. For 3 months I looked for work, all the time still doing your business work. I took out my super to pay our bills, and you would yell at me for using ‘your’ money to pay our mortgage and buy groceries for me and your children for the two months I couldn’t support them.

Since July last year when I started working, I have covered everything – the mortgage, the power, food for our kids because one was still at school and the other two had no jobs due to Covid. A year later and the last two months has finally seen all three of them employed. That whole time you never offered any support to me. Not once did you come up and buy groceries, or pay a mortgage payment. Not once did you ask if I needed anything. You just left it to me, even though you were earning about 30-40% more than I do. You even left your dog here from Christmas (without telling me) and never once paid for any food for her unless I asked you to buy her some – which has probably been twice.

You go from saying one minute you want a divorce to saying you desperately want me back. Sometimes you are compelling. Sometimes I want to believe you. But time has shown they are just words. Like I should have expected anything to change.

You tell me you have changed. When I asked you what you had done to get me back over the past 15 months, your answer was ‘I have worked on me’. Say what?? It must be nice to live 1000km away and only have yourself to worry about…. But there has never been anything but words for me to believe you actually want me back.

If I’m honest I don’t think anything you could have done would have worked. But you have done nothing. Not a nicely worded letter, not a bunch of flowers, not an offer to help with anything. So tell me how you’ve changed? How you are willing to work to get me back?

This year I decided it was better to try be friends than hate each other. But it gave you hope. Every time you came up to help finish the house you complained, and then tried to get in my bed. At one stage I let you sleep in my bed because the others were all taken, on the strict rule that there was to be nothing sexual between us. But you always tried to kiss me, and then there was the night I woke to your hands down my pants. That wasn’t ok. I had told you I was off limits. It’s called sexual assault. I felt so dirty and violated. Yes you apologised the next morning, but apologies mean nothing because YOU want what you want and will disrespect anyone’s boundaries to get it. No one else matters. Not only have you been with other women since we broke up, but I explicitly said no. You violated my trust, my good will and my body. So tell me again how you have changed?

You have had two relationships since we broke up. One six weeks later when DD1 was living with you. You brought your new woman into your house and were kissing her in front of DD1 and was sleeping with her. SIX weeks after we parted. DD1 had gone down to be with you because she was afraid you might kill your self after my decision to leave, and this is what she got.

Then at Christmas you again found someone (I don’t even know what you have done in between), and within a month had introduced her to your girls. You were the best dad then because you were trying to prove to your new piece what a good relationship you had with your children. Until your boys didn’t want anything to do with it, and then I came back on the scene and you tried to dump your girlfriend, but DD1 ended up having to set the record straight instead. The thing is – I truly don’t care if you find another woman. But by golly I do mind when you bring my kids into it. There is no respect. Have a relationship and once you know it’s something special and it has lasted for a time, then introduce them… not in the first few weeks. It’s hard to see my kids hurt unnecessarily because of your selfishness.

Recently when you were about to come up I had two friends separately say to me that I change when you are here and it takes at least a week or two before I become my happy bubbly self again. I think that is telling. I hadn’t noticed and I’m so thankful for friends who speak the truth. But it’s true. It’s like a weight is upon me. I still slip into the ‘keep you happy’ mode. But inside I’m dying and counting the days till you go.

All of the above has set my resolve that we are over. The last time you came up I asked you for two things – to buy some dog food, and to put the trailer you brought up down the back of the yard. You were here for 5 days and did neither. Sigh. So tell me how you have changed? And tell me how much you want me back?

Your world is about you and you only. You bought a new jet-ski and had to bring it up to show it off. The last time you came up with a $1500 electric scooter – to show everyone what you have. The truth is, you have a two bedroom granny flat 1000km away and a tethered relationship with your children. I have almost nothing material, but I know my kids love me and would do anything for me. That is all I need.

I’m so looking forward to getting this house sold. There is a great future ahead of me. One of laughter and sunshine and Jesus and freedom. I’m so close I can almost smell it now. I recently found a new job which I love and I’m incredibly settled in already. I’m repairing my relationship with God and I finally have hope for the future. Hope of a new place – one I can honour God in. Hope of a peaceful settled life where I have friends and family around me. Hope that I am now in a true healing phase and that I can walk through it confidently and become whole.

Oh I am so pleased I have gone on this journey. After 25 years of marriage it has been the toughest and hardest thing to do, but I am so pleased the last 15 months are behind me and my future is before me.

I can’t even say I love you any more. I care. You will always be the father of 4/5 of my kids and I care that you are there for them. But that is your relationship to figure out.

There is freedom in resolve. Thought out, observant, truthful resolve. Not based on emotion, but fact. I can thank you for the good times we shared, but am so relieved to be free.

Yours

Dellie Claire

When I do became I don’t…

(Note: This was written from 35,000 feet back in March this year. Still relevant although much has also changed.)

I’m sitting here in the shadow of leaving my husband and I’m asking myself … when did ‘I do’ become ‘I don’t’? What was the catalyst for the change? What happened to make me suddenly say no more?

Was there abuse? Not recently. (Edit – But actually there was, and I wasn’t noticing anymore 😕)

Were there arguments? Nothing unusual.

Was there infidelity? Not for years.

So why? Why would a 47 year old woman decide to leave her husband of 25 years?

We have been through a lot over the years. We survived early affairs, we survived 5 children, we battled through a change of country, we fought on during times of conflict, we rectified a lot of abusive behaviours. I became stronger, he became stronger. We managed with little money, we went through teaching kids to drive, we bought and built houses, we even taught others about marriage and how to make it work. So none of this makes sense now does it? No. It really doesn’t.

Some days I think I am just freaked out, but I know it’s bigger than that. I always wanted us, wanted us to work, wanted us to be together for our children, for their weddings, for Christmases, for grandchildren.

I worked hard at keeping our marriage together. I remember going through a time of discontent and changing my attitude, choosing the good, looking for only what I could be thankful for. That changed us for a long time. We decided we were a team. We were together in this thing called marriage, called life. We continued on happy enough, always pressing towards more. We worked hard and worked some more trying to get businesses off the ground, and trying to make a life we were comfortable with.

So what changed? Thinking about it…. It wasn’t just one thing, it was a realisation of many things. I had lost my dreams, I felt unloved, my opinions were discounted, the sacrifices were too much, my life had become this web of half truths and inauthentic actions that gave up all I had to satisfy the other, and while I slowly performed on the outside, I died on the inside.

Last year someone mentioned to me that I always seemed to make all the sacrifices. I’m a Mum right, so it’s often just the way of it. But… I’m also a person. I’m also a wife. I’m also a worker. I’m also someone with feelings and emotions. I realised that although I’m happy to make sacrifices, I’m only giving, and giving and giving some more with very little in return.

My dreams are not his dreams. I never dream of money, and boats, and expensive houses. I’m not willing to sacrifice for things that are only things. I’m willing to sacrifice for love… for purpose, for family, for people.

I’m no longer willing to sacrifice ‘me’. For the past 5 years I have worked full time, done our business accounts and things at nights and weekends, worried about the children, taught kids to drive, moved house even though the idea to renovate didn’t excite me. I’ve put up without being touched unless sex was wanted, with being the shopper, the cleaner, the washing lady, the banker, the financier, the coordinator of family events and get togethers, the voice of reason, the one who recently gave up her job for ‘us’ and the one on the receiving end of bad moods and sulks and limited help.

I’ve literally done it all. And I’m tired. My stomach is always tied up in knots, my heart is weary, my love tank is dry and my bank account no better. There is always promises. Promises of a more settled life. Promises of more money. Promises of a new start if I move states. Promises of ‘us’. But it’s all words…. and the words are as empty as my heart feels.

My son recently suggested I give it one more try. We get counselling, we go to church, we give it a final go. It sounded good in theory, but how can you do that when you are dead inside? When you had hoped and dreamed a marriage would be built on Gods design, yet are left disappointed time after time. When your existence seems so futile inside the marriage that you no longer have hope.

Perhaps that is the word… perhaps that is the reason… the loss of hope. The loss of believing in promises, the loss of believing in ever loving him as he should be loved. The loss of trusting myself, and trusting him. The loss of knowing that we will ever get ‘there’, because his personality is to always chase more. When hope dies, your dream is gone, the light has gone out.

I know you are thinking – why don’t I ask he gives up his dreams for me? He would. I know he would. For a time. But after that they would plague him again. He doesn’t settle for simple. It’s not in his DNA. And that’s ok. That is who he is made to be. He has great ideas and chases them. He works hard. He follows his passions and his dreams and I love that for him. I won’t hold him back from them…. because they will always be there. Instead I will release them to him. He will get his dreams because that is who he is…. and I will cheer him on from afar.

It makes me cry to think of us breaking up because I know it brings hurt…. to him… to my kids… to our friends. I’m not blaming him… it takes two to make a marriage and two to neglect it. Two to let it die, and two to revive it.

Somewhere in our marriage I lost my voice. I stopped dreaming for myself. I stopped asking for what I needed. Perhaps I should have fought harder. Perhaps I should have yelled more, cried more, talked more. Perhaps I should have stood up for me more. Perhaps I should have taken a break more often.

The realisation that this is over has been extremely hard. To be honest it was probably before Christmas I realised. Christmas was bittersweet knowing it would be our last as a family. Our holiday to ‘celebrate’ 25 years of marriage, marred because I was so unhappy. Our first child’s wedding with a sense of sadness knowing this is the only one we would be together for. And the last month, knowing deep in my heart and soul that I can’t go back. I can’t try again. That I no longer want to try. I don’t have the capacity to try.

It’s very scary. Knowing I have to be prepared to be alone for the rest of my life. Knowing my future holds no promises. Knowing there will loss of dreams, of family, of finances. The guilt weighs on me every day. The idea I ‘could’ or I ‘should’…. yet knowing I can’t. Not this time. Not anymore.

Will I have regrets? I’m sure there will be some. Will I wonder if this time it might have worked? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I stay. I wouldn’t give it an honest try because my heart is empty and my hope is gone. I wish it could be different, but wishing doesn’t change anything. Wishing doesn’t change patterns, doesn’t change behaviours (mine and his). Wishing doesn’t wipe out hurts, or stop more from happening, it doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t make it happy. Wishing is just that – a longing, a dream, a hope…. but when hope is gone, there is only silence.

So when did ‘I do’ become ‘I don’t’? It was when hope died.