there’s no catchy title for this (abuse)

I still haven’t found an easy way to explain why I left my marriage.

Especially in casual conversation, especially when I’m meeting new people. I still haven’t found my neat one-liner, my simple solution to drop into chit chat. The classic ‘we grew apart,’ ‘we just weren’t happy’ or ‘we wanted different things’ doesn’t quite rub me the right way. 

Of course, I imagine those are some of the lines he’s fed to old friends or family…Probably something along the lines of him pursuing a military career and me nagging him to stay home and start a family. I guess that falls under the ‘we wanted different things’ category. 

Which, in a way, I suppose is a little bit true. We did want different things. And yes, him telling me he didn’t want kids was my last straw. It gave me pause and the permission I needed to step back and analyze our relationship more objectively. I realized I did want different things.

Was the problem his job? Our lack of a family? My job?

Absolutely not.

This decision I made cannot be reduced to me acting as some neglected housewife begging for children and harping after a man chasing promotions. 

No.

I left because I wanted something new. 

I left because I was abused. 

I wanted that to end.


I’d like to say it again, just for clarity’s sake.

I. Was. Abused.

I’ve tried to avoid those words. I didn’t want to risk sounding melodramatic or like a complainer. I wanted to avoid criticism, and I believed that if I didn’t say it out loud no one could tell me it didn’t happen. No one could say “it wasn’t that bad,” or “it could’ve been worse.” 

This is something we all need to work on- validating someone’s experience without criticism, comparison or judgment. 

I need to show the same grace to myself.

So yes, I am aware it could have been worse. Yes, I’m aware someone else has been through something more painful. Been abused more overtly. More openly. More obviously.

No, that does not take away from the significance of my experience. It does not lessen the impact it’s had on my life, my health, my view of the world, my view of myself and my view of relationships.

I’d even go so far as to say that psychological and emotional abuse was more challenging to notice, escape from, and heal from than I ever would have imagined. 

I always grew up believing that if a man ever hit me I’d be gutsy enough to immediately walk away. I’d know that wasn’t how a woman was to be treated, and I’d move the heck on.

What I didn’t grow up knowing? 

That withdrawing affection is abusive. Neglect is abusive. Manipulation by providing and removing that affection again: abusive.

Creating an environment of fear is abusive. Fearing consequences, reactions, loss of love: abusive. Fearing violence- abusive. Fearing rage- abusive. 

Fearing pregnancy. Abusive. 

Refusing to use condoms but making me feel guilty for choosing fertility awareness? What I wanted to do for the health of my body and the health of my faith? Abusive. 

Using coercion and guilt to gain sexual favors is abusive. Stepping over boundaries is abusive. This should have been obvious -no means no!- but, to me, it didn’t seem like much. Until it got worse, and more frequent, and blatantly, unavoidably, obviously, abusive. 

Making me the gatekeeper of that behavior, like it was my responsibility to make sure my spouse respected me, is freaking abusive. Real respect, real love, does not look like that.

Furthermore, sex that hurts- due to carelessness and drunkenness or uninvited aggression- is abusive. 

Lying is abusive.

Cheating is abusive.

Calling someone names, making fun of their size, comparing them to other women- joke, after joke, after joke- abusive.

Also, there is such a thing as spiritual abuse. I didn’t know that! What I’ve since learned is that it is wrong to shame or manipulate your partner into feeling guilty for their faith. I shouldn’t need to hide my journal or close Scripture or put away my rosaries because I’m afraid of being seen praying. More than anything, I should not be made to feel as if I deserve bad treatment because “I love God too much.” 

What made this all the more confusing? Harder to pick up on? More challenging to recognize?

When he told me I was crazy. 

This is gaslighting: when you present reality to your abuser but they tell you you’re wrong, insane, or imagining things. Your experience becomes twisted and fuzzy and damn-near impossible to sort through. You can’t tell who’s right, who’s wrong, who deserves excusing and who just had a bad day. You start to believe the lies until they become part of a new twisted version of truth.

I’m done with that now.

I didn’t make this up. I didn’t imagine this. I am not crazy. 

I never was.

How’s that for a one-liner?

from a home to a house

I used to love August. The month I was born. The last month of summer. The first month of sports. Volleyball practice in the golden evening light, football whistles in the background. New pencils purchased, jewel toned sweaters, last lazy trips down the river. The first yellow leaves.

Good things ending, good things to follow.

I guess the same could be said of last year’s August, the first August I hated, where one season of my life ended and another began. Good from this point of view. Not so good then.

It was last summer when I cautiously Googled “how to get a divorce” for the first time and immediately cleared my browser.

Last August, a year ago to the day, I hired a lawyer. I asked, still unsure, “If I change my mind, can I back out?” A loophole to make myself feel better about a decision I’d already made. Signed and scanned the paperwork as soon as I hung up. 

Then those plans that existed in cyber space began to grow more concrete. I found myself going out for finger prints, for notaries, calling nursing boards. Trying to endure small talk about why I was moving to Tennessee. Making it sound exciting- Nashville, totally great, right? Hiding the files when I got home.

And then he noticed the cards that I canceled. Moved to the guest room. Argued harder, then gave up altogether. We lived together in the tomb of our marriage for weeks, ignoring the bizarre reality of what we had become.

He left to visit his family.

I stayed behind to pack.


Have you ever had to sort through your life like that? Picked your home apart until it was nothing but a house? 

With the eye of practicality: Well, I don’t think I’ll need a set of pots at my parent’s house. I guess he can keep those. 

Or the eye of sentimentality: I think I’ll take the platters. They’re from my favorite aunts.

I took the china too. I’m not sure what that’ll look like, to take the set out again, but I know that it’s beautiful. I’d like to think I’m still a little bit lovely too, even with a bit of weird history. Me and the plates will just have to be a strange package deal.

Anyway. He got the regular plates. I took the mugs. The bakeware. Left him the grill things. 

Very straightforward.

Less straightforward- taking the pictures down.

You have to look them all in the face. Like seeing yourself from another life- a laugh from a date, a hug from his mother, a night out with his sister- and telling them all goodbye.

Family pictures that included him. The pictures of our friends, the pictures of our wedding, pictures of his nieces.

The prints I bought for our brand-new home. The frames I got for our bedroom.

One by one you look them in the eye, tell them you can’t be staying, they can’t stay either, and pull them off the wall.

Now all is lost in a crowd of U-haul boxes. Picked over and sorted, piece by piece, and tucked between towels, tossed in his closet, or put in the pile for trash. Calligraphy peeps through the mess, mocking:

Love begins at home.” 

God walks among the pots and pans.”

You are my sunshine.”

He used to sing me that song.

Another took its place more recently, “Pictures;” I recommend a listen if you’re in the right mood. A little sadder, a little more fitting. I cried the first time I listened, grateful that someone else put into words this particular aspect of heartbreak. Such a concrete finality comes with matching the surroundings to this broken reality.

I chugged along steadily that week, filing through memories with every new box, sorting my heart into high school and college and prom and marriage and sex and romance and tears and laughter… As if it could all be taped up, put away, and marked this-side-up with a Sharpie.

I wish it was so simple. Instead, I am haunted.

He used to make me omelettes on this pan.

I bought him that mug for Christmas.

That was the night of my best friend’s wedding.

This was the cross from above our bed.

These were the towels I picked for our bathroom. 

The painting of our shared last name. 

The print from his mother.

All gone. 

All the parts of my house sorted into separate boxes. 

All the parts of my heart broken into separate pieces.

I’m still trying to put it back together.

lying and cheating

The other day it occurred to me that maybe he’s glad I left him. I’d never really considered the version of the story where he wanted me to leave… Somehow in my mind he was missing me more than I was missing him and he was sorry. Strange to think he could move on, too.

That’s not the way the world works, though, and, really, it shouldn’t feel new to me that he doesn’t want me. There were a million little ways he didn’t want me before. 

For today, I find myself considering the less-frequent-but-more-significant ways he didn’t choose me. Maybe that’s not the right way to say that- I’d like to think it was was less about not wanting me and more about just wanting someone else. 

However you want to say it, I think it happens more than we realize. Infidelity, that is. None of us can talk about it- sometimes to protect the integrity of a relationship, sometimes because we’re afraid. Maybe a little of both. Sometimes that’s okay. What isn’t okay: when secrets are kept so well that we isolate ourselves, unable to talk to those we trust about the blurry lines between normal and intolerable. This hyper-privacy breeds isolation and only allows bad behavior and poor decision making to perpetuate. We shouldn’t be shutting out the wise guidance and input of those we trust. 

Either way, secret or not, I hate that cheating happens. I hate it for me, and I hate it for everyone else who’s had to deal with it. I hate that it calls into question everything we thought we knew. Trust. Worth. Desirability. Are we good enough? Are we worth loving? Are we worth faithfulness if we’re busy, or tired, or not having as much interesting sex as other girls in the world? If we are covered in baby spit-up or tired from night shift or we forgot to shave our legs one too many days in a row? 

It’s sad. Sad and hard. However, truly, I don’t think it’s impossible to come back from unfaithfulness. I really don’t. I think if there’s respect and transparency involved, real vulnerability and love, there can be redemption. I believe in redemption. I have to.

So do I believe that once a cheater, always a cheater? 

I think not. If that were the case and we all were stuck with the sins we committed on occasion, we’d be doomed to the faults of our childhood. Once a liar, screamer, biter, fighter, etc., etc., etc. We grow up and grow on. 

On the other hand, I wonder if I didn’t so passionately believe in second chances if I would have let things get so far. Sometimes I wonder if I brought this on myself. Maybe I treated my relationship with a boyfriend with a grace and permanency it didn’t deserve. I put in the work, poured out forgiveness, and took back what I probably should have let go. 

Or maybe I just got damn unlucky when I tied myself to someone who forgot to grow up and just grew worse. Or better, possibly, but at lying. You tell me.

* * *

The first time it was just a kiss at a club that I found out about a couple months later. When I got home from studying abroad he told me about it: it was nothing, really, he was drunk, it was quick, he didn’t even know her name. Somehow, though, he was able to Skype me, email me, call me, even visit me overseas without mentioning it. For months? Weird. But whatever. It was small. He was probably lonely. He was drinking, he didn’t mean it, fine. Somehow the delay in disclosure was because he was worrying what I’d do. Okay. I lighten up. I don’t tell anyone.

But then it happened again. 

Let me put a disclaimer in here. I’m telling this story to remove the isolated secrecy of the past, however, I am also aware that this one-sided story telling might not lend itself to a balanced narrative. So, in the spirit of fairness, I will admit my own weakness. I will tell you that this was the moment that should have been the red flag in the damn mountain of sand. This was what should have told me to run for the freaking hills as fast as I could. This was when, instead, I pulled that flag out of that sand and promptly buried my head in as far as it would go. I was hopelessly naive, stupid, young…All of it. All in the name of love. I take some of the blame. No, I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I did. And no, this doesn’t excuse shitty behavior. But should I have been smarter? Probably.

Anyway, let me set the scene. We’re juniors in college. He’s at a military school, stressed and busy. I’m in nursing school, stressed and busy. I’m having significant problems with anxiety and mood swings (nursing brings out the best in us, amiright?).

Somehow we make it to Christmas break, where he tells me a story about a party he had at his house that fall. There were some friends over from high school, some of them girls he used to know. Everyone’s drinking and ends up spending the night, and one of those girls sneaks into his room. She comes onto him, starts fooling around, he manages to fend her off in his drunken stupor. I buy the story, wondering why he waited so long to tell me. Wondering why I only heard about her persistent phone calls weeks after that.

I tell the tale to some friends, really very proud of how loyal my guy was being. So tempted! So amazing! So loyal! 

They pull me aside a few days later and ask me if I’m sure I’m getting the truth. They don’t really buy it and something isn’t sitting right. 

I ask him about it again. Is there anything else I’m missing? Any parts of the story you want to fill in? No, that was it. 

Let’s fast forward some. We’re engaged. It’s summer time. He was able to hold onto his damn lie for that long and had the balls to PROPOSE to me in the meantime. Turns out, they had slept together. She convinced him I was going to break up with him soon. We’d been fighting a lot, mood swings are a bitch, school sucks for everyone. We were obviously donezo. 

My consolation prize was that he was too drunk to finish.

I wish I had left then. Not just because he had cheated. Not just because I was betrayed. Not just because I was working really hard to save sex for marriage and he turned around and gave it away to some girl he barely knew.

The real problem was the lie.

It still blows my mind that someone could be capable of such deception. To go day in and out telling me they loved me, telling me they were faithful, picking out rings and promising forever, when all along they were carrying that shit around.

And still, I didn’t talk about it. 

Even after we got married, as much as I tried, it was always in the back of my mind. If I was too busy, if I was too anxious, if I wasn’t cute enough or fun enough or just enough, there would be trouble. And I was gullible enough to buy his stories once, what was to keep it from happening again?

It didn’t help that there were a couple bizarre things that fed my pet suspicion. Not enough on its own to ring alarms, but enough all put together. Like how I wasn’t allowed to look through his phone. Couldn’t know his password, couldn’t look at his messages, couldn’t look at the browser. Wasn’t allowed to track him, even when we were on road trips. 

There was the girl who called in the middle of the night once, wanting to know where he was, wanted to know if he would meet her out. Was shocked when I picked up the phone while he was sleeping. Said she was from college and didn’t know he had a wife.

And then, like times before, he couldn’t keep it together during sex and was getting withdrawn. Wasn’t telling me when he was coming home or picking up his phone, wasn’t inviting me out anymore or putting any effort in to talk to me. 

And of course, there was that weird bump I thought was a spider bite. Found it right after our anniversary last summer. I remember making a joke to him about herpes and we both laughed. 

L to the O to the freaking L.

Even at the end he said there was no one else. I’ll never really know for sure, which sometimes makes it worse. Even when that bite came back last February and, shocker, wasn’t from a spider, he still denied it. I get it, that shit is a virus and it can come up anytime from anyone. Just unusual to have that first outbreak when you’ve been in a monogamous relationship for four years. 

But, again, whatever. You can draw your own conclusions about where it came from. I tried to ask about it, and all I got in response was “leave me the fuck alone” and “watch out.” 

Interesting. Ok.

Anyway. 

Infidelity sucks. 

I’m sorry if it’s happened to you.

I’m glad if you can find a way to heal. I’m glad if you hold out hope for redemption.

Just know, more than anything, that you are not alone. You don’t have to hide. I see you. And you are good. You are loved. You are beautiful. 

You are enough. 

And that’s the truth.

an anniversary

Our wedding anniversary was this week. Of all the memories I have of our wedding, the ride to the church is what’s been following me around lately. I was with my dad crammed into the front seat of his car, drowning in tulle. We rode through the Dunkin’ drive through and ordered iced lattes like it was a normal day. I wonder if we knew what I was getting myself into.

After that, memories of the dancing or the church haven’t bothered me like I thought they would. Instead, it’s the night after. I didn’t have much planned, just was hoping for a sweet moment in some girly cupcake-fluff lingerie. We had danced so much that we were both too sweaty for that, so instead of a sexy moment we just slipped into normal life like we were meant to be there. He helped me unzip my dress and birdseed fell all over the carpet. I got into the shower, where he found me, and it felt like coming home. 

And then Costa Rica. So hot, so sticky in our quiet jungle cabin. So deep in the jungle there was hardly anything to distract us from each other, but also too removed from the world for air conditioning. Required a lot more showering. Something about that stands out to me most of all- beyond the awkward first-time-sex energy… It was such a normal thing, but became something kind of lovely. He let me wash his hair. It wasn’t much, but felt vulnerable and intimate, something like a secret. And honestly, you don’t let just anyone wash your hair. You could create chemistry with just about anyone if you tried hard enough, but something about closing your eyes and letting someone shampoo you is meant for people you really trust. I was happy to do it. It felt very wifely, like a simple I love you that was brand new to our brand new way of life. 

We were happy that week. There were frogs and flowers, sloths and iguanas, fresh fruit from the garden. Walks to town for fish, piña coladas, sunburns, and the strange dark color of the sand. I remember laughing and talking and ending every night on the deck. Him in the hammock, me in the rocking chair. There was hope. Maybe relief, too, that I had his attention all to myself, and he was being so devoted after months of the opposite. We got lost in each other a bit, and it felt like it could stay that way forever. I knew marriage would be work, but I thought we’d always find each other and find a way through. We had before.

Someone asked me the other day when the rest of it started – the neglect, the bizarre manipulation. I think it only took a month. It’d all been happening, really, but something about living with someone highlights their worst in a more obvious light. Obviously. So there we were, him talking to me like I was stupid, me with those first alarm bells tinkling in the back of my mind- he’s just stressed, he’s just tired, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine. 


After my wedding, grief had me flipping through the Rolodex of the other weddings we’d been to. Usually they were good times, except for one we’d been to in October, right at the start of a bad stretch. I felt his mood shifting while the leaves were turning, like the weather was changing for us too.

It started with the bachelor party, where he’d either he’d been to a few full-nude strip clubs and lied about it, or he was so damn drunk he honestly couldn’t remember a thing. I couldn’t tell which version of the story annoyed me more. Then there was the reception; he made a joke about getting me drunk just in case I was pregnant from the weekend before. Wanted to fix that problem, ha freakin’ ha. Then he asked – Are you done? Meaning: was I done being an annoyed/annoying crazy wife because, really, none of my feelings were worth talking about for real. Best to ignore it all and be done. That night he woke me up for sex that hurt more than it should. He was drunk and careless and I thought I couldn’t say no. It felt too weird to talk about after.

Then there was last year’s anniversary. We’d had a barbecue for the holiday weekend with some friends, and everyone was happily buzzed and ready for summer. At the end of the night it was just the two of us and we started fooling around on the patio, as one does when buzzed in the summer. It was sweet until he couldn’t quite keep it going enough for sex and the night ended with me guiltily helping him towards a one-sided finish line. Started out feeling a little loved, ended up feeling a little used. 

I cried that night, wanting God to make it end- the guilt, the coercion, the fear of what would happen to me if I starting telling my husband no. No, I don’t like how that makes me feel. No, this doesn’t seem like you want to have sex because you love me, this feels more like you just want something from me and more than anything, I’m scared because I really don’t think you care what I think. 

There’ve been many more tears since then at his expense, but that was one of the last when things were good. Good-ish. Maybe normal is a better word? Back when things were status quo. Before I’d decided I’d had enough. 

I miss Costa Rica. I miss the simplicity, the easy sex and showers and undivided attention. I miss loving and feeling loved. It’s a small moment of time untouched, like a little pocket in the jungle still wild. I wish it could’ve lasted. 

going public

This account was set to private until last week. I’ve been typing away for months in hiding, getting my story down and out, processing, waffling somewhere between snotty tears and girl-power anthems. I knew I wanted to let this all breathe in the open someday, but I was planning to let it wait. I was scared.

Even here, after all this time, I was scared of him. 

I was scared he’d find this and read it all and be absolutely enraged. How dare I say this or say that, report this, talk about that. Interpret it this way, feel that way. No one was supposed to know, this was supposed to be private, it was personal, this was between husband and wife. I was afraid he’d be furious.

The thing is, though, he’s already furious.

The other thing- I already left.

I realized now was the time for me to let my story see a little daylight; it was time to stop being afraid of him. I couldn’t lose his affection any more than I already had, and I needed to stop giving him power over me. I stand on my own now because I choose to, and he doesn’t get a say here anymore.

I’m not trying to be hateful or take anyone down. I’m just trying to tell my story. And he doesn’t get to tell me how I do that anymore.

Of course, regardless of his opinion, telling a story of my own left me open to the frightening opinions of others. I was pretty damn afraid someone could hear it and tell me that I was crazy.

I was afraid that I could lay it out there: the moments, the facts, the feelings – and someone could look at the body of it all and tell me that I made it up. That I interpreted everything very, very poorly, and completely took it all out of context. That what I felt was wrong. I imagined it all. I was wrong to leave, I was wrong to believe what I did, I was insane to have the standards I did or the faith I had. He never really made me feel small, he never really ignored me, I must have been dreaming. I was stupid, I was being a typical woman, I was being overdramatic.

But I suppose that’s the point of overcoming any kind of abuse. I used to laugh when people claimed to own ‘their truth’ – it felt like a very millennial catch-phrase – but now I understand. You can’t cope with the reality of what happened if you don’t believe it yourself. Abusers are the ones who convince you it wasn’t real. Abusers tell you you’re crazy and completely in the wrong. So in the end, everyone might have a different version of this story, but I’m not going to believe the version where I am insane anymore. I have a claim to truth now, and I will not let that be silenced.

Aside from all that, there is still the problem of being seen. I was (am) afraid of that too.

Naturally, for all my fear, it’s one of my deepest desires. Who doesn’t want to be fully seen, acknowledged, celebrated, loved?  After spending a lot of time being unrecognized, becoming unrecognizable, I started to believe that was it until I left the shitty vortex of my marriage and found my voice again somewhere safe. 

Unfortunately, since then, I’ve come to realize that honest story telling isn’t safe at all. In all creation through all of time- in music, art, poetry, writing, acting- there is vulnerability. Even here, I open myself up to judgment, misunderstanding, forgettability, and failure. Still, I walk forward, willing to speak up and let everyone turn away, again, leaving me unknown, again. This time is a little different, though, because this time I don’t put so much weight on someone else’s seeing. This time, I see myself.

In reality, this story of mine just exists somewhere small, but it’s my somewhere small. I’m going to own it now. My story is part of a larger story, and I’m going to tell it without being afraid. Try like hell, anyway. 

Part of me still is cautious, and human, and I’d like to stay on your good side, so I’m sorry if my story bothers you. I’m sorry if it offends or paints a picture of reality you never noticed on your own. I apologize if the details are too much or you don’t understand or you don’t believe me. 

You’re welcome to walk on by. 

Because sorry or not, scared or not, I’m ready to let this exist. 

regrets and apologies

I still think about it.

I don’t even know if it was real, but somehow I think it was. Somehow, somewhere in the universe, I think you still exist, and I’d like to say I’m sorry. 

That summer I thought you might have started to settle in I was scared. It sounds small, I know, and now I find myself amazed I could have ever been so feeble. I should have been stronger than that. I’m sorry.

He and I had been arguing for months. Over a lot of things, but mostly the turmoil and misery was all because of birth control. I didn’t want to be on it. I wanted to learn about my body and let sex be raw, stripped down and respectful of the way it all worked. He didn’t care much about that, but also didn’t want to take it upon himself to invest in his own version of “protection.” That was for high schoolers, and he wasn’t a high schooler. So it was on me to get it right, or else. 

Unfortunately, arguing long-distance allowed for an awful lot of terrible texts and calls and made the silent treatment all that more easily executed. The isolation was the worst part, when I was desperate for the yelling because at least he was engaged.

Then we were together again, the week before our wedding, and the arguments dissolved into nothing. He never acknowledged the fierceness, the screaming, the silence, the coldness. Even that conversation, just weeks before, where I told him I didn’t feel respected and didn’t think we should get married went ignored.

Did it even happen? Did I make it up? That night he held me and laughed and bought me a beer while we watched the Stanley Cup with his friends. It all got tucked into a closet, and every effort I made to find some kind of resolution got shut down.

Maybe it wasn’t real to him. Maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe it was just stress. Whatever it was, it followed me. It lurked over my shoulder, waiting to rear its head again when I deserved it. Probably when my plans failed and cycle tracking didn’t work or was too hard or required too much effort. 

We got married and I was extra careful. Better be, or else the closet would creep open and the clouds would sweep into our sunny North Carolina home.

One July afternoon he came back early from a work trip. Inconvenient for me- it was one day too soon for any care-free sex days, but we wanted each other. How nice it was to be loved and wanted by the sweet man I knew was there all along. Do I tell him it’ll probably be fine, and risk a pregnancy I could be punished for, or do I say no, not today, and risk adding another no to the pile of no’s I could be punished for?

We went with probably fine.

Science can be rather predictable, especially when it comes to sex. Turns out one day early bought me a period that was a few days late. 

Not super late, not enough that most women would even notice, but it was enough that I did.

My sister was in town that week. We went to the beach a lot, and I went back home to pee a lot, hoping and praying that this time would be the time my period would come.

I stopped taking my meds, the supplements I took to keep my mood stable and my cycle regular. Those ones I knew I’d need to keep taking if I wanted to keep a pregnancy stuck.

I should have been braver. And I know my doctor said that it shouldn’t have mattered, that the medication wouldn’t have made a difference that early anyway, but I still have the guilt. I’m sorry.

I should have stood up for you, and for myself. I should have been able to tell him that my boobs were killing me, and I thought I was a little late, and maybe I needed a pregnancy test. But then he noticed the way my bikini top fit and the off-handed jokes- you better not be pregnant – started making me nervous. It didn’t feel that funny. And I didn’t want to be alone again. I didn’t want to be blamed, I didn’t want to be wrong, I didn’t want to be resented, I didn’t want to be hated every day of the rest of our lives for the bills, and the sleep deprivation, for the mess, for the responsibility. 

Even still, I shouldn’t have chosen fear. I should have chosen you. 

There was an afternoon when I started to. We all went swimming on a friend’s boat, him and me and my sister. I dangled over the edge and somehow the way the saltwater held me up made me feel like grace could hold me up a little, too. I felt like I could really be okay. I would go to the store and just pick up the damn test and face the future like a damn adult. Face my husband.

But then we went tubing, and I think that might have been the problem. I’m sorry for that too. I wasn’t thinking. 

The next morning I had the most painful and terrible period of my life. Probably not a period, really. Probably you leaving, but I’ll never know for sure. Instead I mostly just hold onto the guilt. I should’ve been more responsible. Braver. Smarter. 

And I know I was in a manipulative, abusive mess of a marriage, but I still think I should have known better. I don’t think that should be an excuse. Or maybe it should be. I don’t know.

I don’t even know if you’re really real. If you are, a small product of the blip of time when he and I were in some kind of love, can you pray for us? I’m a little tired of always thinking of him, and maybe you’re there in heaven with endless light and grace and all the energy for that. And I guess he’d be your dad, after all. I’m sorry I never did anything good for you, but I still hope you’d be kind enough to help me here.

In a way I’m glad you aren’t around for this. This heartbreak would have been infinitely harder to have you suffer too. But then sometimes I think about whether or not you’d have curly hair or hazel eyes or dimples. I wonder what your name would be. I wonder if you’d have liked dogs and cozy jammies and bedtime books. If you’d have liked my sisters and Easter eggs and Jesus. And then I’m sorry. I’m just sorry. 

sex and disrespect pt. v

What I Want You to Know

Your body is your home, and you deserve to protect it.

It’s okay to have boundaries. It doesn’t make you crazy, or too demanding, or weird. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or what culture has bred others to expect in bed. I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but it only matters what you are comfortable with and where you want to go. You are not to be blamed for having too many rules, and you are not to take on guilt for making demands. You are a person to be respected, and physical intimacy is not the place to start making compromises. 

Your body is the home to your soul and you deserve to keep it safe. You deserve to choose who to allow into that home, when they are allowed in that home, and what they are allowed to do in that home. They aren’t allowed to make you feel bad for setting the rules there. 

Even when you’re married- when you’re opening up your home to another- that is not a license for your spouse to go exploring in rooms and cabinets that they have not been invited to. You are allowed privacy and boundaries and respect. You deserve to create a safe space within which it is fun to explore. 

And when you say no, it means no. Don’t feel guilty for that. Don’t compare yourself to what everyone else is okay with doing, because there will always be someone willing to go a little farther and get a little kinkier than you. That doesn’t matter. If your partner is there for you, to respect and honor and love you, they will do it in a way that serves that love. They will take no for an answer, and they will be okay.

That’s not to say that no isn’t frustrating. It can be frustrating as hell. Sometimes pushing the boundaries can be tempting, and it’s hard to remember why you had them in the first place. Sometimes you’d like to throw a big, crazy party in the place you call home, but you know there will be a mess and a hangover the next day so it’d be best to just avoid it entirely. So when your partner starts bringing in the vodka and the chips and turning up the music, its okay to ask them to stop. No, thank you. This seems fun, but I have something better-for-me in mind. Please go put those Doritos back in the car. 

A supportive and loving partner says okay, sure, I’ll put this away, and I’d love nothing more than a night in our sweatpants because I love you either way. I might be in the mood for a party but I respect that you’re working in the morning and had a busy day running errands. There is no storming out of the house to drink the vodka at a friend’s then blaming you for why you’re left at home alone. I know we’re deep into the metaphor here, but it makes the point. 

Struggle: OK. Abandonment and blame: Not OK. There should be a safe space to be vulnerable and enjoy intimacy without the looming fear of neglect.

So those blurry moments when you aren’t really sure if something is wrong but your gut doesn’t feel right? Trust that. When things are ever-so-slightly off, and you don’t think it’s bad enough to talk about and aren’t even sure what you’re trying to verbalize? That’s a flag. When you are feeling used, when you are feeling pushed, when you are feeling neglected, you aren’t crazy. You didn’t make that up in your head, and it might feel too vague to pin down, but you aren’t wrong. Someone might tell you you’re imagining things or overreacting, but that’s not right. You didn’t imagine it. All those little things you let slide and rationalize- the discomfort here, the odd word there, the ever-so-slightly excessive aggression there…They add up. They still hurt. And just because no one else saw doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 

You are good.

Love,

Me