How I Ended Up in the Water

I get a lot of questions about how I found myself in an abusive marriage.  How did I let it get there?  In other words, how did I end up in the deep area of the water, completely isolated, and barely surviving.  I came from a middle class, well respected family.  Supportive, for the most part, and very close.  I had always been independent minded and fairly outspoken. I was lacking in one particular area that isn’t that unusual for the age that I was.  I had zero confidence in myself.  I felt like my own worth was wrapped up in who wanted to be around me.  That I had to be more than I was in order to be lovable and worthy.  It’s like swimming in circles.  You never really get anywhere, you only get depleted.

When I first met Joe I was 18, naive, and completely insecure.  He was in the Army and home on leave.  A mutual friend introduced us and there was an instant attraction.  He was good looking, tall, funny, and had a deep voice and the best hands.  His hands just looked strong.  Little did I know how much I would fear those strong hands in later years.  I was at a moment in life where I had just started college and came home from break to find out that my parents were divorcing.  I was devastated.  In looking back, I already felt like I was drowning.  I was too unsure of myself to know that I could swim on my own.

Joe took me right to that beach.  He was super attentive, romantic, and complimentary.  I had rarely heard that I was beautiful and he poured out the compliments like rays of sun.  I soaked it all in.  It was within that first week of talking that the first cloud appeared.  It was my first red flag.  I missed it.  I was in college and made the unfortunate choice to pick up smoking cigarettes.  I knew it wasn’t good for me, but I had a bit of a rebellious streak and went about my business.  When I first met Joe, he knew that I smoked and said on that first day he was used to it because his parents did.  No big deal. After our first date and a few days of talking, that suddenly switched.  He very seriously, with a forceful tone,  looked at me and said, “It’s either me or cigarettes.  Make your choice. I’m not putting up with it.”  There it was, the cloud. The warning that a storm might be coming. Gone was the relaxed approval from the first day.  Naively, I thought that he was cute and cigarettes weren’t that important anyway.  I’ll choose him.  He approved.

In that moment, I could have looked at that two ways.  I could have seen it for the cloud that it was; a chance for him to test his level of control over me.  Instead, I looked at it as a pleasant source of shade.  After all, he said all of these wonderful things about me and was so attentive.  Obviously, he was looking out for my well being, right?  For me, I failed that first test.  For him, I passed.  That’s when we began to venture into the water.  My journey was beginning and I was completely unaware of how little say I would have in how far I was taken into the deep water.

4 thoughts on “How I Ended Up in the Water

  1. Alicia. You move me deeply with this story. My daughter just left her husband for the same reason, and this gives me hope that she will soon find her beach!!!

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  2. Alicia,
    I’m so happy you’ve been able to remove yourself from this abuse and the loniness and hopelessness that comes with it!!! It takes great courage and fortitude to get out of an abusive relationship and I congratulate you for doing so. I hope you’ve since internalized your worth and your newly found confidence!!!
    Thank you for sharing your story, which will surely help others to escape the bonds of abuse!
    You are a beautiful, kind and intelligent woman so worthy of great happiness.
    I wish great happiness!!!
    YOU ARE ENOUGH (and thensome) !!!

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  3. This is all to real! I have been on this beach for 13 years. I have struggled many years between the depths of the outer waters and finding myself relentlessly fighting the undercurrent only to go back to the illusion of “safety “ in knowing what lies in the outer waters verse the unknowns of self doubt and fear that lies on the shores. It always seemed easy to stay in the chaos fueled by the “I can change him, I can make things work.. and the if onlys…” rather then fighting the unknowns to get to the shore. The doctor Jekyll\Mr. Hyde chaos was clearly unhealthy yet the motivation of false promises made to change and make things better drags you back in. I am happy to say I finally made it to the shore! Although it is a completely new experience, I am happy to say I am enjoying the sun. I look forward to reading your posts! Thank you for sharing!

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  4. I’ve not been in an abusive relationship, but have several close relatives who have been. It’s ahockinf to know how these men can tune into a woman’s insecurities and use them against her. I’m proud of you. You are a strong woman who made the right choices to remove yourself from the abusive man. When my two sons were young, I started teaching them how to treat a female. When they both got engaged, I told my soon to be DIL’s, in front of my sons, that if ever he raised a hand to them or abused them in any way, shape or form, to let me know and it would be the last time they would ever do that! I raised my sons the right way BEFORE they were dating and married and neither one has ever been abusive. My DIL’s occasionally tell me what wonderful sons I raised.
    It’s imperative that Morher’s treat their sons well and teach them how to treat a female of any age.
    I wish you happiness and peace and much success.

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