“There is a reason women were created, and it’s not just because Adam didn’t know how to do the dishes.”
-Blog comment that made me laugh
For some reason I can’t seem to stay away from my least favorite blogger’s page. (I’ve written about her twice before, on 6/30 and 7/7, but I refuse to name her or her webpage here because, in my opinion, she doesn’t need any more exposure!) I visit the blog on a regular basis even though her every post make me ill. Most mornings I find myself checking in to see what fresh monstrosity she has put out into with the world. Recently she wrote a post that “went viral” (as she will remind you at every opportunity) so her particularly narrow-minded “Christian” views got a lot more attention that usual. (Note: By putting the word Christian in quotations I mean no disrespect towards the religion in general, but I also don’t want to imply that this woman’s beliefs apply to all followers.) The post in question was regarding what essential traits a woman should have to make her marriage material. I’m sure everyone could come up with a reasonable list of characteristics, like kindness, maturity, loyalty, responsibility, etc. However, this blog post called out three particular qualities that “men prefer” in their potential spouse – namely her virginity, no accumulated debt, and a lack of tattoos. Pretty specific, huh? Taking this list at face value I don’t think any of these things are exactly groundbreaking concepts, especially since every man (and woman, for that matter) has their individual preferences when looking for a partner. But the way the post was written implied that women who had any past at all (like independence or ex-boyfriends) were damaged goods not worthy of a quality husband. What nonsense!
This may be way more personal that I should share here, but I was a virgin when I met my husband at age 22. I’m what most people would call a late bloomer in that regard. That label doesn’t bother me, but I know that most women in my peer group had sex for the first time much younger than I did. However, when my ex and I got married (on the 6th anniversary of our first date) I was no longer a virgin. Not surprising considering we had been dating for such a long time. We also lived together for a year and a half before the wedding in the house we bought a few weeks after getting engaged. Still, he was the only person I had ever been with. But rather than lauding my virginity at the beginning of our relationship, he was actually annoyed by it. Virgins have no idea what they’re doing in the bedroom and he didn’t want another inept lover. (He was my first but I was not his, which I was OK with.) And now that I’m older and have more life experience I don’t blame him! So while I understand that most religions value a woman’s purity when she weds, clearly not all men are exclusively looking for virgins to marry. (For the record, my ex-husband wasn’t any more religious than I am, but he was still interested in my morals, goals, and our mutual compatibility before choosing me as his wife.) So now that I am a divorced woman pushing 40, and obviously no longer a virgin, am I less worthy of a man who loves and respects me in my current state? Am I damaged goods because I am single after saving myself from an abusive marriage? No! Maybe no Prince Charming will ever make his way into my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to settle for less than what I deserve just so that I can have a man in my life. I’m doing just fine on my own!
Regarding the other two noted qualities of a marriageable female according to this “Christian” blogger – no debt and a lack of tattoos – I’ll have to tackle those in another post. It’s getting late and I have to get up and run the Cypress 5K in the morning. Just one of the things this single woman can do with her abundant freedom and independence!
You want to know why women don’t come forward more often when they are being abused? First of all, they might not realize are in an abusive relationship. I didn’t until after I left my marriage. I knew that my ex-husband didn’t treat me very well, but I didn’t see the whole terrible picture until I removed myself from the situation. Take a look at the above photo from December 2011. My ex-husband and I were given a huge container full of glass bulb Christmas ornaments from his grandmother when she moved to Texas. Unfortunately every year we lost two or three of them when they fell off the tree and shattered on our hardwood floor. Real Christmas trees don’t always have the strongest branches! It was never anyone’s fault if the ornaments fell, but this picture depicts what the aftermath usually looked like. (Minus the finger-pointing, generally. That was specifically for the photo.) This picture was amusing at the time, but looking back it feels like a perfect and unsettling illustration of our marriage. Me cleaning up some mess, whether or not I actually caused it, while also taking the blame for the situation.
Everything was my fault. Everything was my problem to fix. Eventually my entire life consisted of keeping my ex-husband happy. Attempting to foresee and mitigate potential issues and smoothing over ones I couldn’t prevent. I spent all of my time catering to his needs, trying to keep him from being upset with me, but it was never enough. I was always judged and found wanting. It was exhausting and soul-crushing. So why didn’t I leave earlier? Especially after he cheated on me less than three years after we got married? Because I wasn’t strong enough at the time. My self-worth had taken such a beating during our time together that I didn’t think I was worthy of better treatment. I had been groomed into such a state of submission that I couldn’t contemplate breaking free, even when he violated the vows we made on our wedding day. Honestly, I should have ended it long before I actually did. I have so many stories I could tell to back that statement up. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband, but I tolerated lines being crossed that should never be crossed in a relationship. It took me a long time to come to my senses, gather my strength, and save myself from my abusive marriage. It was such a difficult road to walk, but I have not regretted it for one moment. So if you’re a woman reading this, I truly hope that you do not allow your partners to take advantage of you that way I did. Do not accept poor treatment, especially from someone who claims to love you more than anyone else. You are absolutely worthy of love and respect!
P.S. I know that my blog readership is almost nonexistent, and I’m OK with that. I’ve always maintained this website (in all of its forms) for myself and not for anyone else. But I want to make sure that if any woman does happen upon this post that she reads something that empowers her to make her life better!
Another troubling topic that has been in the news lately is abuse. Specifically, the allegations that were recently made against Chris Hardwick. (Briefly I want to say that I’ve been a big fan of the Nerdist/ID10T podcast, plus a lot of his other work, so the stories I read made me immensely sad. But objectively I still stand with the accuser because charismatic people can be abusers too.) The #metoo movement that spread like wildfire last fall brought light to widespread sexual harassment and assault that is usually hushed up before it becomes public. It was eye-opening for a lot of people, but for most women this was information that we already knew. Just about every female has experienced harassment or abuse of some kind in her lifetime. It was a relief to finally talk openly about such a taboo topic and bring heightened awareness where usually we are told to keep quiet. I’ve written about this before, but reading the allegations against Chris Hardwick last week brought back bad memories of my marriage.
“I believed that, to borrow an analogy from a friend, if I kept digging I would find water. And sometimes I did. Just enough to sustain me. And when you’re dying of thirst, that water is the best water you’ll ever drink. When you’re alienated from your friends, there’s no one to tell you that there’s a drinking fountain 20 feet away. And when your self-worth reaches such depths after years of being treated like you’re worthless, you might find you think you deserve that sort of treatment, and no one else will love you.”
Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession by Chloe Dykstra
When I read this excerpt from the article about Chris Hardwick it sounded so familiar that I went back and reviewed my post about emotional abuse from a few years ago. Isn’t this almost the same thing I wrote nearly four years ago?
“Even if you can dismiss 99% of his subtle insults, that last 1% slowly builds up, day after day, until you’re completely crushed under the weight of the chides, tsks, and sighs. Until one day you wake up and discover that you believe him. You’re not worthy of his love. You’re not worthy of having a partner who doesn’t expect you to walk one step behind him.”
9/23/14 webpage post
Emotional abuse is real, and it is often invisible outside of the relationship. You never know what someone might be going through, and the scars last long after the abuse is over. I have more to say on this subject, but this post is already getting really long. I will follow-up later this week.
“In the past I don’t think I have expressed my opinions as freely as I should have. Before now I have felt intimidated by opinionated people and rarely did I oppose them for that reason. Everyone should be able to say what they think, but in a way that does not degrade any particular person for their beliefs.”
5/19/99 webpage post
I was reading my very first webpage post from 5/19/99 the other day and I was struck by the above excerpt. It’s remarkably wise for my immature and inexperienced twenty year-old self. I’m pretty sure I talked a big talk, but didn’t live up to it in real life. Even so, my thinking was on the right track at a young age. Unfortunately I met my ex-husband a couple of years later and over the course of our eleven year relationship I was groomed to keep any displeasure to myself. I’ve written about emotional abuse in my marriage before and this was another aspect of it. Anytime I expressed unhappiness I was somehow persuaded into thinking that everything was my fault and that I should fix the problem on my own (whether or not I caused it) and keep quiet about it. It was a real step backwards in my personal development. Eventually I came to the miraculous realization I that I didn’t need to live that way! I rescued myself from that toxic relationship and a lifetime of misery with someone who didn’t respect me.
Now that I’m older and finally free to be whoever I want I am relearning the same lessons that I did back in college. Not long ago there was an incident at work where I was compelled to shut down hate speech. Working closely with a lot of people I am fully aware that we all have differing opinions, and we are entitled to them, but there are lines that I am not willing to tolerate being crossed in my presence. So when I heard a co-worker expressing anti-Muslim sentiments there was no way I could let it go. In no uncertain terms I informed him that his conversation was not appropriate for work. I didn’t try to correct his views (although I consider them repulsive – I respect all religions while not being religious myself), but made sure that he knew that he should not be discussing them at our place of employment. I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking because he ignored me and kept talking. So I raised my voice and forcefully said, “I’m not kidding, that is not an appropriate topic of conversation at work.” (As a side note, internally I feared I was being bitchy. Thanks to society women are conditioned to be pleasant all the time or risk being considered bitches, but that didn’t stop me from standing my ground when he didn’t shut up.) So what was the response after my second admonition? “I thought this was a free country.” Seriously? This made me even angrier than the initial religion bashing. Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired. My blood was boiling at this point, but I had a job to do so I got back to it. Later that day I described the incident to a manager because I think all employees have an obligation to stop this despicable sort of discrimination. Fortunately management took my report seriously and the situation was quickly dealt with. Still, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It blows my mind that people walk around with so much hate. Our world would be a much more harmonious place without it.
There have been a lot of stories in the news lately about men hitting women. This is obviously domestic violence. It is obviously abuse. But not all abuse is as easy to identify. Fists leave physical damage, but words and other actions leave psychological damage that takes much longer to heal. Maybe you’re married to a guy who freely admits he’s arrogant and self-centered. A narcissist. Maybe you’re convinced he thinks men are superior to women even though he’s never used those exact words. Maybe he told you he “just doesn’t like women” once and it’s haunted you ever since. Even since then you’ve wondered, “What does that say about me? Does that mean he doesn’t like me? Does that mean he doesn’t respect me?” You think, “I can’t possibly be the only exception to his statement.” You never asked flat out, but that conversation made you realize that he would never see you as his equal. And somehow, at the time, you accepted it. Maybe you’re married to a guy who finds little ways to make you feel like you’re not worthy of his love or respect. You don’t think he’s doing it deliberately or consciously, but that doesn’t make it any easier to brush off. Even if you can dismiss 99% of his subtle insults, that last 1% slowly builds up, day after day, until you’re completely crushed under the weight of the chides, tsks, and sighs. Until one day you wake up and discover that you believe him. You’re not worthy of his love. You’re not worthy of having a partner who doesn’t expect you to walk one step behind him. When it all boils down to it, you realize that you’re scared on him. Not because he hits you or verbally assaults you, but because he looks down on you. You’re his inferior. And you know that whatever you do, inevitably to try and please him, will more than likely fail. On some level, at least. For one detail or another he’ll look at you like you’re an idiot and you’ll curse yourself for screwing up yet again. You’ll berate yourself for not living up to his standards, even though the rational part of your brain knows that’s impossible. And after each incident you’ll be even more scared of messing up the next time. You’re afraid of his disappointment, his explanation of what you did wrong, and his lack of appreciation for all of your efforts. This is emotional abuse. Plain and simple. It’s not as obvious as physical violence or outright insults, but it’s just as damaging.
It’s been a long time coming, but I can finally announce that as of January 28th I am no longer married. I got a copy of the divorce judgment in the mail on Thursday, confirming my single status. But while the legality of it is still very fresh, I’ve actually been living on my own for over a year. I obviously haven’t stated it outright here, but I wasn’t trying to hide anything so I’m sure it was easy to read between the lines of my posts and figure out what was going on. I moved out of the house in Redondo Beach and into my apartment in Seal Beach in October 2012. After that I hired a lawyer and filed for divorce that December. That process was rather long and drawn out, considering it took more than a year to complete (I accept some of the blame for that, but my lawyer was awful so that was a factor too), but now it’s done and I’m free. I’m honestly relieved. Most people who read this blog know that I’ve been through a lot in the last four years, and that I’ve dealt with hardships that I never expected. To be blunt, my marriage was not kind to me. I tried to make it work after some dark times, but at some point I realized that I would never be happy there. So I left. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make, and I certainly didn’t take it lightly, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I made the right one. I’ve thought about writing on this subject so many times, but I decided to wait until all of the paperwork was said and done before doing so. But now that the time has arrived I’m having trouble knowing what to say. The last thing I want to do is go into a profanity-laced woe-is-me diatribe about all the difficulties I’ve faced, but I’ve walked a rough road since I left Dan. Things are finally starting to get easier, but I’m far from where I want to be. All I can do now is move in the right direction and hope that good things are waiting for me in the future. I’m ready for some good things in my life. It’s been a long time, and I just want to be happy again.