Why I Stayed

I don’t think he’ll hurt us.

Those were my words, in the middle of a terrible night, eyes wide and searching, trying to see my way through the dark.

That’s what every woman says before it actually happens.

Those were words spoken by a true protector, a man who saw it all as if in the light of day, not swallowed up by the dark, holding up a light to the truth. My brother.

If he’ll do that to the wall, he’ll do that to you.

Words of a friend looking at the sheetrock, the recipient of the previous night’s rage, a friend who walked that dark road a long time before me, a friend who managed to find her way out.

Why did you stay? Why did you stay after the man who was supposed to love you called you crazy, stupid, warped, lazy, controlling, fat? Why did you stay when he used physical force against you?  Why did you stay when he put your life and Avery’s and Lily’s lives in danger?

Questions asked by many when the truth of my marriage had been revealed, after I admitted the emotional abuse, after I admitted that he’d already put hands on me in anger, after I admitted how his actions had taken me so close to losing my precious ones.  My reasons look weaker and weaker.

 

Marriage is hard. You have to tough it out.

He’ll change.

I love him, or at least I used to love him.

He’ll change.

It’s best for the kids, even though he treats me badly.

He’ll change.

I don’t want to have to start over. Create a whole new life.

He’ll change.

I don’t want to be labeled “divorced.” A Single Mom.

He’ll change.

Last and saddest.  But we had such a beautiful wedding. Fairy tales always have happy endings.

 

Those are some of the reasons I stayed with an abuser. Now I’m free. I don’t have to hide anything anymore. I don’t have to cover for him, so that we can save face. I’m not alone.

 

I packed up our family and wedding pictures yesterday, preparing to sell our house. I was choked with grief. Not over the end of the marriage, but because I had to admit that the story those pictures told was never real. The man who held my hand in those images was not the man in reality. Those beautiful, beautiful pictures were lies.

As Avery, Lily, and I said our nighttime prayers last night, Lily said, “Thank you God for crying.” She took my breath away. Yes Lily, I thank God for crying.  It’s the only way to begin again, washed anew.

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