My dragonslippers

Four years ago, my abusive marriage ended.  I thought that the passing of four years was long enough, and that I would be “over it” by now… I was wrong.  Over the past couple of months I’ve been swept up into flashbacks, as well as experiencing anxiety and dissociation for no apparent reason.

The other day, I was feeling good, and thought that the storm had passed… but now, it’s back with a vengeance.

The good thing about the four years since the marriage was over, is that I can more clearly see how we reacted to each other to create the disaster that was the marriage.  It’s easy to say that I walked into the marriage because of old patterns… one therapist told me that I married a man just like my father, after all.  But that’s a nice square box to place the experience in… the reality is so much more complicated.  My childhood was my training for my marriage… it taught me how to ignore my own needs in favour of others, to consider myself worthless, and not expect to be treated with respect.  His training involved systematically having his self-confidence destroyed; suppressing his anger, to the point where it exploded without warning; and thinking that domination equated to power.

He needed control, but didn’t want it… and I didn’t want control, but needed it.

That one line is possibly the most accurate summary of the marriage.  How it presented was sometimes funny; but more often than not, painful.  Now that I’m a little further away from the situation, I can see the links between such things as his jealousy and my actions.  The best example that I can think of to describe this dynamic, is my fear of going outside – he once commented that one of our male neighbours always seemed to be going outside when I was; which was a huge red flag to me.  It meant that something was wrong, and that something needed to change, as anything that bothered my husband, meant danger.  I couldn’t stop my neighbour from going outside, but I could.  So began another layer of my social anxiety.

There are lots of little examples like that…

Reading this, people will wonder why I stayed with him for so long.  It’s a perfectly reasonable question… I lived in fear of him for eight years; he abused me regularly, and was constantly in trouble with his employers.  But that chaos echoed both of our pasts, so it seemed normal.  I didn’t go to work with visible bruises, and he acted almost childlike in public; so I would often be seen as the bossy one.  No one looking into the marriage would say that anything was wrong.

Probably the most obvious example of why I stayed within the marriage for so long, is shown by his reaction after his final attack on me…  The attack happened on a Sunday afternoon, and after his panicked phone call to my mother, he settled down as if nothing had happened.  When I went to get medical treatment the next day, he accompanied me into the examining room, where he laughed about the injuries and how he had caused them.  He repeated this laughter when he dropped my medical certificate into my workplace to say I wouldn’t be in for at least a week.  It wasn’t until later that day, when my brother arrived that any sort of reality started to creep into his awareness.  He hid the chair broken during the attack, and tried to pretend like nothing had happened… but my brother took him aside and said that he needed to move out for a while.

When my brother went home, and my mother arrived; there was a further dawning of awareness for him… he was always desperate for my mothers approval, and that was obviously missing.  Suddenly he couldn’t cope.  This is when the twisting of the story began in earnest.  Two nights in a row he took off in his car… on one night he threatened suicide, and on the other night he threatened suicide and then told that police that he was too scared to return the house.  This showed how he could act when faced with a situation he didn’t like.

On Valentine’s Day, he left me to return to his family.  It was then that his twisting of the truth became more obvious… suddenly there was no attack, but instead, I was making it all up.  I broke the chair and caused the injuries to myself.  This version of events is what he was going to defend the Protection Order with… thankfully, I had the medical report detailing the attack, and all of his documentation which included a letter to a former supervisor apologising for assaulting him…  When his lawyer saw the documentation, the Protection Order defence was withdrawn.

When I look at this incident, I can see why I doubted so much of what happened within the marriage.  I was dissociative, so often doubted my version of events anyway; but he encouraged me to doubt things by twisting them back onto me, and playing a totally different role in public.  This situation reminds me of a quote from the book Dragonslippers: This is what an abusive relationship looks like:

‘You know, it’s interesting…work…politics…. It’s really so easy to control other people. You just have to cause dysfunction. Once someone feels insecure, you can do anything you want with them.’

This was said by the abuser within Rosalind Penfold’s relationship.  I entered the relationship with my ex-husband already insecure… all he had to do, was to keep me in that place and he could do whatever he wanted.  That’s why my attending therapy was seen as such a threat, and why he enjoyed my dysfunction so much.

I’m glad that I’m now physically free of him… I just wish that I was psychologically free as well.

Now playing: Headless Chickens – George
via FoxyTunes


23 thoughts on “My dragonslippers

  1. CG, Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you endured such violence and abuse during your life. Your inner strength and perseverance are inspiring, and I am in awe of your accomplishments and intelligence despite dealing with so much pain.

    I’ve never experienced the terror of a physically abusive relationship. But, I do understand the quote about insecurities. It is frighteningly true how easily it is to control someone who is insecure. It seems safer to remain alone.

    I hope you find that total freedom from your ex soon. You deserve every ounce of peace and happiness the world has to offer.

    Take care,

    • Hi rl,

      I think the quote can be transferred to any abusive situation – especially one occurring over time. It’s all about keeping people off balance.

      Thank you for the support 🙂

      Take care,

  2. I’m incredibly glad you’re physically free of him, too. I hope the psychological freedom comes one day soon, too.

    I’m sorry you had to endure all this. I’m really proud of you for writing this, and sharing it. I think it’s really brave of you, and also a definite sign of progress. ((hugs)) if wanted.

  3. I’m glad he’s gone, CG. I’m glad you documented everything. I’m glad your brother told him to move on, and that your mother was there.

    I’m sorry, though, for the hard part of sorting it out, now. You’re obviously not a woman to ‘kept in place,’ so no matter what, you’re a victor in rescuing your life.


  4. CG, this is one of those times when my words are insufficient in my expressing my thoughts, so I apologize because what I *want* to say isn’t coming out very well.

    First off: There was no thought in my mind about why you stayed. Of course you did. You gave the reason: You didn’t know what was really normal. You knew what was normal for *you*.

    Second: I think the way you discuss your relationship shows incredible insight. You see the truth of what happened and I’m very glad that you had documented proof to validate your experience.

    I have to think that this is a step to being more psychologically free.

    But, I also thought: the man tried to kill you! Besides all of the other horrible things he did to you while you were married. You don’t get over something like that.

    I think that you can heal yes, but if someone tried to kill me, it would stick with me and that’s normal.

    All of that manipulation and him making light of what he did…just made me sick and angry. I’m so happy that you got away from that.

    I think that continuing to work on the child abuse issues will eventually lead you to freedom with this too because they’re connecting as you pointed out so well.

    Be good to you. Be patient. And be compassionate. You deserve it.

    • Hi CI,

      Domestic violence is a complex issue… it’s so difficult to see past the smoke screens that are put in front of the relationship. It was only after the marriage ended that my mother made comments like “he never let you be alone with others”. My behaviour was all considered to be part of my mental health issues, and not about the situation I was living in… I wasn’t aware of how much it was all effecting me either.

      I’d like to say that the documentation helped, but I still doubt it all. The underlying messages are still there about me being a liar and over-dramatic, so it’s not a simple thing of having proof and it all being sorted.

      The only reason I got away from him, is because he left… I didn’t ask him to go.

      Thanks for your support CI, I appreciate it 🙂

      Take care,

      • That counts though CG. You didn’t go back to him, you didn’t argue with everyone and ask him to stay. You let him go. That’s incredibly brave and wonderful. Trust me. I’ve seen examples of it not happening that way and it doesn’t make those women weak or anything like that, I’m just glad that you chose to let him go.

        • To tell the truth, he took off one night saying he was returning to his hometown… He called again from half way down the country, saying he was really going. I know he was expecting me to pick-up the phone and beg him to come back. So I suppose that is in some way a sign that I let him leave. I didn’t consider it brave, it was just something he did, and I let happen.

          He had told me what would happen if we ever separated… none of it occurred 🙂

          Take care,

  5. I’m so glad you got out of that relationship.
    It’s awful when your own insecurities are used to control you.
    You’re amazing, it’s amazing that you had the strength to start theraphy with him seeing it as a threat.
    *hugs* x

    • Hi Alice,

      I started therapy because I was struggling with work stress, and the dissociation… he saw therapy as a threat, but also something that he could use to his own advantage. He could tell all of his workmates about his unstable wife who need all of this extra attention.

      I know I’m making him sound like a monster… but he could also be charming and romantic.

      Thank you and take care,

  6. Boy do I relate to that quote! I would do well, but whenever my insecurity would raise its head I would turn back into a mess. I still sometimes struggle with that today. And yes, I believe my ex played with that a LOT. It is like he knew just what to do/say when. If I was hitting the breaking point where I would consider leaving, he would cry and get all apologetic. If I was getting strong, my insecurities would get triggered. How much of that was being dissociative and how much was his own cult programming being used against me I don’t know. I just know that he would keep me off kilter so that I was doubting myself and needing him. It all started even before the marriage.

    I am confident you will work it through. We didn’t get the way we are overnight and we don’t change overnight, but I think you are making breakthrough strides.

    • Hi OneSurvivor,

      I think that quote can be transferred to many situations… it shows how people can be aware of how to manipulate others.

      I’m sorry for what your ex did to you. It’s interesting how they can know when to change tack and shift into another mode to try and smooth the waters. The sense of false reliance on them is so destructive, as it keeps you trapped… whereas the alternatives can be so much better. It’s so difficult to see the alternatives when you’re stuck in the middle of it all…

      Thank you for the support…
      Take care,

      • It was definitely a false reliance. It took G-d to get me out of that situation. It was Yeshua/Jesus, holding my hand every step of the way and strengthening me so that I could wake up and realize that I was relying upon someone who would never be reliable. He had to help me see those alternatives as they were simply beyond me.

        Walking away from a cult marriage was not easy and it took years to fully break away from family…but it was worth it.

  7. I think that no one who was trapped in an abusive marriage and has experienced ongoing abuse for 8 years – which ended in a homicide attempt – can ever get over it in such a short time. It’s normal that you still have flashbacks, feeling anxiety and dissociation. These terrible and awful time has left many scars and im soooooooo glad that you’re still alive and free today. That he is gone.
    It will surely take a long time to process everything that has happened in those 8 years. But you’ll do it and you’re on a good way. This post today is the proof. You see the traps, dependencies and twists in the relationship and this insight is so important. It’s great work what you are doing CG! You could be proud. Oh, I just used an unfamiliar word for you? Repeat: You could be proud! 🙂
    Take care and warm safe hugs to all who want them

    • Hi LSC,

      I suppose I don’t see it as being all that bad. I don’t have any real connection with what he did to me, and how it affected me. I get glimpses of it in flashback, and I read about some of it through this blog and other documents… but it doesn’t really connect with anything.

      It’s not anything that I’ve really talked about… not many people want to hear about it, and it’s not something that I want to talk about. I talked about some of it with Allison the other week, and it helped her to understand more of my reactions to things…

      Me, proud? I certainly don’t feel it, but thank you for saying so 🙂

      Take care, and with (((warm safe hugs))) to those who want them,

  8. I am also coming up on the fourth anniversary of the day I left my ex. You echo so much of wha I dealt with, except mine didn’t have to use his fists. His words and his threats were generally enough to keep me in line. My dissociation has left me feeling like I’m utterly out of control the last several weeks. I can’t say that I’m glad I’m not alone, but I can say that I certainly understand.

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      My ex didn’t use physical force often, but he was a big man (over 6ft), so the threat was always there.

      I’m sorry you’re going through something similar, but glad you are physically free of him.

      Please take care,

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