Over the past few weeks, i have learned a lot about myself and about the cycle of domestic violence. I have learned that no matter how knowledgeable i thought i was, there were always warning signs and evidence of abuse that i didn't consider or wasn't aware of. Little things and bigger things. Daily things and occasional things.
One of the really profound things i learned was how often i ignored the inner voice that cried out for kind regard. The check in my spirit that whispered, "what about me?" Or the ache in my heart from words that struck deep and were never forgotten. But those whispers were always countered by the louder voice of my husband telling me what a "good wife" or a "Christian" wife was supposed to be. Or the church, without intending harm, exclaiming that a truly submission wife would not be treated badly by her husband. Or the well-meaning women who asked if there was truth to my husband's accusations about my laziness, my disrespect, my emotional imbalance, or my failures as a wife and mother.
And it really just became easier to tell myself they were all right.
Because the only person i can control is myself. And i can change myself to fit whatever mold others say i should fit into. But i cannot change my circumstances or my husband or my church or my friends... so i worked diligently on changing me.
So when my husband accused me of not being affectionate enough after our baby was born because she was always touching me and i was begging for some solitude, i tried to be what he needed. Because it was easier to change what i needed than to feel unheard.
And when my husband refused to walk the living room with our colicky son for even 15 minutes so that i could take a shower - because he "couldn't handle it" - i tried to not need him as much. Because it was easier to figure out how to change my schedule to accommodate my most basic needs during that difficult season of working full-time and caring for two children alone than it was to feel unimportant.
As the anger bouts came out in full force against me and the children, i tried to change any behaviors or the situations that might be triggering them. Because it was easier to keep the peace than to fear for our safety.
When my husband made room for his things but not mine, took food off of my plate after he finished his own, cared for his laundry but no one else's, cleaned his bathroom sink but not mine, helped his sister with her child but not me with ours, bought his favorite things at the store but didn't ask what i might like, or took the only towel rod in the bathroom for his towel, i tried to remind myself to be more self-sacrificing. Because it was easier to ignore his little actions that put me last than it was to feel unloved.
And when my husband filed for divorce last month, those same inclinations came flooding back. Because it would be easier to bend myself to his will and continue in this farce of a marriage so that my children do not have to be pulled away from the only life they have known. It would be easier to submit myself to the evils of my husband's self-serving demands than to walk this road of uncertainty and chaos.
i have been learning a lot in the past few weeks.
About myself and about the cycle of domestic violence and abuse.
And one of the things that i learned is that it is sometimes easier to stay in a situation that is absolutely killing you than it is to fight your way out of it.
And when it is easier, it is generally not the right path. Because i have always believe that the easy roads are not the ones that challenge us, and when we are not challenged, we don't grow, and if we don't grow, we cannot flourish! Oh, how i long to flourish!
So i am choosing to walk this very hard road with my husband. A road toward independence. A road toward separateness. A road that will take me out of the firing line of some really dreadful behaviors. And i choose to believe that we will be okay, my children and i. God walks with me. He has this tiny circular beam of light that He is shining on my next steps, but He is also putting wise counsel in path, words of truth in my ears, and peace within my soul.
It isn't easy.
But i trust that it will be worth it. :)