My Story: Part 3
Part 3 of my story will cover the three years I was with my ex-husband, Jason, and the period of our divorce. You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. Just as in previous posts, all names have been changed, except my ex-husband’s name. It is a very long post, because I want my readers to know exactly what I went through. Warning: the following story may be triggering to those who have suffered through an abusive relationship.
I was freshly out of my relationship with Robert, and was now living on my own for the first time. I had reconnected with a friend I had lost track of, and went with her to welcome her husband home from his tour in Iraq in March. It was through the time I spent with this couple that I met Jason, who was best friends with the husband. They were in the same unit in the Army together.
Jason was initially a charming man, although rough around the edges. I would politely describe his personality as forceful and decisive. In truth, he was aggressive and a bully. He smoked like a chimney, swore like a sailor, and when he drank it was as though there was an impending ban on alcohol. He told hilarious off-color jokes, and he seemed to be a congenial person who occasionally offended people with his lack of social grace. I assumed that these qualities were due to being enlisted in the Army and being from a small town in Montana. He was adamant in his desire to date me, and I was still in the depths of self-hatred due to losing my virginity outside of marriage. I consented, thinking that I would probably never do better than him, and he moved into my studio apartment almost immediately.
Shortly after we met, I was fired from my job at a credit union, and had a hard time finding another job that would pay anything near what I had been making previously. I cashed out some investments I had made, and lived off of that money for a couple of months. Soon, I had a part-time job, but I became almost completely dependent on Jason to survive.
Even in the beginning, our relationship was both intense and tumultuous. We would regularly have fights over the smallest of things, and he would give me the silent treatment when he was angry with me, just as my family had done. In retrospect, I realize he was breaking down my defenses, and molding me into a person who would no longer fight back, who would live in terror of making him angry. He also started to break down my ties with my family and friends, except for the couple mentioned above. I firmly believe the only reason that couple was acceptable to him was because the husband was even more abusive to his wife than Jason was to me.
During all this time, Jason started showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Loud noises made him jump and cringe. He had night terrors, where he would wake up yelling and thrashing. I would regularly wake up with bruises due to bad dreams that he would act out in his sleep. He was terrified of children and cars parked on the side of the highway. He told me stories of his time in Iraq that explained these fears: being forced to shoot a young boy who was pointing a gun at him, and of cars that would explode as he drove by. These fears and his embarrassment over them contributed to his anger problems.
Jason found out that he was due to be redeployed to Iraq at the beginning of the next year. We had been dating for three months. He proposed, telling me that he loved me, and wanted me to be taken care of if something were to happen to him while he was overseas. I accepted, and scheduled dinner with my family the next week, so that we could tell them in person. I also told my best friend, who, in turn, told my parents before I could do it myself. My best friend had seen several “red flags” that the relationship between Jason and I was toxic, and he told my parents out of concern for me. Jason was even angrier than I was, and he told me that a real friend would never betray me like this. I stopped talking to my best friend because it was somehow easier than fighting with Jason about whether or not it was a “real friendship”.
My parents were against the wedding from the start, but their reactions and Jason’s interpretations simply made me cling tighter to the illusion that if we got married, things would be better. My dad tried to bribe me into waiting until after Jason returned from Iraq to get married, saying that he would be happy to pay for a huge wedding if we waited. Jason told me that my dad hated him, and that my parents were doing this because they hoped I would cheat on Jason while he was deployed. I was quick to tell him that I would never cheat on him, and Jason argued that getting married would make our relationship stronger. My mom’s tactics were the most hurtful of all. When I told her the date that we had set for the wedding, she told me she had a meeting that day, and that she absolutely would not reschedule it so that she could attend. I asked her for phone numbers for my family, so that I could tell them that I was getting married, and ask them to come to the wedding. She told me that she had already talked to everyone, and that no one wanted to come and see me get married, especially my grandparents. I was devastated, and felt as though my family had abandoned me. Jason took every opportunity to exacerbate the feeling that it was us against the world. I believe that if my parents had acted differently, and if they had been more emotionally supportive, I would have left my marriage much sooner.
Jason and I were married in September, with no more than 15 people in attendance. I had told my mother’s side of the family myself, and they all dropped everything to come and attend. My dad’s brother and his wife also came. I found out later that my uncle had spent three hours on the phone with my dad, convincing him to come. I was surprised to see him there with my three siblings. They left right after the ceremony. I didn’t speak to my parents for weeks afterwards. Jason’s parents also came. His dad spent the entire time grumbling about how he was missing the opening weekend of deer hunting season. We celebrated our wedding, and Jason’s increase in pay, by signing a year-long lease for a cute two bedroom townhouse.
Two months after we were married, Jason told me that he had been going to the doctor for his severe back pain. He was eventually diagnosed with degenerative deterioration of the discs in his spine, and was told he would not be deploying. Instead, he would be medically discharged in January. This took his mental instability to another level entirely. Rather than insisting on counseling and treatment for what was clearly depression and PTSD, I clung to the idea that if I could just stop making him angry, he would stop being mean. He used other methods to control me as well.
He regularly lied to me about the most ridiculous things. He told me that when he lived in Montana, he was the leader of a gang who sold a lot of drugs. He said that when he was caught, the judge at his trial gave him the choice of jail or enlisting in the military, and that was why he was in the Army. I pointed out that regulations prohibit enlistment in the Army of anyone who has been sentenced to enlistment in lieu of jail time, and, furthermore, that there was no possible way someone convicted of a crime was eligible to become a military police officer, which was his job. He completely snapped. He started screaming at me, saying that he couldn’t believe I was calling him a liar, and telling me that I was lucky he didn’t believe in hitting women, because if I was a man, he would have broken my jaw for that.
I was shaken, and I started crying and apologizing. This was the first time he had threatened violence to me, but it was not the last. And things spiraled downward quickly. We practically had a textbook case of the Cycle of Abuse. Jason would get angry at me for something, and he would give me a look that showed me his anger as he made insulting “observations”, or he would give me the silent treatment for a few days. He would eventually lash out with anger, screaming at me about what a horrible person I was, how I didn’t deserve to live, and he would reiterate how lucky I was that he didn’t believe in hitting women. This stage of the cycle would generally end with Jason taking off in his car, as I called his cell phone repeatedly, begging him to come home. If he answered, he would vent his rage at me further, and either tell me again that I deserved to die or he would threaten to commit suicide. If he didn’t answer, I would call his mom, who would start yelling at me about how terrible I was to her son. When he came home, he would then be remorseful and tell me how much he loved me, and how he would never do it again. There would be a brief period of calm, and then the tension building step would start again.
Jason started doing things that would undermine my close friendships. If I went out with my girl friends without him, he would text me the entire time I was out of the house. I knew that if I didn’t respond immediately, he would get angry, and we would have a huge argument over the phone. He would often accuse me of cheating on him while I was out with friends, telling me that my friends didn’t like him, and would encourage me to leave him. I would get defensive because I viewed marriage as a sacred institution, and instead of paying attention to the people I was with, I would pay attention to him via text instead. At one point, he told me that one of his “gang” had slit the cheeks of a girl that had cheated on Jason. It quickly grew to the point where I would not leave the house without him, just to avoid the inevitable fight.
As the date of his discharge loomed closer, and his unit had already deployed without him, he realized that he would have the opportunity to move back to Montana on the government’s dime. Without consulting me, Jason decided he was going to take them up on the offer. When he told me of his decision he said “I’m moving back to Montana. You can come with me or you can stay. It doesn’t really matter to me.” I was incredibly offended, but I had already fought so hard for the marriage that it seemed like if I didn’t move, I was giving up. I should have given up.
Before the move, I discovered that Jason had started talking to one of his ex-girlfriends who still lived in his hometown via Myspace. He had left his messages up on our shared computer, and would call her when he thought I couldn’t hear him. He made plans to go to Montana on a trip without me, so that he could spend time with her. The excuse he gave me for the trip was that he had been looking for a job with the local police, and he was going in for interviews. I insisted on going on the trip too, so that I could also look for a job. He left me at his parents’ place, saying that he was going on ride-alongs with the local police. I knew that he was over at his ex’s place instead. I never confronted him on it.
Of course, when we moved to Montana, neither of us had a job. I had been applying online, and continued to do so as we lived in a bedroom in his parents’ single-wide trailer. I was horrified at the living conditions, and as soon as I found a full-time job, we moved into a two bedroom apartment. He didn’t look for a job, and continued insisting that his excursions were to the local police department. He was having an affair with his ex, and I didn’t dare confront him about it. I started to willfully ignore all the signs of the affair, and chose to pretend that it wasn’t happening.
I was absolutely alone. My only form of social contact was with my co-workers who were all over 65, my abusive husband, and his friends. I was depressed and had gained over 80 pounds very quickly. Jason regularly told me that I was so lucky that he loved me, especially because I was fat, ugly, and stupid. In the beginning, I knew that I wasn’t ugly or stupid, but at 250 pounds, I was definitely fat. A person who hears things like this will eventually start believing it. I believed I was stupid, even though I had to dumb down my vocabulary just so he could understand me. I believed I was ugly, even though a man with a fetish for married women offered me $5 million to spend a week with me. The offer of money for sex just furthered my self-hate, as I thought that I had finally sunk as low as I could possibly go. I refused the offer because I knew that even though Jason would welcome the money, he would hate me forever for it, and he would add whore to his list of insults.
I started singing karaoke at the bars we went to, and I became friends with the manager of the apartments we were living in. Six months after we started living there, I applied for the job of assistant property manager. I was accepted, and I started getting to know more people independently of my husband. He was definitely unhappy about this, and he again started accusing me of cheating on him. Jason started coming into the office when I was alone, and he would pick a fight with me while I was at work. My quality of work suffered dramatically on days he did this.
Shortly after our one year anniversary, Jason got very drunk and confessed something that rocked my view of him and our marriage. The ex-girlfriend that he had an affair with had a child who was three years old. Jason was the father. At this time, I had been adamant that I never wanted to have children, and Jason knew that when he married me. To find out that he had been a father all along angered me, and I started considering leaving him. Somehow, in my view, omitting the fact that he had a child was worse than the affair.
One evening, Jason was out of town, and I was listening to the radio at work. I heard an advertisement for auditions at the local community theater. On a whim, I went to the auditions. I was given a part, and suddenly I had a bunch of ready-made friends who were supportive and accepting. Jason, of course, was angry that I had made contacts outside of his friend circle, and he offered to do tech and set building so that he could keep an eye on me. I also started working as a karaoke host around this time, and again, he would go out to bars that I was working at so that he could keep an eye on me. Whenever he couldn’t go to that bar, he said that one of the members of his former gang would be there to watch me and make sure I was “safe”.
The abuse cycle continued, and although I grew more and more fearful of Jason’s anger, I enjoyed having friends for the first time in a year and a half. I grew more and more involved with the theater, and ended up directing the yearly musical. During rehearsals for this musical, one of the cast members approached me after listening to a phone call with Jason. She looked me in the eye and said “You realize you are in an abusive relationship, right?” The truth of her words rang in my ears, and I almost started crying right then. The abusive behavior had started so insidiously, and once I had started accepting it as normal, I could no longer see Jason’s behavior for what it was. I just viewed it as how my marriage worked.
Later that night, I researched emotional abuse, and found this page. It was as though they were speaking directly about my relationship. I actually did start crying at this point, and resolved that I was no longer going to accept his abuse as normal. That was when the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan.
We went through another cycle of abuse, but at the actual verbal abuse part of the cycle, I stood my ground and yelled right back. Instead of running off in his car again, Jason threw me against the wall. I didn’t back down instead continued yelling at him. He broke down in tears and started threatening suicide again. He actually locked himself in the bathroom, with me outside the door, pounding on it and asking him if he was really going to commit suicide over an argument. He finally decided to run off and as he was leaving, he told me he was going to drive his car into the river, or go out into the middle of nowhere and shoot himself. I told him he was an idiot if he did that. After he left, I called my mom for the first time in a year, and told her that he and I had a huge fight and that I was thinking about leaving him. She calmly asked me if there was anything that she could do to help me. I told her that no, I thought I had it under control.
Instead of standing behind my words, I caved in to Jason’s apparent remorse, and believed that he would seek help for his behavior. I told him that I had called my mom, and he cried, saying that he was sure that she hated him, and then he made promises that we would go visit my family in a couple of months. I called her, elated, thinking that standing up to him had worked. Of course, it was all lies, and the abuse cycle started again.
The final 48 hours of my marriage was a terrifying hell. Once again, Jason came into my office while I was there alone, and he sat across from my office, glowering. I could almost feel the anger radiating off of him. I looked into his eyes and said “I don’t know what you are angry about, but you can’t be angry at me. I haven’t seen you all day. You know you aren’t supposed to be here when I’m working. Go home and figure it out, and we’ll talk about it when I get home.” He left the office and went to our apartment.
I finished my work for the day, and went home. He was sitting on our couch in the same position he had been sitting in my office, only this time, he was smoking. I said hello, and received no answer. I went about my usual after-work activities, and when I came back out to the living room, he got up and left the apartment, slamming the door behind him. I listened as his garage door went up, he backed his car out, he slammed his garage door down, and he raced out of the parking lot with his tires screaming.
Ordinarily, the first thing I would do when this happened would be to start calling his cell phone, begging him to come home. I didn’t do it this time. This time I called my friend Mary, and asked her out for coffee, telling her that Jason had run off again. She accepted, and I was still on the phone with her as I got into my car. I stopped in mid-sentence as my heart skipped a beat. When Mary asked me if I was okay, I said “He stopped long enough to take his wedding ring off and leave it on the dashboard of my car.”
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was done. I had coffee with Mary, and managed to lock my keys in my car. I had to call maintenance to get the spare key to my apartment so that I could get the spare key to my car. Mary decided to take me out drinking that night, and Jason texted me while I was out, asking where I was. I responded with, “The wedding ring on the dashboard of my car tells me you don’t give a shit.” He replied with “I don’t, but I want to make sure we won’t be at the same bar.” I assured him we wouldn’t.
I ended up spending the night at Mary’s place, only to awake and find that Jason had vandalized my car. I had to work that day, and I was absolutely terrified as I drove back to my apartment. I called my mom as I drove there, telling her that Jason and I had another fight. She asked me again if there was anything she could do. I said that I wasn’t sure, but I would call her later. I called Mary to tell her about the car, and asked her to please stay on the phone with me as I entered the apartment. I instructed her to call the police if I stopped talking for any reason whatsoever.
I was convinced that I would come home to an angry husband, a trashed apartment, and I was sure that he would have killed my cats. I was surprised to see that nothing had been touched. Everything was as I had left it. Including the bed. Even though he hadn’t slept at home, he still felt the need to vandalize my car, and he changed the password on my laptop. I went to work, and while I was there, I asked maintenance to change the lock on my apartment. I was convinced that if he had the chance, he would completely destroy the place. I sent Jason a text, telling him that I had changed the locks, and if he wanted his things, he was welcome to them, but police would be present as he removed his possessions.
Mary came to my office with coffee, and she was there as I got a response text from Jason, telling me that he had better have access to the apartment if I knew what was good for me. Mary decided that she was going to stay at the office with me. One of the residents that I was good friends with also entered the office, and after hearing the story, she also decided to keep me company. I jumped every time the front door opened, sure that it was Jason coming in to either scream at me or kill me. I was so tense and anxious that I started throwing up anything that I tried to eat, but I could drink coffee. Mary also started giving me cigarettes to calm my nerves. This was the beginning of an almost 5-year addiction to nicotine.
I called my mom again, after some coaching from Mary. When my mom asked again if there was anything that I needed, I started crying for the first time. I told her that I needed my dad. She responded that he would be on the next plane, and she called me twenty minutes later with the time of his arrival. I felt a little better, knowing my dad was on his way.
Jason came into the office in the early afternoon. He slammed open the door, and I started shaking, but my friends and I had discussed how we were going to handle it if he was belligerent. He started calling me every name he could think of, yelling as loudly as he could. I calmly told him that I was not comfortable with him in the office, and that I felt threatened. I asked him to leave. He responded with “Fuck you!” and more abuse. Mary interrupted him and said the same words. His response was the same. My resident also repeated the words, but added that if he didn’t leave, she would call the police. He also yelled at her, so she walked into my boss’ office and called 911. Suddenly he changed his tune, and he started trying to cajole me, telling me how much he loved me, and how sorry he was that he was mean to me. When I told him that there was no getting out of it this time, he started yelling again. He alternated between these two tactics until I calmly told him that we were done, and my dad was on his way. His face fell. He knew it was over.
He walked outside and started chain-smoking cigarettes as the police showed up. Jason immediately started trying to engage the first police officer, but the officer walked into the office and spoke to us girls first. I explained the situation, and said that I would be happy to let him into the apartment with the police present so that he could gather his possessions, but that I was scared that he would hurt me if we were alone. I also said that I was not comfortable with Jason taking his guns. The officer told me that he couldn’t keep someone from their legal property, and I responded with, “Well, if I am dead or missing tomorrow, then my blood is on your hands.” The officer blanched, but held his ground.
During this conversation, a second officer drove up and came inside. The first officer told him to go talk to Jason. I am forever grateful that Jason specifically told the office that he just wanted to get his stuff “including my guns, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them.” The two police officers conferred, and they agreed that Jason should not be allowed to take his guns. As we walked over to the apartment together, my boss drove in. She took over the rest of my shift at the office as I watched Jason gather his things. I asked him for the key to my car, and the things he removed from it the night before, as well as the password to my laptop. He gave them to me without further comment.
I spent the rest of the day with Mary, and she drove me to pick up my dad at the airport. We were outside the airport, sharing a cigarette, I jumped and almost screamed as Jason appeared right in front of me. He was with his mom, and he said that we should get a divorce. His mom followed it up with “you two have tortured one another long enough.” I wanted to slap her. Instead, I agreed that divorce would be best.
I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see someone as my dad walked off of his plane. I spent the night with him at a hotel. The next day, I resigned my job, started packing to move to California with my parents, and Jason and I filled out the forms for our divorce. Over the course of a week, I only packed the things I could either send via UPS or that I could fit in my car. I gave my cats to loving homes, I said teary goodbyes to my theater friends, and I left Montana for California.
The abuse didn’t stop there. I stupidly agreed to try and remain friends with Jason. He almost talked me into moving back to Montana to be with him. After talking with my parents about it, “he says he’ll go to counseling, and he promises that he’ll be a better person”, my mom pointed out that I sounded like an abused woman. As soon as my eyes were opened (again), I deleted him from social networking, and told him that all contact had to go through my parents. He actually accessed my MySpace account, re-added himself as my “top friend”, and changed the password. Luckily, he hadn’t thought to change the password on my email, and I recovered the account. I then blocked his account from seeing mine. He continued to email me, and I deleted the messages without reading them. He started calling me at my new job, harassing me about money that I supposedly owed him. I threatened to get a restraining order if he didn’t stop contacting me. He finally stopped after the divorce was finalized on May 17, 2007.
He still emails from time to time, and he tried to add me as a friend on Facebook recently. I blocked him there too.
I had a brief interim relationship with someone who was very kind and patient. He healed a lot of the emotional wounds, but my parents were vocal about their disapproval of me dating so soon after my divorce. I quickly moved out of my parents’ house, and ended up in San Francisco in October of 2007. That brief relationship ended when I moved, and then I fell into another controlling and abusive relationship.
Part 4 will be posted on Friday.