Article first posted on Medium.com, Aug 10, 2020

Article first posted on Medium.com, Aug 10, 2020

A story about letting the right ones in when you need them most

Ok, so something is very wrong when during a conversation with your best friend, she says, “Can you leave him…yes? Is now the best time…probably not. But if anything happens…you know, if he gets physical again, you gotta go!”

Very wrong. And yet, I felt so loved in that moment.

This is what happens when you feel trapped in a failing relationship with a history of abuse, a pandemic to “justify” why you’re staying, and the best friends anyone could imagine on your side.

Now one might say, um how are these the best friends ever? If they were the best, they would have moved your ass out in the middle of the night or planned a Dixie Chicks Earl-type scenario, or at the very least talked a bunch of shit about him to continue to let you know…they hate him.

But let’s talk for real. First off, I am not in immediate danger and this is an important thing to note for my specific story.

I am, however, healing from trauma, sorting through my own shame and beliefs about family and relationships, and deciding if the damage is irreparable. I remind myself that “keeping the family together at all cost” is an old paradigm that I don’t actually subscribe to. I also tell myself that staying for his income isn’t right, either (and also, it’s not like he’s a Kennedy, for God’s sake!). So what is right?

Stay safe. Plan. Go to therapy.

As I make said plans, having people tell me to hurry up or get mad if I don’t move fast enough is not what I need.
What I need is to be trusted while I get some necessary ducks in a row. There are kids, assets, and other things to think about when a divorce is imminent. Plus, leaving can be the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship. Timing is key with someone’s unpredictable temper.

And to be clear, my friends have definitely let me know how they feel about my husband, my situation, and my future. They also let me know that they are there for me no matter what. And most importantly, they would not abandon me while I made moves toward confidence, safety, and independence. This is because they are strong. They are resilient. They are able to handle the uncomfortable feelings that come up for them as I work through my trauma.

It took me a very long time to ever say anything to anyone. When it came to my marriage, I either didn’t bring up my husband at all, played lawyer by defending him, or just pretended everything was fine. When in fact, I was falling apart, losing my sense of self, and isolated in my fear.

I convinced myself I couldn’t leave because he made more money than me. Or that “it only happened a few times” so it was ok. Or that maybe somehow it was karma and I deserved this. Or that I would look like some floozy who couldn’t keep a man and just had kids with whoever would have me. (There’s that shame again!).

Anyway, I finally told them. I wasn’t planning on it, but things were magically (and by magic, I mean divinely) set in motion one fall night. I just recovered from the only time I’d ever had strep throat (I believe I held my tongue physically and emotionally for so long, that it finally made me sick).

I left my Ipad open to a text thread with my best friend. In it, I said that my marriage had a shelf life and my husband just didn’t know it yet. Surprisingly, phone snooping had not been a “thing” in our relationship, so it never crossed my mind to double check that I closed the app.

But there it was. And there he saw. He confronted me when he read it, and I was so afraid because he was very angry.
In that moment, since the marriage seemed apparently over, I figured I had nothing to lose by speaking the truth…my truth. So, I just blurted it out (via text) to two friends and my mother, “He hurt me.”

In that moment, since the marriage seemed apparently over, I figured I had nothing to lose by speaking the truth…my truth. So, I just blurted it out (via text) to two friends and my mother, “He hurt me.”

They knew.

I mean, not because I had ever said anything out loud. I didn’t have to. They know me well enough to know I was lost. Something in me was amiss. They knew what I wasn’t saying when I was screaming silently for someone to listen, to validate me, to give me a way out.

And they gave me ample opportunities to be honest and to tell them what they knew I needed to say. But I just lied through my teeth to the people I love and trust the most.

I have learned in other relationships that if you don’t want your friends to hate your person, don’t tell them the really bad shit (and also don’t complain about the little things all the time).

When you forgive and forget, they do not. And there’s a reason for that. They can see what you can’t and they can often predict what’s coming. All I’m saying is be judicious. If you are being abused, tell someone immediately. If your he/she doesn’t load dirty dishes into an empty dishwasher, don’t make them out to be such a dick.

But I digress. So, here I am finally telling a soul even though he definitely told me not to tell anyone. But I didn’t care. I was finally not alone.

And now that I had spoken out, I could ask all the questions! Why did this happen? Why did I agree to say nothing? Why am I still here? What do I do now?

I was so afraid to talk for so many reasons, but my people did not disappoint. I never felt more loved, more supported, or more safe than when my friends finally knew the truth. And they loved and trusted me while giving me space to make the many difficult and complicated decisions to leave.

It is important to note that they were not sitting idly by thinking I lived in fear for my life. The relationship was not a volatile, intensified series of knockarounds. It was a mostly normal, everyday family, with a very out of balance power dynamic, and a man who escalated to violence more than once.

And per my therapist’s advice and safety plan, my closest friends now know my location via phone. They know I have spoken to a lawyer. One came to a session with my domestic violence counselor. And they know I am steadily getting my shit together to make the moves I need to make in the safest way possible.

If you are being abused IN ANY WAY, get help. Start by calling the domestic violence hotline. Do not isolate yourself and do not blame yourself. Let your trusted ones in. There is support. There is a way out. There is hope.

KNOWLEDGE.
HEALING.
PEACE.

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