Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rachel's Story: Verbal Abuse & Expecting Your Parents' Marriage

Editor's Note: The relationship we witness between our mother and father define our expectations of marriage from a very early age. Normalcy ranges from the strongest, most loving and affectionate of marriages to homes filled with abuse of all kinds, neglect, anger, violence, tension & abandonment. Unfortunately, we are built to mold ourselves around our definition of normalcy, putting our hearts, bodies and future marriage at risk. Sit down and face your parents' marriage. Write down what you want of it and what you don't want. Don't be afraid to want the best of the best. The good women wait and fight for that. Rachel shares her story of an unhealthy relationship; one that she accepted as normal and acceptable, as defined by watching her parents' marriage. Thankfully, she escaped. She chose to wait, and she fought for better. And now, (I can personally attest to this), she has a man who loves, respects and protects. A marriage & life that she LOVES and thrives in. - Lauren

"I can tell you haven't been to the gym in a few days."

I was setting up our church for a youth event when heard those words and felt two hands pinch both sides of my size 4 waist. Tim, my semi-serious/on again-off again boyfriend, was a real stickler for fitness, style, and pretty much everything about who I was.

"Don't use words like 'gargantuan' and 'superfluous' when you're makes you sound like you are trying too hard."

"I think girls that wear brightly colored nail polish look trashy. You should stick with clear or none at all."

"Don't cut your hair short, you won't be as pretty."

"You look better in flat shoes, don't wear the kind with the heels."

"You should stop dying your hair, I think the natural look is better than your highlights."

"I don't like it when you hang out with Kate, wouldn't you rather spend all your free time with me?"

"I'm older than you, so I obviously know more about this stuff."

The list of manipulative and controlling comments goes on and on. Looking back I can't believe I put up with him for as long as I did, but he had me convinced he was the best I could do. When I first started dating him, all my friends were freaking out because they all had major crushes on him--he knew they thought he was amazing--and he treated me as if I should be honored that he chose me over all the other girls. He was also the first "Christian" guy I had ever dated, so I thought being with him was good for me. I never thought of it as verbal abuse at the time, but I knew his comments didn't make me feel good about myself.

Every time I tried to end the relationship, he would show up at my front door with some dramatic apology, even going as far as shedding some tears, sending me flowers, and offering promises of change if he could just have one more chance. This cycle went on for two whole years before I was able to get out once and for all; when I finally realized I was allowing him to change who I was rather than having someone who simply loved me for me.

If I back track through my early childhood I can connect the dots to why I allowed myself to be treated this way for so long. I watched my parents treat each other terribly during their marriage. I remember hearing them fight, my mom taking off and leaving for several hours or packing my brother and me up and taking us to my grandparents for a few days. I remember my dad admitting to cheating on my mom with over 50 different women, I remember walking in on my mom when she was fooling around with another man as a way to get revenge on my dad...all this by the time I was just six years old. Each time they would separate, my dad would beg and plead to have another chance, my mom would take him back and in a few months the cycle would repeat.

It took 15 years of this before they finally got a divorce, and I'll say that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm not an advocate for divorce by any means, but if any two people should not be together, it was my mom and dad. I know now that their relationship was super jacked up, but as a little girl, my view of my parent's marriage subconsciously shaped what I thought love looked like, and how people should be it's obvious why I allowed myself to be in bad relationships for so long-I thought the drama was normal. After their divorce my mom remarried a man that I believe God brought into our lives to teach me about what marriage and love is really all about.

As an adult I decided I never wanted to settle for being treated the way Tim treated me ever again. I took the lessons I learned from my parents marriage and my own experiences and made a list of what I wanted for my own marriage someday. I committed my list to the Lord and asked him to bring me a man who would match my list. A few years later I was introduced to my husband, and he is the most caring, supportive and kind person I have ever known--and he definitely does not try to control me.

We've been married 5 years and I couldn't be happier. If I could offer one piece of advice to any woman today who finds herself in a bad relationship it would be this: Don't sell yourself short, or allow someone else to chip away at who you are, because eventually you won't even recognize yourself.


Anonymous said...

I think that is good advice if you never want to say to yourself " O No, I am my Mother".

Just me said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You're inspiring.

Jenna said...

Thank you for being willing to talk about verbal abuse. It can be really insidious, because when you are raised with it, it IS normal to you. You don't know it's not unless you talk about it with someone, and somehow, we know not to talk about those things that hurt us from the time we are really young. I am walking the path you have walked. thanks for giving me hope. :)

StephSpringer said...

I am so glad I stumbled across this blog via MAD. As a young twenty-something embarking on a new relationship - luckily one with a good man - each and every one of your posts has had something to teach me. Keep them coming! Looking at this from the opposite angle, my parents have a great marriage: after 25 years they still do things like spend 3 weeks in a car together driving around America - and love it. I absolutely have been able to look up to them as role models and hope that I am able to have a marriage as strong and caring as theirs someday. Thanks for sharing such difficult topics; we may not want to talk about them but they affect all of us.

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