After I met with my lawyer I let John know that he was going to be served. I even went as far as to ask him where he would like to be served. Again… I was protecting him… accommodating him. It was all I knew.
I wasn’t sure how he was going to react. I was very nervous when I told him, but as soon as the words left my mouth I felt lighter. John barely gave a reaction. I’m not sure if he was sad or disappointed …. I’m sure he was angry because the year that followed was laced with threats and intimidation. In that moment however, he was stone faced and cold. Just more proof that while I had given years to this man thinking that we loved each other, there was no real love in this relationship.
John never told me when he was finally served. I did my best to keep the kids away from the house in the evening for a few days so that they wouldn’t see him get the paperwork. Things in the house became even more tense than they had been before, and that is saying quite a bit. When John entered a room it was as if all of the oxygen left out of the door behind him. He was a bomb waiting to explode.
John exuded anger. He continued to attempt to manipulate things. He played the victim to anyone who would listen. My friends and family reacted to the news in different ways. Some friends believed me right away. My sister and a few of my other friends asked me if I was having an affair, attempting to put the blame on me instead of on my abusive husband where it belonged. My brother in law and one of my male friends from college reacted by asking John if he wanted to go out for drinks. Other family members responded by volunteering the information that they couldn’t take sides, even though I wasn’t asking anyone to do that. I felt small…. unimportant… alone…. unloved.
I had finally grown strong enough to tell the people I trusted that I had been abused for years. I had finally grown strong enough to leave…. and these are the reactions that I received.
Every time someone doubted me….. every time someone who should have been loyal to me showed loyalty to John…. every time someone accused me of being the person who must be doing something wrong to break up the marriage … the cycle of abuse continued. They made me weaker. They poked holes in the fragile strength that I barely had a grip on. They made me feel even more alone. John’s words echoed in my brain. My friends and family love him. No one will believe me. This is normal in a marriage. I am ruining the kids’ lives. I am being selfish. Unknowingly, these people helped John to maintain the mental control that the years of abuse and manipulation had created.
If I could go back in time and give myself advice it would be to shut out what those people said. If they can be more loyal to a man who physically and emotionally hurt his wife and kids for years, then their opinion does not matter to me. Their behavior is a reflection of them…. not of me. If they had been in the same situation I would have supported them. I would have been loyal to them. I would have been furious that they had been treated that way. That is what I had deserved in return.
Luckily, I had already established a support system of friends that had my back and from whom I drew strength. They helped me to power forward, and because of them the wavering strength that came and went would return to me again.