The Hardest Truth About Domestic Abuse
All stories about abuse are hard. For me, this one is the hardest. It’s the hardest because it’s the truest, and because it complicates our impulse to separate the good guys from the bad guys. My husband was one of each.
When his dark side was in control, he was abusive; there is no disputing this. He would scream at me, threaten me, call me names; he monitored my phone and laptop; he isolated me; he lied, he stole, and he drank until his face twisted into a sneer and his normally soft-spoken voice curdled into a vicious snarl.
That’s part of the story.
The other part is the love. The other part contains the chapters in which he and I talk about nothing, about everything, for hours on end. It contains the chapters in which we make love, in a way I never had before and probably never will again. It wasn’t just that he was skilled and giving in bed — it’s that he was kind. It’s that he made me feel safe and accepted in a way I did not know was possible.
Domestic abuse incubates in the cradle, in what’s supposed to be the safest and softest place. The feathered down of the nest morphs slowly into poisoned spikes.
It contains the chapters in which he makes me laugh until my sides hurt; he is still the funniest person I’ve ever known. It contains the chapter in which he stays up all night with my best friend’s dying dog, gently tending to the animal after my friend collapsed from sadness and exhaustion. It contains the chapter in which he sits quietly next to a homeless woman to protect her from men on the street who were harassing her.
When the danger had passed and I gestured that we needed to keep moving — we had a plane to catch — the woman cried and clung to him. It broke my heart, because I knew how she felt. I never wanted to let go of him either.
When, several years into our relationship, his dark side began to appear, it was terrifying in its intensity and abruptness. It was not like living with one person who had a variety of moods; it was like there were suddenly two of him — two entirely different…