This is my story of my marriage to an abuser. In this chapter, I learn about infidelity and set boundaries. But sometimes things change…
We had separated in March of 2010.
Friends who saw him away from me and then with me were telling me they were concerned for me. They told me that he was drinking more, that he was out a lot. His family expressed their concern for my safety. One friend came to me telling me my husband and tried flirting with her, and when she confronted him on it, said, “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
I asked him for a separation agreement, and an allowance/support payment weekly. He didn’t want to at first, but I pushed and he reluctantly agreed. We had some small savings in a joint account, and he said he would use that account, and put money into our joint checking account for my use.
About a month after that, my world was rocked again with another betrayal. He used all our savings, about $1200 worth, on dinners out (involving alcohol) and about $600 of that on his cell phone, in the space of three weeks. I confronted him on it, and he confessed to using a phone sex line, and to meeting at least one woman off that line, though he claimed nothing happened.
Abusers act very entitled. They believe the rules don’t apply to them, and they can do what they like, without consequences. Infidelity is common in abusive relationships. It’s simply another form of abuse.
I was devastated, and immediately cut off all contact. I told him I was done, and that I would be seeing a lawyer to file for divorce as soon as I could. Also, I told him I was moving as quickly as I could, back to the city where we had met.
I saw him a few times between that and moving, on his visits with the kids. Though I couldn’t remove myself completely, with a nursing baby, I did my best to avoid him during those times. I made sure I was never alone with him, if I could help it.
I moved away, with the kids, and we set up regular visitations, about once a month. For the first month, I didn’t talk to him at all, unless it was about our children. I reveled in the security I felt, and felt confident in my decision. I began rebuilding my self-esteem, and exploring some of my talents I hadn’t used yet. So I set goals for myself, and began talking to a counsellor about my future. And I started a home business, to gain some self-sufficiency.
Domestic violence survivors are more likely to have long-term anxiety and health issues resulting from the abuse.
The second month, I began talking with my husband a bit more. With the distance, I felt more confident in my interactions with him. Knowing that it was over, I had some curiosity about why some things happened, and we spent a couple of nights, rehashing our relationship. It was enlightening, and freeing.
I found out that while I had been rediscovering myself, my move seemed to have been like a wake-up call to him. He began seeing his church pastor weekly for counselling, and confessed to his church what had happened between us. He asked friends to make him accountable. And he stopped drinking entirely. He attended every church service he could get to.
It was a bill that came up that showed me the first signs of what I thought was true change. Before we separated, if we had a bill or needed a few hundred dollars, he would borrow from friends or family. Before we met, he was several thousand dollars in debt to friends and family, and during our time together, he had borrowed more. But this time it was different. He went without. He saved. And he paid cash. I was impressed.
We continued talking, about our past, and about what he was doing. He stopped pushing me to reconcile quickly, though he never stopped asking. He stopped with the “buts” whenever we talked about the assault. And he stopped asking me about “my issues”, and if I was doing anything to “fix” myself. He became very open with me, and he seemed to respect my boundaries. It was as if he really had changed.
It is rare for an abuser to really change. Even the abuser treatment programs show on average a 50% reoffence rate. For signs of true change, Lundy Bancroft has a great list.
The next push came from a conversation I had with an aunt, about the nature of forgiveness. I claimed to have forgiven my husband. And I truly thought I had.
But was it enough?