“What the fuck is wrong with you! She’s a fucking dike!” he said about my good friend, the friend whose phone I was using, the friend who is married to one of his very good friends who have three kids together. He then suggested that I must want to fool around with her if I was going to sleep over…
At this point in our marriage, my goal was to avoid making my (ex) husband angry. I walked on eggshells each and every day, in all aspects of my life. It would be little things like letting him pick the movie or restaurant, to bigger things like distancing myself from family and friends because it created less volatility in our relationship – which may not even be the right word, because at this point there weren’t highs and lows, just lows.
One weekend in July, we were invited to a birthday party for a mutual friend. Her parents (who were a big part of our church) were throwing the party for her, and all of our friends were invited. My (ex) husband and I agreed to attend a few weeks prior to the date. The morning of the party, I prepared my famous buffalo chicken dip to bring, wrapped our gift for the birthday girl, and began to get ready to go. He was delaying (he even offered to have sex with me to keep us from leaving), and eventually told me that he didn’t want to go anymore. Usually, this meant that I wasn’t allowed to go either which would result in a fight, especially because when I commit to something, I am 110% in. I’m the type of person to move mountains to make sure I hold true to my commitments (probably why I stayed in my marriage longer than I should have). I guess he was in a special mood that day and he told me that I could go without him. I was really surprised that there was no argument from him. And I was so broken down at this point that his “permission” to attend was important to me. My thought process was so fucked-up, but that’s what his emotional abuse and manipulation did to me.
I packed up the car and headed off to the birthday party. I was excited to see all of my friends and their families. They all lived along the same street, so I knew they would all be in attendance. Thirty minutes later, I arrived and was greeted with hugs and smiles. I felt comfortable and at ease, I felt free to be my genuine self. I didn’t have to walk on eggshells, I could just be me. I was enough for these people – my girlfriends, their husbands, their kids. They accepted me for who I was.
The afternoon was low-key – hot dogs, burgers, good conversations and laughter. Once the sun set, we set up a bonfire to make smores. My friends could see I was getting tired and suggested that I sleep over and make the long drive back home in the morning. We were in the country at night, and there were no street lights along the drive back home; it was safer to stay. I knew they were right but I didn’t know how my (ex) husband would react. I figured I would give him a call and at least ask. My thought process was, worst case he says no and I have to go home.
My phone battery had died, so I asked one of my closest friends (who lived next door to the birthday girl) at the party to use her phone. She said, “of course”, but that her phone was inside of her house. So, we got up from the bonfire, walked over to her front door, and went inside of her house. We walked over to the kitchen where her phone was charging. She grabbed it off the counter, pulled up his name from her contacts, and hit the “call” button before handing it over to me. She stood there with me while the phone rang. Her home was quiet, which was unusual because her three kids were always around. But at the moment, they were outside still at the bonfire. With each ring, I felt a nervousness grow in my stomach. She stared at me; she could hear each ring, too. I didn’t want to make things awkward by turning the phone volume down, after all it was her phone. But I was scared of what my (ex) husband’s reaction could be and I didn’t want her to see what I had been dealing with.
He answered on the third ring, “Hello?”
I asked “Hey babe, I’m really tired and don’t want to make the drive back. Do you mind if I sleep over at her house?”
He responded angrily and yelling, “Are you fucking kidding me? You’ve been there all day. I swear on my grandfather that if you sleep over there, I will file papers and divorce you in the morning.” My friend looked at me with her mouth wide open and rolled her eyes. She heard everything he just said. I tried to lower the volume on the phone.
I responded trying to rationalize my request, “Are you serious? I’m just asking to sleep over. I’m exhausted and it’s a long drive back in the dark.”
He then began screaming louder than I have every heard anyone yell in my life. He was so enraged, that enraged isn’t even the word to describe his reaction. He was so loud that I had to hold the phone out far away from my ear to even begin to make out what he was saying. “What the fuck is wrong with you! She’s a fucking dike!” he said about my good friend, the friend whose phone I was using, the friend who is married to one of his very good friends who have three kids together. He then suggested that I must want to fool around with her if I was going to sleep over, “She just wants to lick your fucking pussy! What the fuck is wrong with you! That’s probably exactly what you want! I swear if you don’t get your fucking ass home right now! Fuck you, you fucking bitch, both of you be fucking lesbians together!” Somewhere in between that last rant, I had already brought the phone back up to my ear, and pushed it hard against it hoping that she would be unable to make out everything that he said. But, I could tell by her facial reaction that she heard every single word. His rant continued, “I swear to God, if you don’t get your ass home, I’m fucking done with you! And I never swear on anything, but I swear that on my grandfather. I will file the fucking papers tomorrow!” And once again, in the moment, I froze. I looked at my friend and saw how her facial expression changed with each word he screamed. Her eyes widened in disbelief and discomfort. Her jaw dropped, she shook her head, and she looked sad; sad for me and sad for her, that this person that her and her husband had been friends with for so long, would say such untrue and hurtful things.
I didn’t know what to do at that point, but luckily, I didn’t have to decide. She walked up to me, grabbed the phone out of my hand, and hung it up. “I’m so sorry,” I pleaded with her. I felt awful, and somehow responsible for what he said.
“You did nothing wrong. You have nothing to apologize for,” she replied. She almost sounded offended that I tried to apologize for him.
Not that you need to know this to justify his behavior, but I have never given him any reason to think I was interested in women. My friend was one of his very good friend’s wife. The girl whose party we attended was thrown by her father, who was a clergyman at our church. There was no nonsense going on at this party, it was good clean fun. And now I was beyond embarrassed. I couldn’t believe he said those things to me, and I was mortified that my good friend heard him say those awful things about her. (He would later blame me for the fact that she heard what he said, saying I should have been in a separate room with the door closed for privacy.)
We walked outside back to the bonfire in an attempt to enjoy the rest of the evening. We both looked upset, and I was still trying to process what had just happened. Two of our friends (one male, one female) noticed the change in our attitudes so they pulled us aside and asked what was wrong. We hesitated to tell them, but I decided it was time to let the cat out of the bag. I gave them a rundown of the situation. I was living in a sea of grey, but their responses were very black and white. “That’s not okay, he should never talk to you like that.” The male friend (who happened to be the clergyman’s son/birthday girl’s brother) suggested that it would be best for me to stay over to allow us both time to cool off. It wouldn’t be healthy for me to go back into that environment, and he was afraid it could escalate to something physical. He also reminded me that it’s okay to be tired and not want to make the trek home, and also that I did nothing wrong.
Initially when my (ex) husband screamed at me and threatened divorce, I had wanted to flee the party and run home. I was reacting in fear to his anger and his words. He knew just what to say to manipulate and control me; he knew how to get exactly what he wanted. And my safety didn’t matter – the safety he should have been concerned about for me not driving home so tired and in the dark, and the safety I should have been concerned about, that the situation could escalate to a physical altercation. What I wanted to do, to him and to me, had become irrelevant.
But that night, my friends helped turn the light switch back on in my brain. I could see clearly that staying over was the right choice for so many reasons. I sent my (ex) husband a text message (after I let my phone charge back up) telling him that I had decided to stay the night and would be home early in the morning. Thankfully, he didn’t text anything back. That night, I slept in my friend’s guest bedroom. I thought my mind would race and that I would be awake all-night worrying. Instead, I slept more than I thought I would. My mind didn’t race, my heart and mind knew staying over was the best decision for me. I also believed his threat of divorce was another empty threat. This was more manipulation, more control, more of him throwing a temper tantrum so he could get his way. And the more people that saw the way he treated me, the more clearly, I began to see that it wasn’t okay.