After seven years of marriage, we relocated to Florida for my husband's job. Shortly afterward, things began to take a turn for the worse.
It was hard enough being unemployed in a new city, away from family and friends, and pregnant with my second son. However, my husband's changing behavior made it extremely stressful. Although I had known and loved him since I was 19 years old, I had never seen him act this way before. He became increasingly paranoid and suspicious of the strangest things. He had trouble sleeping at night and in the day, he concocted the most bizarre conspiracy theories. He grew increasingly untrusting of co-workers, friends, extended family, and eventually me. He was very withdrawn from our children, and would spend hours locked in our guest room reading the bible and other doctrines. He was functional, but clearly needed some help. He refused to listen to me or loved ones who strongly encouraged him to talk to someone.
I didn't label him as "crazy." In fact, he is one of the most intelligent men I know. I faithfully loved my husband and desperately wanted to find out what was going on with him. I wasn't sure if it was an early mid-life crisis or the beginning of a new spiritual journey. Whatever it was, I was committed to figuring it out together ("in sickness and in health" - yes).
But as I painfully watched him unraveling, I began to come apart. I was doing my best to put up a good front for my two young sons. I was exhausted operating like a single mother, catering to their needs, finding activities to keep them distracted, and bottling up my emotions until after they went to bed (however, children are more perceptive than we think). I stopped eating regularly, I dropped weight, my hair was falling out, and I cried every single day for almost a year. At night, I would plead with my husband to talk to me, get help, get reengaged with the family, but nothing worked. He accused me of working with "them" and dismissed my tears as "Oscar-winning performances."
Sometimes I still get chills recalling the look in his eyes; it was so haunting and distant. It hurt when he called me "devilish," "evil," and "wicked." The love of my life was now looking at me with disgust and anger. He was convinced that I was somehow unfaithful and untrustworthy. To put it plainly, he was no longer in love with me. Pain, that's when you took up residence in my home like never before.
Don't get me wrong, I was an educated, outspoken, confident woman who was not raised to believe I needed a man to "complete" me. But, his enigmatic behavior caused ongoing emotional abuse that was excruciating at times. I realized that, for over a year, my emotions revolved around his mood. I would catch myself holding my breath around him. Often, my shoulders were hunched and my face was clenched. I thought I was holding it together, but I was actually crumbling inside. My children were getting the wrong impression of how a holistically healthy, loving family behaves. And Pain, I certainly did not want you to establish an intimate relationship with my sons.
I went online looking for resources. I reached out to loved ones for support and encouragement. I met with my church pastor for guidance as to whether I should end my marriage. I read every recommended self-help book. I prayed like never before. My family was extremely concerned, so my dad arranged for me to speak over the phone with a counselor 2-3 times a week. I learned the situation I was in was less about my husband, and more about me. But during my learning process, I was still torn, searching for a solution, and still living in an unhealthy environment. Then one day, everything became clear.WHAM! My husband violently assaulted me without warning or provocation one afternoon in my closet while I was gathering up a clothing donation for the Salvation Army. This may sound strange, but when the first punch landed, I immediately felt a weird sense of peace.
Written by Anika Maxwell for Hybrid Mom. Click here to read the rest of the article.