Why Do We Stay?
I heard these words many times from loved ones and mostly myself. After a while, we start believing we are too stupid to survive on our own because we were programmed to be groomed and conditioned to serve our abusive husbands at all costs.
One day while in counseling, my counselor described the traits of a narcissist. Everything she shared with me about narcissistic traits was overwhelming to me. I couldn’t process that I was suffering from narcissist abuse; who does this, and why would someone do this? Why was I stupid enough to stay?! I began to shake and yelled, “Am I a narcissist?! Although we all have some narcissistic traits, I was horrified by the thought of being narcissistic. I couldn’t fathom the idea of someone deliberately wanting to harm or murder anyone by using psychological abuse as a weapon to isolate me or anyone else for selfish gain. As a codependent, although I was unaware that I was codependent until much later, I blamed myself. I must be the narcissist, or I must have made him this way, or I must have deserved this kind of treatment, or worse, I must be losing my mind! But, she said, the very idea of asking this question tells me that no, you are not a narcissist.”
Second, I heard my son’s voice asking me again, “why we’re stupid enough to go back?” Yes, in his anger, he spoke these words to me a few years ago. At the time, I couldn’t tell him a specific answer; too many reasons kept me bound, such as my grown children and grandchildren accusing me of abandoning their dad or grandfather, spiritual abuse, and emotional blackmail.
One reason was that I was the sole breadwinner for many years; my ex-husband could sue me for alimony. He used his health problems as an excuse. Although he refused to get medical attention, take medications for his high blood pressure, or get counseling for mental health, it was a tool he used to keep me committed to our family unity. I believe he would have stooped that low. Instead, I began paying down credit card debt, got a separate credit card, opened a different bank account, invested in mutual funds for my retirement, saved money for emergency funds, etc. Some may argue that I was deceptive; survival was my motive; deep down, I knew he wouldn’t take care of me when I could no longer work. He didn’t step up when I was hospitalized and recovering in the past, so why would he do it when I am old? Dr. Henry Cloud says the past is an indicator of your future. I began to listen to my history, and I couldn’t trust anyone but God as His Spirit guided and protected me. Could I have thrown him out? No, he turned my children, mother, friends, in-laws, neighbors, and some of my relatives against me. He blackballed me, and I didn’t even know it! Where would I go, who would give me the support I needed, and who would know what kind of support I needed? I didn’t know what kind of support I needed at the time.
I sensed something was wrong with how people looked at me and treated me. I felt a disconnect as if I was contagious and not in a good way. For instance, my youngest daughter would text me and tell me to be nice to her dad; it saddens me that he uses his daughter to hurt me. She was hardly around because of her studies and working full time; she only knew what he said. On the other hand, I didn’t call my kids on every whim and complain; they didn’t need to know about my marital problems; they had their stuff and families. My mother also accused me of mistreating him; she would yell at me to be nice to him; I thought they were kidding me. I was clueless that he told them I was abusing him until my sister informed me that he called my mom daily while I was out working two jobs and doing homework afterward; the pieces began to fall into place. I am still sickened that someone would use triangulation to turn my children and grandchildren against me. Before he died, my son’s last words were, “Jess has been calling me.” I didn’t ask what was said because the look on his face and tone told me he had already made up his mind. My heart was crushed beyond words. I didn’t try to defend myself or explain; he believed the lies rather than the truth as my mother and others have. I’ve learned that trying to protect myself after the noose has been knotted is senseless. Some people judge by deceptive and twisted arguments; some people choose to believe lies rather than take the time to investigate and hear the other party’s side or look at the evidence in front of their eyes. My scars are evidence of abuse. They are also evidence of God’s love and faithfulness towards me while I lived in the enemy’s house.
Finally, I accepted that if they believed his words rather than his actions, they must not honestly care about me and our relationship. I grieved the loss, set boundaries for myself because I know my co-dependant traits, and continue to work on myself. I can’t change my children’s or people’s perceptions of me, but I can change how I feel about them by guarding my heart. Yes, it hurts deeply when your children believe what they hear rather than what they see. However, God knows my truth, approves of me, and He will vindicate me in due time.