I’ve never thought of my ex as abusive.
Then readers tell me they recognize their (very much abusive) spouses in my descriptions of my ex.
And I wonder.
I read a story in the paper about a domestic murder in the county where my ex and I lived and I always half expect to see his name.
And I wonder.
Then I discover that security procedures were altered at my old school during my divorce.
And I wonder.
He certainly was never overtly abusive. There were no strikes or shoves and never any threat of physical harm. He never belittled or yelled or uttered lines designed to wound. I was not discouraged from seeing friends or enjoying excursions without him. He didn’t exhibit excess jealousy and always demonstrated respect. He was the same man in public with me as he was behind closed doors – attentive, affectionate, loving. I never feared him while we were together.
So then why was I afraid for my life when he left?
I inquired about a restraining order, but since there was no history of abuse and no threats of physical harm, I was denied. However, the police were concerned enough that they performed drive-bys at the house where I was living as well as the house where he was staying. The chief of police told me I was lucky; he related that many cases of marital fraud he encountered resulted in a murder/suicide.
I couldn’t imagine the man that had always touched me so lovingly intending to harm me. But then again, I couldn’t have imagined the rest of it either.
I didn’t know the man I was married to.
Was he abusive?
Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. From HelpGuide
When I read descriptions like that, it seems clear. He certainly was controlling me through his deceptions.
But then I see this:
Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you. From HelpGuide
Doesn’t “play fair”? Check.
Fear, guilt, shame and intimidation? No.
At least not until he left.
And that’s when I realized I was terrified of him.
I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that he was abusive. Not overtly, but undercover. His was a clandestine abuse, hidden even to me until the covers were ripped back when he left, revealing the buried machinations.
His abuse was financial, embezzling from the marital funds while covering his tracks with ever-shifting balances, hidden credit cards and fabricated stories.
His abuse didn’t use whips; it used a gentle leader of manipulation. Velvet trimmed lies whispered into trusting ears. No need to threaten when I easily followed along.
His abuse gained in cruelty when he abruptly abandoned me with no money and no explanation, refusing all contact. Protector turned persecutor.
During the divorce, he upped the ante, painting me as the controlling one. Falling right in line with the favored “You made me do it” excuse of the textbook abuser.
He never hit. He never yelled. He never isolated.
But behind the scenes, he was pulling the strings I didn’t even know existed.