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Surviving the Rage 

Sue McMillin

January 2005


I have read more self help books this summer than Borders orders in a month (OK, that may be a slight exaggeration). As a research analyst one might think I was doing this for work, but that isnt the case. I was doing it to learn how to survive, again.


A few years ago, after having been a single mom for 11 years, I decided it was time to date. Not that my daughter and I werent doing fine. Contrary to popular studies by well intentioned psychologists, single parenting does not distort all childrens view of the world nor their ability to function as productive members of society. In fact, when done well, yes, done well, a child can actually develop a very healthy self esteem being raised in a single parent home. More of that in another article.


But I knew that I had done all that I could and one day she would go off to college. Having focused on staying employed so that she could experience travels, games, friends and a nice home, my time had come for wanting to find someone I could play with once she flew off to adulthood at college in a few years. I wasnt bored. Quite the opposite. I was kick-boxing, taking ballroom dance lessons, had started an investment club, was the treasurer of my neighborhood society and held down an executive job at one of my cities largest employers. My daughter had many friends, numerous activities including drama, dance, church and school. Yet, I knew that one day, she would be gone from the home. I wanted to find someone who would enjoy slowing down the pace with me, traveling and just relaxing together.


So I started Internet dating. I was very careful, not giving out my home phone number until we had emailed numerous times, talked from my office and I had Googled them, did a man hear my voice over the phone. He had to be able to carry on a conversation a few times before I agreed to a lunch that way our time together was limited. Many emails later and a few men actually heard my voice. In November, 1999, I received a nice short email from a new gentleman. He seemed gainfully employed (in the military), lived not far my home, was working on a 4.0 Masters degree, had no children and was only five years older than me. His job had brought him to my city two years prior and he just was looking for someone to show him around town and go out with occasionally. I dropped my guard and gave him my work number. He called and I called him back from home that same evening. We met in person the next evening and my friend who was serving as my bodyguard gave him a thumbs up. He was such the charmer.


The flowers came to work the next day, the following week, a few days later, and the emails kept coming, the morning messages on my voice mail. And it just seemed like a fairytale, all that attention. Which is exactly what it turned out to be. Only not the kind where you live happily-ever-after. At least not together. This was more of the kind of fairy tale by Stephen King, or the kind of fairytale like Fatal Attraction.


 I am quite happy living alone again. Much happier than I was for the past four years only I couldnt see it until I finished that eighth book on alcoholism and narcissism this summer.


The subtle, isolating, demeaning, insulting behavior started slowly. He went with me to a conference, where he promptly stayed in the room all day supposedly suffering from over-active sinuses. Instead of dinner with my co-conference attendees, we stayed in the room until the dinner was over and then he decided we needed to go out. This was the first of many social occasions we missed due to his illnesses.


A few weeks after we returned, he suggested I give up kick-boxing because I just didnt have enough time for a relationship. Wanting to show him I could rearrange my schedule, I gave it up. Eventually, now I realize, along the path of trying to please him, I also gave up dancing, the investment club, my happy-go-lucky, trusting attitude toward life. I also gave up my dreams, my laugh, my security and hope, as well.


We married in a grand neighborhood celebration only seven months after meeting. He took a few more months to sell his condo and move in because I needed to get rid of the cats something about fur on his uniform. A few months later he called me a nymphomaniac because I wanted to have sex someplace other than the bedroom after dark. He started rearranging my home that I had only purchased the year before he moved in and was just starting to make it comfortable. He bought us both motorcycles, then I had to repay him for mine. He bought new garage doors and gave me the bill. He converted both my fireplaces ( I had arranged with candlesticks of varying sizes) to gas burning logs (one I still cant figure out how to turn on). He bought himself a new truck and me a used car. Occasionally he gave me some rent money, but always reminded me of it later. In short, he figured out 2000 new ways that I should be spending my money.  Appropriate for getting married in 2000, huh?


Once when visiting his friends in a mens only social club, he told me not to embarrass him when I asked why women werent allowed to join. He laughed loudly when his drunken friends said the way for a woman to hang on to her man was to give him blow-jobs whenever he wanted them. As the months went by, I became smaller and smaller. The flowers, poetry and morning messages stopped, the insults, pictures of naked women from his trips to Sturgis and demeaning comments escalated. At every turn, when I asked him to stop, the comments got uglier and uglier. I was told I was too sensitive and if he was too much of a burden we could get a divorce. I said fine, but he wouldnt leave. Even after he told me he had wanted a divorce for a year then three days later I had to entertain my in-laws for Christmas and act like nothing was wrong between us.


And my wonderful daughter? He hated her. All the neighbors love her, it wasnt her. He just wasnt able to control her and it infuriated him. She got more attention than he did some evenings and it sent him either into a rage or a pouting episode to be envied by most three year olds I know. One evening he actually told her and me to go to another area of our home to tell school stories and laugh. And she said no. That is when he decided to break the furniture. After two years of being the volleyball between them, hearing his insults and being slowly pushed into non-existence, I told him that was unacceptable behavior and he needed to get help for his anger. My daughter and I were no longer going to be the recipient of his misplaced anger and abuse. So in addition to the drinking until he fell down, now he was put on some anti-psychotic drugs. The diagnosis of obsessive/compulsive, anxiety disorder and impulse control disorder wasnt enough to grab his attention and realize he was out of control.


I wont bore you with the next two years other than to say, I dont argue. My parents argued and I hated it. But when I found myself crying myself to sleep every night, wondering how one could be married and so utterly alone, I started getting mad. That only increased the verbal and emotional and psychological abuse. Now I know what it feels like to be threatened by a terrorist. I had one in my home that wouldnt go away. No matter how many times I asked him to leave, he snidely replied the last divorce took three years. Could I handle the challenge?


Lets see. He had chosen to retire early from the military when he didnt get the promotion he felt he deserved. He was doing nothing with his Masters degree he was cleaning decks, which is only a summer business, meaning his winters were spent shopping the Internet and getting to know the UPS driver on a first name basis. His financial contribution was the car payment of the used car he picked out for me. He had bought and sold three trailers (for business?) and four different motorcycles in three years, and then while driving drunk, rolled his fairly new pickup on its side into a ditch. After spending an evening in the ER and cleaning out his personal belongings from the ditch and the totaled truck, he bought a brand new truck. I was finally breaking my own mirror of denial and realizing this was never going to be the marriage or best friend I wanted. He was just using me for my money, no I didnt have much to begin with, and to show off to his drunken friends look at me, I got a rich one.


He planned vacations and took them without me. He had an excuse for all his bad behaviors including living on the couch. I took a job driving 100 miles to and from work each day and he just wanted to know my 401K and life insurance accounts in case something happened while I was on the road. That was the last attempt, the last and final hoorah for him.


I started showing up when I wasnt expected and avoiding the questions. I had now realized that every time I was honest and attempted to explain myself, he would later use the intimacy against me. So I chose to not give him anything to use. I chose to stop and break the mirror. I decided to regain control of my life, take care of myself and let him live in his dark hole, all alone.


I waited for him to leave town to visit his enabling parents, I changed the locks and filed for divorce. I started buying books, got his cell phone records from a private investigator and learned he was calling many other women and sending them flowers the same modus operandi he used when capturing me. You see, he used the poor pitiful me, my wife doesnt understand me speech to gain attention. I know, I called every number on his cell bill. When I regained my space, I regained my power. The FOG (fear obligation and guilt) began to lift. Yes, I am a Christian and fully believe in marriage. However, my God does not allow for husbands to treat their wives like slaves, bank accounts or door mats. My denial, my expectations and my hope all came crashing down and it gave me courage to stand up and say no more.


I had a moral obligation to myself and my daughter to get rid of his poison. No the devil didnt send him, I decided he was the devil making horrible choices that were destroying me, my self esteem, my happy daughter and everything else he touched. I called a previous wife of his (I was number four I learned after the vows were made) and learned he has the capacity to hit women and children. Fortunately, I saw the signs before we got to that point.


He got uglier with each attorneys motion. To the point where my attorney fired me because they didnt have time for his manipulative antics. I found a better attorney and stuck to my path, and it was so painful. I cried to my friends, I was screaming for help and protection, yet no one could help they had never been in a terrorist environment and couldnt understand how I, of all their friends, could have landed such a creep. After waiting so long, they would say. Well, creeps are out there and there is a difference between love and terrorism.


But courage prevailed. My daughter is happily at college although the money I had been saving to pay her way was nearly depleted in less than half the time it took me to save it. My old car is falling apart and he has a brand new home in a brand new neighborhood (all on a pension from the military???). But I have my sanity.


I realized I was not responsible for his choices, his values, his behavior, his entertainment or his loneliness. I am not responsible for his drinking, his self esteem, his disorders, his character flaws. I realize I was a victim and I never again will be the same as I was before him. I am much more guarded now, dont laugh as much and sometimes cant get out of bed for fear he will resurface from his ditch to scream again. But I no longer have to hear the rage he used against me when I was vulnerable. I no longer have to walk on egg shells. I no longer have to be around his drunken buddies where women are just arm ornaments or accessories.


I am responsible for my future, my relationship with the God of my choice, my values and my behaviors. I do not regret the lesson, I only regret I stayed in longer than I should of. I bought the hope crap and it cost me a fortune, both financially and emotionally. Now, my hope is for my daughter, my friends who believed me, my family who supported my decision and my future. I will laugh again one day. Then I will give away the books to someone else in need of courage. It is called empowerment. I have been empowered to choose my life. I choose to live without the baggage and anger that belongs to someone else. I wish him well and I pity the next woman who believes the lie my wife just doesnt understand me. I gave him back to the lifestyle from which he came. It isnt an illness, it is a choice. I choose a different path, and will no longer listen to the ogre calling from the muddy ditch below the bridge. I have crossed the bridge and am meandering my own peaceful path having survived the raging river and rage of abuse.


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