I recently listened to the Cold podcast, and it brought back so many memories of my married life. It was without a doubt, a story of emotional abuse.
At the end of each episode they said if this sounds familiar contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.
As you listen to what I’m about to say, I want to emphasize that today, I’m ok. Actually better than that! I’ve landed in a much better place. For me, it wasn’t as bad as what happened to Susan Powell in the COLD podcast, but it wasn’t great either.
In Susan’s life, her husband was manipulative. Many would call him a narcissist.
He controlled so much of everything she did.
- He made her give him all of her money and he didn’t want her to have any of her own. It got to the point where she had a secret account that her husband didn’t know about. I can relate to that. He would:
- manipulate the situation.
- tell her not to spend too much money on food yet he would go buy electronic items and tools for himself.
- give her a hard time if she bought things for herself or bought anything new for the children.
- harass her about going out with her friends.
- expect her to do everything while it appeared he did very little.
On her birthday he gave her gifts that were usually from a thrift store or obviously second hand from somewhere.
When in front of other people he would be somewhat charming and give the appearance of everything being good. Yet people knew different because of what Susan had told them.
Susan was married with two boys. She didn’t want her marriage to end because of her children and her faith.
Living with her husband was an emotional roller coaster for her. It took her a long time to build her confidence to possibly leave.
After counseling, she finally had the courage to give her husband an ultimatum.
What she was feeling felt so close to home for me.
We get married to stay married.
Divorce feels out of the question because we don’t want to disrupt the lives of our children.
The verbal manipulation has us constantly second guessing ourselves.
We begin to think we are the problem, that we need to try harder, that we can’t do anything good enough.
It’s a feeling of overwhelm. It’s exhausting.
Susan Powell’s story in the Cold podcast, isn’t that different from a lot of marriages, including my own.
Both of my marriages seemed to parallel Susan Powells story in The Cold podcast. Fortunately, with a better outcome.
In my first marriage, I don’t think there was as much of the manipulation as there was in the second marriage, but I certainly didn’t feel safe in my marriage during the last few years. I think a lot of my first husband’s frustration came from the fact that he couldn’t ‘control’ me.
When my youngest was 2, my husband hit me. He tried to say it was my fault but it was all him. We tried counseling but it didn’t go well, The counselor said he wasn’t going to change and I needed to decide if I could put up with him or leave him.
I tried for 5 years.
Towards the very end, I had started my own business and wasn’t making much money in the beginning. He didn’t like where the finances were going and told me I had to get a job. I was paying my bills but that wasn’t good enough for him. One day he threatened me because I wasn’t doing what he wanted. He threatened to destroy my computer equipment which was my business.
After that, I did not feel safe.
The interesting part here is that for many years I never thought my husband had this type of personality. But one day the light bulb went off and some of the comments my friends had made to me over the years made sense. Two women that I knew my husband was interested in both said something about ‘how could I put up with him’.
Let me explain the part about he had interest in. I trusted my husband. For some reason, I didn’t think he would ever cheat on me. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. But I knew he liked both of these two women. He spoke highly of them.
Both women were married, so I don’t think anything ever happened between them, but who knows, maybe over the years he had done things with them and I was oblivious.
The two women didn’t know each other and I don’t think they ever met. But they both had conversations with me about how I could put up with him.At the time, I thought it was just a joke. I thought he was good to me. I was wrong.
What I realized when things got tense between us is that he was extremely vindictive, especially with the people he worked with. If someone didn’t do things the way he wanted, he got revenge.
When we would talk about things, he always made it sound like it was the other person. Little did I realize that he might have been the problem. I might have been blinded by love or overwhelmed with parenting two young children and working full time!
When I started pushing back over his parenting style, we started having a lot of problems. I put up with it for almost 5 years.
In the very end, I was sleeping on the couch with a knife in my hand.
Yes, I was afraid. I slept on the couch for a few nights before I finally left. It was a very scary time for me. Fortunately at the time I my business was beginning to pick up and I had some income so I could take care of everything but breaking up the family home was devastating to me.
When I married my second husband, I thought I was in heaven.
Honestly, I thought he was perfect for me.
We dated for a few years and lived together for almost 1 year before we got married.
We had bought a house, well to be perfectly honest, he had bought a house with the expectation that the boys and I would move in. Ironically, we went to settlement on my birthday and he joked that it was my birthday present, even though my name wasn’t on the deed or title. I wasn’t worried about it because neither of us had finalized our divorces and it wasn’t good for my name to be on things. That would just complicate the final divorce process.
We were both in the process of finalizing our divorces and were chatting about getting married. One evening we decided that’s what we would do and since his family was visiting in August, we’d get married then so they didn’t have to make two trips.
For him, it might have been a little rushed. He didn’t get down on one knee and ask me to marry him. To me, that was ridiculous but to him, it meant a lot. Maybe that was a sign that the marriage was doomed, I don’t know.
Two weeks before the wedding, he hit me with a pre-nup.
Imagine my surprise! I was shocked. In many ways, I’m a believer in pre-nups, but they need to be prepared together. This one screwed me big time if the marriage ended, regardless of whether I ended the marriage or he ended it.
To make things worse, I had a week to review with my attorney and sign. Family was coming into town in 4 days.
The wedding was on a Sunday and I needed to sign the papers by Saturday. It was Friday night before the wedding. My sister and my cousin went out with me to help me decide. There were a lot of tears and a lot of alcohol.
It was such a difficult decision.
In the end I signed it. But honestly, I think I signed it because I didn’t want to be embarrassed about calling off a wedding 2 days beforehand. And if we didn’t get married, what would that do to our relationship? What if that meant we weren’t going to be together anymore? Where would I go and where would I go with the boys.
I had sold my old house, I wasn’t making much money any more and I was panicked. If it was just me, I don’t think it would have been that difficult, but I had two other people to take care of as well.
Saturday morning, with less than 24 hours before we were getting married, I signed the pre-nup and had it notarized. I felt horrible, but the alternative felt worse.
When I returned home, I gave him the signed pre-nup and to my surprise, he tore it up! All that stress for nothing.
Within weeks of getting married, I was asking myself what I had done.
During one of our tense conversations, he asked me if I thought I’d made a mistake.
I said no.
That was the beginning of going down the path that I think Susan Powell was on. She put up with the situation for her boys.
I wanted this marriage to work. I wanted my boys to have a good dad. UP to this point, he was acting like such a better father than the boys biological father. Or at least I thought so.
My youngest son tells me years later that when I wasn’t around things were horrible. He was a monster. I would have never known. I wondered how much of that was a typical teenager vs. an adult that is a problem. Years later, I believe the husband was the problem.
Financially, I thought we had a good system. We operated with one checking account, I paid the bills and he balanced the account so we both knew where the money was going.
One thing we had agreed to was that a portion of my child support payments were supposed to be going towards college. I learned after the marriage that he stopped that at one point without telling me. In the middle of all the craziness during this marriage, I missed it.
As a professional, he was a financial advisor. He set up the college investment accounts for the boys (with my signatures) but I never authorized him to stop the payments, he did so on his own. A little unethical, you think???
In retrospect, just one more example of how he was controlling.
I never felt like I was good enough for my second husband. He literally wanted me to be dressed in a short dress when he came home from work every day. If I was wearing pearls, he was much happier!
Yes, the Ozzie and Harriett type of family!
To him, the house was never clean enough.
To him, I didn’t cook very well. Yet when I suggested carry out he’d say I didn’t cook enough!
Heck, he didn’t even like the way I folded the laundry.
To him, I didn’t understand him.
Sadly, I went through a version of menopause that is not talked about very often a few years into my second marriage. Without getting too graphic, it’s the type of situation that would cause many women to get a hysterectomy. It’s generally a two year process. One can imagine the impact it had on my day to day life.
My husband was often frustrated. I felt bad for him. It didn’t matter I felt like I was going through hell, I was made to feel like I needed to be there for him, no matter what.
It was so emotional.
We had a revolving door at our house with people coming and going. We took care of two of my sisters children after she had passed and then we took his sister and her 3 children in when her husband had gotten into trouble.
I remember that we had a lot of remodeling work to do when his sister moved in and it needed to be done in a very short period of time. Around that time, we had a vacation planned to Mexico with another couple and for the first few days of that vacation I couldn’t do much. All I could do was cry. I felt so overwhelmed. I really didn’t understand what was going on with me.
My husband wasn’t very supportive. His comments made me feel worse for feeling horrible. He was mad at me because we were on this wonderful vacation and I was a bump on a log.
In retrospect, I think the overwhelm was from the big remodel project we had just completed. I took on the entire project plus all of the regular day to day activities.
Needless to say it wasn’t a great vacation. I still have a postcard from the resort in hopes that I can go back one day and enjoy the town. It seemed lovely, I was just not in the right place emotionally to enjoy it.
Sometimes it just gets difficult and we need to take a breather.
The stress I felt from the remodel was nothing compared to the stress I felt once his sister moved in.
She doted on her children when she was awake. One of the big problems is that she napped a lot. I was left to look out for her kids.
They were really good kids but it was a difficult situation.
One big issue that emerged is that her oldest son became my husband’s favorite. My husband would continually tell my kids they should be more like his nephew. It began to make them feel inferior.
There was a big difference in the amount of time my husband would spend with his nephew. He would frequently take him places and not pay attention to my boys.
My youngest really noticed it.
It created different problems for him. When I would talk to my husband about it, he told me I was imagining things. It was so obvious to everyone but him.
I didn’t realize how much stress all of this had put on me. Nor did I have any idea how difficult having his sister with us would be either. She has mental health issues. For some reason, no one told me this ahead of time.
Dealing with someone with all of these problems was overewhelming. It takes a certain skillset and that was not my strength.
In my own home, I was made to feel so inferior. Over and over I was told I was:
- the problem.
- too impatient, not understanding
- always too controlling.
I always think of myself as someone that can handle anything. Without going into all of the details of that situation, the lesson learned was blood is thicker than water. It was a disaster and when she did actually attempt suicide, the craziness went into overdrive.
My husband and I eventually tried counseling. We interviewed a few counselors so we could find one he liked. He didn’t believe in going to counseling.
That’s another story.
I remember one counseling session we spent the entire hour arguing about how I should fold the clothes better. If you saw how I did laundry you would be scratching you head over this one! Seriously, nothing I did was good enough.
After several weeks of counseling, things didn’t feel like they were progressing. I asked the counselor if I could meet with him one on one.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember what we talked about but at the next session when my husband was with me, the counselor suggested that he see a psychiatrist.
What a surprise!
I was completely shocked at the recommendation!
My husband balked at the idea and walked out. We never went back to counseling again. He said the counselor was not any good and it wasn’t worth his time.
Blame others, don’t look at yourself as the potential problem.
After a few years into the marriage, I began to feel suicidal. I had written a goodbye letter. I didn’t see a way out.
Suicide was on my mind a lot.
Those who know me know I’m a strong, independent person. For me to have these thoughts was not normal.
In retrospect. I was in an abusive marriage, unfortunately, I just didn’t see it as abuse.
One day I remember taking my son to a crisis center once because he was asking for help. The counselor had said to me that I was in an abusive marriage. I blew him off.
In the end, he was spot on. I didn’t want to believe it.
As I listen to the COLD podcast, I am so grateful for where I am today.
I AM ALIVE. I feel wonderful.
It has taken me almost 10 years to work through this. There’s been a few parental and other issues that have added to the healing process, but I know it’s behind me.
Today, I don’t really trust my judgment with men and I don’t see a serious relationship in my future, but I do have a lot of male friends. That’s nothing new in my life but it is really helpful as a single woman.
The COLD podcast has hit home.
Divorce Exposed wants to provide insights for staying married and inspiration for surviving divorce. If you stay in an abusive marriage, you might not survive.
Hopefully the Cold podcast and other stories shared here will provide you with some inspiration, not matter how difficult.
People don’t always understand what goes on behind closed doors. Most people would think that my second marriage was great and we didn’t really have any issues. Or maybe they saw what I didn’t.
I don’t know.
As much as I loved my second husband, it was a horrible experience. I’m sure he convinced everyone that I was the problem. Sadly my marriage ended with the police asking my husband to leave with them. That’s another story.
If you are in an abusive relationship like Susan Powell in the COLD podcast, you aren’t doing anyone any good by staying.
You are actually causing your children more harm by staying than you will if you leave. It takes courage and it also takes faith.
It isn’t easy to take the first step.
Abuse doesn’t have to be physical, it can also be emotional. If your spouse is making you feel inferior, like you aren’t good enough, if they track where you go, are strict with the finances, please open your eyes.
Your life is important and there are many people out there that can help you.
Don’t stay in an abusive situation because you think staying married is the right thing to do. In the Cold podcast, if Susan hadn’t waited, she might be alive today.
I’m lucky, I’m alive.
Susan Powell wasn’t as lucky.
If you are new to this podcast and want to learn more about Debbie, listen to episode 1. You can listen on the website or download in your favorite podcast player.