My shirt is soaking wet. John (a pseudonym) threw his drink at me. “You’re stupid,” he yelled for the fifteenth time today. And it’s not even noon yet. I try to remember he doesn’t mean it, but it still hurts. After several hours of his screaming tirades, I feel sick to my stomach and on the verge of tears. When I finally have a chance to do something on my own, I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy it.
It’s not always awful. John and I have our morning routine. I cook breakfast, we eat together across the table, and discuss the day’s events yet to unfold. You might even think in moments like these that we are just two people in a relationship like any other, functioning through the mundane moments of modern existence.
But just a minute ago, John threw a case of DVDs across the room at me when I asked him to turn the volume on the television down. Once John kicked me as I went to put on my coat. He didn’t want me to go to work. I try to remember that I have a right to have a career, and that my life should not have to revolve around him 24 hours a day. But he seems to need me so much. I’m the only one who truly understands him. Sometimes my heart really does go out to him.
Sometimes it’s frustrating to hear others talk about how sweet, funny, and handsome John is. Sometimes I wish they knew what I endured with him, that someone understood how it is for me. And yet at other times, hearing positive feedback about him helps me remember that he’s not all bad all the time.
When I have tried to tell people about some of the more rotten things he does, I’m afraid I look like the crazy one, or the one at fault. People are full of well-meaning advice, such as, “you should stand up to him- show him you won’t take that crap.” But I’ve tried that and it only gets worse.
Maybe it is my fault. After all, I should have realized that he was tired when he was watching TV and I asked him to turn the volume down. Did I really need to have the volume down? Maybe I need to learn how to pick my battles. It must be annoying to him to hear me tell him what to do all the time.
And, sometimes he really is sweet. I cherish those moments. He has told me that he loves me, and plans to live with me forever. He even said he wanted to marry me. Such sweet words just melt my heart and, for a while anyway, all the aggressive behaviors and the nasty comments melt away, too. Maybe things will improve. I am always hoping they do.
In the meantime, I must cope with day after day of exhausting insults and demands. I must try to communicate better, and better anticipate his moods so that I don’t expect too much from him or end up in a power struggle with him. I am getting better at it.
I joined a support group of mainly women—but some men, too—who are going through the same sorts of things in their lives. A recent blog post by one of them suggested that I should rehearse my reaction ahead of time. It also suggested that when things get out of hand I can simply say, “I am angry right now and I can’t be around you. I am going to another room to calm down for a few minutes, then I will come back and we will talk about it.”
Are these efforts futile? I don’t know. While I am loving John the best I can, and resist negative thoughts about how to handle all the insults, I wish there was a 24-hour hotline I could call to get some support. Sometimes I resort to self-medicating with alcohol, which helps to soften the volume, tone, and content of John’s harsh words. Sometimes I fantasize about running away.
Maybe that’s what you’ve been thinking the whole time you’ve been reading this: Why doesn’t she just leave? Well, I really do love him. It may sound naïve, but I believe there’s some good in everyone and he’s not always in control of his reactions to me. So that’s one reason. Another reason is that I’d probably be arrested. After all, he’s only five and I’m his mother.