“The moment you start to wonder if you deserve better, YOU DO!” (carrienet)
I will never forget that night 27 years ago. A moment in time which would come to define the next two decades of my life.
Should I stay or should I go?
“I don’t give a damn what you do” was his response.
What choice did I have? I had to stay, I had no where else to go come the next day because I’d given up the duplex I’d lived in to move in with him. I was stuck, and he knew it.
His response should have been my first clue to what lay ahead if I were to stay with this man.
Sitting on the couch with the newspaper held up high enough to hide his face — after dinner with his ex-wife who he was insistent I meet — I knew he was angry. He’d been angry since I had arrived at his house after work that night. He’d hardly spoke two words to me and even those had been laced with jaw-clenching anger — why, I wasn’t sure and was left wondering all evening what it was I had done to bring on this anger of his.
Continuing to ignore me as he’d done that evening except for the occasional flash of disapproval itched with great intensity on his face, I finally broke through the silence. I simply asked if he wanted me to stay or go. Without missing a beat and while still hiding behind the paper he curtly spat out those words, “I don’t give a damn what you do.”
I was baffled even more now than I had been all evening while awkwardly trying to make conversation with his ex-wife — why I had to meet her I still wasn’t sure. This man who had asked me to move in with him now didn’t give a damn what I did? What had just happened tonight?
I sat paralyzed not knowing what to do. Tomorrow I would be homeless since the plan was to move all my things out of my duplex into his house. All because he had asked me to move in. He’d insisted it would help me out financially instead of us having two places and we could spend more time together instead of living so far apart.
Now this same person sat silently behind the newspaper and I sat with my heart beating out of my chest so confused and unsure what to do.
A part of me said to run, just leave. The other part whispered — you’ll be all alone.
After several agonizing minutes of this internal battle raging inside of me — stay or go, stay with someone or be alone…I finally made the choice…
and so I stayed. I stayed for 20 years with a man who didn’t “give a damn”.
I was 23 years old. A lifetime ago. And over the next two decades of my life the same question would repeatedly skip over and over in my head like a broken record — what did I do wrong to cause him to behave the way he did towards me? The doubts which plagued me about my own sanity and whether that life I led was normal were caused by the crazy making of living with a person who once began our relationship by telling me he didn’t give a damn about me.
Sometimes, the doubts about what I lived with, what I walked through would come back to whisper in my ear — “was it really so bad? was it really abuse?” There were many who told me rather indirectly how I was being too sensitive and if I only ignored it and learned to let things go more it wouldn’t be so bad. And how often the very man who shouldn’t be treating me badly would tell me these same things directly to my face. .
So was it really not that bad? Was it really just me? Did I make a mountain out of a molehill? Was I just not good enough? Or did I cry wolf?
My reality is that I lived with abuse for 20 years. I may not have known how to walk away or was just too scared to leave; I may have doubted myself at times, far too many times in fact; and I may not have always responded or reacted in the best way possible, but I truly know that what I lived with was wrong. What I lived with was abuse.
And no amount of my changing or submitting more or being more respectful or loving could change him. Only he could make that choice. And he chose not to.
I chose to stay with someone who didn’t give a damn and he chose to continue being that person who didn’t give a damn.
Please, if you are in or think you could potentially be in a relationship with someone who is abusive — you should go!
If you aren’t sure if they are abusive or if you’ve lived so many years with this person and do not trust your instincts please watch this video below:
Still not sure or scared to truly label what is happening for what it is — abuse? Then please visit these websites dedicated to helping people in abusive relationships:
And then grab a copy of one or all of the books listed to help educate yourself more about abuse:
Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Lundy Bancroft
Why is He So Mean to Me?, Cindy Burrell
The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, Leslie Vernick
The Verbally Abusive Man; Can He Change?, Patricia Evans
Do you stay or do you go? Only you can answer that question — but be sure your answer is based around what your instinct is telling you and not distorted by fear. Listen to yourself. God gives us feelings to gauge situations we are in — they are there to help us assess what may be happening in our lives and to take the appropriate action. We should never live by our feelings alone but I do believe we should never ignore our feelings, especially the ones which cause us to question our circumstances. If you have to ask whether a certain behavior is normal or not, it probably isn’t okay. If you’re feelings are leading you to question a situation in our life take heed and seek help if necessary.
Trust yourself and trust God to give you direction. He may not send up flares or use neon signs to point the way, but when we open our hearts to his voice He will and does speak to us. Often it’s through people or books which help to validate and confirm what we may already know, or perhaps we discover a website or blog which provides answers to our questions. However it happens, whatever resources God uses to guide us, all we have to do is open our eyes, ears and heart to receive His guidance.
May you trust your feelings to seek help if your life circumstances do not seem normal or healthy.