Sunday, February 10, 2013

From the Beginning: I don't think I can....


I was a stay at home mother who had just given up my dream job I had worked a decade to obtain. I realize now that of course Peter would not have tolerated me continuing in this line of work; positive messages would have persisted and promotions alone a boost in self-esteem. I was also finding my individuality away from Peter, identifying talents and developing a promising career. Most importantly self-efficacy was taking root. Killing this is fundamental in a controlling relationship.

In 1977 Albert Bandera published a seminal paper defining self-efficacy as a person’s belief that they can succeed in situations. Weak self-efficacy means a person would avoid challenges; believe difficult actions to be beyond their individual capabilities, a focus on failings and negative outcomes and diminishing confidence of personal abilities. An abuser does not want their victim thinking they have any options but to stay and tolerate however they chose to live. The victim begins to circle around the abuser losing mindfulness of self and purpose thinking everything is beyond their control. The sociopath feeds on this weakness gaining power and control.

To put my transition to being house bound in further perspective I’ll go back to college. During my two years of freedom my freshman and sophomore years in college, I had three suite mates, two of which are still very dear friends. We often talked about the future and came to conclusions of how we all would end up. I was so ambitious and career oriented we all joked that I would likely not have children if I even got married. In high school I was voted most likely to succeed. I am one of those females that thrive when being productive in and out of the house. I have a strong personality and since freeing myself of Peter have been called often an Alpha Chick.  But just a few years out of college I was weak and helpless.

Peter decided he would work part time and attend Seminary part time. He decided to change his degree from Theology to Counseling. He believed me to be so unstable he needed to help me by getting a counseling degree instead. He also thought there was a lot of redundancy between the Theology degree and the Master’s degree he had just earned in American History. He worked at a religious home for children and youth that had to be removed from their homes for various behavioral problems. He worked evenings and most weekends so he could study and take classes during the week. He needed a lot of time and quiet, when he wasn’t working, to take a course, even needing to stay in a hotel during stressful times in the semester. Peter had done a wonderful job of making everything about him again.

Evenings and weekends are family times and the city we lived in had nowhere to engage in social activities. No McDonalds, no library, no central place to meet people. Additionally, I had given up full-time pay and with Peter making minimum wage and Seminary being very expensive we had very little to live on. This is a recipe for nearly complete isolation and disaster.

I remember needing milk for the girls (1 and 4) and having no car, no family nearby and no friends, I decided to put the girls in their wagon and walked to the store. It was at least in the upper 80s, it was a hilly route and it was about 4 miles one way. Peter was working a double shift and would not be home until the next day. I made this trek often in winter and summer. I was alone nearly all day every day with sometimes no money for food. I got us food stamps again and Women, Infant and Children (WIC) help. I also began to “wheel” the girls to the local food bank, also across town. I loved my daughters more than anything and was doing my best for them.

There was no intimacy between Peter and I; we weren’t really connected in any way other than our existence, financial desperation and children. I thought often about leaving Peter, even then. As with “The Little Blue Engine” thinking just ain’t enough. If you find yourself a prisoner in your own home and are thinking…….. The grass is much greener over here.

2 comments:

  1. My first husband and I moved to a new city and immediately rented a condo that we couldn't afford. I delivered son #2 shortly after we arrived and I quit my job at his insistence.

    He had also insisted on buying himself an expensive new car, using my credit score, that we couldn't afford. He traded in our better vehicle to have it. I was stuck at home with two children and an older two-seater sports car with expired tags and a bad muffler. Soon after I quit my job his wages were garnished for child support. More than half of his net pay was going to delinquent child support that he had neglected to mention he owed before we married. The IRS also garnished his wages for non-payment of taxes owed. He hadn't filed a tax return in years, and also neglected to tell me that when we married. The government finally tracked him down.

    He came home from work every day and sat on the sofa and stared at the television. He never once helped with the care of the children. He never once assisted me while I was recovering from childbirth. I was lugging laundry up and down the stairs the same day I came home from the hospital. We had no money at all. None. I had to scrape and borrow money from relatives for food, and either had to walk to the grocery store or try to take back roads to get there with expired license plates. We didn't qualify for state assistance programs because on paper he made considerably more than the guidelines permitted.

    4 weeks postpartum he began harassing me to get a job that paid more than the last job I had. I took a third shift job so that we wouldn't have to pay child care expenses. I was bringing home more money than he was, but he was still constantly harassing me to get a better job. I was sleeping about 3 hours a day, doing all the housework, taking care of the kids on my own, and holding down a full-time job.

    I lived like this for 3 years until I finally started talking, and then my family swooped in to get the kids and I out of the situation. I divorced him. (It wasn't the end of my lifetime of abusive relationships, unfortunately)

    Your post really resonates with me. I'm often amazed at stories of survival, because even though we are entangled in these horrific relationships with sociopaths we always find ways to adapt and survive the best we can.

    I read the lines about a woman dragging her children in a wagon for miles back and forth to town to get food, and I don't see "I don't think I can". I see "I did what I needed to do in the face of great adversity". He may have pushed "weakness" on you with years of abuse, but underneath it all was a person filled with a strength she didn't know she had.

    <3

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  2. You have brought tears to my eyes...

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Thank you for your comment. Positive feedback and helping those that have experienced the same tragedies are what keeps me going.