Saturday, April 23, 2011

Road Trip Conversation

The scene: our car, two hours into a four hour drive, rural countryside.

Penn: So, I have a question for you. You know those high speed bullet trains, like in Japan?
Me: I can already tell this is one of those random hypothetical situations you're always coming up with.
Penn: You have to think about something!
Me: I know, but the hypotheticals you think about are always very different from the hypotheticals I think about in my downtime.*
Penn: Or most people think about, I know. But anyway, say you're a bullet train barreling along at 190 miles per hour and a cow walks into your path.
Me: Does the train vaporize the cow?
Penn: That's what I want to know!
Me: I am almost positive you've asked me this question before.
Penn: I probably have. I think about it sometimes, especially when I'm near a train track. I'm really curious. I want to know.

* My hypotheticals: What would I say if X thing happened? What would I remodel in our house with Y amount of money?
My husband's hypotheticals: let's just say the above is the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Help for Domestic Abuse

I've had nothing to say here for three weeks. It has been a very difficult three weeks to wrap my brain around. Everything has been strange. My sister-in-law was hospitalized for a long time. Now she's finally out of the hospital and on her way to what appears will be a full recovery, which is nothing short of miraculous. That's the good news that finally came about this week. However, Penn was with her for a week at the beginning and then he had to come home abruptly and against his will due to family drama that is still ongoing. And at first that had my adrenaline up and my heart pumping and yet I felt hopeful that all of the drama would lead to a positive change for his extended family, but now I feel utterly deflated and I just wish (for Penn's sake even more than for my own) that the situation was working out differently.

And now, a public service announcement that has been rattling around in my head for weeks and has been blocking me from being able to post here. I couldn't figure out how to post about it, but I HAVE to post about it. Forgive me when I inevitably ramble.

I am watching someone I care about seemingly choose an abusive man over people who love and care about her. Short of dealing with a friend's battles with anorexia and alcoholism, this is probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to witness (in fact, this is possibly equally difficult, since there is the exact same feelings of helplessness and confusion about why the person can't see the truth of her situation and make it stop). I know that a general understanding in society is that you need to "stand by your man." That "true friends" are not in fact true friends if they do not respect your significant other. I understand that impulse. As a newlywed myself, my instinct is to trust my husband, to stand by him and support him even if for some reason nobody else will. We're all taught that our life partner is our soul mate, our safety net, our best friend, our sounding board. The person you marry is supposed to be the one person you never have to doubt, the one person who will always take care of you, no matter what.
But when does that "stand by your man" mentality need to be put aside? I like to think that I could never be blinded by my love for Penn. I am so incredibly blessed to have a husband who is, in fact, my best friend, my safety net, my sounding board, my greatest supporter, and someone who respects me even more than I respect myself. I am blessed to have a husband whom my family loves and approves of and whom my friends think is just as fantastic as I think he is. But what if I wasn't that lucky? What if I was constantly having to defend my spouse to my family and my friends, pointing out that they don't really know him like I do, that he's not so bad, that he loves me but just has a strange way of showing it. At what point, in other words, are the words of friends and family enough to make you reconsider your marriage--your biggest decision, your entire life? Can friends and family ever do enough to turn you against a spouse? I like to think that I would listen to my father and my mother or my grandparents or my sister or brother or my best friends if they were telling me that my husband was bad for me and that I needed to protect myself and do the brave thing and end things. I also know, though, that it would be an incredibly hard decision to make, especially if underlying it all was a certain level of fear of that husband and what he might do if I did walk out the door.
I think the answer to, "Can friends and family ever do enough to turn you against a spouse?" is no. A woman needs to decide on her own when enough is enough. I don't have to respect my friend's spouse (and in this case I definitely do not), but I have to respect her decision to stay with him, should she choose to do so, regardless of how heartbreaking that may be for her family and friends who have to watch a man dominate and control a beautiful, loving, caring woman under the guise of love and marriage. All I can do is hope and pray that she'll figure out a plan for her life that gives her peace and true happiness (ALL of the time, not just on rare "good days.") And if that means staying in her marriage, then so be it. I feel I have a good understanding of the bonds and commitment of marriage. I also understand that I can never truly judge someone else's marriage and dynamic. It may not be what I would ever want for myself or for my potential future daughters, but hers are not my shoes to walk in. I keep hoping that when the time is right she'll make the strong (but scary and hard) decision for herself and her children and get out of a volatile and dangerous situation. I also know that she may never do that, and I may never understand why. There are all sorts of reasons that intelligent and promising women end up with abusive men, and there are all sorts of ways in which abusive men can keep up the appearance of being worth the pain and suffering.

I know my friend isn't the only one in an abusive relationship. I know there are thousands, probably millions of women out there in "marriages" that make a sham of the very word, marriages that are grounded on fear and intimidation and control and shame instead of on love and trust and respect and honor (and that's trust, respect, and honor for BOTH parties).

And it should go without saying, but domestic abuse is defined by so much more than physical violence. If any of the below sounds like your relationship or the relationship of someone you know, please know that it is NOT normal. It is not normal or acceptable in ANY sort of marriage. Do not say, "Well, I have friends that are treated this way..." because those friends are being abused, too. There are relationships in the world (many of them) in which none of the things on the list below EVER happen. You deserve a better, safer, happier life. There are places to get the help and protection you need to bridge the gap between the life of fear and shame and the life of security and peace. It may feel helpless right now, but if you can take the first step of seeking help to get out of the situation, people WILL step forward and help you by making plans and getting you to permanent safety. Getting out of the abusive situation will be a long walk down a hard road. There will be a lot of fear and sadness and maybe, at times, regret. But the act of leaving an abuser at least potentially has a happy ending. Life with an abuser does not.

Read the list. Pass it along. Take care of yourselves.

Signs That You Are in an Abusive Relationship:
Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings
Do You:
Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
Feel that you can't do anything right for your partner?
Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
Wonder if you're the one who is crazy?
Feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Your Partner's Belittling Behavior
Does Your Partner
Humiliate or yell at you?
Criticize you and put you down?
Treat you so badly that you're embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
Ignore or put down your opinions or your accomplishments?
Blame you for his own abusive behavior?
See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your Partner's Violent Behavior or Threats
Does Your Partner
Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
Force you to have sex?
Destroy your belongings?
Your Partner's Controlling Behavior
Does Your Partner
Act excessively jealous and possessive?
Control where you go or what you do?
Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
Constantly check up on you?
It is Still Abuse If:
The incidents of physical abuse seem minor compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other women talk about. There isn't a "better" or "worse" form of abuse.
The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred once or twice in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse has injured you once, it is likely he will continue to assault you.
The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire to, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!
There has not been any physical violence. Many women are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.

There is much more information here, where I accessed the list above:
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline can be reached here:
1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or at