In May of 2001 I took a new job in an office across town from the one M and I shared. I left D in June of 2001 and moved myself and my son into a small apartment that I was confident I could afford. M and I became an item and we continued to exchange e-mails as we felt our way into this new relationship. I was totally smitten – M did his best to make me feel comfortable and safe, speaking softly and encouraging me to explore my hobby of fiber arts to see if I could turn it into a viable business.
I should say that I’m a knitter and spinner. This hobby started in 1996, well before M, and he was aware that I saw knitting and spinning as a meditation and enjoyed it immensely. I was eager to turn my designs into patterns for sale online, to see if I had any talent that anyone would pay for, maybe even have a bit of fame, if only in a very small circle of like-minded enthusiasts. I dreamed of having a farm with a few sheep to support the fiber business and I longed to be able to look out my window and see my horse in the yard, not at a boarding stable 15 miles away. M was the picture of supportive encouragement, telling me that he had started several businesses and could help me through the paperwork and would be happy to see me become a success. He suggested a name for my website, a name for my e-mail address – he is very clever at naming things, and I was grateful to have his advice. If you have ever been subjected to any sort of abuse from your partner, you will understand when I say that I no longer knit or spin except very rarely, and never when M is nearby. More on that another day.
I kept a diary for many years (no longer!) so I can look back and see so many relationship red flags. Of course, I did not recognize the signs, and I was never in the habit of reading over my journals so it is only now, as I go through them, weeping uncontrollably, that I see just what verbal abuse has cost me.
Anyway. Money was very tight and I had several thousand dollars worth of debt that I was slowly paying down, caught in the Interest Trap of credit cards. M loaned me money for bills and insisted he buy me a car. At the time I was driving a Geo Metro that was paid for, but you know that they are little tin cans just waiting for an accident to flatten them. M had been in a horrific car accident when he was in his mid-twenties and has a fear of cars in general, so I knew he wasn’t happy to ride around with me in such a tiny car. I thought his motivation was pure – a safer, better car for me that he could feel good about riding in. It was also an image thing – Geos are not very Uptown, are they? He thought that I should work on my image (better clothes, better car, better hair, etc.) but that’s a separate post.
He found a car that we both liked, bought it, and I started making payments to him. That was probably the first thing we had a major disagreement about – the state of my car. He keeps his cars very clean, vacuuming at least once a week, washing and waxing, the whole deal. I do not have the time or desire to keep my car pristine – it just doesn’t matter to me. He was insulted that I was not keeping my car in the condition he thought it should be in. It just proved that I did not appreciate the things he was doing for me. On the one hand, I did see his point – worthy people keep their surroundings clean and clutter-free, right? Organized, smart, respectable people are always ready for House Beautiful to come over for a photo shoot. It’s not OCD, but pride in your possessions, right?
Maybe I had been selfish in the past, not caring that people thought less of me when they saw me because of my appearance and the dirt on my car. Maybe my life would improve if it looked more like a photo spread in a decorating magazine. Maybe I would be more successful if I looked the part. And since M dressed very well, wouldn’t I look better on his arm if changed a few things? I wanted him to be proud of me. Couldn’t hurt, right?
Looking at myself and seeing inadequacies that were the product of the expectations of another was the first step towards my complete loss of self. A healthy relationship can stand the simple, “I wish you would let your hair grow out a bit – you have such nice hair, it would look great on you.” But when it sounds like this, “Why don’t you ever style your hair? It looks terrible to wear it in a ponytail or under a ball cap. Stylish women fix their hair and brush it throughout the day to keep it looking nice, after all, it’s the people around you that have to look at you all day,” it is the first step towards becoming something you are not.
June 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm
My X tried to dress me everyday. Bought me Coach bags. Burberry. Zara. Cleaned my car. All for appearances. Shallow self-worth.
December 28, 2012 at 10:24 pm
Were you and D divorced at this point, or just separated?
December 29, 2012 at 10:36 am
D and I filed the divorce ourselves since there were no community assets. It took only a couple of weeks. Looking back, I can’t quite remember if the line between M and D was blurred or not – D and I were living separate lives for some time before I actually moved out. It was a whirlwind with M, as these relationships always are, and I forgot D pretty quickly.
D was banging the secretary at his office for months before he decided he was done with me. I was the only one who didn’t know. Ironically (or not) D is now single, and has been for some years.
January 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm
I think with most abusers as with yours and mine, control is the main issue. Mine told me how to dress, talk, walk, cook, everything! Ugh.
January 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm
They can’t control their own self-hatred so they try to control the world around them and they don’t care who they destroy to get that control. Assholes!