The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal – Gecko & Fly
I felt guilty. Guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s gone. He passed away a month ago from a second stroke. It happened while I was at the grocery store. When I got home, there was an ambulance and police cars in front. Our grand-daughter had called 911.
I feel guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s dead. Does that make me a heartless person? It isn’t that I didn’t love him. The sad thing is that I did. Even though he didn’t love me, I loved him. As a teenager, I used to read about unrequited love. I never thought it would happen to me. We met in college. I developed a huge crush on him but he had eyes for my older sister, Elaine but she ended up marrying another boy. On a rebound, Albert dated me and then married me soon after we discovered that I was pregnant. We didn’t go on a honeymoon and I had to quit my job as a nurse.
I didn’t know that it was abuse because he didn’t hit me. If he hit me, I would have left. No, I didn’t get slapped or punched or shoved or anything like that. Instead, I got talked down to at home when we were alone or in front of company. I was embarrassed in public. I could feel people staring at us and caught the pitying glances of both men and women. I didn’t want their pity. I didn’t want them to notice me. I wanted to be invisible. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. I wanted to be somewhere else. More often than not, I wanted to be someone else. I resented my sister Elaine because she had the marriage I wanted. Her husband, Larry treated her like a queen. I resented her because I knew that my husband would have preferred to marry her instead of me. More than once, he said to me, “I married the wrong sister.”
He treated me with contempt. I could see the disgust and dislike on his face when he looked at me. And I often wondered why. Why did he have such an aversion towards me? I wasn’t ugly. I was a good person. I was a good wife to him and a good mother to our kids yet nothing I did seem to please him. He disrespected me in front of our kids, embarrassed me in front of friends and family and in public and he became very controlling. He controlled whom I talked to, where I went, my money and allowance. He made decisions without consulting me, telling me that he was the breadwinner and the man of the house so he was the one was going to make all of the decisions. I was Anglican but he wanted our kids to be Catholic. He chose their schools. I had no say in the matter.
Whenever he got upset, he called me names or criticized my cooking or the way I kept the house or did the laundry or ironing. After a while nothing I did was good enough. As the years went by, our marriage relationship was in a dismal state and I was glad when our kids moved out. I didn’t want them to be subjected to my abuse anymore. I should have left Albert after the kids moved out but I didn’t. You see, he suffered a stroke and after spending a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation. Afterwards, he moved back home and I took care of him. In spite of everything, I was still his wife. I did it out more out of obligation than love.
Things didn’t improve as I had foolishly hoped. He became even more controlling and demanding. He demanded that I handed over all bank statements, receipts. He timed my trips and forbade me from non-essential ones. He belittled me. He continued to criticize my cooking, housekeeping and appearance. He accused me of lying about my whereabouts and of cheating on him. No matter how much I denied it, he refused to believe me. And he called me a good for nothing liar and cheat. He even accused me of getting pregnant on purpose so that he had to marry me. No, he didn’t hit me but his words were more painful and lasting than physical bruises.
If it weren’t for my faith, I would have given up a long time ago. I kept telling myself that there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel and that God never gave us more than we could handle. Things couldn’t continue the way they were going. There had to be an end to this nightmare. There had to be. This wasn’t God’s idea of a marriage. Marriage was a loving partnership between a man and a woman. Woman was made from a rib from the man’s side which meant that she was his equal not someone he could treat like a doormat. She too was created in God’s image. They were supposed to be one–complimenting each other. One wasn’t more superior than the other.
There were times when I wished I had never met Albert but then I think about our sons. They are terrific, godly men and wonderful husbands and fathers. I thank God for them everyday. They had urged me to leave their father before he had the stroke and I wish I had.
Anyway, my marriage came to an abrupt end when Albert suffered another stroke and died a day later. When I got home from the grocery store, I saw the ambulance and police cars out front. I was numb as I watched the paramedics put him into the back of the ambulance. There were tears on my face but I don’t know if they were tears of grief and sorrow. My grand-daughter and I followed in my car. We went to the hospital. She stayed with me until the evening when her father picked her up. I spent the night in the hospital. Early the next morning, they came and told me that Albert was dead. I called Andrew, our elder son and asked him to tell the rest of the family. I went home, showered and changed and returned to the hospital. I asked my daughter-in-law, Sandy to contact the same funeral home where my father’s service was held.
The weeks following were busy with funeral arrangements and other matters. I was thankful when it the funeral service was behind me. I wanted to return to some normalcy in my life. I decided to sell the house because it was too big for one person and it was filled with a lot of painful memories for me. I moved into a low-rise condo building in a nice neighborhood with a park nearby. Weeks after moving there, I decided to join the Foster Grandparent Program so that I could help children who have been abused or neglected. It feels good to bring love and comfort to someone else.
My life is finally what I always wanted it to be. I’m a widow. I don’t plan on ever getting married again. I tried it once and it didn’t work out. Now, I will just enjoy being a mother and grandmother and being a mentor. I believe that I’m where God wants me to be right now. I have recently written a book with the help of Greta, my daughter-in-law who happens to be a best selling author, called, Abuse By Any Other Name, about my experience as an older woman of domestic abuse and the idea that it isn’t really abuse if there isn’t any physical violence. I want women to know that abuse happens to older women too and that it isn’t okay to stay in a marriage because he isn’t hitting you. There are other types of abuse.
One of my favorite quotes is: Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. If they don’t appreciate what you bring to the table, then let them eat alone. I let my loyalty to my husband blind me to my reality. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t wait until one of you dies.
Meg’s story is fiction but there are older women like her who are victims of domestic abuse. According to The Guardian, more than 10% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner are aged 66 or over but they are the group least likely to leave their abuser and seek help. For older women, domestic abuse often isn’t physical. There is emotional, verbal and financial abuse.
Jess Stonefield, a contributing writer outlines the following ways in which older women can take back their power and begin to recognize — and fight — signs of domestic abuse in their lives:
Get real. Familiarize yourself with modern definitions of abuse and be honest with yourself about whether there is abuse in your marriage or partnership. Note the ways it has impacted your life. Name it. Acknowledge it. Allow yourself to grieve the parts of your life you have lost to it.
Speak up. Find a counselor or support group where you can share your story and find empowerment from others who have experienced and overcomesimilar challenges.
Define your options. It’s possible that you don’t feel comfortable choosing divorce or living on your own in this season of your life due to physical or financial limitations. You still have options. For instance, an assisted living community could provide the safety and shelter you need to recover your physical or emotional health. Women’s shelters, Adult Protective Services (APS) or friends and family may also offer short-term solutions. Make a list of possibilities and talk to a trusted friend about which might be best for you.
Get your finances in order. One of the main reasons older women choose to stay in abusive relationships is financial dependence. Many spent a large part of their lives in the role of homemaker and may have no financial savings of their own. Check out these tips for preparing financially before leaving your partner.
Be your own advocate. Repeat this sentence: “I deserve better.” Know that your voice matters. If a health care professional, member of law enforcement or even a son or daughter minimizes the abuse happening in your marriage, do not acquiesce. Be your own best advocate and refuse to take any less than you deserve: a safe, happy life and relationship.
Don’t be the forgotten victims of domestic violence. Take action. Protect yourself.
Sources: The Guardian; Next Avenue; National Institute on Aging; Senior Corps; Gecko & Fly Quotes