How did I ever get into a relationship that held domestic violence? What was I thinking? From out of nowhere, as I considered relationships over the past 2/3 of my life, I recognized a common factor in them. My significant other in each relationship came across as having something to hide about himself. I’m not really sure what even brought it to my awareness, but as I was revisiting some of my past relationships, including the violent marriage and the dysfunctional one that both ended in divorce, something suddenly dawned on me. It was like one of those bright lights they aim toward the sky at night that wobbles back and forth across the dark, directing our attention to a specific location. That’s how it felt—like someone was waving a kazillion watt flashlight in my face, shouting, “Could I have your attention, please?”
A therapist helped me understand the second husband was most likely a sociopath, and it was destined to fail, or destroy me (which almost happened). But looking back on all the other serious relationships, one at a time, I found myself going down a checklist. Guess what I discovered . . .
Number 1 – What did he have to hide? Well, when he was at work with “his men,” he was a different person. But, when he was home with me, in addition to concealing an intense insecurity and ongoing infidelity, he made excuses for his excessive drinking, never willing to admit he was an alcoholic. It came to the point he would stop on his way home to down one six-pack before bringing the other one home to consume the same night, almost in an effort to hide the fact he was drinking double what I saw. Eventually he reached the point he didn’t care if I knew, and openly told me he was stopping to drink with “his men,” and I had better not say anything about it. We divorced after nearly 16 years of marriage.
Number 2 – Another workaholic who seemed happiest when he was at work, and yep, you guessed, “with his men.” But he was more intent on hiding his drinking problem. Bottles were stashed in cabinets where no one would look. He hid the fact he was seeing other women while leading me to believe I was the only serious relationship in his life. Ironically, this relationship never reached a level of sexual intimacy. We always had an understanding that my choice in life at that time was to wait for marriage, and he honored it. That was the confusing part. He was such an honorable man, yet one of secrecy, and may explain why to this day we remain good friends.
Number 3 – Let’s just say the longer we were together, the less forthcoming he became. It was nothing for him to blatantly lie, not just to me, but it came as naturally as falling off a log. He drank a lot, never trying to hide it. The things he DID hide could have resulted in his incarceration. Eventually, verbal abuse ensued.
I saw the red flags and made a decision, one I had never been able to make before. I chose to end the relationship. Let me repeat myself—I chose to end the relationship. I, as in me, it was my choice, and a right one for both of us, because in so doing, we were able to salvage the friendship.
I guess all the contemplation came about because I wanted to understand why this time I seem to have gotten it right with this man in this marriage. Why is my husband so open and honest? Why do I feel so safe, secure and sincerely loved by him? Why does he always put me ahead of himself? I got my answer as I sat there comparing these four men. He loves me. He is comfortable in his own skin—a man of integrity and character. He has nothing to hide, and never tries to keep anything from me, even if it might be unpleasant to hear, in which case he always manages to relate it in an inoffensive manner. He has guided me to be able to keep nothing from him. We are totally open and honest with one another.
Since I entered this relationship my self-esteem and belief in all I can accomplish have skyrocketed. He has been there to encourage, support and listen. He loves me unconditionally—cellulite, wrinkles and forgetful moments—he loves me. He loved me through a mini-stroke. He loved me through family crises. He loves my children and adores “our” granddaughters. Cinderella finally made it to the ball and gets to stay in the castle, never going back to the ash bin. And that, my friends, is just how it is supposed to be!
Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Hennecy spent much time during October 2011, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with media doing radio and television interviews. See Carolyn’s interview with Gayle Guyardo of NBC Channel 8 News Today Early Morning Show and her featured segment on the ABC Action News Emmy Award winning “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence” at orangeblossomwishes.com.