Content notice for all things domestic abuse. Please note that this is intended to be a personal account from a person whose feelings about what happened to them aren’t always fair or coherent and may carry misplaced resentment.
Whenever you realize what’s going on, remember
- The wedding. How glamorous you felt. How happy everyone’s mom was. How sternly affectionate everyone’s dad was. How even the relatives you hate seemed lovely to you. How even the relatives who hate you wished you well without coming off as entirely passive-aggressive.
- The cute story about the mishap from your honeymoon, when he performed a heroic, manly feat that saved you both.
- The flowers he got for you on his way home from work each time you called him at work to let him know you were going to have his baby.
- The ginger tenderness with which he held each newborn. The happy smile on his face in the picture you took each time of the bundled baby lying so snug and so small that he only had to use one arm to hold the tiny person.
- How much your firstborn, who you love so dearly, looks like him.
- That time you were listening to that one song on the radio and he swore he’d give his very last drop of blood for his children.
- The one trip you took when there was no Incident.
When you are confronted by peers who realize, bring up
- All the times you “almost left.”*
- That he’s a good provider.
- Your own lack of sainthood, how you
- Provoke him.
- Didn’t stand up to him in time or enough to fix it.
- Still aren’t good enough to fix it, but you hope to be, someday.
* When confronted by your own hopes and dreams, talk to him about leaving
- There will be absolutely no conviction in your voice.
- There will be no reward for you, since you know that he knows that you know that you’d be helpless without him. Your punishment for this will be meted out slowly over time.
- There will be no risk to the relationship, since you know that he knows that you know that he’d be helpless without you. He will remind you of it, voice quavering with penitence, and you will draw, yet again, from your endless well of forgiveness.
When your babies get sad, tell them what other daddies do to their babies
- Beat them.
- Starve them.
- Leave them.
- Sell them.
- Mutilate them.
- Marry them off.
- Ship them away.
- Rape them.
- Kill them.
- Hate them.
When your babies get angry, explain to them that
- He’s only trying to fix them. They don’t want to grow up to be imperfect like you, do they?
- All men are this angry, this irrational, this irritable. They’d better get used to it.
- He used to be worse. Nobody is perfect. Everyone deserves a chance.
- He used to be worse. Their anger will make him regress. They should stop their fussing right now, before he gets home.
- He feels bad for it. Remember how bad he felt last time? It will blow over this time, like it did last time.
When your babies get too big and too loud with their sadness and anger, ask them why they
- Are living in the past.
- Can’t forgive their father. He’s their father.
- Assert that an old — older than your father when he died, older than his father when he died, growing older every day — man, who never changed when he was younger, can’t change.
- Refuse to give him credit where it’s due. He isn’t as bad as he was before.
- Have gone through so much therapy and still carry so much negativity.
- Can’t just be nice to him, for your sake? After all, you chose him, over and over and over again. They can make their own choices.