Paula was shocked and angry at herself when she suddenly saw her husband had never wanted what she would call a real relationship with her. She’d kept herself deaf and blind for thirty years.
What she’d heard and thought.
When they were dating, he’d said he’d thought she was a good woman and he valued her. All the years they’d been married, when she’d pinned him down, he’d say she was okay and he needed her and would never let her leave.
She’d heard and thought those words meant the same thing to him as they had to her: love and marriage meant an equal partnership, listening to each other, valuing each other’s opinions, giving each other what made the other person happy and loved, bearing the burdens equally, making decisions together, kindness, caring, etc.
The relationship he really wanted; insisted on.
Usually he let her believe that fantasy but sometimes he told her straightforwardly: he was her lord and master, her purpose in life was to do what he wanted – to run his errands, to cook and clean for him and anyone he chose to bring to their home, to earn money and give him complete control of it, and to wait silently for him to tell her when he wanted her to do something for him. Seemed clear enough to him.
He was always negative, critical and demeaning. She never did enough, no matter how much she’d done. He was too busy and important to clean up anything so she had to do all the cleaning, all the errands, all the chores. Even worse, he showed he wasn’t interested when she gave opinions. Of course he was angry, she wouldn’t shut up and submit, and she wanted him to do things he didn’t want to.
Paula had found excuses for these rare moments of candor and clarification of what he’d meant.
She minimized the truth and assumed he simply was speaking unclearly or he didn’t really understand how much he’d hurt her feelings. She couldn’t imagine anyone could be so different from her; didn’t care what she thought or wanted, didn’t want a wonderful relationship with a partner and helpmate, didn’t want a real marriage.
She’d never listened to his words, never counted all his actions that showed how he really thought and felt. She’d ignored the thousands of times he stuck her with verbal and emotional needles when he wasn’t physically or sexually brutalizing her. She minimized never receiving birthday or Christmas presents. She wouldn’t accept his actions as bullying and abuse. After all, he’d said he cared and valued her.
That way, she could maintain her illusion that they wanted the same thing; her ideal of a real relationship.
She realized he’d known from the beginning what he’d wanted and how to use her.
Usually he was content to let her believe her delusions so he could use and abuse her. Usually he lied by omission; by not setting her straight when he saw she’d misunderstood what he really intended. He excused that by saying he hadn’t openly lied. He justified himself by saying he’d told her the truth a few times. It wasn’t his fault she chose not to hear, pay attention or count it. She’d blinded by her own hopes and wishes. Her fault for wanting something different from him and her problem.
He didn’t care about her as a person.
He valued her only for the work she could do for him and for being willing to endure being beaten any time he felt like beating her. She was a useful tool and he wasn’t going to part with her. He’ll use every excuse or justification, every threat to keep her in line. If she wanted to get away she’d have to do it based on her judgment and against his will.
Once Paula’s ears and eyes were opened, once she counted the pain and torment she’d endured, she had to get free.
She felt so stupid and guilty. She’d wasted so many years of her life but she wasn’t going to waste any more. He’d always said he’d never agree to her leaving; he wouldn’t let his right arm go. She knew he meant he’d never let go of his servant, his slave, the source of his money. She’d have to break free against his will and probably in defiance of their adult children.
She’d been strong enough to endure slavery; she be strong enough to fight for and enjoy freedom.
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