I was reading an article written by another blogger on a mom’s blog in a different city. She described her experience of being sexually assaulted by someone out in the community (a massage therapist) who touched her inappropriately. She felt that this abuse couldn’t happen to her since she was married with kids and in her 40s.
It made me think about how the topic of sexual assault in marriage is taboo as well because this also happens and nobody brings it up. I think it’s something to start to open up about so we can help each other as women to know what is “ok” and what is “not ok”. It’s hard to bring up the topic because we would all hope women in America don’t have to deal with this issue but I will call it what it is—sexual abuse.
I had been abused for years in my marriage. I think when it’s truly abuse, you honestly don’t realize that you’re being abused until it’s too late (if ever). You try to make excuses for your spouse’s behavior. He always has an excuse for his behavior. Some of the time, the excuse involves blaming YOU for his behavior.
Before I got married, my family and friends all knew I wanted to wait to have sex until marriage. It was important in my religion and I felt this was something I didn’t want to compromise on. I focused on my studies and then started dating after grad school. I found this very sexy and charming man who swept me off my feet. I wanted to do anything for him. He made me feel safe and told me he loved me. I basked in the seemingly never-ending attention. He kept pushing the envelope (I recognize he was actually “grooming” me) by using sexually-explicit words and texts. He would touch me lightly first on my arms, then my legs, and then other areas when I seemed more comfortable. He knew I enjoyed it because people do enjoy being touched and paid attention to.
It wasn’t too long before we did have sex. I felt like this must be the right person for me because he said he loved me and had never met anyone else like me. It was weird because sometimes when we were sleeping next to each other, he would punch or kick me. I’d wake up in pain, surprised, and often he didn’t wake up at all, seemingly oblivious to anything having happened. If he did wake up, he’d say it was an accident and to go back to sleep.
We continued on and the fire that was there burned out. He said I was smothering him after I moved in with him. Prior to him proposing, he said he had women showing him nude pictures and asking for his opinion, suggesting that they were open for sex. He said he told me this so he could show me that he turned them down because he only wanted to be with me. The night before he proposed to me, he talked about how he wished he’d had a threesome and wished I’d wanted to have sex with women. I realize now that this was him coercing me, saying there are other women out there if I didn’t do what he wanted.
He proposed and things seemed great. I was anxious because my friends were getting engaged and moving on without me. We did marriage preparation and seemed to be on the same page about everything. I now realize this is because I acquiesced to whatever he wanted to do. He was a hammer; I was a nail.
Over the marriage, he devalued my job, saying it was not important to the family and I didn’t make enough money to continue. He suggested having a baby so I could stay at home. He devised a plan for exactly when we would have our children (assuming biology was on our side). I thought this seemed reasonable and I liked his take-charge attitude but now again, I realize he was taking away my ability to have reproductive freedom. Stepping out of the workforce put me at a severe disadvantage, reliant on him without income of my own. Getting back into the workforce would be more difficult and I’d lose time toward my retirement. I always wanted to be a mother, though, and he told me he was taking care of me so I could achieve my dream.
We ended up having children. Particularly during the pregnancies, he started kicking and punching me in his sleep. I asked if he might have a sleep disorder but he said he has always been someone who moved around in his sleep and this was no big deal. I started sleeping on the opposite side of the bed with my bump facing away from him. Sometimes when I’d breastfeed the baby on the bed, he’d flail and nearly punch the baby until I moved the baby away at the last second. He acted like he had no idea that it happened.
By the second child, he seemed disinterested in sex. He’d spend late nights in his office. When I’d ask him to come to bed, he’d say he was busy. Sometimes he’d come to bed after a day when I was so tired from taking care of the kids that I’d say I didn’t want to have sex. He then would initiate sex in the middle of the night, making me super tired the next day. During the last year of our marriage, he brought up again how women were sending him naked pictures and saying they wanted to have his babies. I overheard him tell friends that he was bored with me and I was getting more stupid over time. I felt like if I didn’t have sex whenever he initiated it, he would definitely leave me. Whenever I tried to initiate sex though, he acted like he had better things to do.
He made comments about how he wasn’t attracted to me because I’d gained weight during my pregnancies and had a hard time losing some of the weight post-partum. We used to work out together and he said he had always felt like I was “phoning it in” during workouts and he was ashamed of my “lack of commitment to my health”. We constantly fought about this. He over-analyzed everything we ate until we literally ate nothing but a chicken breast for dinner (I would make mac and cheese for the kids). In reality, I had never been overweight and walked at least 5 miles per day, pushing a 50-pound stroller all over town.
At that time, the worst thing I thought I could do was break up my family. I had young children and no job. What could I do?
Finally he told me he had been sleeping with random women over the past year at least, during my latest pregnancy in particular. The veil had been lifted and I started to realize I didn’t deserve the treatment I’d been getting. He said the infidelity was my fault because I was not satisfying him. He needed to have sex more often and it was my fault that we weren’t having sex enough. I actually would have liked to have sex more frequently but he ignored me when I’d try to initiate something. He said he had been extremely unhappy for years (though he never brought this up).
Though this has been by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, I am here to say it’s worth it to leave if anyone is treating you in any of these ways. You are enough. You deserve more. Even though the family court is totally messed up, I will still say it’s worth leaving just to save yourself. A man shouldn’t define your worth. He doesn’t deserve that power over you. Even if you are unattached for the rest of your life, that’d be a far better life than the daily stress of harassment.
I used to feel sorry for my kids about the divorce, but that has changed. This way your kids get at least 50 percent of a parent who isn’t a sex addict or a sexual abuser. They don’t deserve to see you being abused. They’re looking at you as their model and asking you to show them someone who has self-respect. No doubt he will go on to abuse other women but my children still have an opportunity to have a secure place to come back to where people are valued.
I was recently diagnosed with PTSD. If you have been in this situation, reach out to a therapist for help to work through the trauma you have experienced.