Abuse is kind of like a puppet held in place by a string. Your puppeteer has a firm hand, a voice that projects itself into your mind and then there’s the game-playing that can literally make you dance to their song. If the puppeteer is really good, you don’t even notice the strings. It’s all an act. One that you’re caught up in. The strings keep you tied to the hope of what was once what you believed your reality was. The sad reality is that broken strings would be in a sense, a reprieve, but you can’t move your hands to untie the knots. You’re caught up in a vicious circle of mental flip-flopping. Where will I go? What will I do? How will I manage?
There’s a kind of “black and white” value that is present when there’s physical, financial and sexual abuse. There’s a trail. Whether it’s a paper trail or a physical sign; they leave their indelible mark. It’s a much clearer picture. It’s much harder to define, evaluate and get validation for the abuses caused by manipulation, lies, and deceit. In small doses, you’d probably have a difficult time identifying these factors as abuse or chalking them up to life’s ups and downs with a spouse. It would be just a transition in most cases. Brought on by difficult times or stressors.
When the isolated experiences are cemented in place by years; they develop into a pattern. A repeat offender, so to speak. The pattern of highs and lows can take on a more sinister value. It’s a day by day erosion; a spiral of self-doubt and crazy-making that is only to be rivaled by the abuser’s tenacity and perseverance to their own personal cause. These seemingly harmless lies can fester and take on a life of their own. Especially once the victim allows this to take hold of their life. Over time, their own personal needs or desires take a backseat. Rationalizing to yourself, “If he gets his way this time, I’m SURE that things will change for the better.” The victim weighs their options. Keeping peace, or at least the semblance of it becomes paramount. Every wish and desire is deeply rooted around the wishes and desires of their abuser. All in a vain. It’s a sane attempt to solve an insane problem. Attempting to keep peace and being supportive of their partner in their goals seems like the good and proper thing to do in any marriage. More so, in a household where abuses reside. Now the puppet starts to dance. Cue the music. There’s often a chord of self-preservation that’s twanging in your mind as your days unfold. Sanity can seem to be a fleeting moment or just beyond reach.
Unfortunately by supporting their spouse in order to keep the peace, a victim becomes an unwilling enabler of the abuser. The esteem and status of the abuser in the household is elevated to such a point where the abuser believes they can do no wrong and indeed in their mind they have done NOTHING wrong. Hiding the truth or covering up a bruise; it all allows the cycle to continue. Not the victim’s fault; but it happens regardless. The shame, fear or financial losses and nowhere to turn have kept many a man, woman or child in an abusive environment. This is nothing new.
Parents and other relatives of an abuser often fall into the category of enablers of a purer form as many have prior knowledge and choose to look the other way. And it often starts young forming that young mind and nurturing it. It’s in the cover-ups and the lying that goes hand in hand with manipulations and cover-ups that make the enabler a victim as well. This was my case. His own parents that lived in fear of a life in which their child has been incarcerated or worse. After all, they had been witness to some of the atrocities. Felt the sting of his threatening to cut himself out of their lives. At one point, he had claimed his father was dead and his mother a grieving widow. What kind of man would say this when it wasn’t true? This information was given freely and without conscience; there was no gun pointed at his head. Yet knowing this, they will continue to pander to their son the abuser until their dying day in order to never hear or see those things again. Secreting those dirty little truths away…it allows no room for healing, but maybe they have no desire for that. Accountability for his actions is a thought but only fleeting. There’s a balance that’s been struck between the manipulation and the gifts. It’s a reward system that they will find hard to get away from. They like it, and the gifts and monetary payback to them is important. It seems to negate all the hurt of the past. It’s almost like they crave it; it’s a sickness or an addictive cycle that they are caught up in. The problem is that while all this hiding the secrets of the past fester in the closet, it allows the abuser the freedom to re-offend without tipping off anyone. His facade remains intact, he is untouchable it seems.
When he’s threatened, his family and support system remain coiled at the ready. I know this first-hand and I recognize the symptoms. Because I was once one of them. Lying to people about his situations and shady doings got to me and made me feel sick to be involved on any level. But then it seems you’ll do almost anything to protect someone that you care about from being hurt or jailed. Almost anything. At some point though, I had to remind myself that being able to sleep a decent night’s sleep with a clearer conscience was much better than any false words and promises from him. That was when I first started letting close friends and family into the secret horror of my life.
While writing in this blog over the years, I’ve come to realize the enormity of the weight of the lies and the debilitation. It’s deeply rooted in my psyche. Caused by living almost 30 years in the shadow of deception with this man; the damage is crystal clear to me now. The lies and the reasons for them, somewhat less so. It’s also become apparent to others that have known me over the years that I’ve emerged a different person. Life has a way of changing many things.
True freedoms coming from where I least expected it. To think that the sharing and baring of the gory and sordid details could make such a difference. I’ve never been a fan of airing dirty laundry. I’m still a very private person on many levels. And I abhor the fact that these events demonstrate to readers, just how absolutely gullible and foolish that I had been over those long years. Almost 30 years worth of garbage to sift through in my mind. But the mountain of garbage pales in comparison to some things that occurred in the past. Considerably longer and more painful were the evenings, pregnant and alone, waiting for my husband to come home from “god only knows where” and from screwing “god only knows who”. To have to listen to the lies and fervently wish for him to “snap out” of whatever had him in their grips. Not to go back in time, but to be able to start fresh. But where to start when you feel that you no longer know this person that has shared your life for so long. A complete and utter stranger.
There’s a lot I don’t know about life. My lessons are not over. Some lessons easy and others difficult. There are things that I am aware of now that shed a whole new light on this individual. The one who was my high school sweetheart, my first love, my best friend (or so I thought), and the husband of my only child. Now, I know that I just fit into his world for a time. Like a puppeteer who closets away the old marionettes for a new one that’s easier to manipulate. The old puppets get too difficult to manage. The elaborately shaped lies start echoing back to the victim. They no longer have the desire effect or longevity. The marionette’s strings grow weak and their painted, shiny veneer begins to crack from wear. Into the closet they go.
People often wish that they could go back in time. I never did. Never wanted to. If time travel were possible; the past is not a place that I’d visit. Not for a second. My goals and pleasures are more simple now, rooted in realism and gratitude for life. As for the puppeteer, I can’t say. The only thing that’s certain is that he’s still playing to a captive audience. There may be new puppets with shiny, new faces, but the strings remain while the puppets dance.