“Wake up! Wake up! Ho Ho came!” he yelled happily while shaking me awake.
“Ho Ho” was our friendly name for Santa Claus. But, I wasn’t a child. I was a married woman with no children.
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and looked around the dark room. The sun wasn’t even awake yet, but his joy and childish giddiness warmed my heart and brought a huge smile to my face. As I shuffled into the living room, presents were stacked under the tree and all the Christmas lights in the entire house twinkled and glistened. Christmas music played in the background as he grabbed a present and put it in my lap.
“Merry Christmas!” he said, his eyes twinkling in the quasi-darkness.
This was my husband every Christmas morning until our last one together. You may wonder if this was the same husband I have written about for so long. The answer is yes, one in the same.
Oftentimes when people think of abusive relationships, they envision the abuser as a monster. He or she is someone that is yelling all the time, who cages their victim in at night, and never allows them the think for themselves. I even find, as I’m trying to share my story, that I often get stuck in the negative. Why? Because the negative is what destroyed me. The negative is what undid me, what destroyed our marriage, and what cause me years of pain. The negative is the reason I am here writing to you today.
Victims do not stay in abusive relationships for the negative. They fall in love with the good, the happy, and the joyous. Abusers are not abusive all the time. Quite the opposite. Abusers very often have a side to them that is loving and caring, and can flip on and off like a lightswitch.
I fell in love with a funny, goofy, handsome man. The abuse was intermingled and I was manipulated over years until it became more than I could handle. But through it all, there was always the man I fell in love with. Christmas mornings were my favorite because I was reminded that he “loved me.” Happiness fell over our home and I was transported to a wonderful place where I could just be.
There were always glimpses of that man, from periodic movie nights to trips to Disney. There were times when he forgot himself and was just free. He would sing in the shower, dance in the living room, or joke around with his friends and family. And each time he did these things, I was reminded of the man I loved, the one I wanted to spend my life with. All the negative went out the door for that brief moment and gave me hope that this version of my husband would stay for a while.
Sadly, that never did happen. I waited a long time. I struggled through changing myself, praying, and trying to be someone I was not in order to keep that version of him around longer. But the abusive side always won out.
I periodically hear a song or encounter something that reminds me of a happy moment and I feel a smile spread across my face. Not every moment is bad in an abusive marriage, but there is not room for abuse in any marriage.