content warning: domestic violence
I’d been agonizing over what to do about my marriage for a long time–in therapy, on long tortured walks, in conversations with friends who were growing increasingly concerned about my unhappiness. Things really started to fall into place when that concern turned to fear. I hadn’t intended on telling him the marriage was over that week, a year ago–he had tests in school and there was Valentines’ Day. I wanted to do this as compassionately as possible. I’d plan it out, and I’d do it in therapy so he would stay calm; I’d had enough scares when I tried to broach the possibility of breaking up before. He’d run into a mailbox, threatened to kill himself, punched his giant metal gun safe until his knuckles bled. I could wait a week.
We’d been in couples therapy for years. Concerned about the expense, we were working with new therapists under supervision. We shouldn’t have been in couples therapy at all, but I wouldn’t understand that until later.
Sitting down in the room, I felt sick and anxious. My heart was pounding. I stared intently at my right quadriceps covered in brightly colored yoga pants, reminding myself to breathe. I told them how I’d been frightened the previous night when Bryan, with no provocation, had thrown a lot of my things around at home and then lobbed a giant framed wedding photo at the wall near where I was standing, where it shattered. I’d seriously considered calling the police. I just wanted to know I’d be safe at home. He sneered at me. There was no apology. Only with the therapists’ insistence did he grudgingly agree that we would not throw things when we were angry. We. I can’t remember the words I used, but I remember the way I felt because that hot, dark flash of horror comes up every time that memory surfaces–with a surge of panic and the deep grab in my quads and calves that is my body screaming “RUN”.
I stared hard at my leg as I did the only thing I could think to do with a husband who didn’t care that I was frightened of him; I told him our marriage was over. He shut down. One of the therapists tried to engage him. He stormed out of the room. Before the session was over I would get a single text from him, demanding that I return my engagement and wedding rings to him. It was the day before Valentines’ Day. I felt guilty.
When I returned home he banged things around and played music in his office, right next to my office where I tried to sleep. I piled blankets on myself, put in earplugs, and spent the night tossing, crying, barely breathing.
That night was a year ago today. The fragmented memory exists like a lot of my marriage; painfully embedded, unable to flow away. It’s like the glass from that wedding photo is under my skin, an injury so painful it demands my attention every day of my life. I feel all the fear I suppressed out of love for a person who didn’t mind hurting me. A year later, I feel stuck in the grip of that fear.