I had no idea what was in the box when we received it. A package from his brother! Weird, he was on a mission for his church, getting a package from a missionary was unusual. Sending packages, now that would have been the norm. I was curious to see what he would be sending us. It had to be something cool….right? For him to go to all the effort.
Not what I expected
I kneeled on the floor and leaned over the top of the box. As my husband lifted the flaps, I did not predict what I saw. My excitement disappeared and my heart sunk. The box had magazines, images of beautiful women who were allowing their bodies to be objectified by men. I saw Maxim and Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issues.
My husband smiled and reached into the box. As he pulled the first Maxim out my stomach did a flip and turned into a knot. Initially, I was shocked, it was as if a weight was placed on my chest and I couldn’t get enough air to speak. I felt my shoulders sink, I was overwhelmed. . . . there were no words to explain how I felt.
She was beautiful!
I didn’t look anything like her, I had never looked anything like her. One by one he removed the magazines from the box admiring the images on the front covers. With each magazine I sunk a little lower. My mind was flooded with negative voices:
“If you looked like that he would love you.”
“Why do you have to be so ugly?”
“You aren’t good enough, not only do you not look like those women, but you never will.” I sunk down
I was no longer up on my knees looking into the box, I had leaned over and sunk down by the side of the couch. I started crying and the questions began, “Why couldn’t he love me?” I was quiet and frozen. I just kept crying. I felt like a failure, I felt like I needed to be different. I wanted to disappear at that moment, but I was afraid of what would happen if I got up and left. I sat beside him while he looked through the box. He flipped slowly through the pages and verbalized how much he liked the perfect bodies in front of him. Ohh on one page…ahh on the next. I was broken, alone, and worthless. I plead with him to put them away. He didn’t! I was falling apart next to him and it was as if I wasn’t even there. Pain!
Then as if a switch was flipped I started to get angry. I was visibly upset and voiced to my husband that I was not okay with those magazines. I told him I was disappointed with his brother, that I had expected more. I was taking a stand!
My stand didn’t last long. He twisted the tables and made my hurt and anger my fault.
I can see now how emotionally abusive this was, but at the time I thought I deserved it. I thought it was my fault that he wanted to look at those images. It was my fault because I wasn’t pretty enough. It was my fault because I didn’t diet and exercise and I didn’t weigh 105 lbs.
I’m sure he said something like…. guys will be guys…. or I am just like every other man, we like pictures of girls.
I’m sure that he turned it back on me, because that was the pattern for 19 years.
Going back and remembering this moment is not as painful as it once was. Don’t get me wrong it still stings, but while in EMDR therapy we replayed this scenario. I was able to change the ending and walk out on him. I know that this had nothing to do with my worth. It had everything to do with the fact that I was married to an addict.
I wish this was an isolated incident, but it was not. My memories are filled with many images and many moments when I felt anguish because of his actions. Looking at other women was bad enough, I’m not sure why he felt the need to do it so openly and to rub it in my face. At the time I wasn’t strong enough to walk away and tell him to go to hell. I didn’t know that I was worth so much more and that I deserved to be treated better. I was codependent and I thought that I needed him.
It was not until after years of therapy that I discovered that nobody NEEDS an abuser. This was emotional abuse. No woman deserves to be with a man that treats her with such disrespect.
I didn’t deserve it and you don’t either. I spent a few years learning to love myself and accept myself to realize that I was strong enough to move forward alone, that I could demand better treatment.
I learned to set boundaries, boundaries teach people how to treat us. I will never live like that again. You don’t have to live like that either.