This posting is a continuation of Having An Affair Part 4 which is the story of my friend, Sophia.
“Mark came out of the bathroom, dragged me onto the bed, covered my mouth with one hand and proceeded to continually punch me with the other. When I thought I couldn’t bear anymore, he quit punching me and raped me. Then he pressed his lips against my ear and whispered these words that still haunt me… ‘You better behave or the children will have a new mommy.'”
“Still angry, he slid off the bed, dressed and left the house. I was hurting too badly to cry. My entire body was pulsing with pain. I don’t know how long I was there, but eventually I covered myself with the blanket and fell into fitful sleep.”
“Are you okay?” Sophia asked me.
I was crying. “I’ll be fine,” I said. My sympathetic soul was feeling her story too vividly. I secretly prayed that my sweet daughter would never fall into the trap that Sophia was now living. I felt so sorry for this beautiful woman, a child of God, prey to an abusive husband.
“I went to the doctor the next day,” Sophia said. “I had a cracked rib. The doctor knew I had been beaten, but I told him I fell down the stairs. He didn’t argue with me, but mysteriously two female police officers appeared in the waiting room before my appointment was over. I didn’t approach them because I couldn’t tell them anything. I kept hearing Mark’s whispers of a new mommy and I was terrified.”
“You didn’t tell them anything even though they just ‘happened’ to be there?” I asked astonished.
“No,” was her simple one word reply.
“I eventually healed. Mark didn’t mention anything about my broken rib, the red thong, or a new mommy during the months that followed. He acted like nothing out of the ordinary had happened and so did I.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Why?” Sophia slowly repeated. “Because I had Jacob and Meredith to think about. We needed a place to live and food on our table. I couldn’t support them by myself. I had healed and it wasn’t too bad.”
Denial and fear.
I didn’t argue with her. Sophia was in a mind trap. I think staying in an abusive marriage is not a healthy choice – physically, mentally or emotionally. Children who live in a home filled with abuse, often abuse their own children. It becomes a vicious family cycle forever spiraling downward.
“Our marriage reached a plateau at this point I think,” Sophia said contemplatively. “We quit talking about personal things. When I found the odd receipt for lingerie or lipstick stains on the inside of his shirts, I didn’t say anything. I was unhappy, but looking back, I guess I wasn’t unhappy enough to do something about it. I know he had an affair with his secretary, Estelle. I don’t know how many others or if there were others, but I am sure there was Estelle.”
Sophia was speaking slowly now as if each word was physically painful to speak. Estelle hung in the air. I could almost feel her in the room.
“I needed to have Mark sign some insurance documents and went by his office one afternoon. When I reached the outer office where Estelle’s desk was located, the room was completely empty. I assumed that Mark and Estelle had gone to a meeting. I found an envelope and slipped a note inside asking Mark to sign it and drop the whole thing in the mail on his way home. I didn’t want to leave it on Estelle’s desk, so I approached Mark’s closed office door, turned the door handle and walked in with the intention of placing the envelope on his desk.”
“Instead of an empty office, I found Mark naked and completely entwined with Estelle on the top of his desk. His pants were on the floor in a strewn mess with her dress. We all stood frozen, staring at each other for what seemed like an eternity, but was surely only a few seconds. Before he could even speak, yell, or move, I had left the room, slamming the door behind me.”
“How could you stay married to him after THAT?” I blurted out and immediately felt like a hypocrit.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I think I was so locked inside of myself that although it hurt, I felt that living without him would hurt even more and I couldn’t face a life without him. Part of me hated him, but I still loved the person I married. Unfortunately, the person I married was more a figment of my imagination than reality.”
We both sat quietly for a few minutes. I was letting everything roll around in my head trying to make sense out of why Sophia stayed. Why do women stay? I know that women have a need to be loved so badly that if they have any unresolved issues, their self-esteem is too low and they stay with the abuser. I knew that mentality far too well. I have never been physically abused, but unfortunately, I was both mentally and emotionally abused and it was so hard to let go of him.
“When he returned home after work,” Sophia interjected through the silence, “we never spoke of the incident.”
“OH MY GOSH!” I exclaimed. “I cannot imagine NEVER bringing it up!”
“We just didn’t bring it up. The entire relationship was all messed up. He flagrantly cheated with no thought of the pain and embarrassment it caused me. I was oblivious to the fact that I could make a choice to change my life. It was just awful. When we went to bed that night, I ached to be loved. I could feel the warmth of his skin and the memories of our early young love filled my mind while the tears fell freely from my eyes. I must have sniffled or something because Mark abruptly turned around to look at me. For just a moment I saw the Mark I married. He put his arms around me and kissed my tears. I needed him. I loved him. I couldn’t set any boundaries. I was like his puppet on a string. We made love that night, but it wasn’t really love for Mark.. For him it was just sex. To me, it was a needy obsessive love all mixed up together with fear. From that union I got pregnant with Jeremy.”
I held the phone and said nothing. I couldn’t judge her. I know that agonizing longing to have the one you love hold you and love you back. It is so primally basic. Sophia couldn’t “make” Mark love her anymore than I could “make” someone love me. At that moment I hated Sophia. I hated Mark. I hated myself. I hated everything to do with love. Love is painful. Why do women love men that don’t love them back?!!!