This posting is a continuation of Having An Affair Part 5 which is the story of my friend, Sophia.
“After we made love that night, my heart was wrenched with pain. While Mark was at work, I wallowed in self-pity.”
“Mark was angry that I had gotten pregnant,” Sophia said. “He ignored me and wanted nothing to do with the children or my pregnancy. He stayed gone more often and went on business trips that lasted longer than they had ever been. I decided, at the prompting of my doctor, to see a therapist.”
This was confusing to me. How could Sophia be in the mess she was in now if she had sought the counsel of a therapist earlier?
“I went to see the therapist regularly throughout my pregnancy,” she continued. “I know she helped me because I was finally able to see that Mark was abusing me and I didn’t deserve it. It took me a while to gain the confidence to stand up for myself.”
“My depression angered Mark and there were many times after Jeremy was born that he either beat me or raped me. There wasn’t any tenderness in our marriage – just violent rage and anger.”
“Finally I learned enough new skills from my therapy that I began to act differently with him. There was a turning point one day. I decided he would never hit me again. I let him know that I would call the police and press charges against him if he continued to hit me. He was shocked and asked me why I would do that to him.”
“I can’t believe him,” I exclaimed. “The nerve of implying that you would be doing something wrong if you had him arrested!”
“Yeah,” Sophia said, “He’s nervy because he didn’t believe me and when he slapped me, I called the police. They arrived within minutes and with the glaring red hand print on my face, there was no question that he had hit me. They even took pictures of my face. The officers left me with information and a phone number to call for help. I didn’t call. I regret that because I suffered when he got home.”
Now that ends the history of Sophia and brings me to the day I met her.
“Mark’s explosive anger was scaring the children, so rather than lock them in their rooms, I gathered them together and checked into the hotel late that night,” Sophia said.
I was working late that night. I took one look at Sophia and her beautiful children when they walked through the sliding doors and I was never the same person again. She stood looking at me over the counter…defeated, with bruises on her face, neck and arms, a busted lip, and a black eye which was obvious proof that she had been beaten. Her children were wide-eyed and scared. My heart sank. I wanted to help her, but had no idea what I could do. I became a mixture of hotel General Manager, mother and friend.
Mark was arrested again and Sophia finally made “the call” willingly. Before he was released from jail, Mark had a restraining order against him and Sophia had filed for separation/divorce. Within weeks she had moved to another state into her own apartment, found day care and a job. It seemed that the nightmare was over.
At this point of the story, it feels like a happier ending and I thought it would be too. You’ll recall that Jeremy was a handsome one year old when I met Sophia and she told me her story which I have recounted over the past week. Jeremy is now six years old and Sophia has been on her own for the past five years. Things have not always been easy, as I’m sure you can imagine. Mark doesn’t visit the children as much as he could, but he hasn’t harassed Sophia. On the contrary, he has ignored her and left her alone…until a few months ago.
He has “seen the error of his ways” which is really bad enough. However, he “wants to make a fresh start together” and Sophia is being pulled into his web of lies. I have encouraged her to go back to therapy because it was the one thing that helped put Mark and his abusive nature into perspective for her. Sophia doesn’t want to go back to therapy because she doesn’t think she needs it anymore.
Sophia is lonely. I’ve been lonely. It is a miserable feeling when you are lonely and hopeless. The future looks like a black hole of misery. An endless misery. When the sun came up each day, I would wonder how it was possible that life continued on around me when I was so unhappy that I could hardly function. Why didn’t the world simply stop spinning? When someone has reached this point, it is easy to fall prey to the “something or someone is better than nothing or no one” mentality. That type of thinking never has a good ending.
Believe me when I say, SOMETHING or SOMEONE is NOT better than NOTHING or NO ONE! If you are presently in an abusive relationship, please believe what I just said…SOMETHING or SOMEONE is NOT better than NOTHING or NO ONE!
I felt sick when Sophia told me that she was “casually” dating Mark. I asked her what exactly she hoped to gain from this relationship with him. Was she dating to look for a suitable mate because obviously she had already gone down that road with Mark and he wasn’t suitable.
“You are being too hard and bitter,” Sophia said.
“If I am honest, I guess I am hard and bitter when it comes down to some things,” I responded. “For instance, when a man beats and rapes his wife over several years, I don’t feel like he deserves a second opportunity to beat and rape his wife again. The physical abuse may have healed, however, the emotional and mental abuse is continuing and you are allowing it.”
“Sophia? Would you want your daughter, Meredith, to go back to a husband that acted like Mark?” I asked.
She couldn’t answer me or in reality, she didn’t want to answer me, obviously. Sophia knows that I think this choice is a poor decision. I do not want her to make an even worse choice.
She hasn’t called me since telling me the awful news. She may not call me again and I do not feel inclined to call her with unwanted advice. I have to choose between being silent or restating the obvious in hopes that she will actually listen. Mark terrifies me!
I have often contemplated why our paths crossed. Once she had divorced Mark and was on her own, Sophia blossomed. She made friends. She built relationships. She increased in confidence and self-esteem by being promoted at work. She found peace again. She didn’t “need” me. We didn’t talk often, but that was okay. I felt that I had in essence “served a purpose” in her life and that was enough for me.
But now, when she is teetering on possible doom and gloom by her own choice, she reconnects with me. I am thrust into an ocean of emotions. I am a different person than I was five years ago. I am more…let’s call it forthright. I say what I feel and make no apology for it. When you ask my opinion, I prelude it with “Do you really want to know the truth.” The truth is powerful albeit sometimes painful. I rather hear and know the truth than be told a lie. Some people say that, as a matter of fact, most people say they prefer the truth, but they don’t really mean it.
I practice the same principle with forgiveness. I really mean it when I say I prefer truth and I forgive you. I may forgive you, but that doesn’t mean I want you in my life. Some people say that they forgive you and yet they constantly remind you of your mistake. First of all, that isn’t forgiveness. Secondly, that isn’t me. So, I am forthright.
I am still compassionate and sympathetic.
I am still forgiving.
I still cry easily.
I still wear my heart on my sleeve.
I am still understanding.
I know how it feels to be Cinderella.
I know how sweet it is to wear the glass slipper.
I have been Cinderella.
I also know that Prince Charming does not cheat, beat or rape Cinderella.
That is a nightmare. It is a nightmare that I do not want Sophia to experience again.
I do not know how to help open her eyes to the course she is following to sadness.
I believe Mark would abuse her again.
I am thankful for my mother who had the internal fortitude to leave an abusive relationship. She walked away with practically nothing in order to preserve her life, worship God and raise her daughters in a peaceful, loving home. I appreciate her sacrifices and I know there were many. Mom has gone from rags to riches and by leaving the abuse, she was thrust back to rags with two children. That isn’t easy and it was frightening with two little girls relying on her…and constantly watching her example.
We didn’t have much, but we had her and that is truly all we wanted.
Mom practiced what she preached.
She gave me and my sister everything she was and everything she had.
Thank you mom. I know it was hard.
Thank you for years of teaching, directing and encouraging me.
I am proud of you and if I could stand on the top of the world and shout it, I would do so.
You are a wonderful woman.
You are loved by many, but mostly by me–I had to say that even though I know everyone in the family will dispute it! I am only speaking the truth! (smiling)
I hope I will be inspired to say the right things to Sophia if she calls me again. Most of all, I hope she will make the right choice for her future and the futures of her children.
What would you do and say to her if you were me? Would you wait for her to call or would you call her? Would you write her? Send her emails? Or would you just sit and wait for her to make the next move in the relationship? Would your advice be different if Sophia was your daughter or grand daughter? If you could, what advice would you give now to any woman or man that is presently living in an abusive relationship?
Please feel free to write as much as necessary in order to answer the questions above. I want to thank you ahead of time for helping me, for all the wonderful comments thus far, for following this story that was hard to write, painful to remember and equally hard for you to read.
Emergency Hotline for Domestic Violence
1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
On the web at National Domestic Violence Hotline
Resource List for Abused Women (divided by country and state/province) at http://www.safe4all.org/resource-list/index?category=2