There were many factors involved in my decision to get married, but the primary internal motivation was to escape a life of lust and fornication that would condemn me to hell. I was 18 years old. My parents had separated the prior year and their divorce was finalized 6 months before my 18th birthday. Being a Christian literalist back then, I didn’t believe in divorce for any reason other than adultery, so I was convinced that my mother was wrong in leaving my father.
My husband “D,” as I will call him here, seemed like a good Christian man when I met him. I found out later that he was a far right wing Christian extremist. He was also an alcoholic. He was married at the time we met, but he told me these stories of how his wife was abusive to him and how she cheated on him when he sent her away to her parents house. He was in the process of getting his divorce when we got engaged. Once we were engaged he began trying to isolate me from other friends and family. That was my first clue that I was making a mistake, but I felt it was too late to back out of the wedding. He had convinced me that the engagement was binding, that this was God’s will and thus neither of us could separate what God had joined.
D believed he was a prophet sent by God to chastize churches that had strayed from God’s word. If D heard something in a sermon that he perceived as heresy, he would feel compelled to rebuke the pastor immediately after the service. As a result, we were often kicked out of churches. D seemed to thrive on the confrontations and believed that he was a martyr every time we were kicked out. His typical reaction to his “martyrdom” was a hardening of his convictions and a desire for violent opposition. Over the years he became more and more confrontational with everyone, including me. He saw violence as an acceptable and often necessary answer to what he perceived as spiritual warfare. He believed God spoke to him directly and anyone who disagreed with him was under the influence of Satan.
D was never the one to start a physical fight, but he would do everything he could to get the other person to throw the first punch and give him a reason to unleash his aggression. He was always eager for violence but afraid he could not control it. While we were living in WA we owned a gun. A Sig Sauer P229. We both had concealed carry permits, but he made me carry the gun because he was afraid he would lose his temper and kill someone. Yet I was under strict orders that if he ever found himself losing a fight, I was to shoot to kill. I assured him I would, although I don’t think I could have actually killed anyone. Eventually we ended up selling the gun when we were strapped for money.
D also held very strong convictions about social issues. The two that would rile him up the most were abortion and homosexuality. He told me a few times that if he had not been married to me, he would be one of the people out bombing abortion clinics and killing abortion doctors. He believed that those who did so were doing the work of God. He was also extremely homophobic and often talked about executing gays. Sometimes he would act out how he would execute them by putting them on their knees, giving them the option to accept Jesus or die, and then pulling the trigger to kill them. This kind of talk was a regular occurence, along with continuous accusations that I had homosexual tendencies. I would always deny it, but deep down I knew it was true. No matter what I tried, I just could not stop being attracted to women.
Over the years, D’s alcoholism got progressively worse. His drinks of choice were champagne and wine. By the end of our marriage, he was drinking two to three bottles a night. He could not go a day without having at least one bottle. His drinking often made him more prone to wild mood swings, from manic happiness to terrible rage. Towards the end of the relationship, he took to pulling his pocket knife on me as a joke. He would pull it out, point it at my face and say things like “If you ever…” and then laugh. He got angry when I would tell him to stop. When he wasn’t using his pocket knife, he mocked punching or kicking me in the head. Sometimes full force punches or kicks would come within inches of me. I would feel the air move against my face. Again he got angry when I would tell him to stop. He said the point of the joke was that he would never actually hurt me so I was being a bitch to ruin his fun.
An online friend of mine convinced me to go talk to a local women’s shelter about what was going on at home. They told me that based on the escalation pattern I described, D would eventually lose control and the jokes would become real. But it would only happen once. That is all it would take for him to kill me. I did not want to believe them, but I started making preparations to leave. The shelter warned me not to give D any kind of advanced notice because that could be the tipping point to push him over the edge. There would be less to stop him if he felt he was losing me anyway. So on a Tuesday morning in the middle of May, I packed up what little I could take, got on an airplane (graciously paid for by my boss at the time), and fled the state.
In all, I had spent almost 8 years married to D, from the age of 18 to just before my 26th birthday. Because of my Christian belief system, it was difficult for me to leave him even after everything he had done. He had never committed adultery so I did not feel like I had a valid reason for divorce. It wasn’t until I started seriously contemplating suicide that I ever told anyone what was going on at home. And then it took my online friend 7 months to convince me that I was being abused. Even after I was convinced, I still did not feel like I could leave because the husband was the head of the house and it was the wife’s duty to obey her husband. It was fear for my life, by his hand or my own, that finally pushed me to leave him.
The abuse I had endured and the failure of my marriage was devastating to both my religious beliefs and my sense of self. I no longer knew who I was, what I believed, or what I wanted from life. My divorce was finalized a year and a half after I separated. With the divorce behind me, as I looked forward to the future, I finally decided it was time to stop denying my attraction to women. I came out to myself as gay, started dating women, and turned away from relationships with men completely. When my first relationship with a woman failed after a year, I realized I still had a lot of issues left over from my childhood and marriage. I eventually got myself into therapy to start dealing with everything that had happened.
Continue on to Starting the journey back to myself