Shattered

What happens when the rose-colored glasses break

T R A S H

I've finally figured it out. So many times I've asked why? Begged and pleaded for an answer.

Why does he do this? Why does he treat me this way? Why does he throw me out over every little disagreement?

Today I found my answer.

It's because, to him, I am disposable. Worth no more than a paper plate. Use and toss. Not deserving of respect. Trash. Serve and expect nothing in return. To be thrown around, ripped, broken, mistreated without a second thought. Of course I shouldn't have feelings! Needs. Wants. Desires. Expectations. Boundaries of my own. Trash doesn't have any of those things.

He spent months with his truck. Caring for it, caressing it, getting the paint juuust right. It gave him problems and he just poured more love to it. While I sat on the sidelines watching him break promises to me. I had needs during that time too. I needed an office to work in. That would have taken mere hours. Hell, I would have put the walls up myself, I just needed him to pick up drywall! I needed attention. I needed a break. We made plans to go places. Do things together. Nourish our relationship. He broke those plans to spend time with his truck. Repeatedly. This winter he showed me that he loves his truck more than he has ever loved me. I am disposable. His truck is not.

Trash doesn't get handled with care, does it? The only thing that doesn't deserve at least some level of respect is trash. He even taught his son to treat me like trash. He swore to me that he would never allow his son to talk badly about me. If he did, he would beat his ass. But in the end he encouraged it. When Madeline said things about him, I stood up for him. Defended him. Set the record straight with my friends and whoever else she spoke to. Time and time again. When Zach started saying things about me he encouraged it. Turned on me. Used Zach's words as more weapons against me. Validation. I sent Zach a text last week apologizing for the drama, my part in it, and him being brought into it. He ignored me. He didn't even have the decency to respond. Because he also views me as trash. Learned that one from his dad. They both truly believe they are superior to everyone.

This is why he didn't care about my needs. Why I couldn't talk to him about my feelings without having his feelings shoved down my throat. Why he wouldn't respect my boundaries. This is exactly how he could justify the name-calling, insults, demeaning comments. The abuse. The “find someone who gets a blowjob before coming home from work” comment.

Tuesday 8/31/21 Monday – Invited him over for dinner. After eating, insisted on starting an argument. Mad at me for telling Scott about the “blowjob after work” comment. Accused me of lying to Scott. Acted like he was going to leave several times, but wouldn't go.

Okay, I'll back up a bit. I just needed to get that off my chest really quick. But how far back do I go?

Mondays are our counseling days. We each have an hour with Scott. Last week we had plans to go hiking together after our meetings. But leading up to it, he had been obsessed with the abuse allegations. Something I haven't mentioned in months. But that came up in his previous session with Scott, so of course Scott asked me about it when we talked. Since it was brought up, I told him. Pretty much everything. I told him about the name-calling and the frequent threats to leave/throw me out. I told him about him recording our conversations and baiting me into losing my temper on record. I told him about all the things he's damaged in a fit of rage. I told him about stomping on my phone, following me around the house when I was trying to get away, blocking me in doorways. I told him about me trying to hide in the bathroom and him shoving the door open. I told him about the shoving incident. So after his session, Garrett canceled our hiking plans. Blamed the heat (it WAS hot). But then got mad that I told Scott about the shoving incident. Started another nasty fight. I ended up having a mid-week emergency session with Scott. I asked him if I'm wrong to consider his behavior abuse? No. Verbal attacking falls under the category of abuse. By Thursday night things finally deescalated and we spent the weekend together swimming and fishing. We actually had a really amazing time. Garrett was talking about planning a getaway for next weekend (Labor Day weekend). And then ... our Scott sessions happened. I had invited him to come have dinner yesterday evening after our sessions. Silly me, I already know those sessions put him in a nasty mood, because he's asked about things he would rather not admit to. I told Scott about the calendar/schedule argument that he won't let go – even though it's a non-issue now – and how he refuses to ever repair or replace anything of mine that he damages out of anger. I told Scott about Madeline's apology letter to Garrett, and how that seemed to finally give him what he was looking for – but didn't know how long it would last. I don't think I told him about feeling like lately he's looking for ways to fight, so he has an excuse to throw me out – making me wonder if he's intentionally trying to get rid of me so he can be with someone else. I did tell Garrett that, though. He insisted that's not happening. Scott had a few things to ask me. He said Garrett feels like I twist things. For example, I accused him of cheating. I told Scott I never accused him, but I did ask. I told him it started months before, we had been arguing about sex, then told him about Garrett telling me to find someone who gets a blowjob before coming home from work. I told him that Garrett, to this day, has refused to apologize for that comment and has shown absolutely no remorse. I told him I don't think it's that much of a stretch for someone who thinks saying something like this to actually escalate to cheating. I told him how badly that messed with my head. Where my mind went every time he came home from work late, decided to stop for beers with Keith or whatever without checking in or telling me where he was. I told him how if I was out running errands, I made sure to be home around the time he normally comes home, and then waiting around for him not knowing where he was or when he would be home. I told him how when he was plowing snow I never really knew how long it would take. Similar snowstorms could take anywhere from 4 – 14 hours. Scott's advice was this is one of those major things that we have to learn to resolve, and then let go. I totally agree. I've apologized for the cheating accusation, but he's still bringing it up. I, on the other hand, have not ever received an apology for the BJ comment. Probably never will. He genuinely sees nothing wrong with what he said.

Garrett also told Scott I accused him of beating his wife. I told Scott this is another example of the way HE is actually twisting MY words. I never accused him of beating his wife. I don't think he ever did. I did, however, accuse him of abusing her – because physical violence is not a requirement for abuse. I told him I started to notice similarities between stories he told me about her, and what he was doing to me. I told him about a similar shoving incident that Garrett had told me about early in our relationship. From what I understand, they were arguing and he was trying to leave the house through the front door. She stood in front of the door to stop him from opening it. He forced it open, and in doing so shoved her into a wall. I said after things started to escalate with me – following me around, blocking doorways, forcing doors open, and then the shoving incident – I started to question some of the things he told me about his wife. I know there's two sides to every story, and I started to wonder what her side was. Scott repeated Garrett's version of our shoving incident. I don't remember exactly what he said and I didn't write it down, but it was VERY different from my recollection. He said he was trying to leave and I wouldn't let him go. Something about him trying to get out the front door, me running past him, him grabbing my shirt me turning around to face him, and him shoving me? In hindsight, this version sounds even more similar to the incident with his wife. I told Scott I don't remember shirt grabbing. Maybe I grabbed his shirt which is why he turned around and shoved me? I explained the distance between the couch (where my glasses landed) and the door he was trying to get to. Garrett denied having his hand on my throat. Said it was on my chest. I told Scott the difference is about 1 inch. He wasn't trying to strangle me. I specified hand placement to make it clear he had both hands on me, so he can't try to claim he accidentally bumped into me. I told him my right shoulder was sore the next morning. He asked if Garrett hit me, I told him no. He asked how my glasses flew off my face. I told him I honestly don't know. But Garrett also confirmed my glasses flew off my face. I told Scott it doesn't really matter which version is the most accurate – it is NEVER okay to put your hands on me and shove me! Scott asked if there's anything Garrett could have done differently. At first I said I couldn't think of anything. And then I remembered the back door, which is between the couch and the small hallway to the garage door. I told him I was to Garrett's right and that door was to his left. He could have easily turned left – away from me – and out that door. (Instead he turned to his right and shoved me).

Scott noted some of Garrett's issues seem to be stemming from past trauma in relationships and asked if that might be the same for me. I told him my ex husband was abusive, mostly verbally and emotionally. I told him about the yelling and slamming doors, punching holes in walls, breaking things, throwing things at me, etc. I told him how the two are similar and how they are different. I told him how it took probably 10 years to retrain my body to not physically jump at the sound of a man shouting. Some questions I couldn't answer – I explained that a lot of that time period has been mentally blocked from memory. I don't remember exactly the question he asked next, something about was there ever a turning point for me or something? I told him I promised myself I would never allow myself to be the victim again. With Paul I was so weak. I didn't fight back – I would just cower and cry. I swore to myself I would never be that person again. So when it started to happen with Garrett I was in denial. At the beginning I reacted the same way – I cowered and cried. I became so ashamed of myself for letting it happen again. So I stood up, I started fighting back. I'm guessing that change from crying to fighting back happened some time last fall. I didn't tell him about the rapes. Not yet.

We ran out of time and my session ended. Scott ended by reminding me to take time outs and pray about past trauma – work on remembering things to work through. Garrett's session was next. I figured it wouldn't go well, since I revealed more sensitive topics. I pretty much expected Garrett to no-show for dinner, but I cooked anyway. I was half surprised when he showed up. One of the first things he said, almost jokingly, was “I can't believe you told Scott about the BJ conversation.” I told him it was the main reason I started to question whether he was cheating. He dropped it until we were done eating. Sitting in the living room and he starts up again. “Emily, you're not a bad person. Neither am I.” The conversation managed to stay civil for a while, but I could see him getting worked up. Got up to leave several times. Got more worked up. He is VERY angry that I told Scott about the blowjob conversation. Started scrolling through old text conversations to find that one. I told him it's really not healthy to go back and read all of those old, hurtful words. Made it to the kitchen and walked toward the door several more times. Opened the door and stood in front of it for a while. I put my hand on the door to close it after him and he shifted, as if to block the door from closing. So I waited. Then he walked back into the kitchen. I asked why he was walking back into my house? He said something about not wanting to be “accused of that too” and left. Conversation continued via text for several hours. Continued to accuse me of lying to Scott. Refuses to see how that comment could mess with my head so severely. Several times I challenged him to name one think I could have said or done that would have prevented him from walking out again. He never gave me a direct response. At one point he told me some things NOT to to, but never once told me a single thing that would have kept him from doing what he always does. After several more rounds about the BJ comment and how it made me feel, I told him “And no. You have not been entirely faithful. But that's okay. It's neither here nor there now, it is?” This is followed by several denials of being unfaithful, accusations of mind games, and accusations of ME being unfaithful. That earned me a “you bitch!” And called a liar. I'm getting so desensitized to some of these insults I barely notice some of them any more.

He also refuses to return my ring. Demanded his back. Got it. Now refuses to give me mine back. I'm sure he intends to sell or return both and pocket the money. He told me he would pay me back for July's rent. That never happened. Told me he would pay me for the Chewy order that he threw out. Didn't happen either. A while back he said he would sell the snowmobile and send me the money. Yup, you guessed it! Didn't happen. His response? “I owe you nothing” and “take me to court.” An hour and a half later he admitted to reaching out to Tina “last October” after I left. I reminded him I didn't leave in October. I left days before my birthday in late November. I asked why. “You left, blocked me, left your ring with a note saying your done. I reached out because I wanted someone to talk to. I had no one. It was an innocent conversation that went no where.” I pointed out if it was innocent, why hide it from me? If it was so innocent, why not come clean about it? He diverted by accusing me of reaching out to her. “If you were the person you claim to be, we wouldn't fight.” So there it is, the fights are entirely my fault. Accused me of communicating with Jeremy. I informed him Jeremy has been blocked since the beginning of covid. Out of respect for HIM. Claimed he doesn't have Tina's contact information. Claims he deleted it after he reached out to her. Then tried to change the conversation to Madeline.

This morning it continued. Attacking my parenting, etc. It just never ends.

He called me this afternoon to apologize. Said he understands how I feel and why I feel that way about him reaching out to Tina. I thanked him for the apology. Apologized again for accusing him of cheating. Told him I thought I extended that apology a long time ago, but he continues to bring it up.

8/24/21

I remember the first time he showed me his anger.

We didn't really fight. I wouldn't say he lost his temper. Not yet. It was early on. REALLY early on. We had been seeing each other for maybe 5-6 weeks. Our first date was, I believe the weekend after Thanksgiving. We spent Christmas together. New Year's day he flew out to Wisconsin to see Zach. Somehow I got roped into dog-sitting for him. He had just adopted a super lovable but also very hyper 4 month old pit bull puppy. Unfortunately, she was not properly house trained. So she had “accidents” on my carpet several times. And she was teething. Chewed up a couple pairs of shoes, my baseboard, and a few other things I don't remember. At first I didn't say anything. We were still in what should have been the honeymoon phase of our relationship. But after several days and my favorite pair of flip flops, I needed to let him know. I was very careful not to complain or get angry. I simply mentioned that she chewed my favorite pair of flip flops and pooped on the carpet. Next thing I knew he was borderline yelling. I don't even remember what he said. Just out of the blue, BAM! My initial reaction was shock. And then confusion. What? Why? Where did this come from? What is even going on?! He then interrogated me about every item she destroyed and every single time she messed on the carpet. Promised to pay me back for the damaged items. That never happened. By the time he returned to Tucson he decided to get rid of her. I begged him not to. It's not her fault. She's just a puppy. It's not fair to her. Pets are family, I told him. You don't just adopt them and turn around and rehome them. I still feel awful for her! She was such a sweet girl.

That confusion I experienced lasted for maybe half a dozen more episodes before I learned that's just how he is. That's when the fear started. I started speaking very cautiously, trying not to offend him. If something came up, I started obsessing about whether I should tell him, how, and how he would react. I stopped speaking up when something bothered me. I went along with everything he said, desperately trying to avoid confrontation. He started coming and going as he pleased. He started leaving trash on the counters, peeing on toilet seats, or not cleaning up his messes. He pretty much moved in without a discussion. I said nothing. He started questioning when I would be home from work. If I needed to stay a little late, or stop somewhere on my way, I was expected to report back and give him a time.

One day I was invited to happy hour with a couple girls I work with. I left before everyone else because he was getting anxious and asking when I would be back. On the drive home he called me. He had himself all worked up. Started up with the passive-aggressive “I've been waiting to have dinner with you” and “it's fine, I'll just go back to the trailer since you're too busy for me.” I'm not even sure why he was at my house in the first place. I told him what I was doing. I assumed he would get the hint and hang out at the campground. We could meet up later either at the campground or my place. Madeline was home, but perfectly fine on her own. Actually, it's kind of strange that he went to the house when I wasn't there. Later it came out that his expects Friday nights to be spent with family. Was just blown away that I don't have the same tradition. Why would I? I've never heard of that. Must be a Wisconsin thing. It ended up being a huge fight.

Another time, shortly after the happy hour incident, he had gotten mad at me the night before for something. We slept, got up, started getting ready for work. I assumed it had blown over – why wouldn't it? Whatever it was wasn't even a big deal, and I've never been one to carry an argument or bad mood into the next day. Well, he does. That “never go to bed angry” thing doesn't apply to him. I had just gotten out of the shower and was putting on a towel when he opened the door. I gave him a look and said “can I help you?” attempting to flirt. Well, apparently, I suck at flirting because he flipped! “You know what Emily!” ... and just went off. Whoa! What's going on?! What are you so angry about? Why are you doing this?

Easily offended and short-tempered. He got offended when I told him he's impulsive. I meant nothing of it, I was teasing him about how he'll just do things, like wake up and decide to adopt a dog, or buy a 5th wheel and move to Tucson for a job. But he took offense.

Monday 8/16/21 Talked with Scott. I told him I don’t like the person I become when we fight. This is not who I am, and this is not who I want to be. I am not proud of myself, I am ashamed. I feel like he brings out the worst in me. He asked me to describe myself when I get this way. I told him I feel like sometimes I stoop to his level. It wasn’t always this way. Early on I was good about staying calm. But when that didn’t work I started to change. Like I was taking on his darkness, adopting his demons as my own, and starting to act just like him. I told him about yelling … I hate to yell. I told him that I got frustrated and threw my phone the other day, breaking it. This is not acceptable. Phones are expensive. We all stopped doing that in the early 2000s when we got rid of our flip phones. This behavior is not acceptable for me. I told him I also need some comping techniques to help me not engage in the arguments. It ruins my whole day, I can’t concentrate on anything.

  1. There is a reason for everything we do and don’t do. Identify the BEST reason.
  2. Take a time out
  3. Keep a journal
  4. Write tools, things we talk about, things that happened, what I did, and the results
  5. Pray about it

What if he refuses a time out? 1. Ask for a time out 2. Repeat once 3. Let him know I will hang up or go into another room 4. If he follows, leave

Scott relayed from Garrett: Not living together is not because he hates Madeline, but because of my moods when I get upset at Madeline. He feels like I turn to him to pick me up when I’m down, and it’s too much responsibility for him. I told Scott I feel like he looks too far into things. A lot of times I just need to vent, but get accused of complaining. I told him I need someone I can talk to. Garrett has told me I’m not allowed to vent to him about this subject. But isn’t this what partners are supposed to do? If I don’t have him to vent to, I have no one. Scott agreed venting (in moderation) is healthy. Otherwise we just bottle it up inside.

  1. Tell him I need to vent. “Hey, I just need to vent. I don’t expect you to fix me, lift me up, etc. I just need you to listen for about 5 minutes. Is that okay?”
  2. When I find myself needing more from him, (feeling down/depressed, etc.) go to God first. Ask God to let me feel his love. God wants to be our first go-to.
  3. Keep a journal
  4. Write down what expectations I have of Garrett. And the reactions.

What’s the good reason? When I feel like I’m not being heard, or my needs don’t matter, it puts me in a childlike place. This causes a person to either shut down or become reactive. Instead:

  1. Try a time out
  2. Pray about it
  3. Come back to it
  4. OR … agree to not discuss it until we can discuss it with Scott together
  5. Explain to Garrett what I’m doing/needing and why.

***

Monday 8/16/21 Already we’re in an argument. Garrett was in a snippy mood tonight. He’s irritated because I stopped by today to pick up some stuff out of the freezer and pantry – all things I had purchased over the months. I didn’t take anything that I, personally, didn’t buy. I didn’t clean him out. I was very careful to take mostly things he/they don’t even use, and the things that they did use, I at least left some there for them. I guess he expected me to leave everything for them to enjoy and just re-purchase it for myself. He said he thought some of the stuff was purchased as part of our “living agreement”. (We had no living agreement. Never once sat down and worked out finances. I simply started pitching in, took over the electricity bill, once the house sold I started paying him rent. Somewhere along the line I ended up doing all of the grocery shopping. He just simply wouldn’t do it. So as we needed things I took it upon myself to buy them.)

Yesterday afternoon we went fishing. When we got back, Zach was outside grilling the chicken breasts that Garrett had marinaded – presumably for us. I told him how much it sucked last night to watch him and Zach eat food that I purchased (in this case, chicken breast). Food that he never would have purchased (he will only buy legs – when they’re on sale). He only had enough for two (2 breasts, they each can eat one), which made me feel like an imposter. And then to get home hungry, and I have no real meals. The only meat in the house was tuna, but I didn’t even have a can opener … because that’s at Garrett’s house! (all three can openers, actually). Even if we did have a “living agreement” about groceries, it doesn’t make sense to expect me to continue feeding them after moving out of the house. It would be more than fair to agree to split the remaining groceries 50/50. It just seems so unfair to me that I’m expected to leave behind everything I bought and buy it all again for myself – or go without while they continue enjoying the benefits of my contribution for months. Rather than trying to understand why that might have hurt me – or would have offended him if the tables were turned – he wanted to argue about all the money he paid eating out through the course of our relationship. He claims $400-$500/week. (Towards the end, we did eat out often – maybe 3-4 times a week. At roughly $80/meal, that would be $240-$320/week. Split in half: $120-$160/week.) I told him our feelings don’t always have to compete with each other. He is always keeping score. I can’t ever tell him about anything that bothers me without 1) being accused of complaining constantly, and 2) hearing a list of complaints about him. Never once has he allowed me to talk about my feelings without talking about HIS feelings – as if they’re more important. He called me while I was making dinner. “Guessing your not alone so you can’t talk. Call me when you feel like it.” I called him back while I was eating. He was very short with me. The conversation turned back to finances. He continues to insist I wasn’t paying my fair share in the household. Somehow it came out that Zach doesn’t actually pay rent. (Several months ago he told me that Zach pays him $500/month. I assumed that was rent, so I adjusted what I was giving him toward his mortgage based on this.) Today he claims he only gets $450 from Zach, and it’s for his car payment, insurance and cell phone. The kid is 19 years old and living in the house, using the electricity, and eating the groceries for free. After all his talk about wanting me to make Madeline pay rent NOW, then kick her out as soon as she turns 18 and graduates high school. I didn’t get the opportunity to try Scott’s tools because he hung up on me. But he continued via text. Told me I “got off easy” living in his house. Said it defines “exactly who you are.” Accused me of taking advantage and called me selfish. I simply told him I’m going before it gets ugly. Wished him a good night and blocked him. As expected, I have an email in my spam folder from him. “Once again, Emily doesn't like the truth and has to block my number like a child. You got way more financially out of our agreement than I. Another reminder of why I want to throw in the towel. This needs to end. Please stop pillaging my home. Take care of yourself. You lived of my heart long enough!” Sent Garrett an email:

Emily Fisher sunsetonbeach@gmail.com 10:15 PM (2 minutes ago)

to Garrett

Scott encouraged me to tell you about some of what we talked about today. He may have even brought it up in your session with him.

Over the past several days this has been weighing heavily on my heart. It's been bothering me for a while, but I think breaking my phone was a big wake up call. I don't like the person I become when we fight. This is not who I am. This is certainly not who I want to be! I don't behave like a person I can be proud of. I am ashamed of the things I say and the way I act when I get into a “fit of rage” as you call it. And now I'm to the point where I'm breaking things. This is not okay. I told Scott this behavior is not acceptable and I need help finding a way to stop myself from acting this way. I also told him I need some coping techniques to help me to not engage in the arguments. I just can't seem to help but to respond, and it never helps – it ALWAYS gets nasty. And I think we can both agree it's happening way too often these days.

Part of Scott's advice was to take a time out. I'm asking you to respect me in that. I need you to understand that when I remove myself from an argument, it's for no reason other than this: I am fighting hard to stop myself from behaving in an ugly way. From saying or doing something I will regret later. I don't want to hurt you. I want to be a better person. I am asking for your support in this.

***

Tuesday 8/17/21 I woke up to an email from Garrett:

Emily, Your accusations of me have become unbearable. These rages have not gone unnoticed but yet you spent months blaming me. I'm glad your able to talk about it with Scott. This isn't anything knew. I have been also talking with Scott. This was only part of what we discussed. As I've said, your accusations have become to much for me to deal with. The fact you accually believed I was living off you and Zach? You knew damn well what he was paying for and what I was getting! I'm done defending myself. You want to believe that you were being taken advantage of then so be it. I'm not looking for you to change. But seriously, I don't want to be with a person like that. I want to move forward in a positive way. I've been trying. You have attacked me verbally in every single way possible. Scott told me that things might not change with me being in your life. I'll always be the target. Is this true? Last year, I paid for Scott. This year, I'm paying 100/wk to talk to him. For what? I'm not made of money. Especially when I've blown so much in the last year. You have no clue exactly how much I've gone through. I did this out of love. But you turn it. You think I was living off you when in turn the actual numbers are quite the opposite. I guess you believe it's just what I'm supposed to do. It's not and I'm not anymore. I'm done spending money talking to Scott having to correct the story. You lived rent free till your house was sold. After you sold your house , you paid 500/month. We split the groceries until after the first of the year when I realized that my son only ate here 5-10 percent of the time. I was taking you out 3-4 times a week and 90 percent of the time, things were out on my card. Your purchases you made damn sure you took with you. The only person eating almost everything was your kid! Not mine! Yours! Even in Tucson I paid for almost everything! Yes you had your mortgage, utilities. So did I. I had my trailer and lot rent which was again more than you and I still payed for us to go out. If this is who you are, I don't want it in my life. You got all but hurt because I'm eating everyday. Even though I actually went to the grocery store and purchased groceries. I bought 1600 worth of fucking beef! Your actions today made me think , do I really want her over hear for dinner? God knows I'll never be eating at your place. You made sure I'm not welcome there! For the last week, I e been telling Scott I just want to move on. I want to get past this negativity , this vindictive behavior. I need to get back to the person I was before we met. This has been very difficult. I'm not justifying myself to you anymore. I'm not defending myself anymore. I can change who you are not do I want to. If you want to believe all those things that's your choice but I don't have to continue with someone that not only hurts me but financially took advantage

***

I'm having a very hard time refraining from responding. The miscommunication about finances is so glaringly obvious to me. I can't stand that after all I've done to be generous and NEVER take advantage of him, I'm still called selfish and accused of taking advantage. I guess my reason is that I need him to see that I'm not this awful person he always accuses me of being. I need him to see that I was trying my best. I need him to understand and give me some credit. I know it's useless, because he's determined to be angry at me, to make everything my fault. It hurts too much to admit the things he's done. Maybe that's why we clash so hard. He can't stand that I call him out on his shit. Makes him uncomfortable – why wouldn't it?

Tonight I hugged my kid. Really hugged her. Might have hung on for a moment too long. It was just so nice. No looking over my shoulder. No fear of getting caught. No one to yell at me about it later. For loving my kid. No “how could you?” Because. I'm allowed. This is my home. And hers. And nobody else's. I'm actually supposed to love her. Talk to her. Spend time with her. Worry about her. Protect her. Hug her. Love her. That's what a mother does.

I'm starting to see tiny glimmers of what life was like Before.

7/23/21

I just now realized my last post didn't save. That's a shame. SO much has happened ...

I honestly don't know what to say. I'm so broken. Why do I still love this man? A “man” who is so completely obsessed with my daughter. A man who claims to love me but is so consumed with hatred for my daughter. A hatred that has completely overpowered his love for me. Did he ever really love me? Am I in love with an illusion of a good man? A “what could have been” man?

I took a chance on love and I lost it all.

For the past week and a half (ish) I have been homeless. Living in a hotel. Completely alone. No job. No family. No friends. Anxiety at a constant 11. Where do I go? What do I do? How do I get out of my head? Stressing about every little detail. Fighting about every little detail. First my phone #. That took a day and a half to resolve. Finally managed to gain ownership of that. Then my cats. He threatened to take them to the shelter if I didn't get them immediately. I had to drop everything, get the cops involved. Then getting moved out. For several days he refused to let me get my stuff while he was out of the house. Insisted on being there. Anxiety through the roof. Can't handle another scene. Changed the locks. Told me he would be there, along with his parents. Restraining order filed. Never served. One day he started speaking amicably and allowed me to move out. Rose and Joel came to help. He came home from work around 1 p.m. (never works a full day, remember?) and started to get upset. So he left. Came back a few hours later after a few drinks and confrontational. The three of us got my stuff packed and moved into storage in a matter of 7-8 hours. But then they left the next morning. Never had enough time to really sit and process everything. To enjoy my sister. To really talk. Alone again. Totally alone. Except for Madeline, who acts like this isn't really affecting her all that much. He expects me to put this burden on her. But I can't. She's a teenager! We're in a single room in a hotel that allows cats. Sleeping in the same bed. Absolutely no privacy. The other day I broke down crying right in front of her.

For the past week and a half (ish) I have been living a nightmare. So stressed. Running on pure adrenaline, from the moment I wake up – way too early – to the moment I collapse – way too late. I have no appetite. I've barely eaten. Lost a ton of weight. 8 lb? 9? The clothes I do have hang on me. And just like that I'm almost to my goal weight. Probably would look amazing in that white dress right about now. Shame it's packed away. I wonder if I'll ever wear it? I need a beach. Or even a fishing partner. I've been telling myself I should go for a bike ride. Or a hike. Or even a run. SOMEthing to decompress. But the idea of being alone with my thoughts is more than I can bear. What I wouldn't give for some anti-anxiety meds right now. Something ... ANYthing ... to pull me back down to the ground and let me relax for a moment.

We are still talking. After I got my stuff out I had the restraining order dismissed. Didn't want him retaliating – which is exactly what he threatened to do when he found out. We've had a few good days, but mostly he just wants to fight. Refuses to stop going on about Madeline. Of course he blames her for everything. She's his scapegoat. It's easier to blame her than take responsibility for his own actions. His own words. His hatred of her is like nothing I have ever seen before. I get it. She started it. She persisted in it. For a VERY long time. He fed right into it. Magnified it 100x. Now this. He refuses to let it go. Pick his battles. Well, he picks every last one. Every little detail must be gone over with a fine-toothed comb. At my expense. Always at my expense. For days.

Madeline has a big robotics competition this weekend. Her school is hosting. The entire time I've been with Garrett I haven't been able to participate in or attend her school activities. She's been trying to get me to volunteer to help with setup and teardown. I really didn't want to, but this morning I decided to go ahead and do it. I needed something to keep me busy and out of my head. The walls in this hotel room are closing around me. I'm glad I did. I met a few people. Did something productive. For the first time in weeks my anxiety calmed a bit.

Today's conversation: G: What r u doing E: I'm at the school setting up for a competition. I needed a distraction ... G: Cool G: Until when E: Probably late E: At least after dinner G: Have fun says a lot good bye!!! G: Kiss her ass E: You know I've been dying to get out and meet people. G: Please stop G: Million things to do and you chose this. Hasn't even been a day and you flip flopping. E: I needed a break. E: and most of my stuff got done. E: I shouldn't have to explain myself G: You tried to play both sides and it drove a wedge between us. It's fine E: Once again you're assuming the worst. I'm not allowed to do anything for ME because it makes you mad. G: Not the point at all. Do what makes you happy G: I'm actually not mad at all. Maybe at myself, but not at you. G: This needs to be goodbye, you need to take care of her and unfortunately we can't have a relationship because of it. E: I need to be allowed to take care of me too. E: This being afraid to go out and do things because it might make you mad can stop now. G: I never said you couldn't. I begged you to. You chose her E: You never came out and said it, but you always seem to find a way to get mad when I do. E: You don't want to do things with me. Meet people with me. Make friends with me. G: Quit trying to twist things it's not going to work. Like I said you choose her G: Enjoy her, it has nothing to do with you meeting new people, just another lie. You refused to do so E: Once again you're convincing yourself. I chose YOU but no matter what I did you pushed me away. E: I'm not repeating this conversation. Let me know when you want to discuss something positive. G: I can't live with her and can love anyone that supports her. This is 100 percent about her. You can't handle that. Quit telling yourself lies E: I was actually going to leave in a bit so I could spend time with you. G: Sure you were. E: I was asked to set up for dinner. My job is done. G: I'm sure you were asked by your kid E: I was asked by the adult in charge. E: I'm not a child G: Oh ok G: Did you find a place to live E: Yes. Unless you know of something closer. G: Nope, enjoy. Goodbye and good luck G: the thread that was holding us together has been cut E: Because I found a place to live? G: Now you can go to your grave knowing you have done everything for your daughter E: Since you are determined to fight instead of trying to work things out I will no longer continue killing myself trying to please you G: I'm done trying to work things out, you were killing yourself trying your hardest to play both sides. I can't handle the lies. I wish you the best of luck. You made your choice and I will respect that decision G: You manipulated yourself back into my life in November with your sob story. Your tears. I don't want to hear it anymore.

And then he blocked me. I went over to his place. He and Zach were having steaks for dinner. How nice. At least he wasn't an ass ... at first. But then he started up again about Madeline. Got himself worked up like he always does, so I left. He is really, truly OBSESSED. It's sick. Sad, really. 47 year old man that can't stop whining about a 17 year old girl. Insisted on using her to destroy his relationship with his “soulmate,” the “love of his life.”

Looks a lot like he's mad I found a place to live. He knew how stressed I was about it. The rental market is insane right now. Not a whole lot out there. Most places aren't even available until October, far, or way too expensive. I'm being told it's because of the sellers market. People selling their houses are doing so faster than ever and snapping up the rentals. This means renters get to be choosy. My whole unemployed status is NOT working in my favor! I stumbled upon this place by chance. Referred by another apartment complex. Looked at a unit, but 18 hours later it was taken. I reached out to the manager and learned a tenant may have to break his lease due to a death in the family. 2 days later it was mine. Problem? It's in Waukesha. 10 minutes from Madeline's school and 30 minutes from his house. He is not pleased. Too far for his liking. I guess he doesn't understand the concept that he can't have his cake and eat it too. He wanted me out. I told him if he kept telling me to leave I would. He did it again. I kept my word. He agreed I had to go. I guess he thinks he's entitled to have a say in where I go. It's very inconvenient for him. He can't stand the thought of actually having to date again. Of me not being at his disposal. Available for his every beck & call. Now he would actually have to make an effort. Deep down, I wonder if he thought he would talk me into coming back. Not this time, bro. What's that saying about catching more flies with honey?

For the past week and a half I have been an emotional wreck. Feeling the loneliness down to the marrow in my bones. Scalding tears dripping off my jaw several times a day.

Today I am numb.

I'm so isolated I've forgotten how to interact with people.

**

Another storm is brewing ...

**

Abuse is wrong. You are responsible for your own actions. No excuse is acceptable. The damage you are doing is incalculable. Your problem is yours alone to solve.

Friday 7/9/21 He bought me flowers. He actually bought me flowers. Yesterday afternoon my anxiety started to spike again. The further it got past 2:00 (when he normally gets home) the worse it got. So I decided to do some shopping in Waukesha. Stopped one place, then was going to go to Woodman's. But I forgot my list. On my way back I realized I didn't want to be in this house. So I kept driving. Turned the music way up and cleared my head. Around 4:30 I decided I better head back home. When I got back I looked at my phone and realized I had a text from him. I wasn't wearing my watch and I keep my phone on silent because my notifications irritate him. “I picked up steaks.” When I walked in the door the first thing I noticed was Fox News blaring and him laying on the couch (okay, that's two things). Then I noticed flowers on the table. I didn't say anything until he took a break and went outside. He's impossible to talk to when he's distracted by the contentious monologue, and true to form he took a nap first. G: Did you see I got you something? E: Flowers. G: Oh, you did notice. E: Of course I noticed. Thank you. G: You say I never get you flowers. E: You don't ever get me flowers. Thank you. G: Do you like them? E: They're the same ones you sent me for my birthday. They're pretty. G: (offended) They're not the same ones. That was in Tucson. E: Yes, but it's the same mix. G: Well, you liked then. E: I do like them. They're pretty. Thank you for getting me flowers. I didn't point out that my birthday was 8 months ago. Or that they're grocery store flowers. I don't mind grocery store flowers. It's better than nothing. Actually, I prefer them over something showy. It's a sweeter gesture. I told him once I would settle for a dandelion picked off the lawn, because it would mean he was thinking of me. (Joe Biden did that recently, I thought it was sweet. He hates Joe Biden.) Too bad the TV put a damper on the whole experience. I'm well aware some people might think I'm whining if they were to read this. I'm sure I'll be called ungrateful in the coming days. The truth is there's usually a motive. The flowers for my birthday were a ploy to get me back. Or maybe a reward for giving him what he wanted. I had left him and went home to Tucson. He had plans to go hunting that weekend. I couldn't bear the thought of spending my birthday ignored, lonely, neglected. Or worse: fighting, being called names, being told to leave. Crying. So I packed up the car and left while he and Zach were out working on a side job. I ended up doing those things anyway. He spent the first half of my birthday texting really awful things to me. Accusations and blames. Went on for several hours about how Madeline is so awful, badgering me into finding a way to get rid of her (by way of pressuring me into putting her in a boarding school or halfway house), accusing me of doing nothing, calling me a terrible mother in every way possible. By mid afternoon I was so worn down by the endless harassment I caved. Apologized for leaving. Started looking at boarding schools (even got my mom on board with it). Resigned myself to selling my house and dumping the entire proceeds into a boarding school. $60k+ a year. 3 ½ hours later Instacart delivered a bottle of Clamato and grocery store flowers. The only reason I got anything for my birthday is because I groveled and did exactly what he wanted. On MY birthday. He couldn't even give me a break for one single day. He still claims he had a weekend planned in Door County for my birthday. I'm now certain that was a lie, fabricated to make me feel guilty for leaving. I have yet to see a single reservation confirmation or anything else to indicate that he actually made any plans. He STILL hasn't taken me there. It's been 8 months. Side note: Why am I just now realizing this inconsistency in his story? Deer hunting season 2020 was 11/21 – 11/29. It opened on my birthday (Saturday) and closed the following Sunday. All he talked about in the weeks leading up to it was going hunting opening weekend. Later he claimed he wasn't going to hunt on my actual birthday, just the day after. But he also claimed he planned a surprise trip to Door County for my birthday that weekend. Says we were going to leave Friday and come home Sunday or Monday. Impossible. Can't go to Door County and hunt in your own county at the same time. I absolutely believe he planned to hunt the weekend of my birthday. Up until this moment I believed he may have thought about going to Door County, but hadn't made any actual plans. I now know the idea didn't occur until after I left. And it occurred for the sole purpose of guilt-tripping me. Madeline got home before dinner. I told her she would have to find something for herself for dinner. Garrett got steaks but I didn't know if he got enough for everyone. See, Garrett doesn't feel obligated to feed the whole family – just himself. This was a huge issue for us early on – especially in the early Covid days after Zach came down to Tucson to stay with us. I grew up with strong family values. Every night, no matter what was going on, we would sit down and have a meal together as a family. I carried that value into my own family. It's important to me. Garrett hates eating together as a family. He bitched so much about it I finally just gave up. It's awful. I can't stand to sit down and eat in front of my child, who is still looking for something to eat or asking if she can have our leftovers. I feel like a terrible parent. (In the Amish/Mennonite community the children are actually served first.) When I cook I make enough for everyone. 9 times out of 10 Zach says he's not hungry and won't eat. He's learned this selfish trait all too well and has already fed himself. When Garrett cooks he makes just enough for the two of us. Occasionally he'll include Zach. Never Madeline. He hates her. The other night he gave her a rude response when she asked if she could have some of the leftovers he had heated up. Something along the lines of “we need to eat first.” So last night I was shocked when I discovered there was actually enough food for everyone. He bought three ribeyes, but they were massive. (I don't care for ribeyes. They're too fatty. I prefer filet or sirloin, but that's besides the point. I'll admit these ones were pretty good.) I'll only eat half a ribeye, so I split mine with Madeline. We even all sat at the table, ate together, and had almost normal conversation. I don't know if it was intentional, but it was so beautiful for my soul I could cry.

The sad thing is I can't even enjoy the good days/weeks anymore. Because now I know they're just part of the cycle. The better they are, the worse the bad days will be. I spend those days stressing about the next fight. When will it happen? What will trigger it? Is there something – ANYthing – I can do to prevent it? (No.) What awful things will he say/do this time? Some days I splurge and let myself believe he really is trying this time. But that's dangerous. What I need – DESERVE – is a long term commitment to change. Consistency. The only way that will happen is if he sets his pride aside, admits he is abusive, and commits – truly applies himself – to an abuser treatment program. He will never do that. He is too selfish. He enjoys the benefits of his abuse way too much to ever let it go. That is something only a real man can do. That is not Garret Dow.

I've been noticing lately that when Garrett is around I can't make eye contact with my daughter. Even on the good days. It can't be anything other than shame. I'm ashamed. Of him. Of the way he treats her. Of myself. Of the way I allow him to treat her. Of the way I treat her to appease him. How do I fix this?

Chatting with my friend Steph today (not the ex) and she says “Em you are worthy of being loved CORRECTLY.” That about knocked the wind out of me. I could hardly breathe. Because she is SO right. Why is it so hard to remember that some days?

Thursday 7/8/21 Lately I've been beating myself up quite a bit for letting the abuse go on for this long. I should have walked away at the first red flag. I should have shut it down the first time he showed me his anger. I shouldn't have bent to his will. I shouldn't have compromised my values to appease him. I shouldn't have allowed his temper to control me, to scare me. I should have been more firm. Stood stronger for myself, more often. I shouldn't have given him the benefit of the doubt as many times as I have. I should have locked the door behind this man the first time he walked out. I should have blocked his number and never let him come back. I distinctly remember telling him I don't play the “I'm leaving” game. He got mad and insisted he wasn't playing games. Clearly he didn't believe me, because he did it again. And again. And again. Now more times than I can count. I left him three times. I shouldn't have come back any of those times. Especially not the last one. I shouldn't have fell for his lies. I certainly shouldn't have believed his empty promises. I could go on all day. But why am I blaming myself for his actions? He has already mastered the skill of blaming me (and Madeline) for literally everything that happens. Why would I join him? I have told him many times he is fully responsible for his words and his actions. Nobody can make him say or do the things he does – only he can. So why do I act like I don't believe that myself? Why do I treat myself like crap? It's bad enough that he does it. I deserve better. And while I can't make him treat me how I deserve to be treated, I certainly can be better to myself. I woke up this morning deciding I am no longer going to blame myself. My self worth comes from within. It should in no way be dependent on another's person's opinions or words. Certainly not those of a small, hateful, poor excuse of a man. The truth is I did those things because I'm an optimist and a romantic. I'm trusting and loving. Loyal and honest to a fault. Willing to fight for what's right and work hard at sorting out our differences. I strive to be a better person and help others on their journey. These are all GOOD traits.. Yes, they make me vulnerable and sometimes allow me to be hurt. But they also open doors to life and love. These very qualities are what make true happiness a reality. I am not to blame when someone takes advantage of the good in me and uses it for their own gratification.

This is NOT my fault!

The right man – a good man – will be capable of identifying these qualities and nurturing them rather than exploiting them. He will build me up, not tear me down. He will speak with kindness. He will treat me with respect at all times, even (especially) when we disagree. He will also strive to be a better person. He will not be offensive and therefore will not be easily offended. He will make me his equal partner rather than a possession, housemaid, or even enemy. He will embrace my family and friends as his own and encourage me to do the same with his. He will love me like only a genuine man loves a genuine woman. He will be man enough to admit when he's wrong, and make it right when he hurts me. And he will NEVER hurt me intentionally. Today I know I will be okay. Because I am strong. I will not allow Garrett – or anyone – to destroy me. I certainly won't join in. The beautiful thing about my integrity and character is they are the core of who I am. He can attack them all he wants. He may bruise or even break my spirit, but he will never change who I am deep down inside. He will not turn me into him.

***

A few weeks ago I picked up a book titled Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies. I bought it because the title made me laugh, because lilies are my favorite flower, and because Garrett NEVER buys me flowers. It's actually a really good book about taking control of your life, becoming a better person, and treating yourself better. One of the first chapters challenged me to write down 10 thinks I like about myself. Here's what I wrote:

  1. I Am Strong. I've been through a lot. I'm going through hell right now. Some days it feels like things will never get better. But I've been here before. If there's anything I know about myself, it's that I ALWAYS make it through, and I always come out a better person.
  2. I Am Kind. Even when others aren't. It's not easy. See #1.
  3. I Am Intelligent. There isn't much I can't learn (or figure out for myself) when I set my mind to it. Get out of my way.
  4. I Am Honest. To a fault. This gets me in trouble sometimes. But I never have to worry about keeping my story straight. There is no story. Just facts.
  5. I Have Integrity. No one can take that from me. They might try, but no matter what they do they won't succeed.
  6. I Am Patient. I haven't always been, but I have learned a lot and grown through my experiences.
  7. I Am Not Afraid Of/To Change. Change is hard. Change hurts. It can be lonely. But change is growth. Change is healthy. Change is good.
  8. I Work Hard. Too hard, sometimes.
  9. I Am Giving. I am not a taker. I have a heart for people and am at my happiest when I can make a difference in someone else's life.
  10. I Am Beautiful. I don't mean pretty. It's not something that can be seen with your eyes. It's character, and I'm proud of it.

Wednesday, 7/7/21 I'm not really sure what to write about today. I'm just trying to be better about writing more often, rather than when I'm in a crisis or really need to vent (which is helpful). I told Garrett last night that Madeline got hired at Mama Ds – and has already started working there. He seemed miffed that I didn't tell him sooner. I couldn't really say “well yeah, because the day she got hired you were in another one of your nasty moods.” Instead I just said something vague about things getting a little crazy. So now he knows and can start looking for things to attack. The other day I let it slip that I'm thinking about getting a new bike for Madeline. (Actually, I told her I would go halves with her on one, if she plans to keep riding after she has her license.) The one she has been riding is falling apart, though he insists it's perfectly fine. It's also way too small for her. It's a kid's bike and she's my height now (5'6” – for reference, I ride a 29” bike because a normal size is too small for my legs). She's been saying the chain keeps falling off, she has to pedal really fast to go anywhere, and she won't shift gears because it “shakes”. I took it for a spin the other day, and sure enough. The whole thing is practically rusted out. My knees were practically to my ribs riding it. I adjusted the seat height, which helped a little. I also discovered that the rear brake wasn't working – barely touched. I asked her how she stops and she said she uses the front brake and/or comes to a stop really slowly (eek). I wasn't really sure how to adjust the rear brake, but when I was looking over it, a wire fell off in my hand – just frayed right off. Turned out to be not a big deal – just the end of the brake line – but still, if the end is in that condition how is the rest of the line? So after that conversation he made a point to work on her bike and made sure I knew it. Claims he fixed it, and it should be running fine now. I haven't tried it out yet. During one of his recent tantrums he started complaining about where she puts her bike in the garage (blamed her for knocking over Zach's fishing poles, claims she leaves it in the way of everything, etc.). I told him nobody knows where to put the bikes, myself included. There's no space along the walls or ceiling to hang them, and there's stuff everywhere. Things are frequently getting shuffled around in the garage. “Oh, so that has to be MY responsibility?” Um, as a matter of fact, yes. The garage is “his” space. Nothing is ever put away in there – and it's all his. With the exception of my bike and Madeline's bike. So then he demanded that she keep hers outside in the backyard. “No.” (more like hell no!) “She WILL keep her bike in the backyard.” “NO!” “Oh, so I don't have any say around here!” (Here we go ...) I informed him if it got left outside it would get rained on and rusted (which is exactly how it ended up in the state it is now) and ruined. I just need to get her a bike of her own, before he decides to use that as leverage against her and take it away (just like he did with the fish tank). I believe it used to be Zach's many years ago when he was little. Obviously he's outgrown it, even though he's not much taller than her – if at all. Maybe today I'll get some racks and clear some space to hang them up. Last week Zach left his work boots out in the rain. Had to wear his sneakers to work because his boots were still soaked. I noticed that they looked really small and looked at the size. 8 ½ and bursting at the seams. I KNOW he doesn't wear an 8 ½. Garrett has no idea what size he wears. I did because I bought him winter boots several months ago, but asked again just to be sure. 10 ½. Two full sizes too small. Turns out he's had those boots for five years. FIVE years! No wonder he's been complaining so much about his back hurting! So I asked some questions, did some research, and bought him a new pair of work boots. He was surprised and grateful. I know he's 18 now and has a job and can buy his own shoes, but ... his dad has not bought him a pair of shoes since he was 13 years old. For fucking shame. He seems to really like them. I hope I did okay. I keep forgetting that Zach has been taught NOT to ask when he needs something. I struggle with this with grocery shopping. I keep a shopping list on the fridge and several times have asked everyone to write on the list when they notice something is out or running low. But Zach won't.* If it's there he'll use it, but if not he'll just make do. It's frustrating because I'll go shopping, then come back and discover several more things that I need to get and have to go shopping again. But Garrett calls my shopping list a “wish list” and gets mad at Madeline for writing on it. He feels that children should just be grateful for what they are given. I believe that children should be provided for, and everyone should feel comfortable speaking up when they need something – or when something bothers them, for that matter. But that will take us to a whole new rant about how Garrett is the only one who is allowed to complain about anything. Anyone else – especially me – that says anything when something bothers them is “ungrateful,” “spoiled,” “never happy,” or “complains too much.” Oh, and a “bitch” and “cunt.” Can't forget his favorites. The end result: he gets to do whatever he wants and walk all over me.

*Neither does Garrett, but that's just because he's lazy and takes for granted that I follow him around picking up after him and making sure he has everything he needs. I'm not even exaggerating. A few weeks ago he ran out of deodorant and just stopped wearing it until I noticed and went out and bought him some. This place would seriously be in shambles if it wasn't for me. Pretty sure his mom comes over and cleans and shops for him when he's single.

So Winnie is in heat again, which means we all (mostly me) should be careful to keep the dogs separated. At least until today – Ruger is scheduled to be neutered. Yesterday I went out for a few hours to take Madeline to her driving lesson, then robotics. We left Ruger in the kennel and Winnie had her diaper on. When I got back a few hours later both were out and Winnie had slipped out of her diaper. Of course I have to tell Garrett, because there's no doubt in my mind they did the deed and this time Ruger is definitely mature enough to procreate. Problem is, I can't ever tell him anything without him 1) getting angry, and 2) looking for someone to blame. E: I need to tell you something without you getting angry or blaming someone G: What happened? E: When I left today Ruger was in his kennel and Winnie had her diaper on. When I got back both were out and her diaper wasn't on. G: Oh Great. G: How did Ruger get out of his kennel? E: I have no idea. He didn't outright get mad or play the blame game, but later he made a point to specifically show me how to latch the door on the kennel. E: I know how to latch the kennel G: Well, how did he get out then? E: I don't know, I wasn't here when it happened. So internally he's blamed me by deciding I didn't close the kennel properly. Even though we both know how absurd that is, and he has no evidence or reason to believe I did anything wrong.