In the Beginning

We met in college.

I was an over-achiever. A member of a sorority and the governing board. I was heavily involved in their events while pursuing a double major. I was also a Student Senator and assisted the President of the University by hosting events and providing tours to special guests.

The cheerleaders were at one of those special University-sponsored events to hype up the crowd. That’s when I first saw him. Yes, Scott was a cheerleader. He was totally my type. Clean cut, he had thick, sandy brown hair and piercing baby blue eyes. He had chiseled features, a strong jaw, thin lips, and a small, pointed nose. He was just like the hero in a romance novel: tall, broad-shouldered, and in amazingly good shape because of his cheerleading.

We started dating shortly after that night. People often commented that we looked like Barbie and Ken – although I was a rather short Barbie. Scott seemed like a good, Catholic boy. He was working in the dorm cafeteria to pay his own way through college. He was a cheerleader. He wasn’t into drugs. He was polite, chivalrous, opened doors for me, and pulled out my chair. On our official first date he treated me to frozen yogurt at TCBY, picking me up on his moped. Scott didn’t have any money, scrapping together what he could to pay for school. He came from a very modest family of four children and grew up in a small town. I fell for him, hard.

* * *

I gave Scott nearly thirty years of my life. We were married right out of college, both having achieved our degrees. I had a good job planning special events and Scott was managing a group of nightclubs. Our lives were on completely different schedules.

People ask me, what it always bad? No. The honeymoon phase was AMAZING. Our sex life was off the charts. Our chemistry together was. . . explosive (in a good way). We couldn’t get enough of each other. He had this pure animal magnetism.

Sure, there were warning signs early on. He cheated on me while we were dating. Then later, shortly after we were married, I discovered that he had gambled away all of the money we received for our wedding. We also had arguments where Scott’s temper scared me. Just one year into the marriage, we were already at a crossroads. But, Scott professed his love, begged me to stay and got a day time job with “The Cereal Company” that moved us to Iowa. Luckily, I was able to transfer with my company as well. Thus, the cycle began.

We were moving every couple of years; each time, I had to start my career over again, always putting Scott’s first. During the 27 years of our marriage we moved more than thirteen times, both within the United States and abroad, where we lived as expatriates. Five years into our marriage, while both of us were working full-time, we started our family. During the years of never staying long in one place, Scott’s career continued to grow while I gave up my career. I took part-time jobs. Later I started my own home-based business to support him while raising our children. When our youngest was just six months old, I sold my business and we moved with Scott’s career internationally.

Our first international assignment took us to Ireland. I was not allowed to have a work visa as part of the Expat package with The Company. I was busy adjusting to living in a foreign country, raising our three children and immersed myself into the culture volunteering my time and joining the school PTA. I became the quintessential “executive wife,” raising our children and playing my proper role. We had live-in au pairs which gave us the opportunity to travel significantly visiting one country or another. Having live-in childcare gave us the opportunity to “date” again. Life was good. For the most part. I missed my family and friends terribly. Essentially, I was alienated — Scott and the children were my only constants in my universe. We travelled extensively, visiting more than 20 countries while Scott was in charge of sales for Europe. It was during that time while on a trip to Amsterdam that Scott found his passion (and addiction) for marijuana, which would only increase over the years.

Scott’s second assignment took us to Puerto Rico. I didn’t know the language but continued to try and contribute to the family finances through various odd jobs. I sold jewelry and my paintings as well as guided snorkel tours for the resort’s guests, many of which were celebrities. We lived in a high-end beachside resort community that featured four ocean side golf courses, multiple fitness centers, full-service spa and even a waterpark complete with a lazy river and water slides. We were living in paradise.

During that time I also wrote and published my first children’s book, Animal Bridge. I continued in my role as the boss’ wife, which was typical of the group and culture where we lived. I joined the school board, planned charity events, and was essentially Scott’s personal assistant. I planned and hosted Scott’s staff holiday parties, dinners, and other special events. I ran errands managing many of his day to day activities.

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Scott was in charge of the Caribbean, el Jefe, or ‘the boss.’ I’m sure Scott received A LOT of attention with his good looks and prestigious position. We travelled extensively, hopping from one island to another in the Caribbean and British Virgin Islands, living the picture perfect life in our high-end beachside community. It was resort living 24/7. Scott had no problem adapting to that island party mentality. To those around us, it seemed like the perfect life — glamorous even. The good times were really good. The bad were worse. Much worse. I was living in hell, trapped in paradise. (That’s all for another book later.)

I raised our children essentially as a single parent while Scott traveled a significant amount for his position with The Cereal Company. Each time we moved, we had to start over. I had to find new schools for the children, doctors for the family, and new friends. Because our oldest son had special needs, this was an especially challenging job.

I also began to develop some physical ailments. While we lived in Puerto Rico, after years of hitting the moguls skiing as a youth and later when tennis took its toll, it became imperative that I had to have knee replacement surgery. Shortly thereafter Scott convinced me to go on a spring break trip with the kids to St. Marten. I was hesitant having just had my knee replacement a month earlier still in pain and walking with a cane. But I didn’t want to disappoint Scott or my children, so hesitantly I went.

I agreed to a family excursion to a famous beach that day. It was post card perfect strewn with tiki huts and restaurants. The sun was beating down, glistening on the clear blue water calling my name — the perfect place to do my physical therapy. Getting into the ocean was easy, however, getting out was a whole new ball game. I sent our son to get help from his father, not more than thirty feet away working on his tan. Then, just as I feared, the steep incline coupled with the waves crashing proved to be too much for my unstable knee and I fell.

Our son who was eight years old at the time, ran to his father and pleaded, “Mommy needs help getting out of the ocean, she’s in trouble!” Scott, obviously irritated at having his quiet time disturbed, ignored our son’s plea for help.
“Mommy will figure it out,” he said. Upon hearing this, our daughter jumped up and came to my rescue.

After our daughter helped me out of the thrashing waves, I hobbled out of the ocean and sat there in the sand in shock, hurting and trying to gain my composure. Taking a few minutes to catch my breath, a few kind bystanders brought me some ice from the local restaurant. I sat there in tears from the pain. I felt mortified as my bathing suit had filled with sand in every orifice possible when the waves had rolled me around like a rag doll. Reluctantly, more out of obligation now at this point seeing the crowd around me, Scott finally got up from his beach chair and slowly wandered over to see what he could do to help.

Words can’t describe all the emotions I was feeling as I made the trek to a little makeshift shower to rinse off. I didn’t emerge for quite some time. I sat there sobbing with the realization that my well-being didn’t matter to Scott. In fact, in Scott’s eyes I knew he now considered me to be broken and discardable. Scott had no patience for my physical limitations. I was no longer that token wife, skinny and fit. I was used and broken no longer serving his ego.

As the years went by and Scott climbed the corporate ladder, so did his ego. The verbal and physical abuse also escalated, as did Scott’s substance abuse. While living abroad, these issues caused us to seek marriage counseling. When Scott’s abuse got to the point where the policia in Puerto Rico wouldn’t help, I knew I was trapped and in trouble.

Scott continued to control me through the finances as well. He made me believe we didn’t have any money because of poor investment choices he’d made when he bought three properties in Orlando, just prior to the crash in 2008. Scott lost over half a million dollars on those investment properties. Our entire savings was gone. Or so I thought. Scott also invested heavily in the stock market without consulting me. Many times those stocks went belly up. Considering how intelligent Scott is in the sales field, he wasn’t investment wise.

When I threatened to leave Scott after one of his physical assaults, Scott threatened that he would leave me with nothing and turn our children against me. Scott devalued me and made it clear I would be left with nothing, making me believe I couldn’t make it on my own. And, given some of my health issues, made it clear I would no longer be covered under his health insurance. I most certainly couldn’t afford it on my own should I leave. Or so I thought.

After we moved back to the States, I can honestly say I gave the marriage 100% and tried just as hard to save it. I enlisted the help of marriage counselors, therapists, and even a family coach. Although I’d had two knee replacement surgeries by that point, I still tried to help with the finances by crafting and working part-time decorating while taking care of the children. Of course, Scott always placed his appearance and work as his priority, and rarely helped around the house or with the children. I even hired an attorney as soon as we set foot on US soil, contemplating divorce back then. I wasn’t sold that this new beginning was just that. You can’t change a leopard’s spots.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I knew in my heart I had given all that I could. I needed to break away from the invisible prison Scott kept me in. I needed space to heal, find clarity, peace of mind, and focus to find myself once again. It was imperative that I show my children that every person deserves respect and dignity; something they never learned from Scott. I was at fault too. I failed to set proper boundaries over the years which only got worse as time progressed.

This divorce was the battle of all battles, and I was up against Goliath. The only winners were the attorneys. Ironically, the day I met Scott was the same time that “War of the Roses” debuted in theaters, circa 1989. Nearly 30 years later to the day we met, on 9/11, was my Liberation Day from Scott – or so I thought. That was just our Settlement Agreement. There was much more to come.

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“So now you’ve got some knowledge setting the scenes to come. What is a psychopath? What is a Narcissist? Our history. How we met. Then leading to my light bulb moment on our wedding anniversary when I knew it was time to break free. The following blogs will be my journal entries of my Year of Thorns when I started the divorce process on my road to recovery and freedom.”

I will never understand fully, or even begin to comprehend Scott’s need to destroy me. I understand now its all a part of his underlying sickness. But to this day, it’s still difficult for me to wrap my head around it all. I only hope that he will “Let It Go” one day, allowing me to live in peace and stop using the children as weapons.

Please Scott. Stop.

Why stay in a relationship that is toxic?

 

Why Did I Stay? 

Why did I stay despite everything?  Many of us get into unhealthy situations because our partners held up a facade. I felt I had met my soul mate — that one special person in the universe just for me. It’s no surprise that I fell in love with someone like that! Scott once seemed perfect, but once I was married the relationship changed slowly over time due to children being born, job changes, and other major life changes.  Eventually I began to see a completely different side of him.  It was clear that I had married Dr. Jekyll and was living with Mr. Hyde, or the Supreme Being. The person who once seemed perfect became an angry, demeaning, demanding, and harshly critical narcissistic psychopath.  Sure there were warning signs from the very beginning, but I was in love and felt an obligation to stay. Plus the sex was off the charts.

For most people in abusive relationships, we carry around with us internal obligations that tend to make us want to stay in the relationship. One being the feeling of love for our partner. These feelings can persist and be very strong even when our partner doesn’t give or show us love in return.  We stay because of the few crumbs fed to us along the way with words of affirmation and/or actions along the way.  Like a carrot dangling at the end of a rope.  The second is a feeling of responsibility and obligation to our partner, our family, and even others beyond that. Our disordered partners often work hard to build up this feeling of obligation, hoping it will keep us locked in despite the way they mistreat us. 

I also stayed because of the way Scott’s manipulative behavior effected how I viewed myself.  He made me the victim, and my acceptance of that role allowed Scott to keep his control over me.  Scott projected his issues onto me, leaving a husk of the person I used to be, to feed his ego. I didn’t see through Scott’s ruses.  I didn’t call them out fearful of his repercussions.  I allowed Scott’s behavior to go unchecked by not actively taking a stand against it — and for good reason.  When I did stand up to Scott, he punished me, abusing me both verbally and physically.  I failed from the beginning to set proper boundaries. 

 Scott started the negative comments and hammered them home until I believed it entirely. When you start to feel so low and worthless, you genuinely believe that they are your best option. You believe that no one else will ever love or accept you because that’s what they’ve conditioned you to think – even friends won’t accept you. Because of that, you fear the thought of being alone (one of my greatest fears).  You think no one else will fill the gap in your heart that has been pried wide open with manipulation and malicious criticism. You fear that all the insults and criticisms were true. I let harsh words and his poisoned opinions rule my thinking. 

Alienation was also a major factor why I didn’t leave. While living abroad for ten years having three small children including one with special needs, I just couldn’t pack up and leave. We moved so frequently it was easy for Scott to alienate me from friends and family that supported me. I was also alienated financially, having given up my career to support him in all our moves.  We relied solely on Scott’s income. My career was long gone.  I was terrified at the thought of getting a job having been out of the workforce for so long with my skillset being significantly outdated, or so he made me believe.  

The rest was fear, plain and simple.  Fear of the unknown and Scott’s continuous threats I’d heard so often:  if I ever left, he would leave me with nothing and ruin my relationship with the children.  Scott did exactly that.  But I did survive, and I hope that our children will one day come to understand his illness and forgive me for staying as long as I did in a toxic relationship that ultimately dragged them into the middle. 

We often stay in abusive relationships for reasons that are healthy, even though the situation isn’t.  Scott projected his insecurities as a detached parent onto me making me question my sanity and parenting abilities, the very thing that mattered to me the most. Then there was my internal conflict to keep the family unit intact for the children.  But soon I realized while my vows were pulling me in one direction, the need to care for myself and my children in the other direction had to be my priority. I had to save myself and my spirit if I was going to take care of our children, stopping this dysfunctional modeling, hoping they would learn what a healthy relationship is eventually. 

When we think about making major changes in our lives, our thoughts naturally go to the world around us. We not only want to do what is right in principle; we also want to do what others will approve of. I guess one of the things that surprised me most in my educational journey was how strong this feeling was for me. I was always a people pleaser, needing validation and social acceptance. I hated being alone. I was really carrying around a strong feeling that an awful lot of people would judge what I did, especially living in such a small community. Even writing my book/blog, I worried what others may think knowing what happened behind the closed doors of our seemingly perfect Facebook life. 

I felt shame and embarrassment; I never thought I would get divorced, no matter what Scott did to me.  I had to work hard to get a handle on this. In reality, people didn’t really care. The negative judgment from others really isn’t there. The thought that I am a good mother because I kept my family unit intact needed to be set aside, replaced with thoughts that are centered in more basic ideas. “I am a good mother” because I care about my children. Now I have the courage and ability to hopefully be a role model to my children. I want them to also be free from their father’s manipulation to truthfully assess the goodness of their lives. I am a “good person” because I love and care for myself, my children, and for others.  

It’s time to believe.

Believe . . .

To accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth.  

Hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose.  

Believe in yourself, your intuition, your courage, your strength, your future.

 

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