by Patty Hite
My son used to sing a Bob Marley song to me all the time and the chorus was, “Is this love, is this love, is this love, is this love that I’m feeling?” I never gave it much thought until recently, but wondered why I never asked myself, “Is this love that I’m feeling?”
I have had many relationships throughout my life and always thought they were based on love. I know I searched for love and I know I wanted love, but what I didn’t know, was why I never asked myself if it actually was love. It is only since overcoming some huge stepping stones in my healing from abuse that I was able to answer that question with my “now” husband.
I took the time to wait instead of jumping in with both feet and I questioned my motives and his as well. I felt confident that I didn’t need a man to make myself complete and I felt secure enough to know I could make it without one. But why didn’t I do that with my past relationships? Why did I settle? There was one man I married and the whole time we stood in front of the minister, I wanted to run. I told myself that it wouldn’t work. And it didn’t.
My parents got divorced when I was fourteen and they constantly fought over me. Dad wouldn’t pay support and Mom would throw him in jail. He wanted full custody of me, but Mom said it was so he wouldn’t have to pay support. At the age of sixteen, I married the town drunk to escape the responsibility I felt because my parents fought all the time. My husband was older, had a job and could provide for me. I don’t remember ever telling him I loved him but I had a roof over my head and at the time, that was enough. He became abusive and extremely jealous and I left with a car and a Chihuahua.
My second husband was a friend I knew since grade school. I felt like a kid again when I was with him and trusted him because we were friends. I know I told him I loved him, but looking back, I think it was a friend love and not a spouse love. He started college and worked and I never saw him, so it wasn’t hard to leave him. I was bored and saw the world pass me by waiting on him to come home. I knew the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, and I wanted it. I left him with another car and a daughter.
My third husband was a bad boy. I wanted excitement and the ability to explore the world. He wooed me with talks of traveling out west to see the world. The day I married him, he knocked me down with a fist to the face, dragged me through the house by my hair and raped me. He owned me. He put the fear of death in me and controlled me and my daughter. I told him I loved him because if I didn’t, he would make me ‘love’ him. aI knew what he meant by that, so every day I poured out my love to him verbally, physically and emotionally. After ten years, I finally escaped. I left with no car, my daughter and my son.
I crawled back to my second husband, the friend. I trusted him and loved him; the problem was that I didn’t love myself. He was safe and I felt I could make our marriage work. I allowed him to reject me and not show me love. Early on we were affectionate and had two more children but shortly after that, the affection and attention toward me stopped. Affection was something that he showed toward me in public and I convinced myself that since I left him the first time, I deserved it.
I started healing from my child abuse during my third marriage but felt most of it was useless; trying to heal from abuse when you’re living in abuse is like trying to stick an egg back inside a chicken. It just won’t work. When I left him I was actually worse off then I was before.
Remarrying my second husband was a safer place to heal, but the more I healed and found value in myself, the more I realized that I deserved more from him. I was strong enough to talk to him about my needs and desires. His response was that he never loved me and only remarried me because of our daughter. I left, with a car and the two younger children. I was told later by our daughter that he was molesting her the whole time we were married.
I then got angry. Not just angry at him for what he did, but angry at myself. Angry about the years wasted on others. I was angry that I settled for second best. Angry that I trusted this man, but didn’t trust myself. I was angry that my children paid a life-long price because I was too focused on getting men to love me instead of protecting them. Angry that I allowed myself to be abused and angry that I was too weak to say “Enough!”
It was because of this anger that I became tenacious in getting free. Researching my past and discovering that the women in my family had no value. I was told since birth that all I will ever amount to was a wife and mother and I was shown that in order to be a wife and mother, I had to submit and succumb to my husband. Affection and attention from men was only shown in public as this was the example shown to me from my dad toward my mother. She had no value for herself and spent every waking moment, taking care of her man.
Those days are over. I do not have to be like my parents nor do I have to fulfill my father’s prophecy. I am more than a wife and mother. I do not deserve abuse of any kind. Guilt and shame don’t rule my thoughts. I am a woman of value and worthy of real love. I’m allowed to ask “Is this love?” and trust myself to wait until it is.
Dating After Sexual Abuse: Is This Love?
As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of five years. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.
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