You know me.
I’m put together, I dress well, I’m attractive and I’m happy. I’m educated, I’m smart, I’m friendly and I’m respected. I’ve got a good sense of humor, a positive outlook on life, and a listening ear.
You’ve seen me walking my kids to school. You’ve seen me shopping for groceries. You’ve seen me attending school functions. You’ve seen me at work.
Yet you don’t know me. And you’ve never seen me.
You see, I came into my marriage with a deep desire to connect, to give and to please. Having dated for a brief period, there was no way for me to truly get to know what sort of relationship I was entering. There was no way for me to realize that my willingness to give, was to be used against me.
When dating, I doubt I would have been able to see it even if I knew what to look for, as I came with my own baggage. For better or for worse, I was attracted to dysfunction.
It took years of marriage until I truly realized something was wrong. There were times I intuitively felt it, only to bury the idea deep in my heart. All I had to do was simply remind myself that it was my fault as I’d been told many times before. I’ll never forget the first time I knew nothing would change. Yet, for a few more years, I still tried to believe that I could do better. And that I could be better.
Only after doing my utmost to heal our marriage, and doing much work on my own various defects, did I begin to realize that I was being emotionally abused. It took even longer to begin learning what a healthy relationship would look like and to set boundaries to protect myself. It took courage to do so despite the many voices telling me how selfish I was being.
The smiles in our portraits, the guests coming through our home, the friends and family that looked up to our relationship all would tell a very different story. They never knew me.
For any mother, father, sister or brother; to any cousin, colleague, friend and classmate; to every neighbor, teacher, Rov and Rebbetzin – you do know me, you just don’t know who I am.
To those that are me, know that you are not alone. Know that there is help for you. You can heal and grow in spite of all.
In reality, my essay should end here. But I need you to know one more thing about me that has held me in the grips of this relationship: shame. I had shame of not being able to handle this on my own. I had shame of what you may think of me. Or if you’d even believe that I’ve been emotionally abused. And yet, I lay myself in front of you to break that shame. Now I can be free.
Thank you for getting to know me,