The Other Side of the Rabbit Hole

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Thank you everyone for all of the comments and messages about my blog yesterday
“Down The Rabbit Hole”

There are so many women out there that have gone through much more difficult times than I did. So many of my friends, and I never knew. My friend R is so young, younger than my oldest daughter and she is coming out on the other side of an abusive father and an abusive boyfriend. And as she said, the shame goes away with time and talk.

Steve and I were talking about it last night on the deck after dinner. Keely had left for church with friends, there was a beautiful sunset and the weather was perfect. I showed him the emails and messages, some of which brought me to tears.

Several thanked me for my courage and honesty. Well, I’ll admit to being honest but I don’t think writing that blog took much courage. I’m far enough away emotionally (it’s been five years) that it almost seems like it happened to a different person.

I also had a strong foundation for what a good relationship should be. Although we are divorced, I still consider Charles a good friend. Steve and I stay at his house when we visit Little Rock, he stays with us when he visits Keely here. We never had loud arguments or fights, we treated each other with respect and used logic and reason when we had a disagreement.

Charles and I never raised our voices with each other. And then in the Rabbit Hole I found myself actually screaming and slamming doors. I remember becoming so very angry that I could hardly speak. I told him I was going to lose control and I needed a time out. I went into the bedroom. He followed me, never stopping with the combative words. I went into the bathroom, locked the door and he stood on the other side, talking and arguing. It was a verbal assault, vicious and he would not stop. I truly understood in that moment the desire to hit someone in anger. I have to confess I don’t know what I would have done if he had been able to get in the door. I huddled in the corner in a fetal position, my fingers in my ears trying to escape his voice.

In the beginning I was slow to anger. I’ve grown up thinking that showing anger and especially losing control was immature and childish. But by the end of our relationship I went from 0 to 100 in nothing flat. There was so much pent up resentment, desire to hurt, desire for revenge that I could get to a flash point very quickly.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was not “Saint Michelle”. Well, I might have started out that way, but I got pissed and angry and I fought back with everything I had. He told me many times that I was “not being very nice” and I’m sure he was right.

The one thing that I think protected both of us is that we knew if it got physical it would get very very ugly. I’ve been a martial artist for over forty years now, and I am a fighter. So was he. I was not stupid enough to think that I could beat him in a one on one fight. But he knew me well enough to know that if he physically assaulted me there would be hell to pay, one way or another. It didn’t hurt that my sister is a cop.

So I had an advantage that many women do not have. It’s also why I would spend hundreds of hours over the course of my career teaching free self-defense courses.

I brought this point up with Steve, that one of the things that saved me was knowing that the relationship I was in FELT wrong. Which is when he made the comment that really smacked me between the eyes “when you are in a bad relationship long enough, your perception of reality changes”.

If I had stayed in the Rabbit Hole for thirty years, my perception of what a relationship was supposed to look and feel like would have been very different.

I remember early on when Steve and I would have a disagreement, and I couldn’t understand what I perceived as Steve’s extreme defensiveness. It was learned behavior, deeply ingrained after years of fighting , grudges and confrontations.

We had to learn how to argue and disagree without the situation becoming a big blow up. During the course of our relationship there have been misunderstandings that we allowed to grow because we were having little conversations with ourselves in our head. Both of us are opinionated and strong willed. And then when we would finally talk about it and understand the facts or what was really meant, and it all seemed pretty stupid.

We made a big breakthrough when I told Steve “You have to understand that I will never do or say anything to hurt you on purpose. I may get frustrated or angry, but I will not purposely do anything to wound you. And I trust you to do the same”.

I guess the thing is that I trust our love. We both feel respected and wanted. We know that we have something valuable, and we are going to do whatever it takes to keep what we have. We appreciate the fact that we are different, and we don’t try to change each other.

We found that if we are discussing a difficult subject, it helps to touch. We hold hands, sit close, or touch legs. Whatever we need to do to let the other person know that they are loved and valued, communicated through physical contact. It lets us calmly discuss differences without feeling like the other person is withdrawing from the relationship. It’s what works for us.

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