John’s fuse seemed to get shorter and shorter with each passing day. I continued to try to make the best of things, but it started getting harder. I found myself coming into work flustered and frazzled as each morning would start with him screaming at me for something, or him doing something to the children that would result in them screaming “Owie” from the other room. The children would claim he did something to them and he would respond, “I did not!” in an indignant tone. The stress was overwhelming. How do I keep the balance between protecting my children and continuing to walk on eggshells so I don’t anger John?
I was sick to my stomach as to how to make this relationship work. That’s when I finally opened up to someone. This was the beginning of a very long, slow journey in which I started to realize that this marriage was not healthy.
It started with a very typical morning. I was making breakfast and lunch for James and Quinn when I heard Quinn screaming from the upstairs bathroom where her father was getting her dressed. At this point in our lives I knew to run immediately when I heard the kids in distress, because I never knew how far John would go. I opened the door to see Quinn sobbing on the toilet. She told me she wasn’t getting ready fast enough so “Daddy slammed me on the potty”. Interactions like this were now a daily occurrence. (Any time I asked him to help the children complete any daily task, in fact.)
I told him I would take over, as I often had to do. I quickly got Quinn dressed and downstairs to eat breakfast. I returned to making lunches when John approached me. He was angry. Angry that I stepped in. Angry that I believed Quinn. Angry that I was questioning why he felt he needed to be so rough with her when I was able to get the task completed while being gentle.
The predictability of John following me from room to room, putting his nose an inch from my face while screaming, continued. I would simply state, “I’m not going to engage” and silently rush around getting the children’s bags packed with him in tow, screaming. I put Quinn’s shoes and coat on, got her to the door and closed it. But then John’s predictability ended. He opened the door and something about the expression on his face terrified me. The hair stood up on my arms. My brain screamed at me…. RUN.
As he continued to yell at me, I looked over at Quinn and said… “Quinn…. run to the car baby. Go!” I got her in and buckled as fast as I possibly could while John headed toward us. I hopped into the car and peeled out of the driveway. I was shaking the entire way to work. Something about this morning was different. It was worse. I could feel John escalating…. and I was scared. I couldn’t hide my emotions when I got to work. And so I finally confided in someone.
Abby was the paraprofessional assigned to me at my school, but she quickly became so much more than that. She was my first confidant. My first cheerleader. She was a true and kind friend. I knew I could trust her. And so, I told her. I explained what had happened. How annoyed I was. How I was scared enough to tell Quinn to run even though I knew it might scare her as well. Of course, as this was the first story I had shared with Abby, she had no idea the extent of the dysfunction in my marriage…. but she listened… she provided support…. she believed me…. and most importantly, she told me this was NOT normal.
This was the first step in my road to freedom. A road that would take me 4 years to travel, but a path that Abby’s friendship and support set me on. While I certainly wish that John had not chased Quinn and I to the car that morning, I am grateful that this interaction led to me finally opening up to someone. To stop covering everything up and plastering a fake smile on my face as if I were living the perfect life. My first baby step towards realizing this was not a normal relationship and I deserved better.