After being literally chased out of the house on Christmas, we left a bunch of our stuff behind. Today, I went to pick it up. I expected Kate’s mom to be there. I did not expect her dad.
If you’ve ever seen abuse depicted on TV, it’s usually between a husband and wife. The husband does something deplorable, and then, either immediately or later, he apologizes. The wife, clearly unhappy and beaten down by all this, accepts. They continue to live together even though he’s probably going kill her soon.
It’s…maybe a little overblown for drama’s sake, but it’s not a fabrication. This is actually how abusers work. First, they prepare you for this life by pretending to be normal people. They slowly ramp up the tension until you’re constantly on edge and don’t really know why; sometimes, you don’t even notice you’re on edge because it crept up so slowly.
Next, as they grow comfortable with you, they stop mediating their behavior. Soon enough, you’ve become a safe target for them, and they explode at you. Maybe you dropped a plate or closed a door too loud. It doesn’t really matter what you did because it’s not about you, but they’ll make damn sure you think it is by zeroing in on that dropped plate or shut door.
Once they see that you’ve not only been sufficiently cowed but are punishing yourself, then they apologize, they had a hard day, they don’t mean to yell, but you’ve really gotta stop doing those things. See, there’s no such thing as an accident to the abuser. Everything that happens is done deliberately to spite them.
Anyway, I bring all this up because when I walked into the house today, I noticed he stood up and half followed me and was just standing there waiting for me. As I carried a load outside, he put on his most apologetic voice and asked me to let him know how we were doing.
At first, I told him I didn’t know. I didn’t really have an answer for him. We’re living in a car. It’s primarily his fault, him and Kate’s mom. But we’re fine. We don’t want their pity or their meddling. So I said I didn’t know and kept moving stuff.
But while I was going in and out, Kate’s mom started laying into him, blaming him for this situation. I didn’t hear most of what she said, but while I was on the last load, she mentioned about she always smooths things over, and then he goes and ruins them again. So I said, no, you have never smoothed things over. I told her that what she was doing was called gaslighting. And then I turned to Kate’s dad and told him straight up that we were living in a car because he couldn’t accept that this was life and that we were doing the best we can to manage Kate’s condition.
He tried to beg me to stop and discuss this, but there’s nothing left to discuss. Unless they both go into therapy, we’re never speaking to them again. Or at least, not until we have a place to live and can finish picking up all our inessentials.
But I’m proud of myself. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to say something like that. Even a few weeks ago, I’m not sure I would have been so blunt. My need to protect Kate from them has been bolstering my confidence, but getting out of that house was some kind of catalyst. I was shaking like a leaf, but I still felt strong.