January 26, 2010

A Rock and A Hard Place

I was given a very vivid reminder of my past this morning, by a friend of mine. Before this morning, I wouldn't have really called her a good friend, since most of our conversations had been somewhat superficial, except for one time when her husband's grandfather shot a cop, but that's a story for another time. Let's just say, Grandpa's nuts and still in jail, and I believe everyone is better off for it.

This morning, though, she followed me to the gas station after we'd dropped the kids off at school to talk to me about signing J up for T-ball, since it's free for first timers this year. I'd have to pay for C to sign up for baseball, and I don't really think I can afford it right now, so I probably won't do it. But we'll see.

But as we stood there talking, she began telling me things about her marriage and her husband that shocked me. She'd always given me the impression that her marriage was pretty good, or at least average.

First, she shocked me by mentioning they hadn't had sex in about 2 years, and that it was his choice, not hers. Lots of couples go through dry spells, though, so that, while it was shocking that it was his doing, I didn't really think much of it. Just kind of felt bad for her that she's not getting any. Then she added that he shows her no affection whatsoever. No hand holding, no hugs, kisses, nothing.

That I didn't understand. I could go the rest of my life never having sex again, it's not a huge deal, but if D didn't hold my hand, kiss me, hold me while we're sitting on the couch watching a movie, I couldn't handle that. All those little things show me that he loves me, and they mean much more to me than the words. I love to hear him tell me, absolutely, but it's the little touches, the quick kisses, the squeezes when he hugs me tight that really tell me he loves me. She doesn't even get the words, apparently.

Then, she starts telling me about all these fights they've had lately. And that's when I started thinking about Sperm Donor. She started describing shouting matches at 4am over a simple statement. Normal conversations turning into screamfests. Walking on eggshells to avoid saying something that will piss him off and start a fight. Deciding to make this instead of that for dinner because she knows he won't eat it and will instead throw it away, slam dishes and silverware around as he makes something else and then bitch about how she sits around all day and can't even make a good dinner for him when he gets home from busting his ass all day.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, then she tells me about how she and her sister were signing up the kids for T-ball, and her son was hitting her (playfully). Her sister told him to stop, that hitting Momma wasn't nice. Sister threatened to tell Grandma, and the little boy just laughed. When Sister threatened to tell Daddy, the little boy started bawling and begging her to please not tell Daddy. My friend then mentions that he's terrified of Daddy.

That would have been my boys if I hadn't left Sperm Donor. I'd be her (only the lack of sex would have been my choice), and my boys would be terrified of their father.

When I made a casual comment (to test the waters) about how it sounds like she'd be better off without him, she said it's not better for her son, and then threw in that she has nowhere to go. No family she can stay with, or that would help her anyway. Her husband has told her if she wants to leave, leave. He doesn't care.

I disagree with her that it's not better for her son for her to leave. I think the situation as it is is very unhealthy for this very sweet little boy. For the same reasons that I left Sperm Donor: it gives him the wrong idea of how a man should treat a woman, what a healthy relationship should look like, and frankly, I believe it's only a matter of time before he escalates to something more than just hurtful words and lack of affection. She also mentioned how he yells at her son (that he adopted, by the way) for the slightest little thing, and never shows him any affection. Apparently, her son used to try to hug him, but after getting a quick tap on the arm and a "that's enough" enough times, her son has given up.

She knows some of my history with Sperm Donor. I can't remember exactly how much I told her, because as I said, a lot of our previous conversations were pretty superficial, and I don't give a lot of details to just anyone.

My problem here is what do I do? I want to get her the names of some shelters that will help her leave, get a job, get a place, get back on her feet, if she so chooses. But I know, from having been there myself, that she won't leave until/unless she's ready.

I also know that she could very easily get offended and upset with me. I don't want to lose her as a friend, I don't want my kids to lose her son as a friend. If nothing else, I at least want to know that I will see her and her son frequently so that if I something changes, she might talk to me, and I can push her harder or, if necessary, call the cops myself to try to protect her and her son.

So I'm stuck. I feel like I need to help her, but can't. I feel like I need to say something, but I don't know what. I feel like I should maybe tell her everything I went through, hoping she'll see the similarity and realize on her own what's going on. But I feel that doing that is likely to put her on the defensive and make her more determined to believe that everything will be fine.

She already knows that she can talk to me any time she needs to, and that I will help her out in any way that I can. I'm hoping that that'll be enough. But I'm really afraid for her now. She has no phone, not even a cell, so she has no way to call anyone for help should something change. Her only real opportunity to seek help is when she takes her son to school. She used to talk to other moms at the school besides me, but from what I can tell, it's only me now. I don't know if that's a choice she made (maybe she senses I'm more willing to listen and help than the others?) or if he's trying to isolate her (the other moms live closer to her than I do).

I never thought that any real good would come from my failed marriage, except my kids. Yes, I learned a few things about relationships and what I do and don't want from them. But that only benefits me, really. Or so I thought. If I can just figure out how to approach her, maybe more good will come from it than I thought.

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