I’d been thinking about a post for Valentines Day, about how people in bad or unsatisfying relationships suffer more than singles on the holiday, when I heard about the tragic death of Whitney Houston yesterday. My immediate thought was “I wonder how much Bobby Brown had to do with this.”
See, I’d considered her marriage to him to mark a turning point for her, wherein she began her transformation from the innocent Whitney of “How Will I Know” to the drug addict of recent years. I also knew that the two of them had a violent, disturbing 15 year marriage before finally divorcing publicly 5 years ago. EDIT: A friend posted this on Facebook tonight. I think she looks beautiful, and I imagine this is her, in the afterlife, now.
Unfortunately, Whitney and Bobby are not a unique case. There is no shortage of douchebag husbands in the US or anywhere else.
There are the guys who cheat, repeatedly, even after being found out, promising they would stop or given ultimatums. There are guys who gamble away their paychecks or just flat out stop paying the bills, leaving their wives to fret over family finances. There are couples who haven’t had sex in months, or sometimes even years, because the husband is so hooked on porn he can no longer imagine being intimate with a real woman.
Worst of all are the abusers – not just the guys who batter, but the ones who belittle (then claim you’re being “too sensitive” or “can’t take a joke”), remove access to family, friends or money, or who control every aspect of their wife’s life from what she wears to whether she holds down a job.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Women perpetuate domestic violence all the time! Indeed, they do. But because I’ve only ever been married to men, and my girlfriends have only ever been married to men, I know much more about abusive husbands. Out of all my guy friends, I only know of two whom I would consider to have been victims of domestic abuse.
I was once in a relationship that made me feel very badly about myself. I am 5’8″ tall and at that time was around 135 to 140 pounds, yet he constantly poked fun at my weight (my dad did the same thing, so it never occurred to me that this was wrong). He joked about wanting to break up with me. He made me choose between him and school the first time I got accepted to San Francisco State and kept me up until 1am the night before my first “real” job.
As the years went by, I began to sense that things were very wrong somehow but I didn’t know what to do to solve the problem. After I befriended a couple who genuinely seemed to love each other, the answer finally became clear: my man was a douche, and probably an abusive one at that.
Toward the end of our relationship, he showed a more violent streak. This was most noticeable after he’d somehow left his house keys at my brother’s place. You see, I was working days, and he’d leave for work about an hour before I’d arrive home (around 5pm). He’d come home at 2 or 3am, watch TV for a while, then slide in bed next to me. The night he forgot his keys, he pounded on our door but I didn’t hear him. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and found him shivering on our balcony. I told him he NEEDED to get his keys. The next day, unbeknownst to me, he failed again to retrieve the keys. I woke up at 3am to the sound of a loud crash. He’d broken down the door. Worse, he blamed me for his behavior. The door wasn’t the only object he broke during our seven years together, and that wasn’t the only time he lost it.
After he moved out, but before he had all his stuff out, I found nearly two dozen loaded, unsecured firearms in our apartment that he’d accumulated. What happened to him? Oh, he became a gunsmith. Still, very bad things could have happened, and I didn’t find out until a decade later that my family was worried he was going to snap one day.
Back to abusers… I don’t know for sure what makes them act the way they do, but my supposition is that they don’t truly love their partners, although they may think they do. When I was thinking of this topic, the following song came to mind. Not to make light of the subject at all, but I think Meatloaf may have nailed it:
I want you,
I need you,
but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you.
Now, don’t be sad,
’cause two out of three ain’t bad.
For an abusive spouse, there is a never-ending need at the core of their behavior. It may be a longing for control after having grown up with an alcoholic parent, or it may be due to a personality disorder. Either way, regardless of the behavior, they are the weaker spouse. But none of this excuses them.
Which is why I am heartened to see media outlets like the BBC warning of an increased risk of violence on Tuesday. For teens, there is the Love is Respect website. And across the country you can find performances of The Vagina Monologues this Valentines Day raising awareness of this very issue.
Let’s remove the shame and the stigma and make this an issue that’s freely talked about. Then, let’s do more than talk.
Have a great week, everyone!