You don’t know me, yet if we met under different circumstances, we’d surely be friends. There’s so many things we share in common that sometimes looking at your facebook likes is like looking at a mirror. That’s irony of a sort; we (the women that he chose) are all cut from the same swath of linen. We’d be sisters and confidants and smile in the sunshine over coffee. Our little boys would play. We’d be that way, if we began another day.
I saw that you met him just weeks ago. I saw that you changed your first name. It took my breath away, seeing that. You’ve sworn over so much of your identity so quickly. And your friends…they gently asked why. Surely you’ve been, “Cathy, not Catherine” to them for ages. And I know where you are. If the deepest and most loved of them all came to you with concerns over this man, you’d not be able to listen. It’s because you are happy. He’s charming and is playful with your son and brings you flowers. He has Big Ideas and is Great at Conversation.The attention is intoxicating.
You probably didn’t see him angry until the day I said, “hello”. I heard about that day. He told our son that he needed a restraining order to keep me from prying into your life. I heard you were scared (though you thanked me for my kindness and we had a sweet exchange). Maybe a little voice inside you wondered at the ferocity of his reaction to such a simple thing…(would you not say hello to someone soon to care for your child? or who you met in passing?) and maybe it didn’t. Maybe his paranoid anger seemed rational. But by the time you’d seen him angry you were already engaged to him. You’d already told many. I know that place as well.
The next day your picture changed. The sweet, smiling, apple cheeked face full of light changed to a dark, coolly warning countenance. That marked the first day I cried for you. You’ve known him 6 weeks and have changed your face, your name, maybe your plans. He seems like a dream (you no doubt waited for love like this) and I know (have the scars) that a dream is soon all you’ll be left holding.
A little blog you started has just two posts. It speaks of your love and your plans and of what you’re beginning. It also speaks of having to work things out. Dear Cathy, do you know that after being heady in love for just a few weeks, there should not be anything to “work out”? Do you know that it shouldn’t already be hard? Do you have any, any, any idea how hard it’s about to become?
You are about to risk drowning. And I say that without malice or hate. He has a diagnosed personality disorder, a history of violence, a history of being unable to maintain a single long term relationship. Do you ever wonder why there is no one from long ago yet in his life? Even his “best friend” and he went almost 10 years without speaking. They are new again to one another.
I cry for you. And I cry for your son. Because I made a poor choice for the father of my children. The damage that they carry from his erratic, dramatic, paranoia is not small. There is no way I can really say any of this to you. There is nothing I can do but watch it happen and try to help my children understand. Understand what? That their father announced a new step-mother and step-brother through a 10 year old. That their father is marrying someone they’ve never met, on day they are not invited to attend. That this is being hailed as an example of love and stability though it flies in the face of all they know to be true and trustworthy. That once again they are denied one very simple little thing that most children need: time.
You are 35. That is old enough to have lived and learned and understood. You are a mother. And yet you are making this choice before anyone can stop you. He’s pursuing you with a speed that isn’t being questioned. You’ll never see these words. But something inside me requires I send them to the universe. Watching you is like watching a movie of my life at 19; watching myself voluntarily evaporate into someone else until years later, I could not recognize who I was. You swim out to sea because it feels free… until one day, you look back to shore and see you’re too far out to return. And when he’s angry, and the back of his hand throws your head into the door, or you “fall” down the stairs in a fight, or he won’t touch your body for months because he’s disgusted, you will wish you could swim back. You will cry for a guard, for a friend, for anything that will help you to shore.
On 5-6-11 it’s supposed to “all come together”. I would like to be the optimistic person I once was and believe he has changed. That can not be. I hoped that every day for 15 years until it was dead. No one like you, like me, has 5 babies and bleeds, sweats, and cries with him over their dead without clinging to the hope that one day it won’t be that bad. He only changes by getting worse. So on 5-6-11, something will start, I promise it will. I hope for you that someone in your life has a raft and that you are not too proud to reach out and take it.
And this week, before the wedding day comes, if a sober moment settles in your heart and you wonder, I pray that you grab it, seize it. Anyone who truly loves you, who is truly not who I say he is, will not have a problem in taking a little more time. He will not mind if you go by the name you wore for 35 years. He will not mind enough time for his children to meet you. He will not mind if you shake their mother’s hand and smile.
We are not supposed to say these things to people. We may sometimes not even say them out loud. Yet, staying silent about truth is how tragedies are born. It’s not my intention to harm though I know this truth hurts. I only feel in my bones that it needs to be said. Maybe it’s for someone other than whom I intend. Maybe some other girl whose rushing in secret will question her steps. Maybe women who value their worth will bind together. Abusers fear that, they do. They do not like contact and shared experience and power other than their own.
“Time will tell”. That, unfortunately, works two ways. He knows the power of time and the value of a short courtship. He’s been here before. This story has a script and you have the starring role.