Brandon and I were married on a bright, chilly morning, November 15, 1997. The sealing was performed by his grandpa, Farrell Peterson, in the Boise Temple. I think I was happy that day but I was blissfully unaware of the hell I was about to walk in to. A hell that would spiral me down into some of the darkest days I would ever see. I was unprepared for such a journey, unprepared to combat the darkness that would be engulfing me. At 20 years old I lacked the faith, courage and knowledge sufficient to survive the storm that was coming. Truth be told, I didn’t survive, I was rescued by the Atonement but that was years later.
Looking back I can see the red flags that popped up before we got married but I didn’t see them then or maybe I didn’t want to see them.
Brandon fulfilled all my “husband requirements.” He had just returned home from a mission and seemed to glow with the spirit. There were issues, flaws in his personality that, when left unchecked would turn him into a monster, but after his mission he was still doing thing he needed to do to keep the monster at bay and keep the Holy Ghost present; praying, reading scriptures, attending church, going to the temple…the primary answers to all gospel questions.
If we fail to do these things all of us would go astray. That’s just the nature of life. We need these little things to keep us attached to the iron rod
But Brandon’s “natural man” was filled with abuse, criticism, porn, and alcoholism. It was a dark path that for years I was convinced was my fault. The blame, if blame is needed, was in the yielding to temptation and not repenting. And it started with not praying.
Prayer was not a part of our lives. He was the priesthood holder of our new family, so I waited for him to call us to prayer. When he didn’t, I would make the suggestion. That only happened a few times because his reaction at my suggestion can only be described as a tantrum. A wave of criticism would wash over me.
He was the priesthood holder and it was his right and authority to call us to prayer. I was just the wife and had no right. How dare I take his right away. I was no daughter of God and he must have made a mistake in marrying me because any wife of his must be a daughter of God.
On and on he would go. Berating me and belittling me.
As the years went on the “fits” grew in number and intensity. After he quit going to church, in the fall of 2001, his words changed slightly. He no longer referred to himself as a priesthood holder; he was the “man of the house.”
Every time I did something he didn’t like, every time I said something, every time he felt like I was “stepping on his toes” so to speak, he would throw his fit. He demanded the right to make every decision; where we lived, what we ate and so forth.
Things stayed at a tolerable level for a while. I took myself and our daughter to church alone. I worked and Brandon went to school. We bought a house down the street from his parents. I didn’t want to live that close to his parents but he promised me he would go back to church. He said it was his home ward and he knew everyone there.
He never went back to church.
He was also working himself into a fight and I tried very hard to avoid those. He had me well trained. I would give in and he would get whatever he wanted because I didn’t want to fight. I was afraid of the hurt his words brought me, of the pain he could inflict upon me. I would feel like I was beat up from the words he sent my way. My self-esteem tanked and I believed his words.
I was fat. I was ugly. I was stupid. I was no good. I was a cow because I chose to breastfeed and I only chose to breastfeed because I didn’t want to allow him his husband rights to my body. After all, his mother didn’t breastfeed so why should I. I cooked too much or I didn’t cook enough. I didn’t clean right, talk right, sew right, mother right, live right, move right, and think right.
Nothing I did was right. Sometimes he would just shake his head in disappointment. Other times the painful words would come. The worst was when he would give me the silent treatment. I never knew what was wrong. He would say that he shouldn’t have to tell me what was wrong, that I should already know and if I really loved him I would be prefect.
That hurt the most: If I really loved him then I would…
Those words still haunt me to this day.
I began to wonder if I did love him. Maybe I didn’t. There was nothing I could do about it though. We were married, sealed for time and all eternity but I didn’t want my eternity to be like this. I didn’t want to be stuck for eternity. Eternity was supposed to be happy and I was not happy. I wanted to be happy but the only thing in my life that made me happy was my daughter. Brandon grew jealous of her I think. He would say things like “why do you only smile when she’s around? Why don’t you smile at me?” I couldn’t smile at him or anyone. There was nothing to smile about. She was my reason for smiling; she was my reason for living.
It was around this same time (buying the house that is) that Brandon started openly drinking and watching porn. I suspected he was doing all that before but I had no proof, just a feeling that it was going on in secret. He just decided one day he didn’t want to hide it anymore. He had been spending his free time playing violent video games, now he added beer to his gaming sessions.
At night he would fall asleep watching his porn. He’d try to get me to watch them too. He called it “educational research.” I needed to learn how to please him because frankly I wasn’t doing a good enough job in that department. I was worn out and tired and he required some kind of intimate, sexual act every morning and every night.
With the porn came more criticism about my appearance. I didn’t think I was bad looking and maybe even a little pretty but he made me feel like an ugly troll. He compared me to the porn stars and asked why I could be more like them. If I refused to watch the show with him, he would sit on me and hold my head towards the TV and then be pissed off at my tears. “I was just trying to have quality time with you. Why do you have to be so prudish?”
Those we not the only tears I shed. The tears came freely and all too often. I cried for the marriage I wanted but didn’t have. I cried for the husband I thought I married but didn’t. I cried for the life I would never have with Brandon. I cried at the words he threw my direction that hurt so deeply. I cried for the pain that filled my body and spirit. I cried for the loneliness I felt. I cried because I thought Heavenly Father was punishing me. I cried because I felt like He wasn’t answering my prayers to fix things. I realize now that my prayer of “anything but divorce” was what I was getting but I couldn’t handle the “anything” and there was more of the “anything” headed my way.
Brandon laughed at my tears. He mocked and scorned them. I tried not to cry so much. I tried to hide my pain from everyone but it was always there. Some days I was better at hiding it, other days not so much.
The alcohol made it worse. His words were more painful when he drank; louder and deeper. The more time went on the more he drank not just beer but hard liquor as well. I thought his DUI would be the wakeup call I was praying for. It wasn’t. He sobered up for only a week before he started drinking again.
He would withhold love and affection until he got what he wanted and I would give in every time because I was afraid of his words; the words that would hurt, the words that would wound, the words that would cut.
The childhood rhyme of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” was wrong. His words hurt more than anything I had ever felt before. His words caused pain and bleeding deep inside. I couldn’t stop it and I couldn’t heal from it. There were times when I wished Brandon would just hit me. I thought physical pain would be better than the pain the words brought.
I thought I could deal with the porn and the alcohol problems if he was kinder to me, if he just spoke softer to me and used words that didn’t sting so much. I craved kind words from him. None come.
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Words. They possess power; power to heal, power to hurt. Words are hard to ignore especially when they cut. Too many times the words come out of our mouths with little care of the damage they’ll do. Physical wounds heal but sometime the wounds left by words never do.
Years later I still find myself healing from the words he said. Divorcing him and moving on didn’t stop the pain. It took the Atonement, another word but one that has the power to heal all hurt, stop all pain.