Mark walked into my life when I was a naïve, sheltered 20-year-old. He was exciting. He was daring. And he introduced me to unchartered waters. Abusive people can always identify the vulnerabilities in others that allow them to move in and take control. Mark found my feelings of missing something from life and a need for excitement and moved in for the takeover.
Throughout our yearlong dating relationship and 10-year marriage, he repeatedly took opportunities to undermine me, belittle me, humiliate me and blame me for his behaviors. I found myself constantly trying to find ways not to be on the receiving end of his anger. I made every effort possible to plan every move I made so I could not be accused of any wrongdoing. Mark never physically abused me, but he instilled fear in me to such a degree that he never had to raise a hand. I completely lost myself.
Seven years into our relationship, we brought our daughter into our world. My whole focus in life was on raising her and doing anything possible to be a successful parent. I held a full-time job, took graduate classes at night and was the best mom I could be. I carried this heavy load all while dodging Mark’s efforts to sabotage me.
I was determined to get away. I was determined to not allow him to draw me back in again. I was determined to be free.
During graduate school, I was introduced to the Center for Nonviolence as an intern. Seeing myself in the work that was done at the Center was eye opening. I was able to define what had been happening to me throughout my relationship with Mark. I made the decision to seek help in finally getting out of this relationship. I was determined to get away. I was determined to not allow him to draw me back in again. I was determined to be free.
Today, I’m the CEO of the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence. I have had the privilege to work with some amazing people during my 21 years. I barely recognize the person I was with Mark, but I’ll never forget the journey that led me here.