Richard's response to this post:
"You are sick Kiersten. And you were sick in Chicago. And you're sick from the abuse you suffered as a child not any from me. And the blindness from your parents for their own facade all your life. Being sick does not make you bad. But it sure keeps you blind. And, you've lost the only one with the insight, guts, and the true love enough to tell you. You've surrounded yourself with only enablers. Truth needs NO validation. What happened in Chicago got to anger on both sides. And you helped big time! Just as you did all along knowing each button to push, when calm loving truth showed itself, you RAN again to projection and blame....
With love only,
Original Post on 7/27:
Since publishing my post about having an affair, I have been touched and overwhelmed by the number of messages coming in from women who've lived through similar relationships. I'm so grateful to connect with all of you—knowing I'm not alone is so comforting.
Turns out, several of us followed the same path: repressed memories of childhood abuse started to surface and shortly thereafter, we were diving head first into relationships that tested our very being. It's remarkable to see how we've literally drawn abusive scenarios to us in order to heal from the repercussions of childhood abuse we couldn't face until we were adults.
As I'm processing all of this and moving forward with my life, I keep having flashbacks to specific moments in the relationship that were so confusing to me despite the repetitive nature of our interactions. The pattern was predictable: I would do something he didn't like, I would hear about it from him, we would fight, I would blame myself, and finally, I would block it from my mind and move on. And the cycle would continue.
For example, we were in Chicago for an entire month for a work project, and early on, I did the unthinkable. I left the door unlocked to the dorm room we were calling home. I felt safe and comfortable on our floor alongside other professionals we were working with on the project. I'm pretty attuned to my spidey senses and I truly didn't feel any threat. Anyhow, one night, he went out with one of the other guys on the crew, and I stayed back to relax in the room and watch TV on my laptop.
He came back to find that I had not locked the door. I could feel the tension and judgement immediately even though he wasn't using harsh language or yelling. I wanted to rewind to a couple hours earlier when he was so happy to have me there. Then, he decided to go take a shower and tested me—he told me he was going and apparently the test was me locking the door after he left the room. Of course, at this point, I was still not feeling like it was that big of a deal so I didn't turn the lock. If I had realized it was a test, I would have baracaded the door. All I could think was that he was going to be right back. Surely, he must have meant lock the door when he's not anywhere nearby. The door opened and it became very apparent he was NOT happy. Over the next few minutes, much of what was said was in a condenscending tone. This was becoming pretty common because he is eight years older than me so naturally, I am the idiot.
I started to cry (as usual) and pleaded with him to understand that I didn't feel any threat. It was so innocent; I thought I was safe. Should I have locked the door? Sure. Did I think it would end up with us in a massive fight? No. I never for a second thought I was committing the crime of the century.
Over the next 24 hours, I was an emotional mess. I was first told by him, "You WANT the other men to come in, don't you?" which was then followed by the silent, angry treatment. This stage means no discussion but lots of huffing and puffing, stomping, doors slamming, and just general disdain for me. We went to sleep in different beds. The next morning was worse, much to my surprise. I thought by sleeping on it and calming down, he would see things from my side.
He did not. He left the room in a huff. I couldn't take it anymore—I had to get out of that room, too. I left and took a walk before we were supposed to start working on the project together that morning. I saw his car on the street perpendicular to the one I was on. My heart stopped. He pulled up, parked the car, and walked towards me with so much hate in his eyes. He said, "Kiersten, you're sick." I was devastated. How could he perceive me this way??!?! How could he think that I purposefully left the door unlocked because I wanted other men to come in? That's just not me. It's never been me. I'm a rape survivor, for crying out loud!
I told him I was going to look for flights home. I was a mess. That morning was one of the worst days of my life. I'm sure I looked like I'd not slept yet I had to keep it together to do the job I was there to do. We went to work and sometime during the day he came to me and said he didn't want me to leave. I felt relief but also fear. I was now walking on massive egg shells. I wanted so desperately for it all to just go away. After things calmed down, I literally just blocked it from my mind. Something I didn't realize I knew how to do.
In my old life, this same scenario would have been handled like this, if at all: "Kiers, hey, so I know you probably feel pretty safe in this building, but maybe we should lock the door just in case." I would have responded, "You know, you're right. Better to be safe. I'll do that from now on." End of story.
What I've come to realize about this incident and so many more is that it mimicked the abuse I endured as a kid. While I wasn't sexually abused, I was being emotionally abused and chastised. And what did I do? I did everyting I could to please him and plead with him, admitting it was all my fault for not locking the door. I felt so ashamed and wondered if maybe, subconsciously, I was wanting men to come in like he was saying but I didn't realize it. My physical body was giving me different signals. I was sick to my stomach (upper stomach where your power center/solar plexus resides) with the inner knowing I am not who he was suggesting me to be nor was I looking for attention.
Was it Little Kiersten groundhog day? I sure as hell didn't want to think that. I just wanted to swallow the blame and move on to the happy, Facebook-postable days that I knew would come if I just kept my head down and let him work through his anger. I was the idiot who didn't turn the lock, afterall.
For years, I would hear comments from him about me not using the correct lock, or "I sure as hell hope that when I'm not there, you lock the f*ing door."
Looking back, I should have left Chicago right then and there. I found a flight but I didn't leave because I didn't understand what was happening to me. All I knew was that I loved him and I hurt him, and I wanted to make it all OK.
I continued to take the blame over and over again, just like I did unknowingly as a child. It was so strange to be in a situation like this because the Kiersten I knew wouldn't put up with abuse. Even when the guys at the CNC shop tried to pull one over on me regarding pricing, I would call them out. And when I was on the TV show Shark Tank, I stood up to producers and Sharks when they tried to get me to do things that went against what I knew was right. I truly couldn't understand why I felt compelled to keep trying to please him and to immediately feel ashamed. I'm happy to report the subconscious repetitive patterning stops here.
Let's just say if the pattern was a dorm room, I've shut the door on it, LOCKED it, and burned down the whole damn thing.
I'm extremely honored to know several amazing women who have come through their own battles with being abused and/or the affects of abuse on a loved one. Kari Lanigan is one such friend. She will be guest blogging about her exprience with the cycle of abuse as it relates to her husband and her marriage. Their story is remarkable and inspirational. She did everything she could to help her husband—who endured multiple forms of abuse as a child--end the cycle of abuse and heal. From what I've heard from therapists and others who have gone through similar, it's very rare for most couples to make it through. Kari, it's truly an honor to have you as a guest blogger. Your wisdom and experience will help so many!
Understanding ABUSE Recovery and the Family Dynamic
I wrote this piece (below) and first posted it 9 years ago on Facebook. Back then, I was met with the response, "Sometimes you just have to get over it." I have since learned through my personal quest to heal my family, while researching abuse & family dysfunction, that this is a very common response and also a false notion that you can JUST get over it. Those suffering under the forces of abuse often feel devastated when met with this response from people they look to for support and understanding.
I have also learned (like the Little Red Hen) that often we are left to do our life work without any help from those who will show up to enjoy our harvest. Please know that I never gave up. Even when it truly seemed like I could not influence the forces working against my family, (forces which held my partner captive and tore the fabric of our home life into shreds for 20 plus years), I continued to seek the truth out of love for my family and a desperate need to heal the causes of our collective suffering. I found a mountain of articles and books which accurately describe the complexity of what we were experiencing. And in spite of the total lack of family support, we found the tools to break free from this nightmare together. Still, the collateral damage is enough to make me feel sick inside. The damage is alive and ever expanding in front of us, but we continue to work on ourselves, work on our responses to life, and strengthen the bonds within our family.
This is not an appeal for likes or sympathy. It's also not a stab at anyone. It's just my truth. I am grateful for the chance to say that life is getting better every day and the cycle of abuse here has FINALLY officially ended for my husband, Pete, and I. We only hope that now we can help our children recover some of what they lost while we were all struggling to survive this nightmare.
Healing begins with self examination & often relates to early childhood influences including parenting. We all make mistakes and carry wounds from our childhood which influence our perceptions, attitudes and responses. Often we pass our misguided perceptions and responses on to our children by being models. Regardless of the messages we want them to hear, we SHOW them what to do in life, good and bad. We tend to model what our parents modeled to us; good and bad. Such is the cycle of abuse. It continues until we are willing to examine it carefully and work diligently on reprogramming fear-based behaviors. For those interested, here is a book called Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart that has proven instrumental in helping us identify and address some of the many issues we have endured.
* The piece below was written 9 years ago--long after our struggle began and long before it was finally over. Proud to say hallelujah!! We are free at last!!
December 1, 2009
1. Don’t Cry: When a child is abused by his parents, he learns to close off his emotions to the world, because tears are not effective tools for extracting compassion from the controllers of his fate. He learns to resent the tears of others, just as his own tears were resented by those who abused him. Tears are a tool for extracting further abuse. He doesn’t need that tool.
2. Don’t Speak: When a child sees his siblings abused by his parents, he learns to not speak up for those in pain, because doing so will only bring further hell upon them and upon his self. He fears the cries of others as they render him powerless and remind him that he has no voice. A voice is a tool for extracting further abuse. He doesn’t need that tool.
3. Don’t Protect Yourself: When a child is abused and cannot protect himself from that abuse, he learns to accept it. He doesn’t need to protect himself, because it does no good.
Don’t protect yourself.
4. Don’t Protect Others: When a child’s family members are being abused, he learns to cower. He doesn’t need to protect others from abuse, because protecting his loved ones means he will suffer along with them and they will suffer further pain.
Don’t protect others.
5. Don’t Bond: When a child is abused by his parents’ hatred for one another, he hurts and at the same time learns that spouses are sources of chaos and destruction of happiness. He doesn’t need a partner.
6. Don’t Value Home: When a child’s world is dissected by the violence within his own household, he learns that home is not a safe, warm place. He doesn’t need a home.
Don’t value home.
These are the seeds planted in the eyes of abused children since birth. These are the seeds that have now grown to maturity. I am the reaper. It is a large crop deep with weeds of destruction that have taken over my world… and my children’s world as well. There is no remedy, but to turn the fields, sterilize the soil and plant anew. It’s a job I cannot do alone, as this field of deadly life-sucking weeds stretches as far as the imagination can wander; far into the futures of generations to come.
I am not abused.
So why then,
When I cry, my tears are resented?
When I speak, my voice is hated?
When I protect myself, I am viewed as selfish?
When I protect others, I am viewed as controlling?
When I reach out to bond, I am rejected?
When I long for the warmth of home, I am denied?
If I try to explain these things to my children, I am unfit?
When I lose myself in anger and frustration over this injustice, I am crazy?
There are many children being raised in the far reaching shadows of abuse at this very moment.
There are many adults unable to see from behind the shadows their parents cast over their eyes long ago.
I am their muffled cries.
I am their silenced voice.
I am their impotent protector.
I am their empty home.
I am their broken spirit.
I invite those who planted the seeds to come and turn the fields with me.
I invite those who have suffered to join us in the fields for the planting of new, healthy seeds.
I invite family, friends and neighbors to join in for the harvest of a wholesome crop.
I invite future generations to the feast of a lifetime, free from emotional suffering caused by domestic violence and it's long, long shadow of perpetual family dysfunction.