On Friday, while I worked in the library with Sharon, I told her I was sad and didn’t know what was going on.
My old Lit teacher Wesley came up to the desk and we chatted. Remember the crush I had on him? He looked a bit scuzzy now: unshaven, long hair.
He asked what I’d be doing after graduation, and I said I’d be getting married. (What a pity: He was now divorced and no longer my teacher. And the student he once dated, just told him she was married now. If I saw him a day or two later, who knows what would have happened?)
I saw Dirk standing by the copy machine, and felt uneasy. After a few minutes, Wesley went on his way.
Dirk, still by the copy machine, and silent till now, talked to me near the end of my shift, and said Phil was upset. I had no idea what he could be upset about, when he hadn’t waited around long enough for my answer, and it was good news. Dirk just said he knew what was wrong and we needed to sit down and work this out between ourselves. (So why bring it up, then? And why was I the last to know?)
He also told me Phil was pledging Zetas again. Phil knew I had problems with the Zetas, especially now that the cool ones had graduated. He gave me every reason to believe he wanted nothing to do with pledging after how they treated him as a pledge the previous year.
I said, “What? He knows how I feel about that!”
Dirk said, “He’s got to live his own life.” But wasn’t it our life together as man and wife? As if the opinion of his own wife didn’t even matter! How insulting! And how devastating.
I felt like crying, though I did not know what was going on, and had to choke back tears as Sharon and I walked back to the apartment.
Someone soon knocked at the inside door (I don’t know how he got in the building without calling me). Sharon went to answer it, then came back in our bedroom, saying, “Uh-oh, Nyssa, uh-oh!” She left us alone as Phil walked in.
He told me there were too many problems and he was breaking up with me. I couldn’t believe it. I was also upset because I had been faithful to the vows we made even when I wanted to break them, yet he just went ahead and broke them.
Now I finally learned that he petulantly thought no one wanted him to sit down when they offered him the little cushioned crate.
I don’t know what he expected to sit on, when there was nowhere else to sit. I did not see the milk crate as offensive, nor did I see sitting on the floor as offensive when all other chairs were already taken. It’s just part of college life; I sat on lots of floors.
I feel he overreacted big-time and took it out on me. I guess what was good enough for the rest of us to sit on, was not good enough for his majesty. (A quick Net search shows that cushioned milk crates are often used as extra seats.)
Yet he thought I should’ve stood up for him when my friends treated him “so bad.” But this was impossible because I didn’t even know anything was wrong. I’m not a mindreader, and I saw nothing at all amiss in the way my friends treated him.
He also said it looked like we were just watching some 90210-like “teeny-bopper” show, and he didn’t want to wait for such a show to get over with.
But this show was critically acclaimed, ahead of its time, and inspired the first-ever online fan campaign to get it renewed when it was prematurely cancelled.
Phil’s remarks insulted both my taste and my intelligence, and all my friends’ as well.
This tells me that because he didn’t consider the show worth his time, I wasn’t supposed to like it, either, or be excited about watching it, or do anything but jump to his command.
If he says now it’s time to talk, even though I have previously made plans and he made absolutely no effort to contact me about when he would stop by–oh, I’m just supposed to jump and do whatever he says right then because he said so.
I never had a chance to tell him I had chosen him over the other guy. Instead, without a word he had vanished to a party with Dave, where he told drunken party boys about our problems and lusted after some girls. He even wanted to get drunk and lose his inhibitions so he’d sleep with one of them.
Fortunately, he didn’t listen to the advice of drunken party boys, but tempered it with the advice of a married friend to give me another chance.
He said the drunken party boys told him, “Oh, just dump her.” He didn’t want to listen to them because they were selfish and drunk–
–but what was he doing, telling guys like that about our problems? These boys–
–who didn’t know me and only knew the slanted story of somebody who gaslit and abused me, and told lies about me to his friends–
–called me “possessive.” I wasn’t possessive at all. (Sharon, on the other hand, called him possessive.)
He said he’d been talking to a friend of his, a married man whom he often went to about relationships, and asked how he could break up with me when we were married.
This guy said it wasn’t long enough to be a common-law marriage. I think he said it had to be at least six months in Wisconsin. He also said he thought Nazarenes recognized it, but the Catholic church didn’t. (I had never heard of the Nazarene church accepting or not accepting common-law marriages.)
Phil conveniently forgot that this never bothered him before. He hadn’t cared who thought it was a “real” marriage so long as it was one in God’s eyes. We already knew that the church and the law would not call it a marriage, but as far as we were concerned, it was one.
At least, that’s what Phil always told me whenever I started to doubt. He was the one who kept having to convince me.
Also, we knew Wisconsin didn’t recognize common-law marriages in the first place, so what difference did it make how long we’d been together?
In a research frenzy, I later checked Pearl’s dictionary: It described two different types of common-law marriages, one based on length of time and the other based only on agreement. For the second, all you needed for a common-law marriage was an agreement to live as man and wife.
Phil’s confidant also asked if he loved me, and he did not hesitate before saying yes. Though after reading about abusers and narcissists, I now doubt that he ever loved me at all. You don’t sexually assault and emotionally abuse someone you love.
He complained about “us eating just because you’re hungry.” Say what? Was I not even allowed to say I was hungry and wanted lunch, not even in the middle of the afternoon, if he wasn’t yet hungry?
He said “I’m not your taxicab”–just because I was scared to death of driving and had no car anyway, so I asked him to take me places?
He complained about me telling him when to wake up and, supposedly, making his self-esteem drop.
–begging him to wake up in time to take a shower and have a decent breakfast, instead of sleeping until 2pm and not showering at all for weeks at a time, and begging him to wake up on the last possible day he could get his brakes fixed so we wouldn’t get killed on the way back to Wisconsin–
What a load of crap. I can’t believe I tried so hard to get this loser back.
All summer, whenever I doubted the validity of our marriage because it wasn’t legally recognized in Indiana or Wisconsin, he insisted on the validity and told me not to worry about it.
But now, he said our marriage wasn’t real. He could probably get away with that in his church because our marriage was never blessed by a priest (i.e., not valid in the Catholic church), but what about in front of God?
So, according to him, it takes two people to end a marriage if one is abusive, but only one to end it if the other person is not subservient enough.
And, apparently, Phil decides when a secret marriage is real and valid–which is when he wants it to be.
Well, I considered it real and valid, and this was not a breakup, not the end of an engagement, but a divorce.
All the anxieties of a divorced, conservative Christian woman came into play: Will I be an adulteress if I marry somebody else? Must I be reconciled to him or else never marry again? Will I be free to marry again because he deserted me–the Pauline privilege? Will he be an adulterer if he marries again?
I had spent all summer trying to be a good wife: supporting him when he had job trouble, vacuuming and dusting our rooms for him, washing and bleaching the skid marks out of his underwear, praying for his safety. And this was my repayment?
If there were any other reasons given at this time, I don’t remember what they were.
Basically, he blamed it on me. Yeah, right. I believe he just broke up with me because I wasn’t willing to give in to his constant emotional, physical and sexual abuse. (The physical abuse was, basically, the sexual abuse; they were intertwined in this case.)
By not letting him control me or make me the “victim,” I was doing so many “bad” things that I had to become obedient and change for him to come back to me.
If I were such a bad person, then why did I not act badly with my next three boyfriends? And why did I never cry with anyone as often as I cried with him?
Yet I hear that Phil, on the other hand, carried on to his next two relationships at least some of the things he did to me. He acted the same, he yelled, he manipulated, he controlled, he acted petulant when he didn’t get his own way, and he even slapped his next girlfriend Persephone (only once because she slapped him back).
Cindy later told me that she heard him yell at me in the Krueger lounge, so she didn’t like him. Then she heard him do the same thing with the girl he eventually married (and later divorced). My friends saw him be mean to her, and want his way, only his way, and that’s it.
Mike later wrote to me that abusers commonly blame their girlfriends or wives for their behavior. They’ll abuse and abuse and sometimes even go so far as killing them, yet still say their wives deserved it, that they did so many things wrong that it was their fault.
Phil fit the trait “unceremoniously discarding,” here: What is Abuse (“Overt Abuse”). For years, I wondered why an abuser would leave his victim, and thought that it must have been because I resisted. Of course, Dr. Phil might still say I allowed the abuse by continuing to stay with him. But now I see that abusers do discard, so maybe I don’t need to figure out a reason.
I could admit to doing some things I shouldn’t have, but he took no responsibility for his own wrongdoing. During the talk, I didn’t think of the things he did, of saying that he was no saint, but they began to come to me later on.
For some reason, the song “Insanity” by Boingo kept running through my head.
Like an idiot, I thought I’d be better off with him than without him (apparently forgetting all the emotional abuse of the summer), and begged him not to divorce me. I said, “But things were getting better!”
He said he had given me so many chances to change, and that I hadn’t done so, but if I changed within a month, we could get back together.
(ME? I had to change? I was not the abuser!)
He said we might change after seeing other people. I asked him for a parting kiss, but all he gave me was a peck on the lips. He said just before he left, “Keep the faith.” (What the heck did that even mean?)
After he left, I broke down and cried.
I told my parents, though I had to call them collect through the new 1-800-CALL-ATT because my phone card number stopped working for some reason. My mom could tell I was upset just from the way I said hello to her.
She had hoped I wouldn’t have to go through this again. I think she told me to eat something. She did tell me to go to that night’s dance with my friends, that it would be good for me, take my mind off things.
For at least a few days, I made a lot of collect calls, until my dad got a new number for me. I believe he switched long-distance carriers to Sprint, which was why the number didn’t work. The new number was very easy to remember, mostly made up of our home phone number.
I didn’t want to do a thing without my parents’ advice, for fear I’d mess things up if I did. I remembered how I messed things up with Peter when I acted on impulse.
Possibly at dinner, I met Persephone for the first time. She was a dark-haired girl with short hair, a freshman, Trina’s roommate.
Some of the other freshman girls had told her they came to Roanoke to get married. She laughed about it with us, having already discovered that Roanoke guys had a bad reputation.
She said, “That’s it, I’m not sleeping with any Roanoke guys!” This secretly made me glad, because then she wouldn’t be sleeping with Phil.
Either before or after I met her, Phil told me he was interested in a girl named Persephone. I soon found out this was the same one.
I went to the Friday dance, after all, even though Phil and I were supposed to go together and now we wouldn’t. This was supposed to be my chance to see him dance.
Well, I did see him dance, though it was across the room. It was hard for some time afterwards to hear the songs “Funkytown” (Pseudo Echo’s version) and “Delirious” (Prince) and remember his foot-stamping. He was a weirdo jumping-bean on the dance floor. Though I didn’t notice, he later said my friends kept giving him dirty looks.
Once, he danced over to me, and I said he did dance weird.
It felt good to dance and escape and work out some of my grief, though I couldn’t stay there long. I may have left alone, or with my friends.
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)
Table of Contents
December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?
April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign
October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:
Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams
June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:
July & August 1994: