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This week marks the two year anniversary of my escape from someone I consider to be extremely dangerous. Why is this person so dangerous? Because he is charming. He goes to church. He uses flattery. He does “nice” things for people. And he uses guilt, manipulation, and emotional blackmail to get people to do what he wants.

When people think of abuse, they tend to think of someone who hits his wife or girlfriend. But mental and emotional abuse can be so much worse. Because the victim usually has no proof and may not even realize it themselves for a long time. There are no bruises. There are no scars. (At least not visible ones.) They are slowly pulled into the relationship until they can see no way out. It is her word against his and these types of men are often respected leaders in the community. The same charm that they use to draw in the women they abuse is used on their neighbors, their boss, their pastor, their rabbi, etc. So when the woman comes forward with the truth, the reaction is usually that she is lying. That she is trying to get out of trouble for something. That she is jealous of him. There are many things that people tell themselves so that they don’t have to deal with the fact that they too have been duped by this man (or woman).

In my case, I had made some very wrong decisions concerning my relationship with him. I take full responsibility for those decisions because they were my responsibility, no matter how I felt. However, he too had responsibility. He had the responsibility to respect me when I said “no”, no matter what my body language or anything else told him. He had the responsibility to not use guilt in order to keep me in a emotionally unhealthy relationship. He had the responsibility to own up to the full extent of what he had done when I finally told someone the truth.

If  someone makes you feel like a bad friend/spouse/daughter/son/etc., you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone makes you feel like you are crazy and that you can’t trust your own perception/judgment, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone won’t listen when you say no, whether sexually or not, you may be in an abusive relationship.

If someone seems like they are trying to control you (they have to know where you are at all times, they flip out if you ask to go one day without talking to them, etc.), you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If you feel like you need to change your behavior or otherwise be perfect or else that person will get upset with you and withdraw, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone has different standards for what they can do and what you are “allowed” to do, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone criticizes or teases you about your looks, your work, or anything that they know you are insecure about, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If there are aspects of your relationship that you are uncomfortable with and have asked them to change and they say they will but make no obvious attempts to change (or change for a short time and then slowly reel you back into it), you may be in an abusive relationship.

If someone tells you that you are an idiot any time you disagree with him, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

You don’t have to be someone’s spouse or girl/boyfriend for this to apply. This man was supposed to be my friend, my father figure, my spiritual leader. In the process, he drew me away from my other friends, he did nothing to help my relationship with my real father and only encouraged my bad perceptions of him, and he used his spirituality as a way to guilt me when I did things he didn’t like. Or to convince me that our inappropriate relationship was fine and that I was being too legalistic.

If you find yourself nodding along to this list, you need to speak up to someone that you trust. You need to do everything in your power to escape the person you are thinking of. They will not change unless they are given a serious reason to and even then, they may not. I cannot promise that the people you tell will believe you at first. Some people may never believe you and that is their choice. Your choice is to stop letting this person have any part in your life. It will be hard. You may lose a lot. But I promise you, it will be worth it.

Two years later, I am happy. I am more confidant. I have a husband who loves me and doesn’t make me feel like a horrible human being or an idiot when I disagree with him. I don’t feel like I *have* to talk to someone every single day or they will be upset with me. I don’t worry about someone destroying me if I “make them too mad”. I made him mad and you know what? I was not destroyed. What would have destroyed me is staying in that relationship. Abusers only have the power that we (and others) give them. Do not allow someone who fits the descriptions above to have any power in your life anymore.

Let me say this again: I promise you it will be worth it. Maybe not today. Maybe not a month from now. But one day you will look back and say with pride “I made it stop.”

You Are Not Crazy

Signs of Mental Abuse in a Relationship

Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationship

Spotting Signs of Emotional Abuse

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Tomorrow is my husband’s 30th birthday. In honor of that, I have compiled a list of 30 reasons why I love him. The list goes far beyond 30 but I doubt he’ll live to 10 million.

30 Reasons Why I Love You

1.      Whenever you get up before me in the mornings, you push your pillow up against my back because you know I don’t sleep well without something to cuddle with.

2.      You’re so unbelievably smart about computers and math and all of those left-brained things.

3.      You make me feel beautiful every single day.

4.      You laugh easily and loudly and truly enjoy life.

5.      You don’t let things ruffle your feathers and whenever shit happens, you deal instead of having a meltdown.

6.      You always tell me the truth, even when it hurts.

7.      You have beautiful eyes.

8.      You dance with me in parking lots and catch me when I trip because I’m wearing flip flops.

9.      You hold me when I need you to.

10.  You clean and go through closets and organize because I ask you to.

11.  You don’t get mad when I move things and you can’t find them.

12.  You dream with me.

13.  You always kiss me goodnight.

14.  You don’t expect me to pack your lunches but you’re always appreciative when I do.

15.  You are good at compromising.

16.  You worked your way through JustFaith even though reading isn’t your thing.

17.  You love the Colts and very vocally watch them play.

18.  You make me laugh.

19.  You care about the people in your life and make time for them.

20.  You’re good at what you do and, even though you’re confident about it, you don’t let it go to your head.

21.  You care about what happens to people in other countries and those who have less than we do.

22.  You do things for the right reason because you believe they are the right thing to do.

23.  You honestly don’t give a damn about being popular or cool or any of the high school antics that people should outgrow. In fact, you didn’t care even when you were in high school.

24.  You aren’t concerned about keeping up with the Joneses.

25.  You show me that you love me even in the smallest of ways.

26.  You have strong convictions.

27.  You are willing to grow and change.

28.  You deal with all of my neuroses and OCD quirks and the millions of things I do that would drive most people crazy.

29.  You think for yourself.

30.  You chose me to be your wife. 🙂

Happy birthday, beloved. I am so lucky to be married to you. I love you!

Ran across this song on a friend’s blog and since it pretty much describes how I feel about my husband, I thought I’d share it here. (Commence the gagging!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7M7cJ4DydQ

I love you, Shane!

Him: So do you want me to pull your hair and call you names?

Her: No. I’m your wife, not your bitch.

Him: I know. I’m your bitch.

And don’t you forget it. 😉

Last night, Shane and I went to the Pink Tie Ball which is a fundraiser to support breast cancer awareness and research. We had gone last year and had a great time so we wanted to go again. At one point I had thought to myself that it would be cool if Shane proposed at the ball. But because of how we got my ring, I thought it wouldn’t be until March or April. So I was completely shocked.

I told Shane that he could propose after we took our vacation to LA last November. I wanted to make sure that we traveled well together and that he didn’t stress out easily and lose his mind over little things. (That, apparently, is my job. :-P) But we traveled just fine together so I told him that I was comfortable with us getting married. This began his four month search to find a ring for me.

We had gone to a number of jewelry stores, just looking to see what was out there, and I was so not impressed. I found the rings to be ugly (looking more like a class ring than an engagement ring) or they just didn’t wow me. I wanted a ring that I would love, since I have to wear it for the rest of my life. I ended up finding two rings online that looked like flowers that I thought were really cool and told Shane that if he could get one of those or something similar, that was what I wanted.

He tried to get both rings and neither were available. He searched for about 40 hours trying to find someone that had something similar with no luck. So he decided that he was going to have to get my ring custom made. This began a whole process of finding someone who would do custom work, finding a diamond that both he and I liked, finding someone who would set the diamond, etc.  Four months, six jewelers, and four labs later, he finally had the ring.

He got the ring on Friday, after cracking the whip on these people to get them to beat their usual 8-10 week time frame. After the design had been finalized, he got them to get the ring done in 2 weeks instead of 2 months. I knew he was getting the ring custom made and had some say in the design. But I thought we were stuck with the 2 month time frame, so I was completely shocked when he had the ring at the ball.

We got to the ball and walked around looking at the items they were auctioning off to raise research support. Then we wandered off to look around the Scottish Rite Cathedral. It is a beautiful place with multiple ballrooms so we snuck off to a dark empty one. Shane started dancing with me (which is what we had done last year in the same empty ballroom) but what I didn’t know what that he was working on getting the ring out of his pocket so he could propose.

Earlier that night, I had taken the ring that he gave me for Christmas in 2008 and put it on my left ring finger as a joke. He started laughing and asked if I was going to be his fake fiancee for the night. So when we stopped dancing, he said “Will you stop being my fake fiancee?” I thought he just wanted me to move the ring to my other hand so I was like “Oookay”. Then he said “Will you be my real fiancee?” At first I thought he was just joking around but then in the faint light I saw a flash of metal and realized he was holding a ring. I was all “Is that really it? Is it done?” He grinned and said “Will you marry me?” I started to cry a little and hugged him and kissed him. Then I realized I hadn’t actually given him an answer so I said “yes”. Then we walked out into the light so I could actually see my ring that he worked so hard on.

The diamond is a lab grown blue diamond. Shane and I both feel very strongly about not supporting blood diamonds and since 90% of the diamond industry is owned by one company, we didn’t want to give them money even for a conflict-free diamond. I also love the fact that the diamond is blue which would have been next to impossible had it been a mined diamond.

So that is the story in a nutshell. I had absolutely no idea that he had the ring and was going to propose last night and since I am very hard to surprise, he did a very good job. 🙂 We couldn’t be happier and our families support us completely. Both of our moms said that we seemed “perfect for each other”. 🙂

Wedding date is yet to be determined. We have my school schedule to take into consideration, which of course throws a huge kink in things. But we’ll work it out. 🙂

Yes, I realize that we are more than halfway through January and I am just now getting around to writing this. I’m busy, people! The time I spend on the internet is much, much, much less than it used to be (but we’ll get to that later).

2009 was quite a year for a myriad of reasons. I made many mistakes and it has made me grateful for 1 John 1:9. But I hope that I learned from those mistakes and was able to grow from them. Time will tell.

In 2009, I continued with my education at IUPUI. During the Fall semester, I took a full load for the first time since Spring ’08. I came through with 2 A-minuses, a B-plus, and a C. (The C was in Sociology which was one of the most boring classes I’ve ever taken. Hard to learn when you’re counting the holes in the ceiling.) This is better than I did the last time I had a full course load and without a “tutor” so I was quite proud of myself.

Shane took me to my first ball. This was for breast cancer awareness. Hence all the PINK!

I completed my year as treasurer for The Moving Company.

My parents got divorced and my mom and sister moved to Arizona. While this was tough on all of us, I do think that it was in the best interest of everyone’s happiness. Joshua, Shane, and I just got back from visiting in AZ and we had a wonderful time.

I made many mistakes in my dating life and have many regrets. People were hurt who shouldn’t have been and for that I will forever be sorry. That situation taught me a lot about needing to speak my heart, even if it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings, and not letting anyone but myself and my significant other have control of the relationship. Ladies, if you have met someone who likes you but there is just no chemistry for you, you need to flat out tell them. They’ll probably be hurt, they might get angry, they might not want to be your friend anymore. But that is better then letting them think there may be a chance when you know there isn’t because you want to spare their feelings. Do not lie to them or yourself.

I freed myself from 4 years of being caught in a spider’s web of manipulation, guilt, emotional blackmail, and lying. I now consider April 18th to be my own personal Independence Day. That is when I finally told someone the truth about what had been happening and made it end. I never thought that the words “You are dead to me” could bring me such joy. Since then, I have learned that I am not crazy or over-dramatic when I stand up for something. I know that I am not a bad friend because I don’t call or otherwise contact someone every day. I know that I don’t need to feel guilty when I need time to myself. I know that if my school work, spiritual life, circle of friends, and church all revolve around one person, there is something seriously wrong. I know that someone who truly loves you will do what is in your best interest. I know that no one “has to” know where I am every second of the day and that if somebody wants to, they are probably trying to control me. I realize that all of this may seem like “duh” to you. But when you are slowly pulled into a relationship like this, you don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. This entire situation has given me so much compassion for people. As Shane Fuller always says, “You are one person, one choice, one event away from making the same mistake you vow you never will.”

As for the spider, they are out of my life for good. I am working on forgiving them, not for their sake, but for mine. Right now I swing back and forth between wishing them well and hoping they rot in hell. But through the strength of my Father, I will forgive them and I will one day be able to love them. From a distance. Toxic people have no place in my life anymore.

Author’s note: Please understand that I am not blaming this person for my actions and responsibility to make it stop. I should have ended it when it first began. I had decisions and choices and I made bad ones for a long time. That person did inhibit my ability to make good choices by lying to me about certain things and making me feel guilty when I did try to take a stand or make changes. In trying to keep the peace, and in fear of losing my friends and church, I allowed bad things to happen for far too long. But I also made them end and for that, I will forever rejoice.

On a lighter note, this year I finally learned how to cook. Shane has been a huge help in this endeavor. We bought a magazine that gives recipes that make enough for two people and this took a lot of the stress out of cooking. Math is not, and never will be, my strong point and having to figure out how to halve 2/3 of a teaspoon makes my brain want to explode. I have made a number of meals and have been expanding to recipes outside our magazine lately. I am actually enjoying cooking!

Don’t I totally look like I know what I’m doing? 😉

After a brief (yet all too long) absence from The Dwelling Place, Shane and I were able to return in October. It has been a spectacle having to juggle going to two different churches but we are so grateful for both of them that we don’t want to leave either. Both helped us walk through a difficult time in different ways and both are dear to our hearts.

Shane and I joined a small group at Trinity called JustFaith. It is a group specifically brought together to go through the JustFaith curriculum which focuses on social justice. It has been extremely eye opening and I highly recommend the curriculum. It does entail a lot of reading though, so if you are a slow reader, you may want to read the books on your own. We get assigned about 100 pages of reading a week and it’s tough on the slower readers in the group.

I turned 25 and wasn’t dreading my birthday for once. Shane completely spoiled me, as did the rest of my friends, and made that whole quarter of a century transition so much easier. 😉

Shane and I took our first vacation together to Los Angeles. We didn’t kill each other so I suppose that’s saying something.

I took Shane to his first ballet and he didn’t hate it.

I took him to his second ballet and he didn’t hate that one either. So far so good!

Shane and I hosted my family’s Christmas dinner. That was my first time being in charge of a family holiday gathering and while it was a little stressful, it was also a lot of fun. I may not have Martha Stewart quaking in her orange jumpsuit but I’m working on it.

Most importantly, I fell in love with the most amazing man I have ever known.

These are just some of the highlights of the year. Some good, some bad, all working to shape me into who I am supposed to be. As Douglas Adams said, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I was meant to be.” 2010 looks to be a promising year. May it be covered in God’s blessing and redemption. May we all strive to go where we are meant to be and to become the children that God created us to be.

Shane: *picks up set of wooden spoons*

Me: Don’t even think about it.

Shane: Come on, I need a wooden spoon.

Me: Do you promise to never hit me with that?

Shane: I can make no such promise.

Me: You do realize that anyone who overheard that now thinks we have an abusive relationship.

Or a kinky one. 😉

Listening: ‘Winners and Losers’ by Social Distortion (Thanks to author Bob Ford for directing me to this band!)

Reading: “In March 2007, Chiquita Brands plead guilty to doing business with a terrorist organization…” (People make me sick, I swear.)

Enjoying: The Daily Dish: Best Typo Ever

Thinking: I’m just…happy. 🙂

How to Annoy Me: People have been acting more and more insane behind the wheel of a car. I can’t decide if I’m annoyed or just plain scared.

How to Charm Me: Be the man I never knew I wanted. 🙂

Quote of the Day: I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. – Douglas Adams (I also think that this is going to be my life quote!)

1. Do you often feel used by the person? (Yes)

2. Have you often felt that he or she doesn’t care about you? (At times)

3. Does he or she lie and deceive you? (Yes)

4. Does he or she tend to make contradictory statements? (Yes)

5. Does he or she tend to take from you and not give much back? (This person gave but usually it benefited them as well)

6. Does he or she often appeal to pity? Does he or she try to make you feel sorry for him or her? (Yes)

7. Does he or she try to make you feel guilty? (Anytime I wasn’t doing what this person wanted me to do)

8. Do you sometimes feel he or she is taking advantage of your good nature? (Yes)

9. Does he or she seem easily bored or need constant stimulation? (Always had to be doing what they wanted to do. Everyone else was boring and mindless.)

10. Does he or she use a lot of flattery? Does he interact with you in a way that makes you feel flattered even if he says nothing overtly complimentary? (Oh yeah)

11. Does he or she make you feel worried? (Worried about my mental health, worried that I’m being a bad person or bad friend, worried that I’m going to hurt them, etc.)

12. Does he or she give you the impression you owe him or her? (All the time!)

13. Does he or she chronically fail to take responsibility for harming others? Does he or she blame everyone and everything but themselves? (Quite often, yes)

How to deal with common everyday sociopaths

If someone in your life has you answering yes to a lot of those questions, run like hell! You cannot help this person by sticking around. You will only hurt yourself and quite possibly other people. And if you see someone else getting snared in their trap, warn that person. It doesn’t mean they’ll listen but at least you will have done your part.

Dear Mikayla,

I know this is technically the day before your birthday. But when I got up this morning, I saw a picture of us and I started crying. Because this is the first birthday that I can’t be at. No matter how badly I want to be. So I decided to write this to you.

I remember the first time I saw you and how I thought you were the prettiest of all the babies there. I remember the first time I held you and you were staring up at me all “Who the hell are you?” But you didn’t cry. I remember getting up the next morning after only 3 hours of sleep and getting you ready for the day and taking you downstairs to eat breakfast. I was trying to juggle you and a plate of whatever that mush was called that you liked. A Chinese man saw me struggling and came over and grabbed the plate for me. I tried to say thank you in Chinese and got laughed at. I remember how much you HATED the high chair. And the stroller. And the car seat. You screamed and screamed but eventually you decided “This ain’t so bad.”

I remember going to the American Consulate and having to carry you, the diaper bag, and the stroller up the stairs because Mom had forgotten our passports and had to go meet Grandpa to get them. I remember holding you in the airport on our way home, standing in line with you sleeping on me. And even though my back was killing me, I refused to let anyone else take you. Because you were my little sister and I didn’t want to let you go.

I remember when you started to walk and we put the squeaky shoes on you. We thought it was the funniest thing. I was in Target a year or so ago and I heard a familiar squeaking sound in the next aisle over. Sure enough, it was a little Asian girl in squeaky shoes. It made me sad that you weren’t little enough to wear those anymore.

I remember how you used to go get a bag of lettuce out of the fridge and sit on the kitchen floor eating it. Nothing else, just the lettuce. I remember how disinterested you were in the chocolate cake for your first birthday. I remember how it was IMPOSSIBLE to bribe you like normal kids. Most kids would eat those last 3 green beans for the promise of ice cream but not you, no sir! You certainly managed to pick up on the trait of David stubbornness.

I remember when I came home from Liberty for Thanksgiving break, you were so happy to see me. And then when I had to leave again, you refused to tell me goodbye. I looked at Mom and said “Think she’ll ever forgive me?” From then on, it was always “Where are you going? How many days?”

I remember watching you and Emma run around at the rehearsals for the N.H.E. plays and looking forward to when the two of you would be on the stage. I remember seeing you wave at me when I was onstage during VBS and being unable to resist waving right back.

I remember having to trick you into going trick or treating. I remember dressing up and getting Matt, our neighbor, to play along so we could show you that it wasn’t scary. But your stubbornness prevailed even in the light of lots and lots of free candy. And then I finally managed to trick you into going two years ago and you had fun. You barely wore a costume but you had fun. You refused to let go of my hand, but you had fun. And then last year, you barely wore a real costume again but you let go of my hand and ran up to doors with the other kids. I was so proud of you.

I remember when you let me put your hair into pigtails like Boo from ‘Monster’s Inc.’ I remember how I finally gave up on doing your hair because you would just rip it out 5 minutes after we got to church. I remember holding you in the van on the way to Grandma and Grandpa’s. I remember reading a book to you on your bed when I got home from Liberty for good. I remember the first time you read to me. I remember the first time you came to see me dance. I remember the first time I got to watch you dance. I remember the day you and Mommy left and I was struggling not to cry so I could be brave for you. I remember thinking how much I was going to miss you.

I know that these won’t be the only memories we have. They will just be fewer and further between. I love you with all my heart and you are the best little sister I could ask for. I miss you but I hope that you have a wonderful birthday.And even though we are thousands of miles apart, I promise I will always be here for you.

Happy birthday, baby.

Love always,

Lala

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