Why She Left

This post continues my sister’s story that I started in ‘Why She Stayed’.

On December 9, 2006, my little sister’s life was changed forever. That was the night that her estranged husband killed her best friend and tried to kill her. That was the night that she lost the two best friends she had ever had. That night ended her story of abuse, but before talking about how her abuse ended, I need to address the events that led to that night.

As she prepared to complete her Associate’s Degree, my sister started looking at what college to get her Bachelor’s Degree from. That led her to look at a few different colleges that were out of state. Coincidentally, my husband and I had also started to look at the possibly of moving our family to a different state. It just so happened that both my sister and I were considering moving to the same location.

But back to her and her husband’s potential moving plans. They discussed two different possibilities, but ultimately settled on one in the same state that my husband and I decided to move to. Unbeknownst to me at that time, as my sister and her husband talked about moving he did express some trepidation about the move. Ultimately, he said he was excited about the move and wanted to move forward with it. His concern about moving did cause my sister to ask my mother whether she should move with him or whether maybe it would be better if they split up instead of both of them moving. My mother told her that she thought the move would probably help the issues in their relationship. Now, it is important to say that none of her family knew that there was any form of abuse going on at that time.

As I said in my last post, I am not a big fan of playing the what-if game, but I have often wondered what would have happened had she left him before moving instead of moving with him. My believe is that the outcome would have been very similar, except instead of her best friend dying, I believe she would have died. It is something that we can never know, but a part of me will always wonder.

By the time my sister’s school year ended, it had been decided that both my sister and her husband, and my family would be moving to not only the same state, but also the same city. During this same time period my parents also decided it was time to reunite with at least two of their three children by also moving to the same location. Due to some things that have happened between my family and my parents in the last year, I now find myself thinking that my parents choosing to leave the state that they loved to be closer to their children might also have contributed to why my sister felt she should stay with her husband. There does appears to be an inter-connectedness in my family that borders on codependence. That is not to say that I wasn’t happy about having most of my family in the same location for the first in over a decade, it’s just that when that move is thrown at you during an argument, you begin to realize that maybe something is not right in the relationship.

Back to my sister and her husband, and also how it came to be that her best friend also moved with them. The week before they were ready to move, my sister’s best friend called her from the state she was living in to say that her boyfriend had kicked her out due to a very misguided suicide attempt, and she didn’t know where to go. My sister proceeded to get her best friend on a flight back to the town they had grown up in, and convinced her to move with them and start fresh. Her husband had already applied for two different jobs, and was set to interview for both them within a week of them getting here. They had also signed a lease on an apartment close to her school.

They got to town in early July of 2006, and things seemed to be okay for the first month. The first couple of weeks they were able to explore their new city, and even went on a longer trip to one of the local tourist destinations before she started school and he started his new job.

Due to both his job starting and his desire to have their apartment to themselves, my sister’s best friend moved in with us instead of continuing to live with them. That decision ended up being the beginning of the end of their relationship. With the apartment to themselves they started to fight more than ever. There were many things that they fought about, but the biggest thing seemed to be her desire to not only continue her schooling, but also her lack of desire to start a family with him. He also stopped doing things with her that she wanted to do and would get sulky if she decided to do them anyway. For awhile that meant that she compromised, and did the things he wanted to do instead. All of these things and multiple others led her to decide that a separation was necessary.

It was the day that she told him she was moving out that gave the rest of us a clue that there was abuse in the relationship. That day in his rage he threw her computer at her damaging it, but luckily not severely hurting her. He ended up being arrested which gave her the ability to get her stuff together and move in with my parents. This all happened in early October.

She continued to live with my parents as she tried to figure out what she was going to do next. I know that most people would probably think that obviously she needed to divorce him, but unfortunately it is never that simple. Although she was still leaning towards divorce, he apologized and tried to convince her that it wouldn’t happen again. He was also getting counseling, court ordered counseling, but counseling still. You also have to understand that she did feel some guilt because she had moved him away from his family and the town that he had grown up, therefore taking away his support system.

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Why She Stayed

I have touched on this story before, but I feel the need to tell the whole story in response to the hashtags WhyIStayed and WhyILeft. This is not my story, but it has affected me and everyone I love greatly. This is the story of the worst day in my or anyone in my family’s lives.

On December 9, 2006, my little sister’s life was changed forever. That was the night that her estranged husband killed her best friend and tried to kill her. That was the night that she lost the two best friends she had ever had. That night ended her story of abuse, but before talking about how her abuse ended, I need to address how it began.

My sister and her ex-husband met in high school. He was a kid from a very broken home and my sister wanted to help keep him from going down the same path that his older brothers went down. It seemed like she was able to do just that for him, but looking back now there were definite signs that things were not right. There was the time during a fight that he got a knife and threatened to kill himself. Or the time early on in their relationship that he said my sister would be his last girlfriend. It’s important to not here that she was only his second girlfriend, and he was her first boyfriend. There was also what he said to me on their wedding day that without my sister he would not have been able to escape the same fate as his brothers. That statement alone might have been the most significant sign that things were not right since the fate his brothers had experienced was repeated jail time, as far as I know never for abuse, but still for ignoring the law when it didn’t fit in to their plans.

They were just out of high school when they got married, and believed that the future was full of promise. They moved in to an apartment on the grounds of the community college that my sister was attending. Everything seemed to be going well for the next few years. They both worked and went to school, and they would often hang out with friends in the evenings or on weekends. On the outside, everything looked good, but in hindsight there were subtle signs that things were not right. The last year or so of their relationship whenever I would hang out with my sister she seemed to be almost breathing a sigh of relief. normally that would happen when her husband was out of town, and I equated it to being able to have her own timetable while he was gone, which seemed to mean that she was more rested. I don’t play the what-if game very much, but I wish that at that time I had tried to talk to her about her relationship. I don’t believe that it would have done much good as my sister has always been a fairly private person, but maybe I could have told her that certain parts of her relationship were not healthy.

It wasn’t until after her attack that her family learned the truth about the abuse in her relationship. I still don’t know how extreme it was, but I do know that there was verbal and emotional abuse going on. I also know that he had started to control some of the parts of her life, like what she wore. To me, the most significant thing I learned after her attack was about how they would fight. After her attack, we learned that it was normal when they were fighting for things to be thrown across the room, both at the other person and just across the room. We also learned that my brother had experienced that on a semi-normal basis in his relationship. To this day, I have a hard time figuring out why the two of them considered that to be normal and I didn’t. It was something that we occasionally saw growing up, but it wasn’t a common occurrence. My parents fights were often loud and regularly were filled with histrionics, but they were not truly abusive, unhealthy yes, but not something that would have raised red flags.

I believe all of these things contributed to why she stayed. She stayed because she didn’t realize that it was not only an unhealthy relationship, but also an abusive one. She also stayed because she loved him, and a part of her believed that if she left him, he might actually kill himself. She also stayed because she wanted to do what was best for both of them, and she was not sure what that was.

I will continue my sister’s story in my next post when I address why she left and the aftermath of that decision.