Mad about you

My young neighbors were having an argument on their back porch yesterday afternoon.  I was sitting on my porch, enjoying the afternoon when I began to be aware of the angry voice.  The angry voice was the husband’s; the wife was speaking softly but intensely.  He was dominating the argument, as he dominates all conversation with everyone, telling her that she was “fucking wrong and stupid,” and that none of this was his fault.  Finally I heard the intentional slamming of the back door as first she walked out on the argument, and again when he followed her, still continuing his harrangue.  

Anger.  It makes me anxious.

My ex-husband was an angry person, but it wasn’t until after we were married that the full effect of his anger manifested.  Hideous, angry tirades that would go on for hours would occur when he drank too much.  Shoving and grabbing happened less often, but was forceful enough to leave bruises.   I hated the yelling and the emotional attacks the most. 

The effect of domestic arguments on women’s health has been well-documented.  Levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are released in higher concentrations of women than in men during marital arguments, one of many factors in metabolic syndrome.  Marital discord also results in poor outcomes in women with coronary heart disease.  In general, women tend to fare much worse than men when interpersonal relationships are in discord. 

So when exposed to the arguments of others, a certain degree of post-traumatic stress reaction happens to me.  My brain immediately recalls the destructive anger of my marriage and the aftermath of the divorce proceedings, which in some ways was even more harrowing than the marriage itself.   I was stalked, had my home broken into twice and vandalized, my life was threatened – all in spite of a restraining order – which caused me to fear for my life daily.   This went on until he was finally jailed and put on probation for violating the order to stay away from me.

My domestic life is now quite harmonious. Due to each of our previously disastrous marriages, Ken and I do not intentionally react angrily to each other. Disagreements are handled in a kinder, gentler fashion and stress rarely enters our communications. Voices are never raised and doors are never slammed for effect. My life is now exactly the way I need for it to be.  I can no longer tolerate angry outbursts because I’m emotionally spent from them.  When I hear my even normally loud neighbor raise his voice to his wife, it makes me feel physically ill.  I relive it.  I live what she’s living. 

It’s beyond disturbing to me. 


17 Responses to “Mad about you”

  1. 1 pradapixie September 3, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I’m so glad you found the strength to get out of that destructive relationship and that you and Ken now have happieness together.
    Like a fairy story with a happy ending. Long may it last.

    Gives me faith that one day my prince will come!!

    They seem to show up when you least expect it, which makes it extra special!

  2. 2 Paul Baylay September 3, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Domestic violence always runs in circles and children that grow up in an abusive household are more likely to be violent in their relationships as adults and thus continue the circle. It takes a lot of strength to break that circle and the average “battered wife” is assaulted more than one hundred time before she takes any steps to change her life.. or seek help. I know…. I spent a lot of years spending my night shifts sitting between warring couples or trying to convince a bloodied and battered woman that she really SHOULD press charges..

    Change is always a good thing. Nice post..

    Thanks for pulling me out of your Spam filter.. it was getting kind of hot and stuffy in there. Thanks to WordPress’s Spam filter I was listed as a spammer and blocked across WordPress hence I haven’t posted for a week now but its all back to normal again now.. The price to pay for writing too much..

    After I saw Romi’s post that she found you in her spam folder, I decided to look. I haven’t made it through all 287 spam messages yet, so you may show up again! The problem with abusive relationships is that they’re not always bad. One gets lulled into the secure part when the relationship is good and hopes against hope that it will stay that way. Never does. I watch my now grown son for the signs of continuing the cycle, but he shows no character traits associated with abusers. His father was pretty careful not to show that side of himself when our son was around, thankfully.

  3. 3 AnthonyNorth September 3, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Hi OB,
    I’ve often wondered why men can be like that, and I’ve come to the conclusion that they can’t. Not real men. I won’t go into possible reasons for this behaviour, for it can often be thought excuses, which it isn’t. There is no excuse. But I do feel that every experience can be destructive or character building, and from knowing you over the last few weeks, you’ve certainly got character. In the end, you vanquished him.
    And another point. If you hadn’t been through what you went through, would you have been ready for Ken? Life is strange – cruel, even – but we can vanquish that, too.

    Ken and I have talked about that at length. Neither one of us would have been ready for each other unless we went through the things we did. Regarding abusers – they are all terrible cowards deep down inside. Facing them down is frightening, but ultimately empowering. Thanks for the kudos, Anthony! I feel so much more in control of my life now that I’ve been through such a challenging experience.

  4. 4 V- September 3, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    I completely understand, as you read from my recent post. (BTW- I changed the view to private, thinking it might be TMI for the entire World Wide Web) As a result of my past relationships, my nerves are jello. If poor Troy even raises his voice to yell at the lawn mower, I get extreamly agitated and close to tears, luckily he understands and is very conscience of his tone. And he has never spoken to me with anything but kindness. We have found true gems.

    I too am grateful for my past, because it has led me to who I am and where I am now…and that’s a pretty wonderful place. Though there are still side effects, like the triggers that seem come out of no where…

    Oh man, once Ken accidentally slammed the door and I about freaked out. He knows not to do that now.

  5. 5 Deb September 3, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Wow. I hate confrontation, and luckily have never had to live in a situation that was confrontational. I had no idea that it could have such an impact on women’s health. One more chilling aspect to the whole picture.

    I was talking to my mom this weekend about how things like racism and sexism and abuse are pretty much taught to kids from a young age, and what a sad statement that is on our society, since those things are so horribly common…

    I’m really glad you (and V and everyone who has gotten out of horrible situations) have found such a good, caring, and understanding partner. Homes should be sanctuaries.

    When I was a teen, there was NO discussion of abuse in relationships. Young women today have so much more information than we did, thankfully.

  6. 6 Red September 3, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    “My life is now exactly the way I need for it to be”
    I’m so very happy for you. For the two of you.

    Oh, thanks Red. It’s like night & day in my life now. So liberating and peaceful!

  7. 7 Simonne September 3, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    Oh I feel so similar when I hear/observe mens’ anger. I grew up with an angry father and I still struggle with it. I’m so glad you’ve found Ken OB. 🙂
    Much love x

    Oh, it’s horrible to hear that raised voice, isn’t it? I can’t deal with it at all.

  8. 8 anonymum September 4, 2007 at 4:07 am

    real men don’t manhandle women…cowards do, but men don’t..and that’s what they are…cowards…
    i’m not going to say anymore, but have sent an email…

    Yeah, they are actually quite insecure and cowardly. That’s the rub – you don’t even know it until you confront and get past the posturing, then see the bastards for who/what they really are.

  9. 9 motherwintermoon September 4, 2007 at 6:50 am

    As a domestic violence survivor I also suffer from PTSD when privy to anger, tyrannical behavior, abusive language and voice levels. Thank you for posting about this and shining a light of awareness on the serious toll abuse takes on the health of women. I’m croning and I still suffer with physical health problems directly related to abuse in childhood, adolescence and younger adulthood.

    I’m doing the happy dance to know you are living happily and harmoniously now.

    I feel so deeply for your neighbor. I pray she will find her way out of that place of denigration, into a place of love and respect.

    And, of course, she is such a sweet woman and good mother to their two small children. She knows about my prior situation, so I hope she feels she can come to me if she needs to. Luckily her parents are very involved with the kids, etc., so she is not isolated yet. Thanks for your words, MWM, and glad to know you are also in a place of serenity now.

  10. 10 poseidonsmuse September 4, 2007 at 9:20 am

    Hi OB…This was quite the post…a bit of bitter medicine for me actually. It almost makes me want to write up a post of my own (on emotional and mental violence) and shed yet another layer of my onion skin. This was the scene at my house only a few weeks ago…and a familiar scene in my parent’s family household from time to time too. I did not realise that I too suffer time to time from PTSD from these memories. You know, I am very happy that you were able to post this…I am glad that you and Ken have found your sacred sanctuary together. Bless you Love…

    Oh Muse, it’s a horrible reaction isn’t it? Ken’s got a rather forceful voice sometimes, which he uses when he’s excited about something (he’s never angry), and it freaks me out. He knows how it makes me feel. I realize that the “experts” believe that not showing any anger at all is unhealthy, but I think there are ways to express yourself without getting all hot and bothered about it. Life’s just too short, isn’t it? Thanks, dearie. Hope you had a great weekend! Missed you.

  11. 11 RubyShooZ September 4, 2007 at 10:12 am

    OB and everyone else – You’ve brought up so many memories for me – from my father raging around the house in black clouds of despair (never abusive but we were all walking on eggshells) to my ex – married five years in horrible emotional and physical abuse until I finally realized I didn’t have to live that way. I left but he followed and stalked me for ten years after that. Sounds quite a bit like your experience OB – break-ins, vandalization, death threats, being followed and harassed, back and forth to the courts literally hundreds of times, orders of protection that were useless –

    V- mentioned yelling at the lawn mower – (do all men do that?) and I had to laugh a lil since it used to be an issue here now too with my current husband – but once he knew how it affected me, it doesn’t happen anymore. No more yelling at the cars bolts that won’t budge either.

    I wonder though OB if you get the feeling I do about the woman/women who stay – I sometimes get angry with them – for staying. That’s when I have to re-visit my own self and how I stayed for five years and how hard it was for me to see there was a way out.

    Thanks for the post (I think). It’s good to talk and maybe some woman will see that we CAN move, we can change and we don’t deserve that treatment.

    Peace, truly.

    Yikes, the noncrier (me) is crying here at my desk at work (the men will freak out if they see this!) Leaving, or getting them to leave, is so much harder than it looks isn’t it? I also find myself having that knee-jerk reaction of “why doesn’t she just leave?” then have to back the train up and remember WHY. There was a segment on Oprah not too long ago that I shouldn’t have watched but found myself sucked in just the same – a video shot by a woman’s teenage son, at the command of the husband, of the father/husband beating and berating the woman. Sickening, really sickening. Sadly, I sat there and thought “at least it wasn’t THIS bad. At least he didn’t make our son videotape it.” Thanks for the comment, Ruby. I wan’t sure about posting this essay at first, but I’m glad I did. Sometimes these things help to kick the demons out for good!

  12. 12 Arm Jerker J. September 4, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    So what is a person to do when you live by neighbors like that? I have sort of the same problem at my apartments. It doesn’t seem fair for you to have to hear it. I guess you can’t call the police but when you hear him smack her, I say get your dialing fingers ready.

    I’ve always wondered why people stay in relationships that are so destructive. I know it can be hard–especially when the person may still love the spouse who is being abusive.

    I’m happy to hear that you are no longer in that routine. And I can only hope that one day I can find my own “Ken!”

    Maybe, as you have been to my blog about turning 30, years make you stronger and together enough to know when a situation like that one is no longer to be tolerated.

    AJ, it is true that the age and experience bring a greater understanding, but we’re all (hopefully) still learning things forever! Thanks for stopping by, I’m not usually so grim with my posts so stick around for some fun…

  13. 13 writerchick September 5, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    I had a man like that in my life once. And it is painful, even if they never touch you or hit you physically. It is hell and very easy to relive through others.

    I’m so glad you found a mate who is rational and kind and that all of that is behind you.


    I believe emotional abuse is, in some ways, more damaging than physical abuse. Those wounds heal much more slowly. I say three cheers for good men!

  14. 14 Bella September 6, 2007 at 3:51 am

    Jeez, that’s awful OB! Sounds like even though you no longer have to go through the mental anguish of someone verbally/physically/mentally abusing you, you are still showing all the signs; almost like a surge of panic sweeps over you. And, your heart is going out to this woman (and rightfully so). I’m sorry. It must be so hard! These abusive people are just bullies! It’s sick.

    They all need to go to Bully Jail. And be terrorized by women. With very long fingernails. Who also like to bite and call them names. And then their penises should be sawed off with dull knives.

    Wow, I feel better after that. So much for inner peace! Torture the bastards!

  15. 15 romi41 September 6, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    I’m sorry that you still have to re-live all that whenever you’re exposed to similar behavior; it sounds like you went through a lot with that first marriage…When you mentioned your current life though, there was such a peaceful tone in your writing; I’m glad you found what you need in life; that’s so important!
    PS: on that race-car present; umm yeah, you’re pretty much the coolest wife ever 🙂

    Yeah, it’s all good; I’m almost as peaceful as the Dalai Lama now!

  16. 16 romi41 September 6, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Oh crap, did I say wife? I think it was actually “girlfriend” that you wrote…LOL 😉

    Well, we’re not sure WHAT to call each other these days, since we’ve decided not to get married. Partner? SO? Girlfriend/boyfriend (doesn’t really fit when the couple in question is in their 50’s). We have no idea what the hell we are!

  17. 17 Bill Howdle September 7, 2007 at 10:34 am

    I have read and reread both this post and the comments. I have been trying to come up with words to describe a man’s feelings about all of this. All sorts of words pop into my head, all are words like terrible, discusting…. the list just goes on with words along those lines.
    My thoughts are that no man has ever hit a woman. Sadly, there are a lot of males out there that just because of size or age consider themselves to be men. Generally, society considers them to be men, I do not. The males talked about here, are immature jerks that consider themselves to be men, simply by age and size. It takes more than that to be a man.
    Ladies, please never confuse a man with one of these wanna be’s, jerks.
    I see the after affects of an abusive relationship. My own dear Vi was in just such a relationship for many years. I see the way she tenses up just hearing arguing voices and can become almost physically ill from it. We have talked of the abuse she endured and it just makes me sick. Oh man, do I wish I would have been around just one of those times back then. Her ex and I would definitely have had a close encounter.
    To all the ladies, there is no excuse for such behavior, treating you as you were. There are absolutely no set of circumstances that excuse a male for physically or emotionally abusing a woman, with no exceptions, period.
    The world is full of good men, if you encounter one of these aged over grown jerks pretending to be men, don’t walk away, run away as fast as you can.

    Yeah Bill! You are so right, dear man that you are – real men don’t hit women (or threaten it or call us stupid, etc). So sorry to hear your dear Vi endured such a relationship also – her reaction to arguing is so typical of women who’ve been through it. There are so many complicated reasons why women attach themselves to abusive men, and I certainly had my own set of mental luggage to unpack and take a good look at in order to unravel my own reasons. My end result has been good – a good life with a good man who I’ve yet to see angry about anything except the war his son is fighting in. Looks like Vi also got herself a good catch this time around. The world needs as many like you and Ken as it can get! Thanks for your words again, Bill. (SO glad to see your name in my comments box, too!)

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