My step son Cape turned 16 last month. I remember when I first met him, he was about 9 months old. When we blended our families together we always talked about not using the words Half or Step when referring to each other. Just siblings. They grew up together. They had 9 Christmases staying up late waiting on Santa. Between the 4 of them they had somewhere around 36 birthday parties. 9 Halloweens where we would go back to our old neighborhood and trick or treat. When we would lose power the kids would immediately run and hide for a hectic and spooky version of Hide and Seek. We all ate dinner at the table almost every single night. Playing dinner games like guess who or 20 questions.
We had a beautiful family, no need to say blended.
I left Standish almost 7 years ago. He took the kids on a walk in the woods and out to eat to let them know that he wouldn’t get to see them as much but that he loved them and would always be there for them. A sadly typical conversation in the world of divorce. Standish knew the response he was supposed to have. He was good at that surface persona. Ask anyone who has ever met him. Fuck ask the women who have loved him.
While married to him I often said Standish was a man with the best of intentions with no follow through.
I lived in the world under that perfect surface. A world most people never saw or knew about.(Years later and my children will still only read about truths that can only live in the book)
Sometimes it felt like a maze where there was no way out or a game where the rules constantly changed. I spent a lot of time confused.
My conversation with Standish about the future of our family was very different. It was cold, dehumanizing and calculated.
When I left Standish told me I would never see my stepson again. A threat I knew he could keep. I was braver in those few weeks than I had been in the 9 years I was with him. I assured him that my stepsons mom would let me see him, I didn’t think it was true, we had never really got along but I said it to keep myself from turning back. . .
“No she won't, she hates you” was his reply.
I didn’t cave and stay for my stepson,
I didn’t unpack the minivan,
I left believing him.
The strength it took to leave him is still something I am beyond proud of myself for. Leaving with 3 children to move into a small shack with barely any furniture about a half hour from their school and an hour and a half from my part time job. Total we were in that minivan for close to 4 hours a day. We had each other and when I looked in the mirror, I loved who I saw looking back at me.
A survivor, a warrior and a mom who loves her children.
I had so much life left to live.
That day he took something from me that I built.
As he did so many times in the past Standish “Punished” me for not being obedient.
Just another dead end to a maze I was just trying to escape.
I loved my stepson. My children loved their brother. He was a part of our family. Every laugh, joke, booboo kissed, every spooky kids movie watched, every monster blood birthday cake he asked me to make for him, all of the crafts we made, every game played, all of those things were ripped from us.
I wasn’t his stepmom anymore.
They weren't his siblings.
That was the past.
We were just people he used to know.
Almost a decade of love was gone.
Lots of tears have been shed for a child I loved like my own.
I cried at night for my children and a loss that they would carry with them, in ways they weren’t even aware of yet.
My heart hurt for them.
A large cloud of regret filled me daily.
I regretted so many things. I hated that my poor choices and weaknesses hurt them most. On particularly dark days I would lie to myself saying I deserved all of this. That it was some sick sort of penance. On those dark days I knew for sure that they never deserved this, any of it. They only loved a man they called Dad. They only ever grew up having a little brother.
All their happy moments involved these people.
Time doesn’t really heal wounds, I think time just helps you numb the pain. I will never be the woman I was at the beginning of my relationship with Standish.
That neive, carefree, light as a feather girl no longer exists.
I am colder, and guarded. Is this fair to the people who have loved me after? Probably not. The thing is, this is all I have left to be.
I know it’s cynical. I have to make a daily effort to be open and let the man I love inside (that’s a post for another day all the ways abuse like this “sticks” to a person)
We as a family have made a more conscious effort to spend more time with my stepson. To push past the weird awkwardness that comes from not seeing someone for a long period of time.
My stepsons mom (we will call her Elizabeth) invited us to Capes 16th birthday party.
The anxiety I had around a party that was mostly her family eased as the party went on. We kept to ourselves at first. Elizabeth asked me if I knew everyone. I told her I only really knew her parents. She proceeded to introduce me and the kids to her family.
She gave me a gift that day that she probably isn’t even aware of. She introduced the kids as Cape’s Brothers and Sister. She introduced me as Capes step mom. While I know this may have been to simplify the introduction process,
She gave me back something that only she could give to me.
I felt as light as air leaving that party.
My heart was so full.
I tear up even now weeks later finally editing this post.
I am forever grateful for her sharing her limited time with Cape with my children, with me.
The grace Elizabeth has shown me is something I can’t even express in words.
I will never be able to show her or express how truly grateful I am to her.
She is an amazing mother and human.
My oldest says I am dramatic when I say this but it rings true:
Elizabeth loves Cape more than she hated me. (if she ever did).
Standish hated me more than he loved Cape or my children.
I spent a long time believing Standish when he painted Elizabeth as a villain in his fairy tale. So in turn she was a villain in my story too. That never made my love for her son waver. I love Cape. I have always wanted him to feel like he was a whole part of our family.
Standish’s threat and him carrying it out opened my eyes to what he really was: a narcissistic bully.
In the 9 years we were together Standish made many promises he never kept.
I smile as I write this.
He couldn’t keep that promise and his threats can’t hurt me anymore.
If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship and you are struggling with leaving, know that the person you were before is still there somewhere.
You are stronger than you think.
You control your future, and most importantly
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Emotional, Mental, & Physical Abuse ARE Domestic Violence.
Just because someone isn’t physically abusive does not excuse the abuse.