It’s day 16 of Domestic Violence Awareness Month for Men and Boys, the invisible victims of domestic violence. Today’s In His Own Voice combines the usual physical, verbal and emotional abuse with a special subset of Crazy — animal hoarding.
Animal hoarding is not only abusive to other family members, it is abusive to the animals. “Heart Broken Geek” has put up with a lot of abuse and horseshit during his marriage. Figuratively and literally.
Animal Hoarders Edition
My soon to be ex-wife and I were together for 12 years, 9 of them married. We have two beautiful children. I adopted my stepson three years ago when he was 12.
Before I finally left, we tried talking things through. For the first time in our marriage, I didn’t give in. It didn’t matter though. She refused to stop with the animal stuff. She boards horses, owns horses and runs a horse rescue. On top of that, she has goats, chickens, dogs, cats and the occasional cow.
If you were to hear my ex talk, I “all of a sudden pulled the rug out from under her” in June 2012 when I sat her down and told her how unhappy I was and that I’d probably be leaving. This was not all of a sudden. In reality, I had been trying to get her attention every way I could since 2006, maybe earlier.
Everything was “fine” for us, as long as I suffered in silence. However, anytime I voiced a concern, she would go off the deep end and it would be my fault.
I was tired of our bank accounts being $700 overdrawn and getting blamed for it. I gave her 100% of my paycheck and only took $40/week for lunch and gas money while we were together. I was tired of her horses being fed while we struggled to feed the family.
I was tired of the stalls being immaculate while the house was a pigsty. She is content to live in filth. If I didn’t clean the house, it didn’t get done. Unless we had company coming over, then she would flip out and scream at everyone.
But most of all, I was tired of being alone. Always.
She claimed she was home “90% of the time.” While that was true, she was either at the barn for 4-5 hours a night or on the computer looking at rescue horses, emailing, buying, selling or texting about horses.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Hoarders, you’ve seen the anger when the hoarder is confronted with their behavior. My ex has the same attitude. Whenever I tried to talk to her about her out of control animal rescue, I got “How DARE you question why I do this! It isn’t MY problem, it’s YOUR problem!”
Two winters ago, I had acute bronchitis and needed medicine badly. She told me we had no money for it. I told myself, fine, I’ll man up since the family is broke and go without medication. That same night, while I’m wheezing and coughing, she bought an $80 fake horsetail for one of her horses to wear to a show because the horse “needed it.”
Another time, I was so sick I couldn’t drive myself to the doctor’s office and asked if she could take me. She said she couldn’t miss work. Her horse got a sick stomach later that night and she took the next 3 days off work to care for it.
In March 2012 she told me, “I need to cancel the cable, so we can get caught up on bills.” At first, the child in me screamed, “Fuck that! All I have in this house is my chair, the TV and my Xbox!” The adult in me said, “Ok, man up, you have bills and she said she’ll have it turned back on in August.”
Two weeks later, I went to the barn and the Port-a-John was still there from the barn fire the week before. I asked, “When does that have to be back?” She ignored me. Her friend, who obviously didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to know answered, “They come and empty it twice a week.”
I asked, “Why would they do that? Why wouldn’t they just take it back?” Her friend replied, “For $80 a month, it’s the least they could do.” I looked at my wife and said, “You cancelled my cable, so you could have a crapper at the barn?” Her attitude was once again, “How DARE you question me?”
She also boards dogs, even though they destroy our property. For example, two years ago she called me at work and asked, “What’s a good way to cheer up Daughter?” I asked what happened to upset Daughter. My wife informed me that the three Jack Russell terriers she was boarding had killed our daughter’s kitten in front of her. I raised my voice, which I try not to do, and asked, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”
My wife was silent and then said, “I don’t see how raising your voice will help.”I took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry, I just don’t understand why you keep bringing in animals to do this to our family.” More silence and then she yelled, “You need to call a lawyer because I’m sick of this shit!”
Three hours later, she calls again, “What can we do to cheer up Daughter?” I was taken aback. “ I buy her a dozen roses or carnations once or twice a year, it makes her happy.” When my wife got home that night she gave our daughter the flowers and said, “Mommy was thinking about you.”
One time when we were arguing about the marriage and separating, she started to sob and rock back and forth like a child. Then she started clicking her fingers together in the air and her eyes rolled back a little. I told her I was terrified of her and that this (I pointed to what she was doing) is not how an adult discusses things. “This shit is creeping me out,” I told her. She accused me of being a heartless, horrible man and a freeloader (she earns more than twice what I do, but takes the bulk of my pay to pay household bills and spends the bulk of her earnings on animals.)
At one point, the bank threatened to foreclose on our home. That didn’t stop her from buying two more horses and retaining a lawyer to sue some other idiot over horse related crap (breach of contract).
Before I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, I slept a lot, but it wasn’t restorative sleep. One day, I came home after work and laid down on the bed. She woke me up by raining blows down on me and screaming, “You’re not a man! You’re no kind of man!”
That’s not the only time she’s hit me. She’s also told me I’m a horrible provider, a horrible dad – usually when she was frustrated or not getting her way. Later, when I would mention how hurtful her behavior was, she’d deny doing and saying these things or I’d get some version of, “I was in a bad mood” or “I was really upset.” As if being “really upset” makes hitting your spouse or saying nasty, cruel things to your spouse ok. It doesn’t.
We attended a few couples therapy sessions toward the end. The therapist told my wife (after listening to me) that I felt discounted, unloved and ignored. During this session, I told her I would no longer support her crazy horse antics. The therapist suggested my wife spend less time on the horses and more time on the marriage.
The day after our session, what did my wife do? She brought a pony into our house and gave it a bath in the family shower where, of course, it shit all over, tore up the place, etc. When I reminded her this was not what we agreed to in therapy, she told me I was a selfish dick. The horse had a photo shoot the next day for one of her horse rescue projects and it needed a bath, biohazard and property damage be damned.
Every single time our relationship has been on the ropes, “we” fixed it. And by “we” I mean I had to keep my mouth shut and just accept that’s how she was. She never changed a damn thing. Of course, when I mentioned this to her once, she just started at me blankly, like a dog does when you try to discuss philosophy with it.
She’s told mutual friends in front of me that she “resents being married and having kids” and that she “never got to be single.” Well, she’s about to get her chance.
My weakness was/is I hate to see her cry. It tears me up inside and breaks my heart. We cannot, nor could we ever, have a rational adult conversation. As soon as I expressed unhappiness about anything, she exploded into tears. I now believe her tears were nothing more than a manipulation.
Toward the end, she asked what I wanted from her. I said, “No more animals. Enough!!!” That weekend she decided to board 3 dogs, rescue 5 bottle-fed kittens with diseases and bought two new ponies.
We decided to stick it out through the holidays for the kids. For the ensuing 6 months, every day of my life was a 16-hour argument. She started texting at 7:30AM and kept going until bedtime. I now wonder if she ever really loved me, but rather took pity on me and “settled.”
After I told her I’d had enough in June 2012, she posted an ad on Craigslist looking for male “insight” into our situation. Why see a therapist when there are plenty of well-meaning men on Craigslist, right?
The funny thing is, even though I know divorce is for the best, I still feel guilty about putting my happiness and safety first. I am also very worried about our kids. I feel empty and any energy I have is just going towards surviving and getting through the day. I still feel like the bad guy she makes me out to be, and like I am being too hard on her. My rational brain knows this is ridiculous. I can see now how my mom groomed me to put up with my wife and her horseshit – literally.
My mom was . . . not normal. I often wonder if the extremity of my mother’s abuse makes my wife’s abuse seem like “no big deal” in comparison. My mother beat my brother, our father and me with everything from fists to ladles to boots to brooms to baseball bats. She put cocked guns to my head and put lit cigarettes out on me. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, so by my mom’s definition, since she didn’t drink, she was a way better parent.
I know I am a codependent. I learned how to entertain mom in order to keep her calm or diffuse her anger. My mom used to go on beating frenzies and actually beat some of my friends, too. I stopped playing little league sports because I got tired of looking at the bench and seeing her rolling in the dirt with some other parent.
She once punched out my third grade teacher in the middle of class. The teacher wanted a conference to discuss my poor penmanship. My mom worked second shift at the time. Instead of scheduling an appointment with my teacher, she took off work and came to the school unscheduled.
She walked in and said, “I’m here for my conference.” The teacher said she needed to schedule one. My mom replied, “You wanted a conference, here’s your conference” and punched her in the face, over her desk. This was in the middle of the school day. It was humiliating.
I don’t know how my mom was never arrested. I honestly think she had the whole small town bullied. She even threatened the goddamned mayor once and nothing happened.
I remember in 6th grade I got an “F” in Math. At the Parent/teacher conference, my mom took one look at my grade and backhanded me over my chair, busting my nose. I still kinda laugh at the teacher’s expression, who had no idea what to do and started apologizing for giving me the “F,” even though I deserved it. No one really knows what to do when confronted by “crazy.” I think it makes sane people recoil and go some place in their minds until it’s over.
When I was 19, my mom was snooping through my stuff, which she did on a regular basis, and found the receipt for the engagement ring I bought my then girlfriend (not the horse lady). My mom swore up and down that I bought this $100 ring because my girlfriend and her mom coerced me and wanted to steal my credit. She then beat me with a baseball bat and tossed me out into the mud. That was the day I left my mom’s house.
It has been over a year since I moved out of the house I shared with my wife and our children. In that time, she has made numerous threats and has been trying to alienate our kids, but not with much success. She is now targeting the kids, even going so far as to assault our son, and is using them as unpaid farm hands.
She has also moved in one of her Craigslist men. This guy has a rap sheet and has been inappropriate with my kids (tickling our 12-year old daughter even after she asked him to stop and using corporal punishment on our 15-year old son). I expressed my concerns to my ex. She went into one of her rage episodes and made threats. Then she and this dirtbag retaliated by lying to my boss (about something that was very easy to disprove) in an attempt to get me fired. It didn’t work.
I reported these incidents to CPS. They wouldn’t open a case, stating there wasn’t enough evidence — even with this guy’s rap sheet. My attorney looked into getting a protective order, but our county is in the Dark Ages when it comes to female abusers — even when they’re endangering and abusing their kids.
I have recently ended contact with my mother, who, despite her advanced age is still a horribly toxic and abusive woman. I know I have made the right decision and am slowly healing, bit-by-bit. But there are days when I am still overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, and still take on more than my share of blame. I still struggle with anxiety, panic and depression. I don’t know if it will ever end.
Right now though, my priority is taking care of my kids and making sure they’re safe. We haven’t been to court yet, so the future is uncertain.
In His Own Words is a joint effort between DAHMW, Shrink4Men and AVoiceForMen to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.
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If you are in an abusive relationship and don’t know what to do or where to turn, DAHMW provides a 24-hour free helpline (+1 888 HELPLINE).
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Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.