#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou: My Divorce Story

By Hannah Renee Paasch

 

I didn’t leave him.

 

I probably should have.

 

I didn’t leave him when, the day after our wedding, as we roadtripped back home, I had to pull into a gas station on the side of the road, sobbing and shaking, because his verbal attacks caused me to have a panic attack behind the wheel. Trying to catch my breath while my trembling fingers gripped the wheel, I told him I’d never be able to drive with him riding shotgun again. He drove the rest of the way.

 

He drove for the next year and a half.

 

He drove us into the ground.

 

I didn’t leave him when he abandoned me to get high and drunk with his best friend in a strange town on our honeymoon, leaving me to contemplate the life-altering choice I’d just made on somebody’s roommate’s mattress on a cement slab. “I’m afraid I made a mistake,” I scrawled nervously into my journal. I spent the rest of the night searching deals at local hotels and spending my rent money on rooms where we could stay together alone. He was angry later that the rent money was gone, and I apologized profusely while trying to explain that I had kinda wanted to, you know, have a honeymoon. The seeds of guilt and shame were planted that day, and lord, did he water them in the months to come.

 

I didn’t leave him when my baby sister came to live with us after coming out as bisexual and he told me, behind closed doors, that her presence was the cause of the unrest in our relationship and that it was my responsibility to get her to live elsewhere. When he told me, months later, that he didn’t approve of her choices and believed, in spite of leaving the church himself, that she was still condemned for being in love with her girlfriend, I wept…

 

…and I stayed with him.

 

I didn’t leave him when he told me to get new dreams—when he warned me time and again of the perils of professional musicianship and told me, point blank, that if I ever wanted to support myself as a singer I’d probably have to sing backup for the rest of my life. When he decided that my closest man-friend and co-writer was a threat to him, personally and musically, he wore me down until I realized that I would have to pick: my husband, or my friend.

 

My present, or my future.

 

I didn’t leave him when the birth control made me try to kill myself—when the last vestiges of my sex drive withered away and still I pressed on, determined to make the only sex life I’d ever had a success—determined to please him, even at the expense of my own emotional and physical pain. I didn’t leave him when he blamed me for my lack of passion—when I couldn’t talk myself into sex fast enough to assuage his fragile ego and he would turn away from me in disgust before I could muster up the ability to make him feel loved and desired. I would lie in bed and pretend to be asleep, silently pep-talking myself into doing it for the sake of his pleasure and our marriage. Slowly, the sexual tension turned into outright rejection, as he began to refuse to even try meeting me halfway, while continuing to blame me for our constant state of frigidness.

 

I was beside myself with grief and shame.

 

Little did I know that his own unquenchable appetites had been fed by a sex addiction that he kept so well hidden that his intuitive young wife never even suspected that his needs were being met elsewhere. Little did I know that all those nights I was locked out my own bedroom and out of my office he was spending glued to the computer screen for hours—hours daily—getting off on watching somebody who was not me. When I asked him later how he kept it from me so completely, how he managed to lie so seamlessly, his immediate response was, “Practice.”

 

I didn’t leave him after all the nights I spent sobbing on the front stoop, utterly spent from begging him to tell me what I could possibly have done to make him stop loving me, why he resented me in his space, why my very presence was a blight on his otherwise carefully controlled life.

 

I didn’t leave him after I took a job I didn’t want to support us financially while he went back to school and endured his constant berating for every cent I made and every cent I didn’t. I didn’t leave him when he failed several of those classes, those precious classes I was working 55+ hours a week in order to give him the privilege of taking, because “studying” was apparently code for “pornography.”

 

I didn’t leave him when he canceled our marriage counseling without warning me. I didn’t leave him when he canceled or walked out of every one of the dates we had planned to reconnect with one another.

 

I didn’t leave him.

 

I didn’t leave him, even when he signed a lease on his own place the morning after our first anniversary date—

 

Even when he texted me halfway through my workday, as I was pushing a double stroller around a local college campus, “Let’s get divorced,” and I collapsed into a sobbing heap on the concrete—

 

Even when he blocked me on every form of social media and began a new life that did not include me—

 

I did not leave him.

 

And yet… it’s my fault. Because I’m the bitch who refused to keep her life on hold while being rejected by the one person who swore to love her and stand by her forever. I am the one who printed the divorce papers; I am the one who made him sign them. I am the one who sat him down at a Panera and quietly informed him, after listening to him vomit up all the ugly truths he had kept from me throughout the entirety of our life together, that I was filing.

 

I never left him, and yet it was my responsibility to finalize the deed that he had all but finished: leaving me.

 

When #maybehedoesnthityou started trending on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, I saw my own hellish marriage reflected in so many of those online confessions.

 

Maybe he didn’t hit me, but… he made me question everything that I thought I knew about love and family and home.

 

Maybe he didn’t hit me, but... he threw things close enough to me to make me think he could.

 

Maybe he didn’t hit me, but… he locked me out of the rooms he was in at home and then shamed me for leaving to go find people that liked me.

 

Maybe he didn’t hit me, but… he taught me to believe that I was ignorant and irresponsible and unworthy of respect.

 

Maybe he didn’t hit me, but… he stole my youth and my joy and what little energy I had left to hope.

 

Maybe he didn’t hit me, but… he left me—and left me to pick up the pieces.

 

These are the things that cause a starry-eyed, 25-year-old bride to walk into a Tennessee courthouse, eyes blinded with the tears she didn’t have the energy to hide anymore, and file for divorce.

 

Still there are people who believe I should have stayed. Stayed where, I’m not sure, as there was no home to sit and wait and wish in anymore. There are still those to whom emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment and unfaithfulness are not enough. Unless he hits you, it’s not abuse. Unless he has an affair, it’s not unfaithfulness. Still others don’t even think neglect and abandonment are “good enough” reasons to get divorced. What a “good enough” reason would be to them, I don’t know. How many years would they want me to “hold on,” to “keep the faith,” before they would be satisfied that I had done my best to honor my vows? How many years of my youth would they want me to waste away waiting on a man who preferred a computer screen and his right hand to a relationship with me? Ten? Twenty? Would I prove my steadfastness then?

 

There are more things that kill a marriage than mistresses and bruises.

No human being is a monster. I recognize this. We are all capable of monstrous acts, and surely some of the blame is mine to bear. I should never have married him in the first place. I should have listened to the spark of intuition in me that said, Not yet. Too fast. There were times I let my anxiety and depression get the better of me and became withdrawn, unable to open myself up to him for fear of the emotional rejection that had grown all too common. There were times I let my shame keep me from seeking help.

 

But I wanted to stay. I would have stayed. I was all set to live out my days beside that man.

 

And yet.

 

I have no moral or nice lesson to tie up the story with. In many ways I’m still in the thick of the grieving. But the truth it its own sort of salve. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

 

Maybe he didn’t hit me, but he made me ashamed to speak my truth.

 

And now, I am taking that back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hannah Renee Paasch is the co-founder of The Flawless Project and lives in Nashville, TN with the future first female pope and four ridiculous cats. Hannah is also a nanny and the frontwoman of local feminist-blues-rock ‘n roll outfit Ida Grey, whose work can be found here

  8 comments for “#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou: My Divorce Story

  1. Susan Lane
    June 4, 2016 at 3:35 am

    Hannah
    I am so sorry to hear about your hurtful and emotional abusive marriage. I had a feeling since I saw your maiden name listed on FB. I can only imagine what you have gone through.
    I endured a verbally and emotionally abusive for 7 years. I can’t tell you how difficult it was. It is ranked up there with physical abuse~you just don’t have the scars to show visually.
    I have raised Four successful Sons~have been married 23 years and single 23 years. I have 9 Grandchildren. I have gotten to the point in my life that I would like to be married again. The reason my Singleness has lasted so long is my Selectiveness.
    I am the Redhead Susan Lane that sang with you in the Chorale @East Valley Bible Church in Gilbert. I am so thankful I have God/Jesus in my life and would only settle with a Christian man.
    You will be in my Prayers Hannah and I am hoping for the Best for you…..God wants that for You. He has give you many Gifts in your Life.
    Blessings of Peace,
    Susan

  2. Candi
    June 4, 2016 at 5:00 am

    Oh Hannah, I’m so so sorry! 🙁

  3. June 4, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Hannah, no one but you can understand why you had to leave and I will never stand in judgment or condemn you for your choice. I think this article should be published in Redbook or some other magazine. It is well-written and enlightening.

    I am glad you didn’t have children with him and you left while you are still young enough to have a full life with or without another man.

    I am proud of you, Hannah. Your words can be a warning to other young women contemplating marriage that have big questions about their choice.

    Love you cousin!!
    Sharon Rexroth

  4. April
    June 4, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. It touches home for me. I completely understand, and I lived it for too many years until I was completely broken. Somehow I got out. You are brave and again thank you for sharing. Nice hearing my story…parts of it by someone else. We all have battle wounds some are on the outside, and some deep within.

  5. Zeb
    June 5, 2016 at 5:27 am

    This breaks my heart on so many levels. I wasn’t close to Steven but enough to call him my friend before one day I realized he, too, deleted me off social media. (He certainly didn’t have a problem with me being queer before, but this currently isn’t about me.) Anyway, I’m sad I didn’t reach out and get to know you before I moved from Nashville because I really admire your honesty and bravery all the way from Colorado now.

  6. Slay Jude
    June 6, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    I am so sorry. Reading what you have written and been though helps me to validate what happened to me and know that I was right and what he did was wrong. I am glad you did not stay. I stayed, and eventually, he did hit me. I am so sorry for what you went though. Even if he is not. All the love. <3

  7. June 6, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Wow. This is such a powerful response to all those who blithely say that you should stay in a marriage whatever. Often the divorce paper is not the fatal blow to the marriage, it is simply the death certificate that records the death (or murder) of the marriage. I’m glad you are taking your voice back – it’s a powerful one

  8. Cynthia D
    July 6, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    I was deeply touch by your words and transparency, Hannah.
    I’m ashamed to admit that for years my husband and I counseled our daughter to stay in a marriage that was very similar. We change our view when we found out that he threatened to kill her and her boys on multiple occasions. And were counseled ourselves from a pastor that ‘abandonment’ is most certainly a biblical reason for divorce and there are certainly many ways in which a husband can abandon his spouse. When she made the decision to divorce, we supported her 100%. The boys lived with us for 3 years while she got her life back on track….went back to school for her Masters (that he refused to let her do doing their marriage) and went on to get an amazing and fulfilling job. It has taken years……and learning to trust again will take even longer. I wish that I had ‘heard’ her earlier, but then again, she was not forthcoming with how bad it really was. One never likes to admit defeat, even if it is caused by someone else and there is no chance of success.
    There is never a nice lesson to tie up these stories, Hannah….just put one foot in front of the other….and press on.
    Love you!

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