A chapter from my life . . .
I should write a letter to Polly Shakas, thanking her for helping me get out of my marriage. I could also thank Bill Moeller. They were the principals in a most difficult and painful period of my life, and certainly in my children’s lives.
My good friend, Polly said, “why don’t you move out, and perhaps Janie will agree to go into counseling with you. I know of a very good psychiatrist in Iowa City who might be able to help you.” Said Polly to my husband of 12 years, when he came to her house to rant and rave about me. By this time, and it was the first time I had ever confided in anyone, I had told her a bit about my very troubled marriage.
And so it was that “husband” and I traveled to Iowa City on a gray day in winter to see Bill Moeller, head of the Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic at Iowa City University Hospitals. “Husband “ was ushered into Bill’s office first and for an hour I sat alone in that dimly lit waiting room. Then it was my turn to go in.
When I sat down in the chair, Bill said, “So you want a divorce.” I had not dared to even think those words in this horrific marriage, where I feared my husband’s volatile behavior, but having heard them, I knew indeed I did want a divorce. (I might add, I did not know anyone personally who had been divorced.) I began crying. And, Bill said, “Now, your husband has sat in that chair for over an hour crying. Are you going to do the same thing?” Well, I tell you, that straightened me up right away! No more tears for me!
And so we talked. Actually, he did most of the talking, telling me things about “husband” and my relationship. He had just spent an hour with “husband” and obviously could tell a great deal about what was going on, just by observing his behavior.
He said many things to me—things I remembered for years, but remember no longer. He told me things about my life with “husband” that I couldn’t have begun to tell him, for I didn’t have the words then. I didn’t see patterns, I didn’t recognize behaviors.
“Abusive husband” wasn’t a common word in the fifties, nor was sexual abuse or manipulation. And the word “relationship” was unheard of back then.
Bill did say something I still remember. He said, “You have grown in this marriage; your husband has not.”
We spend three hours talking in his office—and those hours flew by as the walls of my prison began to crack. At last, someone understood . . . without my having to describe it to them. Perhaps there was a way out. My hope sprang forth.
On our next trip to Iowa City, going in separate cars this time at my insistence, “husband” and I met together with Bill in his office. Bill spoke for a few moments, talked about the possibility of our attending group counseling, then looked straight at me and said, “But you probably don’t want to do that, do you?”
Then Bill asked “husband,” “Do you love Janie?” Husband answered “yes.” Then he asked me, “Do you love “husband?” I knew this was my moment to speak, and I said, “No.” I dared to do it because earlier Bill had described this joint visit as a “time to put our cards on the table,” . . . and I recognized immediately that he was telling me to speak the truth, and I trusted that he was going to help me through this.
After my “no,” my husband jumped out of his chair, picked it up and threw it at me, hitting me in the leg, and ran out of the office, down the hall and out of the hospital. And I, standing there shaking in shock and fear, realized that “ I have been living in a prison and didn’t know it!”
And, certainly no thought of what a third class citizen I was in this man’s world had even faintly touched my awareness. That my children’s and my abuse and much worse was, and is being experienced by millions and millions of women and children all over the world, subjugated SLAVES of the patriarchy, had not entered my consciousness back in 1966 in Davenport, Iowa.
This story demonstrates the powerful brainwashing I was under—living in fear and denying it to myself, for how else could I live there every day and every night. And I was afraid to leave. It also shows this intuitive psychiatrist’s amazing intervention. Dr. Bill Moeller brought our marriage of twelve years to a head in two visits—hardly knowing either of us—and was very clear about where it needed to go. This is not typical therapeutic behavior. May every abused woman find such help!
May every abused woman realize that she has sisters who are suffering as she is suffering, as her mother and grandmother and great grandmother and great aunts suffered.
May she realize that she lives in a world run by men who allow it’s mothers and children to be abused—to be tortured—to starve to death; a world run by men who not only allow it, but enjoy torturing and abusing and killing. May she know this has gone on since the patriarchal archetype covered and controlled the earth. And, may she know that it is dead wrong.
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