Have you ever been a people pleaser? You know, done or said something not because you want to, but because you know it will make another person happy or fulfilled even if it is highly inconvenient for you?

I was a huge people pleaser growing up. I thought it was the right thing to do, and I took the responsibility upon myself to make sure everyone else around me was happy and cared for. Oh, how wrong I was. And while I have improved, I still struggle with this desire today.

When people hear my story, they ask many different questions, and I am open to these questions. I understand people are curious, and even if the questions can be personal or intrusive, I welcome them.

Here are a few questions and answers:

“Couldn’t you have just tried a little harder?”

No. I did my best. I know that God (or whoever your higher power is) will not suffer that one if his children (or creations) be subjected to such abuse. If you don’t believe in a Higher Power, know that I don’t believe anyone should be subjected to abuse at the hands of anyone else, (and I suggest you get a Higher Power, they are free). I do know the people who ask, have no idea what my marriage was really like, otherwise the thought would not even cross their mind. I did my best (as most victims do) to hide the truth and the suffering, sometimes all too well.

“How could you ever let someone abuse you like that? I would never allow that to happen to me.”

This one is a hard one. When I hear this, I feel emotion rise up within my chest. Fact is, you don’t know how you would respond to any situation, unless you have been through it. You have no idea the fear that is being experienced.

To help you understand more clearly, imagine you are standing on firm and solid soil, you feel comforted and safe. Now imagine someone you love, know, and trust, takes a shovel and begins to shovel a circle around you (like a mote around a castle). As they continue to dig and the circular hole around you gets deeper, a strange thing happens, the piece of soil you are standing on begins to shrink in diameter and to sink, very slowly. At first, you don’t even realize it, however, as time goes on and one shovel full after another is tossed out, you begin to realize you are sinking. At this point you bring it to attention of the person doing the shoveling, they stop and let things settle, they placate you and tell you everything will be fine, and not to worry, they apologize or give you gifts or what ever it takes to keep you on that piece of soil. You know this person, you love this person, you want to trust this person, and trust your own choice in trusting this person, so you do. Soon the shoveling starts again, and you begin sinking again, slowly at first and then more rapidly. And again you are placated and assured. This continues to go on for quite sometime until you are deep enough to realize you don’t want to be in this hole, you don’t like it here. It is at this point, you begin to look for a way out. Quietly and only when the shovel-er is not looking, (for if they do catch you, they will simply shovel away even faster and make you sink even lower, pouring the shovel fulls of dirt over top your head), you begin to place soil beneath your feet and to climb out. It is a frightening and dangerous game to play, and it is often only through the grace of God and by others help you are finally able to build the soil up enough to get out of the hole. After you are out, the hole is still there, and it takes time and help to fully fill it back in so you can walk on that ground again without fear.

“Were you married in the temple?”

Yes we were. Mormons believe when we are married in the temple we will still be married to each other in heaven after we die here on earth (an eternal marriage). Because of that belief we encourage most couples to work together through hard times and not turn to divorce for the answer when problems arise in a marriage. In fact out the 30 married couples that are made up of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins on both sides of my family, there are only 3 (of which I am one) who have gotten a divorce.
I think this is purely a curiosity question, and sometimes people tend to think simply because we are married in the temple, we are immune to such difficulties and problems. However, when we are married in the temple, we have to work just as hard to have and maintain a healthy relationship, family and marriage as any other couple out there. A happy, healthy marriage is a lot of hard work, and it does take both partners. The location where the marriage occurred does not change those facts, I believe it is what we do and how we act in the marriage itself that guarantees the gift of eternal marriage that is promised within the walls of our temples.

I also often get asked, “Did you see any red flags while you were dating?”

The answer is yes and no.

I was 19 when I met my husband and 20 when I married him. I did not just walk into my marriage blindly. I had graduated from high school at age 17 at age 19 I had all my credits but one for my associates degree, I was debt free and enrolled in college my tuition being paid for by a marching band scholarship and grants. I had lived in 7 states (two of them on my own after graduating high school).

Due to being in marching band, choir, drama, yearbook and a few clubs between high school and college I had traveled much, seen much, and participated in much. I felt ready for that next step in life knowing I could continue working full time and attending college full time as a married woman.

I was still a very trusting and naive girl. I had never had a boyfriend until this point in my life. I was so busy doing other things, and was never asked out in high school.

I had never met a person like my husband before. I did not know people like him existed in the world, or at least in my part of the world, so I didn’t see his actions for what they were. I’ll admit there were a couple of times I felt uneasy around him, and I couldn’t put a finger on it, so I just let it slide.
There were three instances that stand out to me now as red flags, I did not see at the time.

First, We had gone to A&W for lunch one day. I was stuffed and he had a few chicken nuggets left over. He offered one to me, and I declined. He then force fed the chicken nugget to me! With the nugget pressed to my closed lips and other people in the restaurant who I felt were staring at us, but in reality most likely didn’t even notice, I felt the pressure to eat the chicken nugget. Huh, I thought as I chewed, weird.

Second, We were at his parents house. He and his dad were having some sort of argument in the basement. Things were getting heated, I did not know what to do or where to go. I just stood there and watched. I had never seen such displays of anger. Right out of the blue, his father lost control, and slugged my then boyfriend in the arm, and he just stood still and took it. I had the impression this kind of treatment was not unheard of in their home.

Third. We had been arguing about something, you know, one of those silly arguments you have when dating someone. We were in his car and had pulled over in the subdivision to have this argument. I was so angry at him I decided I did not want to be in the car with him any longer. I got out and began walking the three miles toward my home in the dark, cold autumn night. He flipped his car around, drove up beside me, got out of his car and without a word, physically forced me back into his car. I thought to myself as the adrenaline began to subside from my veins He’s just worried about me, he just wants to make sure I make it home safe and sound, that’s all that was. There goes the people pleaser in me, making up excuses for him.

If your looking for tips on what red flags to look for, my best answer is this: pay attention to how he treats and speaks of and to his: mom, dad, siblings, other children, co-workers (especially those under him in the business pyramid), and animals. When we were dating, my ex admitted to me his mom was afraid of him, and I noticed their family dog always barked ferociously and fled when my ex walked in the room. His excuse? (He always had one). His mom and he just didn’t get along because she refused to get along with him, and the dog was adopted into their family after being in an abusive home and associated my ex with his abuser. If only I had been able to see how he would treat the dogs we ended up owning shortly after our marriage, that alone would have caused me to easily change my mind about marrying him.

One last tip off to me? When he play wrestled with his pre school aged nephews, and they pleaded for him to let go, or to stop, he refused to oblige unless it was under his terms, even when his siblings, myself, and his parents appealed with him to stop. He would then slacken his grip rather than let go completely, and tell the child to wiggle their way out of his arms.

And secondly, trust your feelings and instincts! We are given them as gifts, and if we heed them, we will be better off for it. A great book recommended to me by my FBI trained uncle is The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. It teaches how to learn the difference between true fear and unwarranted fear. I am just beginning to read it myself, and excited for the insight I will gain (I am always learning and reading something). Let’s read it together and see what we learn!


Be Quiet!

“He’s calling! Turn off the radio! Everyone, Be Quiet!!!” I shouted to my Sisters, Mom, and Grammy as my cell phone trilled. An instant silence over took the mini van as they obeyed. I flipped open the small device, “Hello” I muttered into speaker. “Hi, I got off early, I’m on my way home.” the sentence shot fear deep into my bones and back out and began crawling on my skin. I tried my best to carry on a normal conversation with my husband not wanting to tip him off to the fact I wasn’t home.

It was Friday, December 22nd, I had recently turned 24, and I had spent the day taking my 12 month old son to see my Grammy who was visiting us in Utah from Arizona for the month. We had enjoyed the day together and were driving back from a movie with my two sisters. I quickly ended the phone conversation and expressed my urgency to get to my mom’s house and drive my son and myself to my home before my husband got there. He had gotten off work early that Friday as a Christmas surprise. I went from expecting him home in a few hours to a few minutes. I knew he would be furious I had left the house, especially so I could spend time with my family.

As I began driving my car home with my son buckled in the back, my phone began ringing. I looked at my husbands name on the caller ID, took a deep breath, and answered the phone, knowing that would be the less painful option. “Hello?” “Where are you?!” Snapped into my ear. I admitted to spending time with my family and was immediately rewarded with a barrage of yelled words simply meant to make me feel guilty and inflict pain.

I had been married to this man for just over three and a half years. Our twelve month old son was unplanned, and I remember the fear that gripped me when I learned I was expecting, normally a time of excitement and rejoicing for most expectant mothers, for me I could feel the shackles clamp tighter around my ankles and wrists and the rope tighten around my neck. A divorce with a child involved would be much more complicated.

The more and more he continued to verbally berate me and the closer and closer I got to my home, the less and less I wanted to be there. I placated him, and was able to get him off the phone, escaping from the verbal abuse. Fear and adrenaline coursing through my veins, I pulled into the driveway of the place I least wanted to be. My own home. I immediately pulled back out and drove away.

I didn’t know where I was going, only that I wasn’t ready to walk into my front door to a fuming husband. My mind began racing, thinking of places I could go. I was ready. I glanced at the clock it was nearly 5 pm on Friday, Christmas only three days away. Would a law firm be open? Could I file for divorce right now? I kept driving, not knowing were I was going, only that I had to get away.

I found my car pulling into the parking lot of the local woman’s shelter. I had been in contact with the shelter, knowing that I would soon be leaving my husband, I just didn’t think it would be today. When I first went to the shelter, it was for information, I knew enough that I had a small bag packed with three days worth of clothes for my son and me, copies of important documents, and a small package of diapers in my trunk.

I turned off my car, pulled the small duffle bag from my trunk, unbuckled my son from his car seat, hunched against the cold air and walked across the snowy parking lot to the entrance.

The building was old with thin carpet and 90’s decor. The layer of plastic wood looking laminate covering the reception desk was chipping away. There was a young girl standing behind it packing up to go home.

I bravely walked up to her and the words, “I need shelter.” tumbled out of my mouth. The action of admitting this was tumultuous, tears began pouring out of my eyes, a flood emotions rushed out of my heart down each of my limbs and back again, my brain began spinning as I imagined where I would be taken. In my mind, I saw cots lining a gymnasium, a soup kitchen, public bathrooms, no showers, no fun, no toys, everything was tinted grey in my mind. I was leaving a home for that?

The young receptionist picked up the phone and began whatever the process to get me admitted. I sat down on the maroon fabric cushioned metal chair with my son on my knee, and tried to hold back the tears.

Soon I was taken up to the top floor, the intake worker sat with me in her tiny office as I began to fill out paper work rating the type and severity of abuse I had been going through. It was so weird to be writing it down on paper and filing out a questionnaire. My recently walking son was wobbling around dropping and picking up a small plush elephant toy, he had no idea how his life was about to change.

I was blessed, and the workers there were sweet and kind, the counselor stayed after her shift to give me a tour make sure I was going to be okay. The shelter was much more homey than I had imagined. There was a large open room that was separated into two parts: a living room area with a big screen satellite TV and large, comfy couches, and a dining room area with a large table that could seat about 12 people and three high chairs. Satelliting out from that room was the intake room and a couple of offices for the therapists, then a small playroom with toys and books and movies, a large kitchen with a fridge and a pantry stock piled with food, and five separate bedrooms. Three of the bedrooms had two sets of bunk beds, a single twin bed, and a full bathroom, and two of them had cribs in lieu of one of the sets of bunk beds I chose one with a crib.

I spent an hour or so talking to the counselor, she explained the rules, the chores, the expectations, the curfew (9pm and if I wasn’t back in by then, with the exception of working a job, I’d be kicked out), and briefly talked to me about my situation. I was at that time, the only woman staying in the shelter, but with the holidays approaching, they were expecting more. Then the counselor left, rushing home to begin the Christmas weekend with her family. It had been explained to me there was an intake worker there 24/7, answering calls on the hotline and helping any women who might show up, other than that, it was just me and my son in a big, empty, strange place.

Meanwhile, my husband had no clue where I had gone, all he had known was that I hadn’t shown up to our home with my son. After I hadn’t been answering my cell phone, he began calling my family and friends to try tracking me down, no one knew where I was. My family and friends were not allowed to have my cell phone number, otherwise, I’m sure there would have been missed calls from them as well. I knew I had to bite the bullet and tell my husband I wasn’t coming home.

I flipped open my cell phone and dialed his number. I wasn’t as afraid of him as normal, I had been blessed with comfort and peace and I knew that he would not find us here, and even if he did, I knew there were security measures to keep him out. When he answered I did not tell my husband where we were, only that we were safe and not coming home and then I hung up the phone, I did not have to listen to him screaming and spewing pain and guilt on me anymore.

I called my parents next, and told them where I was and what had transpired. They offered for me to stay with them, and I explained my fears of my husband coming and physically taking my son away from me. I had left my ex once before when our son was just two months old, and upon returning my father in law invited me to his house, took me into a room alone and told me this, “I have worked for the county, and I have worked for the city, I know all of the judges, and all of the judges dirty laundry, if you EVER leave my son again, you WILL NOT get custody of yours.” I was doing what I felt would keep me and my son safe.

As my son continued to play, I text my three closest friends and told them what I had done and they all offered their support, love, and encouragement. I made dinner for us both, fed and bathed my son, then put him to bed in the strange crib. He fell asleep quickly, I stayed up for a short while, flipping through the channels, but my mind was racing. Christmas was just three days away, I had walked away from my home, my tree, and the presents that were lying beneath it. My only possessions being my car, and three days worth of clothes for my son and me.

I went into the bedroom and knelt in prayer. I poured my heart out to The Lord, told him my fears, and asked for help and strength to get through the upcoming weeks. I knew that a divorce from my husband would not be a simple and easy process. I climbed into the bed and looked out the window. The white Mormon temple was lit up across the street, its brightness and warmth glowing in the black winter sky, the sight brought me comfort and peace. I cuddled into the blankets and cried myself to sleep.