You know, I honestly believed that the dynamics within my family and the abuse that I endured was "normal," until I began observing the benefits of healthy relationships! And, it's nearly 10 years, to the day, that I told my abuser that I wanted a divorce.
The final straw was the abuser's reaction when a much-beloved neighbor passed away in the middle of the night. She was fighting liver cancer and lived 2 doors down. I saw the lights of an emergency vehicle, ran down, saw the paramedics loading her into the ambulance, and told her husband that I would follow him to the hospital, which was only three minutes away - literally. By the time I had told the abuser that I was going with our neighbor and arrived at the ER, she had already passed. I found her husband in the room where they attempted to revive her and I stayed with him for nearly 2 hours while he began the difficult process of grieving.
After I left the hospital, I dropped by my house to let people know that I was going to break the news to the neighbor's best friend - 2 doors down in the other direction. As you can imagine, I went through the process of grieving, all over again, for the next 2 hours. All in all, I was gone for about 4 1/2 hours, attending to friends/neighbors in need.
When I walked back into my home, my abuser was laying back in a recliner, watching some television program. He began interrogating me as to why I had been gone for so long and didn't even look up when he said, "Sorry to hear about Ann." The man didn't look up, get up, demonstrate any emotion, whatsoever. A genuine embrace of comfort would have probably changed my mind about this SOB, but it was at that moment that I realized that nothing would ever change and everything revolved around his control.
My abuser would also threaten suicide in front of our children to have his needs met. Usually, the threats were fueled by our terrible financial status and he would demand - yes, demand - that I obtain funds from my parents because they "owed" him for "taking care of" me for so many years. When I would insist that we take care of our own messes, he would shout in my face (spittle flying), "Why do I even bother? That's it! I'm ending it, right now!"
By the time that I left my abuser, I had been reduced to almost a shell of a human being. But, there was one thing that he could not destroy, and that was my spark of life for God's perfect palette! My art, my sense of humor, and my spiritual beliefs (which he also tried to manipulate) are what kept me alive during those dark, black years.