When I met my ex-husband, whom we’ll call “Norman” after Norman Bates, I was 16 years old.
He was six years older, good looking, funny, engaging and a great storyteller. Within minutes of meeting him on a double date, he had me in tears laughing.
That night, we talked until 3 a.m. and were inseparable from then on.
What I didn’t know then was that 23 years later, Norman’s actions would lead me to a felony charge, a prison sentence and a lifetime of paying off debt. Let mine be the cautionary tale that keeps you from making the same mistakes.
It Can Happen to Anyone
I decided to introduce Norman to my big, close-knit East Coast family at my grandparents’ annual July 4th party, after we had been dating for just four days. He got so nervous that he took too many muscle relaxers and slept for three hours by the pool. When he did wake up, he was warm and personable, so my family and I brushed his bad judgment aside, joking, “He was so nervous that he passed out!”
Norman was jealous, too. Within weeks of dating, he started making overprotective remarks about my clothing being too tight and revealing or my makeup being too heavy. He told me I looked “like a whore” in a pair of new purple suede boots. He also came to pick me up from school every day. At the time, I felt like a hotshot, but I think it was actually that he wanted to know where I was.
After insulting me, Norman would turn around and be charming in the next moment. He was clean cut, gainfully employed and my parents liked him. It was easy to overlook the problems.
I had been so protected growing up—I never had to take initiative to learn how to deal with problems myself. My parents have been happily married for 44 years and both materially and emotionally, I had everything I needed. The more time that passed, the more afraid I became to take on responsibility and stand on my own feet, so I stayed with Norman.
From Insults to Addiction
Norman was getting a bachelor’s degree on an extended time frame and I was getting my master’s, so we got married when we both finished school in 1997. I was only 24 years old.
He had always been compulsive. When he became interested in martial arts, for instance, he couldn’t just go a few times a week. He had to go every day and shoot for a black belt. Any new electronic gadget had to be the best and newest, and he collected objects in multiples, regardless of price, from radios to construction equipment. He seemed to experience a momentary high and self-esteem boost when acquiring these things, which quickly left him feeling just as empty.
When his grandmother passed away, he started getting migraines and became addicted to prescription painkillers. He was a functional addict, who went to work each day, but I found him passed out on the floor or overmedicated frequently enough that the weekend staff at the ER knew us by name.
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At the time, I was a recruiter making over $100,000 a year. He had a managerial position in construction and was earning about $70,000 … and yet we had nothing left at the end of the month. He made frequent excuses for needing cash, so I didn’t realize that he was using it to buy prescription pills. Later, I found out that he had even gone to my mother, a nursery school teacher, and said that we couldn’t make ends meet. He cashed her paychecks to buy drugs.