In Spousal Abuse, EVERYTHING is a weapon

That’s My Mailbox

The sun was barely beginning to think about waking up when I jumped out of bed. Today was the big day! I moved as quietly as my excitement would allow and got my morning chores done. By the time he wandered into the kitchen, sleepy saturday bedhead and comfy clothes, I had the whole house smelling like bacon. He was going to get the best breakfast I could make!

I looked out the kitchen window at the wood posts waiting for him. Sitting on top was a beautiful copper cap, glowing in the red morning sun. 

I was getting a new mailbox today!

Our old mailbox was wobbly, cheaply made, rusty, and absolutely hideous. For years, every time we drove home, I would dream out loud about a cute craftsman mailbox. I would imagine the little flower bed I wanted to plant around it. The rose bushes we had planted last year would be the perfect backdrop. 

It may have been a silly thing to be so giddy about… But giddy is exactly how I felt! We were going to do it!

“Did you look out the front window?” He asked me. Confused, I went into the living room and pulled back the curtains. What was I looking for? It took a minute… Then I saw it.

The neighbor’s mailbox was flattened on the ground.

“They just moved in yesterday.” hesaid behind me. “What a surprise on the first day in a new house…” He trailed off. I looked at him, my eyes pleading. He gestured to the wood posts for the mailbox. My mailbox. “It would be really selfish for us not to do it.” He said.

I sighed. The weight of my disappointment felt crushing in my chest. I fought back the tears, and struggled to look brave and kind. “Ok.” I said. “But… But please promise you’ll make me one next weekend!”

He smiled from ear to ear. “Of course.”

Within an hour, he had a beautiful, sturdy mailbox in front of the neighbor’s house. He rang their doorbell to show them his “housewarming” gift, and they were very grateful.

It was on facebook too. All our friends and family were in awe at his craftsmanship, and his generosity. What a beautiful mailbox! How lucky you must be to have a man who does such fine work, and is so selfless and giving. Yes. I’m very blessed.

I waited until the next weekend. Oh, he’s busy. Next weekend? Doesn’t feel like it. How about the weekend after that? Why are you such a nag?

Now, every time we drove up our driveway, he’d point to his handiwork. “That sure is a good looking mailbox!” he’d announce with a smile. Yes. Yes it really is.

“Hey, Babe?” I asked timidly one day. “When do you think would be a good time for us to go to HomeDepot? Let’s get wood for a nice mailbox.”

He wouldn’t even look at me. “I already made you a mailbox.” He gestured to the window. “It’s out there. You can see it whenever you want.”

I choked back tears. “Yes. It is a really beautiful mailbox. You did an incredible job! But… Could I have one in front of my house, too?”

I felt contempt pour from his eyes when he spun around to face me. “Nothing is ever good enough for you, Is it?!” I lowered my head and left the room without another word. He was right. Why could I never seem to rise above my selfishness? I sat on the edge of the bathtub and prayed. 

“God, help me to not covet! I want my neighbor’s mailbox so much. Please, turn my heart to be more generous and selfless. Like his. Willing to give anything he has to help someone. Father, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get past my selfish nature. Please, God. Please help me! Help me to never ask him for a nice mailbox again, but to find joy in seeing that my neighbor has one.”

Now, years later, I still wonder what happened to the neighbor’s old mailbox that night…

…..

Four years later, I giggled my way through the front yard. The chickens had a passion for toes. Watching them try to get a taste of mine, while simultaneously avoiding letting me pet them always made me laugh. My ladies were so entertaining that I didn’t notice until I made it to the road that something was missing.

Where was the mailbox? Ouch! I had stopped moving long enough for a fluffy-butt Buff Orpington chicken to catch up with my foot. I bent down and scooped her into my arms. Tit for Tat. Now she owed me a snuggle. The pretty chicken rubbed her beak against my neck and made soft noises at me for a few seconds, then hopped out of my arms.

*ding* Her feet landed on a piece of scrap metal. Well… It was just scrap metal now!

I squatted over the completely flattened mailbox. With a stick from the yard, I pried the metal apart enough to pull the letters out. Hmm. Across the street, a driver was hooking up to a large dumpster. After he was done, I waved him down and showed him the mushed mailbox. 

“Aw, crap!” he said to himself. “Crap. crap. Crap.” he muttered as he was digging through the truck cab for a clipboard and the correct forms. He looked close to tears when he climbed down and asked for my contact info.

“Um, let me ask you a question first.” I said, watching him kick and shift his weight anxiously from one foot to the other. “Will this cost you you job?” He looked at the ground.  So I asked him again.

“Yes ma’am. Probably will.” He admitted.

I handed him back his blank incident report. “You know, I was hoping to get a different mailbox eventually anyways… And I didn’t actually SEE you run over it. Did you? I mean, I guess it could have been anyone. Maybe even me.”

A tear ran down his face. “Bless you!” He drove away, and the chickens came back to my feet.

Later I told my guy what had happened. He smiled at me and told me he was proud that I’d been kind. “So, what kind of mailbox do you want?” he asked me. “I’ll go get wood tomorrow!”

I jumped and clapped with a little squeal. “Really?! I want a mailbox exactly like you built for the neighbors at the old house. I want MY mailbox! Oh, THANK YOU!!!”

He pulled me into his arms and smiled so warmly. “Of course! Anything for my wonderful woman! Only… I don’t remember exactly how I built that one. Can you find a picture of what you want? For  reference?”

I grabbed his hand and pulled him outside, half skipping with joy. “The mailbox across the street is almost exactly the same.” I pointed. “Isn’t it cute!?” He was laughing at how excited I was now. “I’ll send you the reference pics you used for the last one you built too. I still have them.”

…..

“Hey Babe! It’s done! Come outside and see your new mailbox!” 

I jumped up from nursing the baby, and kissed his cheek. He held the front door open for me, and I giggled as he patted my backside. But then my face froze.

“Well?” He asked. Do you like it? I made it just for you!”

I looked at the new mailbox. Even if I had known what words to say, the lump clenching my voice wouldn’t have let me. It was hideous. The incredible craftsmanship he was capable of, the cuteness I’d need him build before, the beauty… was all missing. 

If a giraffe had been broken in half, stitched back together with metal cable, and turned into a mailbox, this would be it. It was lopsided. The post was taller than me. The arm that actually held the box was four or five feet long. To counter the weight, a huge cable was attached from the back and anchored it to the cement base.The sawed edge was left jagged and split. And… It swiveled. It actually swiveled. 

I couldn’t force my face to hide how shattered I was.

“Well… Don’t you like it?” he asked again.

“I… Um. It looks very sturdy.”

His face had a dark edge to it now. “Why do you say that like it’s a bad thing?” he asked.

“I just… I just thought you were going to build a cute one. Like we talked about. Like you built for the neighbors.”

He pushed me out of his arms. “This IS just like I built for the neighbors. See?! This right here is why I wanted you to show me what you wanted. So you couldn’t act this way to me now.”

I was so confused. This was my fault? “But, please don’t yell at me. I did show you. I showed you several different examples. We talked about it…”

He cut me off. “Yes. And this is exactly what you told me to build. Right here. I did it. See? It has a post going up and down, and a post going sideways. Exactly like you wanted.”

I couldn’t keep it together anymore. I started crying. “It’s just. I mean it looks very sturdy. And thank you for building a mailbox. It will work just fine. But, I was hoping it would be cute.”

His face turned bright red with rage. “Nothing is ever going to be good enough for you, is it!? You fucking love this, don’t you?! You just sit around, waiting for me to fuck things up. You love telling me what a fuck up I am! You just love this!”

I drew myself up straight and my voice was quiet and steely. “Nobody gets to use that word with me.”

“Oh, you think you’re so special, don’t you? I’ve had enough of this from you. Nobody else could put up with what I take from you.” And he stormed away to go mess with his tools.

……….

What comes to mind when you think about domestic violence? Black eyes? Broken bones? Police visits?

That’s what I used to believe too… Which is a huge part of the problem. We, as a society, don’t recognize or talk about the hidden, subtle, secret forms of abuse. The “good guy” abuse. The “I’m trying my best but she’s never satisfied” abuse. The “poor man having to live with her” abuse. The masks. The lies. The acting.

One thing I’ve learned: the majority of abusive husbands will never give their wife a black eye. They may never hit her.

They don’t have to.

Spousal abuse, domestic violence, is a system. It’s a system of power. It’s a system of control. Financial control. Emotional control. Spiritual control. And it’s engineered to create a relationship dynamic where the abuser gets all the privilege of the relationship, while the abused carries all the burden. It’s a system where one person becomes “selfish” for having desires, needs, preferences, or even being their own unique individual. Where one person is repeatedly told, again and again, through words and actions that they don’t matter. 

In a system like this, anything and everything becomes a tool to use to “prove” that the other person is irrelevant. Anything and everything becomes a weapon.

Even a mailbox.