Once upon a time, I lived in New York City, where I had been raised my entire life by adoptive parents. I will not spend much time talking about my abusive childhood right now. Suffice it to say that I grew up in a very horrific situation. There was physical violence as well as verbal and emotional abuse perpetrated by my female parent. On the other hand, my adoptive dad was a physically disabled person with PTSD and other issues due to a truly horrifying set of accidents in childhood and was, in fact, a victim of his mentally ill wife’s abuse.
I left home at 18 and have floundered through life since.
For a long time, I dreamed of leaving the city. For any fun aspects of New York City life, the bad outweighs the good if you’re not wealthy. Long before COVID, I couldn’t stand the subways. People packed like sardines. Their faces almost pressed into the germ-ridden mouth vapors of other riders.
I couldn’t deal with the noise, the odors, the pollution, the crowds, and the bright lights at night destroying the night sky. I wanted quiet, fresh air and a sky full of stars, but that dream seemed impossible. It wasn’t until I met some people who lived in upstate New York that I had any chance to migrate north.
These people helped me so much. They helped me get set up in a sweet cottage in the woods and gave me the use of an old beat-around car. They even taught me how to drive. Since growing up in NYC, many kids never learn to drive. Vehicles are a liability in the city but a true necessity here.
Everything was pretty good for a few short years.
Then the landlords of my cottage said they intended to sell the property, and I’d most likely have to leave. I was panic-stricken. Being the class-A jack-ass that I am, I used to believe in the universe’s will and fate. When I met my ex at around that time, it turned out he had also just been told by his landlord that he could no longer stay in the mobile home he’d been renting. It seemed logical that we should find a place together.
Back then, everything seemed “meant to be,” and my ex seemed so wonderful. He always treated me as though I were special to him. But again, I am a naïve jack-ass. I had no understanding at that time that I was being played by a narcissist who, quite frankly, should have been a “one-off” and not a relationship. Fool that I am, I broke my own rule: NO RELATIONSHIPS. EVER.
As it turned out, like any good shark, he “smelled blood in the water.”
I made the fatal mistake of introducing him to my “family” who lived in a lavish house on the top of a dead-end road on a mountain in an affluent area. Coming from poverty, you could imagine his reaction. Suddenly I became somebody to hold on to.
I know now he never loved me. He wasn’t interested in dealing with my Autism and special needs or understanding my physical disabilities due to chronic illness. He was hatching a plan to ingratiate himself into the lives of my friends, who were also disabled, in the hopes that these childless people would include him in their will one day. His plan was to make himself “indispensable” to them.
Guess what? He did. Like me, they had no reason not to trust him back then.
Using a technique he called “blowing smoke up their ass,” he explained that he could become an indispensable right hand. He had skills. He could fix anything, and he could drive anywhere. So he took on more and more work with them.
His work was excellent. He never showed his dark side to them. That was reserved for me. I never knew who would walk in the door every night: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. His untreated mood disorder was mild enough that he could mask it as normal in front of those who paid him. But he had to let it out someplace, and that was with me.
I suffered from verbal and emotional abuse for years. But I was used to it. I grew up that way for the first 18 years of my life. I also knew, even back then, that if I left, I would likely become homeless. That “housing market crash thing” that took place around 2008 had impacted the area—finding another place that I could actually afford was getting impossible.
So I put up with the abuse, and in the end, the less he needed me, the more he heaped his anger and hatred on me. Narcissists will lure you in with flattery and insincere love. Once they have you on the hook, things change. Little by little, you become hated. They don’t need you anymore. Once you are of no viable use, you are discarded.
My friends are both dead now, and my ex rode off into the sunset with a huge pay-off. Evil always wins.
Since time immemorial, women have ended up on the streets because they were either turned out by their husbands or became widows. Over 400 years ago, Shakespeare wrote in the play “Othello” (spoken by Desdemona):
“Though he do shake me off to beggarly divorcement—love him dearly, Comfort forswear me! Unkindness may do much, and his unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love.”
In simple modern translation, she’s admitting that his cruelty toward her might be the death of her (spoiler alert: it is!), and she might end up divorced and begging in the streets. But she still loves him.
Sadly, many of us stay with people like this because we think our love can glue all their broken parts back together. That keeps us in the game too long. By the time we realize we should have “cashed out” and that there was never any hope, it’s too late.
Many women’s shelters are horrible places, so many abused women stay out of them, choosing instead to stay with their abuser. What a sad statement – the shelter system is mostly a huge failure. Women would rather be on the street or with an abuser than in a shelter. Equally sad is that disabled people end up on the street with nowhere to turn for viable help in a country that criminalizes homelessness and preys like vampires on the poor.
To be clear, men can be victims of spousal abuse, too. I grew up witnessing that firsthand. This article isn’t proposing that all men are bad and all women are good or any such thing. The fact is, anyone can become a victim of abuse under the wrong set of circumstances. Many men also end up homeless after a bad marriage ends. The end of a marriage is often the catalyst for homelessness. It certainly was a massive factor in the tragedy of my life.