Commentary: Don’t suffer in silence

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Elisabeth Teitelman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

I didn’t acknowledge I was in an abusive relationship until I initiated my divorce in July of 2022.

My relationship had been entirely long distance leading up to my wedding. We met online between the fall and winter semester of my freshman year of college. He decided to enlist during my spring semester of college, and after finishing tech school, he got orders across the country the following year.

On our drive to his first duty station in between my sophomore and junior year of college, he proposed and I said yes. We didn’t see each other after that until the following winter, and things had noticeably changed during my two week visit to see him.

I assumed the excess drinking was due to stress at work and being away from me and his family for the first time. I assumed the yelling while drinking was due to the same. I assumed the hateful things he said to me while drinking was just because he missed me and didn’t know how to process it.

The mornings after incidents like that were always the same. He would shower me with apologies and make the day about me and treat me how I always deserved to be treated. I didn’t realize after that two week visit, that this pattern of behavior is what would define my relationship over the course of the next few years.

After my visit, I didn’t tell anyone about the complete change in demeanor I had witnessed in my then fiance because I was embarrassed and assumed the behavior would change. I’m the person who has always had to be strong for others, and I didn’t want anyone to worry about me due to what seemed like a minor issue to me at the time.

After my visit that winter, we didn’t see each other again until two days before our wedding the following summer. Between those in-person reunions, his drinking had increased noticeably, as did his aggressive behavior while drinking, which I got a taste of over video calls. I recall getting texts saying how much he hated me and how he wished we weren’t getting married, and I just played it off, blamed it on my actions, blamed it on his mental health, and continued to suffer in silence.

On our wedding night, my ex-husband was so drunk that he fell asleep sobbing in the shower at the hotel and didn’t recall much from our actual ceremony. The next day, we drove to Austin for our quick “mini-moon,” since he didn’t have enough leave or money for an actual honeymoon.

We checked into our hotel and got ready to go to a concert that evening. After the concert I had asked if we could head back to the hotel to rest for the evening, but he wanted to go to one more bar. He continued saying this over and over again until he was black-out drunk.

On our walk to our ride home, he started yelling at me at the top of his lungs in the middle of downtown Austin, threw his wedding ring on the ground, and stormed off, leaving me sobbing and alone on the side of the road.

The next morning, the pattern of apologies continued again, and my pattern of suffering in silence continued as well. I spent the rest of that summer in Kyrgyzstan as part of Project Global Officer, and recall getting a call halfway through my trip from his roommate at the time who said he had to take a gun away from my then husband while he was drinking. I was terrified and couldn’t do anything from the other side of the world, and was terrified of what this would mean for me from here on out.

We didn’t live together full time until I graduated from college in May 2020. I went to live with him across the country for three months until I received orders to my first duty station that August. He hadn’t changed at all, and things had actually gotten worse. He would tell me that if I left him he would kill himself. He tried to break my thumb because I asked him to not have another drink in front of his friends. He punched walls when I cried.

After we got our joint spouse assignment, we moved into our first home together. The next year, we only had three months living together total, as I went to tech school and he deployed. After his deployment, things had again gotten worse.

He continued drinking heavily, yelling hateful things at me, punching walls, and started forcing me to do drills around the house with him and a fully loaded gun while he was black-out drunk. Again, the next day his apologize-and-make-it-up-to-you shower continued, and I continued to suffer in silence.

In March of 2022, I reached my breaking point. We were at another concert, and I had asked him not to drink that night so we could just enjoy the concert. He ended up being at the bar the entire night, missed the concert, and got escorted out by security.

After the concert, I asked if we could leave since we had an hour drive home and it was already close to midnight. He asked if we could go to one more bar, and I hesitantly agreed. After that, I put my foot down and said we needed to leave.

He lost his mind, started yelling at me in the middle of the street, threw our keyfob down on the ground and shattered it into pieces. I started sobbing, and he stormed off and went to more bars alone. I went to the car and proceeded to call him and tell him I was leaving in 30 minutes and he could find a ride home if he didn’t come to the car. The entire hour ride home I sobbed while he yelled at the top of his lungs about how I had left him alone downtown, about how much he wished we weren’t married, and about how he wanted to beat me. We got home, did a gun drill, and then he passed out and peed himself. The next morning I told him if he ever drank again that I would leave him.

The next three months of our relationship were actually decent. He was starting to become the person I had fallen for before the alcohol and abuse. July of 2022, three months after our previous altercation, he came home from work and told me he cheated on me a week after he had proposed to me and possibly had a four-year-old child
with the person he had cheated with. That night, I told him I was going to divorce him.

My divorce hearing was three days before I left for Altus to report before my report no later than date. I have not once looked back since making the decision to leave and am the happiest and healthiest I have been in a long time.

It took me six years to leave. Six years to stand up for myself. I vividly remember calling my friends and family to tell them the news and them all being completely shocked and blown away. It wasn’t until I took a trip home to see my friends and family the weekend after I initiated the divorce that I told them about the years of abuse I had put up with. They again were all shocked, completely blown away, and wished I had told them after the first incident so they could’ve helped me sooner.

Actively being in and maintaining an abusive relationship and not speaking up once is the most difficult thing I have ever endured. I regret not speaking up at all throughout my six years of suffering. The pattern of abuse will continue; there is nothing you can do to end it except for leaving - take my word for it.

Regardless of how strong you think you are and how much of a burden you are trying not to be, no one deserves to suffer through domestic abuse. Please speak to someone, anyone, so you can get the help you need.

No one deserves to be abused.

It is not your fault.

You are not alone.

Domestic abuse and violence can happen at any age, to anyone of any rank, race, and gender.

Please don’t suffer in silence. Help is here for you 24/7 -