Okay, I had a working knowledge of Shakespeare, I had read many of the plays, but somehow The Taming of the Shrew had escaped me. He watched the movie for crying out loud. Liz and Richard on the silver screen, and he had the answers to life’s problems. He could now conquer his strong willed, opinionated wife. He could shut me up and turn me into the “lady” he thought his wife should be. Great. Can’t wait for that one.
In the play, the “mighty” husband withholds food and sleep until the strong, determined woman acquiesces to his greater wisdom and becomes a passive, quiet, approving wife. It’s a great story, too bad for the woman who hasn’t read it.
The actual process of his conquering me is a blur. Sleep deprivation is strong medicine. He would insist that I sit with him to watch television after I had worked all day, fixed dinner, and taken care of the baby. All I wanted was to go to bed. He would talk to me and be offended if I didn’t answer. He would pinch, poke and yell to keep me awake. He demand obedience to his ridiculous commands, then he would accuse me of infidelity. I was too tired to entertain the thought. He accused, and demanded answers, accused again and made up stories to confirm his suspicions. And then he expected to be adored and worshipped.
I wanted to die by this point. Damn it. I was smarter than that. I should have run away, somehow. But I was unable to function without sleep. I know now that I was dehydrated as well. He had won. I was conquered. I wanted one thing only: to achieve an acceptable level of perfection that would remove the threat of violence and allow me to sleep. I tried to be perfect. I continued to be punished severely for my many crimes and failures, real and imagined. I walked through my life in a fog. We had two more children. I was not allowed to work outside of the home. When I went to the market I was only allowed to take one of the children with me. I was an empty shell going through the motions of my life. I was a prisoner in every way, in all aspects of my life and in my “duties” as a wife.
If you have a sister, a friend, or a neighbor who is being abused, please don’t simply decide that you can’t help her. Don’t believe that she “must want to be abused.” Please try. Talk to her. Give her any information you can that will convince her that there is help for her.
She may be unwilling to ask for help and risk the retribution she would face, or, she simply doesn’t believe that her God will release her from whatever punishment her loving husband has convinced her that she deserves. I thought that God might stop the beatings if I tolerated them without complaint. Yes, I was crazy, on top of being heartbroken. My baby son had been taken by SIDS. My poor little daughters did not really have a mother. They had an automaton, who cooked and cleaned and took them to school. How lonely and sad that must have been for them.
I read the Bible constantly. I called myself an Old Testament Christian then. I loved the law, and the prophets, and the poetry. I also knew that Christianity was based on Jewish Law, with the obvious differences. If I had any hope, it would be in the Law. At last, I came across a passage that I had never noticed before. It said (roughly) that a wife could return to her father’s house if her husband mistreated, or beat her. That was nearly thirty years ago. I don’t remember the exact words. I do remember the feeling of freedom. This was our ticket out. We could leave now.
I have been hunting for that little bit of wisdom for days and days now, in my Bible, and in other reference books. Finally, Google came to the rescue. The next several posts are simply quotes from various sources about the way a husband was expected to treat his wife. Understand, that if Jewish Law required a husband to treat his wife well, nothing about the coming of the Christ would eradicate that requirement.