SELECTIVE MEMORY AND ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS: DON
LETTER FROM A STRANGER
September 29, 2021
Letter from a Stranger is a new biweekly column in The SIREN that gives people the chance to tell their stories. Some of them are inspiring; some of them are heartbreaking. Each “letter” is a chance for SIREN readers to learn more about the struggles, triumphs, and perspectives of people they know nothing about–but who live right here in our community.
Don is a 61 year old from Riverside. He divorced his abusive ex-wife of 15 years, 10 years ago. He has since experienced selective memory regarding their relationship. He has no recollection of anything about her or their relationship. This is his story…
“We were discussing the fact that [my girlfriend] was visiting Napa Valley, a wine country in California, while on her business trip. And said, we should go there and she said, oh wait you went on your honeymoon there. And I did. And I just spent the last three days or four days since she brought that up, trying to remember anything about my honeymoon. And I remember everything about the wineries. I remember where we stayed. I don’t even remember my ex-wife even being there. Interesting. I don’t know why. Maybe it wasn’t that memorable.
“And same with Cape May. Cape May is where I went with my ex-wife every year for a decade. I barely remember her being there. I remember all of the times with her dad where we cooked and went fishing. I remember having to take care of her abusive brother’s children, because he was drunk most of the time and wouldn’t. I don’t remember her even being there. I’m not sad because we’ve now replaced Cape May with a lot of good memories. I still miss my father in law. That makes me sad. Her being there is not even there. It’s vacant. It’s very strange how little I remember about her.
“And I wrote, after the divorce, I wrote a lot of things down, so that I would remember it. But I don’t remember anything about being in Cape May with her. I remember her dad. I remember those moments more than anything else. So that’s an interesting question, does your mind protect you from painful memories or things that would trigger painful memories?”
Advice to anyone currently in an abusive or unhealthy relationship:
“Get out. Don’t save anything. It’s not worth your mental health. It’s not worth whatever you think you need to save. Your mental health, giving up your mental health is not going to make life better for your then six year old son. There is no reason to save that marriage because it’s unhealthy. But, if you’re in a relationship that just doesn’t do it for you, that’s different.”
If you are in an abusive relationship please call: 1-866-223-1111.
(Please note that domestic abuse is not limited to physical abuse.)