Minimizing Memories of Abuse

December 29, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

My little boys' faces lit up each Christmas morning when they saw proof of Santa's handiwork. Those memories are some of my favorites, but I can't relive the entire Christmas morning memory without including my ex-husband's scathing words "Where the hell did we get this kind of money?!"...and right there, the warm memory turns cold.

During Christmas of 1992, I was fortunate to visit the Moulin Rouge - the hang out of one of my favorite artists, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Although I was going for the art, most of the tour group went for the show consisting of countless scantily clad women - a show I was uncomfortable with attending but thought it worth it to soak in the call-girl atmosphere Henri so enjoyed in his day.

As I buttoned my gorgeous purple pant-suit, my husband said, "Your butt is getting wide."

henri-detoulouse-lautrecThe whole evening's excitement fogged under the weight of his statement. I was taking him to a glamorized strip club and he chose that moment to comment on the size of my butt. So, remember seeing Henri's work on the Moulin Rouge walls, I must also remember those words.

I hold few good memories of my marriage that are uncoupled by distress:

  • The birth of our first child couples with him yelling in the hospital hallway and almost missing it
  • A romantic afternoon at an amusement park couples with discovering he has been smoking pot
  • Oktoberfest couples with him throttling a young man's neck
  • My graduation couples with his question, "Do I really need to go to that thing?"

I am wracking my brain to come up with a good memory unencumbered by a bad one. A snapshot from Christmas 1998 flashed into my mind. There's a blue-gray Texas sky behind my husband and sons as they balance on a brand new trampoline. He is holding our youngest and our oldest stands proudly at his daddy's side. They're all three smiling at me through the lens of the camera and looking so alive!

I don't remember anything distressful about that moment in time. Before and after I took the picture, all I remember is the three of them rolling around and laughing on that trampoline...

It's easy to get lost in the bitter-sweetness of that memory. It's been five minutes, lost in thought, since I wrote that last sentence.

Sometimes I so wish I could go back and edit my memories. Now that I'm free of the abusive relationship, I sometimes wonder if the bad memories will ever stop haunting the good ones. Yet, if I could edit those memories, then wouldn't I want to reconcile with him? If my memories deceived me, what would keep me from making the same mistakes again?

Maybe editing my memories is the same as denial. The thing about living in denial is that eventually the truth catches up with you. With so many bad memories to deny, it's only a matter of time before the mirage explodes to a disastrous end.

My angel said that incomplete memories would void my existence. Without complete memories, good and bad, I couldn't make sense of my time here on earth, and I couldn't make informed decisions about my future. She says tat blocking out the worst memories - denying them - also blocks from mind all of the good memories swirling around them.

If remembering my little boys' Christmas morning smiles means I must also recall his criticism, then so be it. At the time, his words ruined my morning. Now, I see his words as meritless, merely his method of controlling my emotions back in the days when I allowed it. When I remember those mornings, I do not have to stop cold when he enters the picture; instead, I can fast-forward right past him, acknowledging that he was a presence there but taking from him the power over me he once held.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, December 29). Minimizing Memories of Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 28 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

June, 9 2012 at 3:19 pm

My x-husband showed his true colours from day 1 so I can count good days in 3 years of marriage on just the fingers of 1 hand!! all good memories are marred with his criticism, mood swings, attention to other women, or "silent treatment". Those moments were meant to be a romantic walk in the park etc, the best memories for me were when I could be "with him" but ignore him while watching a movie at the cinema. Why did I stay with him if I knew something was wrong from day 1? Cos I was Young & Hopeful/Optimistic that things would get better that it was maybe "my fault" his treatment of me at the beginning. You have to realise this was my first relationship with a man (emotionally & sexually) at 22 yrs old via an arranged marriage - so I was naive and thought abusers can "change". He was a narcissist. It was my education to degree level and belief in my own identity that helped keep me sane through the abuse.

January, 4 2012 at 7:30 pm

We had our annual Christmas Holidays blowup around noon on Christmas Eve. I was waiting for it for weeks knowing it was coming. She blew her top over some trumped up BS and then wouldn't talk to me or my 23 year old daughter who came over to visit. Then on Christmas morning she blew up at me again telling me what she was so mad about which was again not really accurate as to what happened. It so upset my daughter that she left the room crying. Then around 4 or 5 in the afternoon it was all over and things were good. Just as soon as it can start, it can also stop.
I talked to my daughter on Christmas Eve Night when we went out to the store and she told me she too dreads Christmas around my wife because of the annual blow ups.

January, 2 2012 at 7:19 am

Ha! Angela! Santa presents had to be few, and crappy at our house, for that same reason! I'm surprised he didn't just outright tell the kids that it was all him.

January, 1 2012 at 5:43 pm

My "favorite" Christmas argument... he didn't want the kids getting any gifts from Santa, because then Santa would get all the credit, when he clearly deserved it! Self-centered! Now I buy the kids what I want, when I want it. No explaining it away.

Joanna V Hunter
January, 1 2012 at 5:59 am

Right on. Once we are out and see our former partner's comments as his attempt to ruin things for us, when we remember the incident the sting is no longer there. Like you say, he has no power over us anymore. That's something to celebrate.

December, 30 2011 at 1:16 pm

For me my good memories are and were good despite him. Yes he was a wet blanket attempting to kill enjoyment. He did succeed often then but no longer. I know that what he did is who he is and that I want no part of that. He never succeeded in taking from me the joy of watching our children grow. In a way I pity him as he never knew them, he never knew me and he did not know love.
I know now that I never deserved his criticism or his anger for failing to jump through his ever changing and moving hoops. x was simply never really the good part although he did occasionally use a mask of good as a tool to keep me there. With abusers what is real is the bad side.
I see no harm in fast forwarding through the bad. I do not believe you will forget what you learned and what you now know.

Amy K
December, 30 2011 at 10:30 am

Really glad I caught the link to your blog on Facebook. Thank you for sharing!

December, 30 2011 at 12:30 am

Great thoughts. Thank you for sharing!

December, 29 2011 at 3:12 pm

The Christmas he raged because I used too much of our special Christmas tea in the teapot; the Christmas he pouted for nearly the whole day because he didn't get enough things in his stocking; the Christmas he raged at me because he thought I was arguing with him, when, in fact, I was completely agreeing with him. Mind you, these were Christmases when we had kids, and should have been only thinking of them. I'm so glad I'm out. Our last two Christmases have been very peaceful.

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