The other day as I was cooking eggs, bacon and toast for my son (breakfast for dinner people, no judging!) he came up to me and said “mommy please don’t put any pepper or salt on my eggs! I HATE pepper and salt.” I looked at him and assured him that I wouldn’t put any spices on the eggs, but the way he looked at me, the way pleaded with me, triggered a memory that shines a light on the emotional abuse I dealt with in my marriage to his dad.

I can vividly remember having the exact same interaction with my ex, time and time again. If he was making eggs for breakfast, he’d offer me some, and I’d ask him to not use any pepper because I really don’t like it. To me, this seems like a simple ask that isn’t a big deal, just leave the pepper out or put half the eggs on one side of the pan and pepper your own eggs on the other side. But to him it was a big deal. More times than I can count he’d tell me, right to my face, that he didn’t use pepper, but pepper is a pretty noticeable thing, especially on eggs. He’d lie to me, straight up lie about something so insignificant, and when I’d say, hey, these really look like they have pepper he’d start off by denying that he used any but ultimately say he did because eggs are “shit” without pepper. I can’t tell you how many arguments we had about pepper. I stopped eating his eggs, or anything that he would cook, because knowing that my husband, who was supposed to love me more than anyone else on this planet, couldn’t bring himself to not put pepper in our (few) shared meals brought out a rage in me that I didn’t even know existed. Rage, mamas, rage. And I am not an angry person.

Seeing my son beg me not to use pepper brought me right back to that place with my ex where I felt so devalued. Looking back at this now that I haven’t been married to him for a while, I can see that this was part of his cycle of emotional abuse. I was at a close friends house recently and her husband made her coffee first thing in the morning and brought it upstairs to her. I remember saying, “Wow! You have such an amazing husband that he’d make you your own coffee just the way you like it.” She looked at me and said “Audra, he is amazing but this is what a loving marriage is like.” That really struck me.

My ex is a classic narcissist. Everything was (and still is) always about him. He wanted pepper on his eggs so he was going to do that even if it upset me. Even if it meant he and his wife couldn’t sit down and enjoy the same meal together. Because he had to have things exactly as he wanted them to be, and how I felt meant absolutely nothing.

So to my handsome, sweet, amazing little boy, I promise to always hear you, see you, and do my best to value your feelings. And if that means no salt or pepper on the eggs, that’s a pretty easy thing to do.