Last Tuesday night, 26-year-old Jo* was shocked to learn her husband was one of the 2.7 million Ohioans who helped Trump win the swing state, and in turn, the presidency. Jo, a sexual assault victim, was devastated by the news. Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
I don’t want to vilify my husband. He’s not one of the extremist, bigoted Trump supporters you find out there.
But it was bad when I found out. Really bad.
I found out my husband voted Trump while we were watching the election results.
He told me he was going to vote for Gary Johnson. He and I are registered Democrats and we both voted Bernie in the primaries. But neither of us liked Hillary, so we decided to make a statement by supporting Johnson. We knew it was a losing battle, but we wanted to make a statement that there are alternatives to the major party candidates.
“I did it. I voted Gary Johnson,” he texted me during the day.
The truth didn’t come out until later, when we were watching the election returns. I went online to see how Johnson did because the networks weren’t reporting on the third-party candidates, and my husband, who had had a few beers, said, “I don’t really care how Johnson did, because I didn’t vote for him.”
It was like being punched in the gut. I was so flabbergasted, so hurt, so betrayed.
For one, he lied to me. The foundation of our relationship was always being honest with each other. But the worst part was that he had voted for him. Trump. A man who embodies everything I stand against and everything we don’t want our children to be.
We got into the worst fight in our 11 years together.
At first my husband was defensive. He said that before he went to the polls, he looked at each candidate’s platform and was impressed by Trump’s policies. As the father of a family living paycheck-to-paycheck, he was interested in Trump’s plan to repeal Obamacare and make health care more affordable. And that was enough to sway his vote, apparently.
My husband didn’t vote for Trump because he liked the man, he explained. He knows how Donald Trump makes me feel as a survivor of sexual assault and as a woman, in general. He felt terrible about his vote the moment he stepped out of the polling place, he told me.
“I’m not your dad. I didn’t vote for Trump because I don’t like Mexicans,” he said. “I’m not your mom. I didn’t vote for Trump because I don’t believe in gay marriage.”
None of his explanations could calm me down, though. At one point I tried to convince myself that I was more upset about him lying to me. But what really bothered me was that my husband, a man I’ve loved for the past 11 years and whom I thought I knew, voted for someone who brags about grabbing women by the pussy because he has the star power to do it.
I’ve never felt hurt like that before. My husband and I have disagreements. We’ve even disagreed on presidential candidates before. We both voted Obama his first term, but he voted Romney in 2012, and I voted Obama again. But this left a pit in my stomach for two days.
My husband and I have been together since we were 15, and he’s always come to my defense. We weren’t married when I first got pregnant, and my grandparents said and did so many hurtful things regarding my pregnancy. They suggested I get an abortion or give the child up for adoption, and my husband made it known to them we weren’t considering either.
My grandparents didn’t even acknowledge my son after he was born. They give every child in the family a gift each Christmas, but they didn’t give my son one for three straight years. Then my husband yelled at my grandmother and put an end to it.
And he was there for me when I was sexually assaulted. I was drunk, passed out at a party in college when a man locked me in a room. My husband was at the same party, and I was naked by the time people found us and called the police. I don’t remember exactly what happened and I never asked. All I know is my assailant was arrested that night and served a year and a half in prison and is now a registered sex offender.
The worst part was questioning whether my husband wouldn’t stand up for me anymore. I wondered, Was this the end of my marriage? If he can support a man who marginalizes sexual assault after what happened to me, then maybe it’s time we end this.
It wasn’t just my husband. Every man in my family voted for Trump: my father, my brother, my grandpa. It was disheartening. All of them knew what happened to me in college and how I felt about Trump, and they voted for him anyway.
My husband and I didn’t even resolve the issue on election night, and we usually make a point to never go to bed angry at each other. This time, I couldn’t even lie next to him in bed. Instead, I stayed up crying until 3 a.m.
The next morning I was little less emotional, and thought Just because your husband is an idiot who voted for Trump doesn’t mean your marriage is over.
My husband made it very clear to me the next few days that he appreciates me as a human being, as a woman, as a mother and as a survivor of sexual assault. “You are not devalued in this house,” he said. That made things a lot better. He realized how much his vote hurts me, and I realized he voted for Trump because of policy reasons.
We’re trying to find steady ground again, but it might take a couple months because the wound is still so raw at the moment. We just have to remember that the 2016 election is not what our relationship is built on.
I’m not okay with him voting Trump, but I’ve accepted it.
— As told to John McDermott