From the outside looking in, I had a perfect husband. He was charming, good-looking, educated and most excitingly of all, a musician. When we first started dating, he showered me with small gifts and brought me my favourite flowers every week. We rarely fought.
We got married, had a beautiful little home, a gorgeous baby, and all was well in the world. Until it wasn’t.
My husband hated his job. He worked for my father and resented everything about it. This unhappiness started to cause arguments—always my fault, of course. He would complain, making cruel remarks about my dad, who had always been my hero. Looking back, this should have been a major red flag, as his blatant disrespect for me was being manifested in how he spoke about my family.
When our baby was about six months old, we had a huge argument. I packed a bag, put our child in their stroller and left the house. He drove after me, apologised, begged my forgiveness, saying it would never happen again. Classic abuse pattern tactics. The truce lasted for about a year, with only minor incidents along the way, until I got a job I really loved. I would come home from work buzzing with happiness while he still hated his and was constantly grumpy. This is when the abuse really began.
He started to make snide comments and put me down all the time. Every remark eroded my self-esteem, making it feel impossible to leave. No one would want me. I would look like a failure. We moved out of the city, starting afresh, leaving my beloved job behind, to reinvigorate our marriage. It worked. He was calmer and seemed happy. We decided to have a second baby and had another healthy child.
Not long after baby two arrived, everything started to fall apart. I had postpartum depression, was exhausted from non-stop breastfeeding and trying to look after an energetic three year-old with no help from him. He started to become more moody and remote.
Suddenly the mood swings and the verbal abuse became more regular and were now accompanied by violence and sexual assault. He didn’t exactly slap or punch me but did grab me by the throat against a wall, punching holes in it beside my head while screaming in my face. Then he laughed and told me he should strangle me.
He also punched a door he knew I was behind, hitting me in the face, attempted to rape me and threatened to kill himself because he wasn’t happy. It was all about control and him having what he wanted. For the sake of my kids, I organised a marriage counselling session. Somehow, he managed to charm the counsellor into thinking that I was the problem. It’s only in recent years that I have come to know the term gaslighting, and boy was he an expert at it. The twinkle in his eye could charm the birds out of the trees. But to me, behind closed doors, he was as mean as hell.
I made even more of an attempt to become the model wife. Dinner was always on the table when he got home from work. He was awoken with a cup of coffee every morning (but would scream at me for nagging him to get up!) and anything he wanted was his. However, with such abuse, battling postpartum depression, and raising my children, I had let my body suffer and put on some weight. This gave him even more fuel to abuse me.
Once while grocery shopping together, I picked up a packet of his favourite cakes and asked should I get them for him. He looked at me with disgust and said loudly for all to hear, “Do you not think you are fat enough?”. He knew that I never ate that kind of bun. When I was sure I had done everything I could to try to repair our marriage, I gave up. I kicked him out and have never looked back. He is an inconsistent presence in his children’s lives, but they have a mother who would die for them. She almost did.
Around 25% of women aged between 15 and 49 suffer some kind of domestic abuse globally. Abuse is never ok. No matter how much you love someone, whether it is a romantic partner, family member or friend, suffering at their hands will not end well. Getting out and getting help from family, friends or an organisation that assists in domestic violence cases is essential. Over 130 women die daily at the hands of a loved one worldwide.
I endured almost seven years of being told I was ugly, fat, not good enough, stupid etc. I was lucky. I escaped with only emotional bruising and a broken heart. Others are not so fortunate.