They say scars tell a story. Mine certainly do. They tell the story of a queen, who was almost crushed by elements that threatened to break her, but she prevailed. In doing so, she discovered how to love herself and adjust the crown on her head more firmly than ever before.
My childhood was truly amazing. I had loving parents, who doted on my siblings and me. Growing up reading fairy-tale stories, I would often fantasize about finding my Prince Charming and living happily ever after. As the years passed, the stories began to seem silly, but the fantasy maintained its hold over me. I remember that day like it was yesterday! I was 25 years old and tall, dark, and handsome Trevor walked into my life. He seemed different; serious about relationships, respectful of women and their opinions, attentive, affectionate, and a church-goer.
He definitely checked all my boxes for the perfect boyfriend!
We dated for three years before I said the big “YES”. I was over the moon with man I had chosen to marry. To top it all, my entire family loved him. I guess that’s why I am still so shocked at how I things turned out.
It started after the children were born. He transformed into something sinister and malicious which then gradually intensified to a full-blown nightmare. Our “fairy tale” marriage left behind a shattered, shell of a woman in its wake.
The most trivial things would trigger sporadic, angry outbursts. My mum said not to worry. “He is only human,” she would reassure me, and since he wasn’t hurting me physically, surely it couldn’t be that serious? And I would let it go. Not because I wasn’t a strong woman. Oh no, quite the opposite, I had a very low threshold for any form of mistreatment or injustice. But I was also determined to have a marriage similar to that of my parents, who had shared 34 blissful years together.
I wanted nothing else short of that!
Trevor worked for an International NGO while I was a Senior Partner at a prestigious Law firm, so money was never an issue. He encouraged me to pursue my goals and I became the best at what I did. Over time, however, he started making comments about how short my skirt was, or how tight my pants were. Alarms didn’t register in my mind. At the time, I dismissed it as my husband trying to pick a fight for no reason and paid little heed to his remarks. But it didn’t stop there. Next came enquiries about why I came home late from work. Again, I casually dismissed his remarks.
To me, my parents served as the perfect example of what a marriage ought to be. So, I took my mother’s counsel. Instead of pushing back when Trevor was behaving unreasonably, I asked his opinion on what to wear, indulged him by letting him know when I would return home late from the office, or call just to tell him I loved him. Did it work? For a while.
Until the beatings started!
His ability to be two completely different people was terrifying. On the one hand, he would be a perfect gentleman in front of guests and family, and a doting father to our kids. On the other hand, my body would bear fresh daily scars and throbbing bruises, testimonials of his punches, slaps and kicks from the night before.
Looking back, I remember how I used to criticize women, who stayed and endured violent relationships. Little did I know I would experience it firsthand and it would become my new normal. My morning routine evolved to include dabbing concealer on this bruise here, applying Bio Oil on my purple scars, and sifting through my wardrobe for long sleeved blouses and pants that would cover the scrapes on my knees from when the table, chair or the floor broke my fall. I would rehearse little fables, so that when my close friends would inevitably ask about a rogue mark on my face or my arm, my answer would always be ready. “Oh, that? I fell down the staircase. You know how clumsy I am!”
What is it that makes us not want to openly confide in our friends or admit to ourselves when our marriage is falling apart, or, even worse, tearing us apart, one new scar at a time?
“Why am I still with him?” I would ask myself, every time he showed up home in the middle of the night, drunk and angry. “Is it my pride? Is it my children’s need for their father? Is it my shame at admitting that I have become just another statistic? Shame that I feel like he broke me, to the point where I can barely recognize myself when I look in the mirror. How did things get so bad? Was it my fault?” These questions kept tormenting me whenever I went to cry after a loose fist swung my way.
One Friday morning at work, I decided to pose a hypothetical scenario to one of my closest friends, Clara, with the aim of getting advice. “What would you do if your friend found herself in a physically and psychologically abusive marriage?”
“Girl, I would tell her to leave him!” Clara exclaimed. “Why should your friend put up with someone who doesn’t respect her?” A pause. “But then, for the sake of trying, maybe she should give him one last chance to change before ending things once and for all.” Easier said than done, right? But Clara’s perspective made me decide to give my marriage one last try.
With my newly acquired determination, I left work by 2 pm to prepare a romantic dinner just for Trevor and I. An hour later, I was at home getting my kids ready for a sleepover at my sister’s house, while I got started on dinner and a mouth-watering red velvet cake for dessert. With the kids away and my Chicken Piccata pasta ready, I showered and spruced myself up for the man I married, the man I vowed to be with through thick and thin.
A few minutes past eight o’clock, I heard Trevor approaching, so I got up to let him in. At the door, I found my dear husband with a scantily dressed woman draped over his arm. “Uhm, who’s this?” she asked, eyeing me with surprise and a hint of distaste.
And I just stood there, speechless, wondering the same thing. “Who am I?”
Read here for PART 2!
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