Why I matter- Through the Lenses!
These days, as in lockdown, I enjoy watching some TV ongoing dramas (Soaps) – Coronation street /EastEnders (Sorry this is the UK) and recently the storylines centers around Eastenders’ Chantelle Atkins who has spent the majority of her married life being abused by her charmingly handsome lawyer husband- Gray.
While the couple appeared to be in good spirits and having the perfect marriage away from home. Chantelle is aware of her abusive home situation, but hopes husband Gray will ‘change’. Sounds familiar?
In Corrie-(Coronation Street) though, viewers have watched in dismay as Middle-aged Yasmin- is locked in an abusive marriage that has seen her husband – similarly middle-aged Geoff control and belittle her and make her doubt her own judgements including her memory. Yasmin is bullied and manipulated at the hands of her husband Geoff in the soap’s dramatic coercive control story line. And Jasmin just does not see it. She professed to her suspicious granddaughter that her husband loves her so much…
Truth is, staying in an abusive relationship seems counter intuitive to onlookers; family and friends often are the first to wonder, why not just leave?
It is not easy to be in that position, but those who choose to remain in their relationship rather than abandon it have their reasons. Those reasons may not necessarily stem from their perspective as a victim of abuse, but the financial powerlessness of taking the appropriate cause of action which could alter their rationality, others simply want to put their family first—at any cost.
In most abusive marriages, violence may not necessarily happen daily…
During those peaceful times, the abuser may be a very loving and kind person. These peaceful times give the victim of abuse hope that the abuse won’t happen again. The love and affection the victim receives during this time only unite them more deeply to the abuser.
Hence it becomes harder to walk away, especially when there is hope for change…
Been here. Crazy In love and I mean absolutely blindly in love or so I thought. I lost everything but gained 2 loving giant boys. Worth it? I don’t know but will not exchange them for anything else. Truth is, I am not a victim and do not blame the man either. Yes, I had met him as a teenager, we were in love then, again so I thought and in the same country and state. We went our separate ways only to lock horns again years after we both had married. He was a divorcee with a son and daughter from two different women. Alarm bells for me?? No chance. Then, I was still in my marriage with 2 children… Always known him to be a Charmer and Player. But I was adamant and believed wholeheartedly that he has matured with age. After all, he’s been through life’s tough times- the perfect eligible divorcee waiting for just me! He assured me- ‘Babes let’s take over the world’. He announced on one of our dates. Happy days ahead, I dreamed. I found a reason to divorce the father to my children(after all we had our issues and he had moved out of the matrimonial home leaving in the hotel). Obviously, the coast was clear! So, I jumped head over heels into my ‘lovers’ arms- almost losing head! We appeared happy and compatible. He was my friend, always a sympathetic listener while I pour out my unhappiness in my marriag. (shhh- Dumb thing to do. I know.). All the best advice from close friends fell on deaf ears. In fact, if the Holy Spirit had appeared to me then, I know for real that I will do my best to convince the Holy spirit. My discussion may have probably centered around the Biblical love story – the fact that God created Eve for Adam and they were blissfully happy in the Garden of Eden. That this was my time to be happy- Me, My man and my garden of Eden?- Plenty of comfort, love, and contentment. Thank You, Lord! (Alright, the Biblical Story is a bit extreme). Let’s Talk about Barbara Cartland’s Love novels-Pure romances full of dashing princes, Independent, and strong heroines, sinister love rivals and exciting revelations brimming with happy endings and they lived happily ever after! This was the dream! My new normal. (Can you guess the decades-i was still naive at age?- Sad.) 2 months on after following my heart, we got married and clarity begins to set in. My charming man who was once caring and charismatic before the marriage begins to slowly turn into Mr Unpredictable. I sensed there was this deep need for excessive self-attention, grandiose and a lack of compassion for me.
Who is this guy? I began to wonder. Surely I can not be wrong about him. I kept hoping with a deep sense of conviction that I can and will ‘fix’ things. I am not a quitter. Following the birth of 2 children, it became clearer that behind my man’s mask of sheer confidence and charm, lies a fragile self-esteem that’s very vulnerable to the slightest criticism or objection.
So I stopped trying… I accepted that this is a Co-dependence and imbalanced relationship pattern. I agree I had assumed a high-cost ‘giver-rescuer’ role which is difficult to shake off and my man was very comfortable in the ‘taker-victim’ role which equally is difficult for him to move away from. I became emotionally drained from the needs of my taker and coping with 4 boys of varying needs. But, I continued to offer and kept on giving, even after a health scare! ( Story for another day.)
You might think abuse only occurs to a certain kind of women, someone who isn’t smart or educated enough to get out of wickedness’ way and leave the relationship. My role in working with families from all works of life exposes me in dealing with the emotional neglect and domestic abuse pain that lurks within families more so when a new baby arrives… Stunning, intimidatingly beautiful and rich demi goddesses with high flying careers saddled in an abusive marriage with wet pants weak men… Why? the shame of emotional abuse is painfully real especially if you have any form of status, it becomes extremely difficult for these women to boldly walk away without the right support. Rather they feel trapped, powerless, distressed and miserable.
According to an article in Time magazine, “One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, and it is one of the most chronically underreported crimes…but I had to report to the police when it was obvious my children may be targets and of course, I am beautifully and wonderfully made and therefore, I matter. The police response was swift…. Like in the UK Dramas, the manipulation, isolation, verbal assaults, and passive-aggressive behaviours don’t leave physical scars that others can see. The abuser often denies his abuse and tries to place the blame on his victim- wife. This form of abuse is aimed to erode her sense of self-worth and belief. It is almost a form of conditioning that keeps a woman bound to the person you used to be and to continue causing emotional suffering.
However, in the drama, these are acting scenes! These are roles that can be walked away from, what if you are in it?? You can also walk away if all attempts to reconcile leads to dead ends.
Our society and dare I say some Religious Leaders reinforce a women’s shame and fear of leaving an abusive relationship by suggesting she is guilty for the abuse or by judging her inability to extricate herself.
“How do I know if I should stay”? .. after 6years together. One of my clients asked me at one of our meetings. “We have no intimacy, we do no hugs even kisses, I don’t think too much about it. I allow him to act this way, is that a sign of co-dependency or emotional abuse”? Emotional abuse- maybe. Codependency? It is out of my remit to call it that. I replied as naturally as I can. “It seems like every day he is tired after work and sleeps mostly on the sofas. I know he cheating on me. On the weekends he plays golf for hours, watches more golf, football, and wrestling when he is home. I’m considered least on his list of priorities”. I’m independent, she continued and I can do things on my own, so it’s not a problem. I feel like in many ways we are roommates with occasional benefits- the children. Is this a marriage? Or am I fooling myself?”. I proposed to her rather stupidly- “what do your guts tell you? and then, up to you how you answer this. I said finally but whatever you decide- I hope it is healthy for you and the children”.
Leaving an abusive relationship is much more difficult when children are involved. It is quite overwhelming. You feel the fear of the children’s well-being and safety. Also, children don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to cope with the pain and mixed messages they receive in an abusive household. These twisted dynamics of their childhood experiences can be carried into their adult lives if allowed to continue.
Most abusers may taunt you that things might be worse for you than they are with him. So you settle. I have been constantly reminded of this. I refused to be perturbed by the sly innuendos because I know who I am and I am not a victim. I am a sensitive and kind person who now appreciates how gullible and needy I was which explains the current situation. I am comfortable in the education and support I offer to survivors of domestic abuse, to be able to signpost women to move on from the impact of domestic abuse is quite fulfilling and empowering.
Yes, I know that not every man is a husband, same goes with the woman as the ideal wife, a good man can be a horrible husband.
However, time is fast moving away from our culture and the media portrayal of a woman needing a man to take care of her and/or her children, things are changing -it’s just no longer valid.
So Be smart. Respect yourself and stay true to yourself.
I can not wish that no one gave me good advice when I rushed into my marriage because many tried but I followed my heart. I love my boys to bits. I used to feel ashamed and embarrassed about my poor judgement. It used to be painful and difficult to comprehend how I could be so wrong to have imagined that the relationship will have a happy ending, with a well-adjusted family for all. This is where I am – a beautiful coloured piece with scars and like a mosaic, I am a decorative art.
Healing is a process and through it, I know how strong, capable and extraordinary I really am.
Trust me, No blame game. I simply made a bad choice..hence I had refused to expose to friends and family that I was leaving.. Second time around.
Know that It’s never too late to start over. Yes, over 50. It’s time I give myself a great life because I matter- hope you do the same.