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I was just 19 when I met my husband. Looking back, I can see the Red Flags.

He was 23, handsome, charming, a catch I thought. We weren’t looking to have a serious relationship but it soon developed into that. He took it upon himself to help me study so that I could get the degree that he couldn’t get because the system let him down…Red flag 1…

For the next 2 or 3 years we kept our “relationship” secret…because he didn’t want me to be targeted by all the girls who wanted him…Red flag 2…

3 years into it I wondered why I hadn’t met his family. He was from a small town. I was a city girl. “I can never take a city girl home”…Red flag number 3…

I wanted to show him I wasn’t a loose city girl…I came from a good home. I was determined to show him that. And he saw my desperation. I should have walked away there and then, but I didn’t.

I put him on a pedestal. I got my degree while he still felt forgotten by the system, but I wouldn’t leave him. I’d be just like those city girls if I did! So I stayed…

I got my second degree…I moved into his place to be closer to work and completed my articles in a very cutthroat firm whilst pouring my heart out to him every day about how miserable I was.

Living with him became hell.

I was his maid, cooked, cleaned, washed his clothes, ironed, left for work at a job I hated, and returned to someone who thought I owed him my life because he had done me a favour. My weekends were spent scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees, cooking up a storm, ironing his clothes as best I could. He would come home only to tell me it wasn’t good enough.

All the while, he was hustling because he’d been pushed out of the system.

The arguments became more intense. “You’re ungrateful,” You’re lazy,” You don’t support me,“ he’d tell me repeatedly. Until one day I spoke up for myself and he hit me.

He went silent for two days maybe three until I decided to reach out…I apologised. He never did.

I went to school and got my degrees while he supported me. So now I “owed” him.

He’d get mad over little things, innocent things.

I bought a TV for a great deal from a girlfriend of a colleague. I thought he’d be so proud that I spotted a good deal. That I’d finally developed street smarts. He had my car that day so she delivered the car and asked her boyfriend to keep it in his car until it was time for me to knock off. I asked my colleague to meet my husband out in front of the office building. When we got home I was told in no uncertain terms how I’d embarrassed him. How dare I ask for help from another man? Was I trying to show him up? He was mad.

He got into business with my family.

I begged him not to. But he did. He wanted to be the knight in shining armor here to rescue us all. Until it went pear-shaped as I had predicted. Not only I owed him my gratitude, but now my parents were financially indebted to him.

I was pregnant…we discovered it was ectopic after it ruptured…he was away on “business”…he didn’t come to see me or even call when I was in the hospital.

The pressure was too much so we finally called it quits…7 years later. But 18 months later, decided to give it another try. I thought it was OK for a while.

I get a message saying his mom had died. He loved his mom and idolised her. I contacted him. He was in a bad place…again.

But because I “owed him” we gave things another try. The business ventures began and the money started to flow out…It was ok I thought. This was the support I should have given him all those years ago. He helped me study, didn’t he? He helped my parents. This was the least I could do.

“You shouldn’t be renting at your age” So within months I bought a house. I fell pregnant shortly after that and we decided we’d start our family. In my culture dowry is paid before one marries. Because I owed him, we did away with that.

I took it upon myself to do it all. Because he’d been rejected by the system and 10 years later still had not completed his degree I carried the financial load. But he promised that his potential would be realised, but that my family and I still owed him. The stress of it all was so much to bear that I went into early labour. But it would work…it had to.

Married life was not any better.

My daughter took his last name because his ex during our 18 months apart had denied him that right. So I was going to do it right. He deserves to have his children bear his last name. His ex was a lunatic who was out to punish him for not marrying her.

We got married anyway because I thought these were obstacles that could be overcome. To save on costs we eloped…2 hours later an argument…He looked morose. He couldn’t manage a smile, not even on his wedding day because it was such a sad occurrence not having his late parents with him. (Side note: both sets of parents died within four years, so neither of our parents was alive on our wedding day. When my mom died he said my pain couldn’t compare to his…yes, his pain at losing my mother was greater than any pain I felt…). Anyway back to the wedding, I could manage a smile, but he felt as a man that men aren’t happy to be married. “Weddings are for women”

I scraped together what I could for a weekend honeymoon since we had saved on the wedding…

He forgot our first wedding anniversary…He told me he’d wanted to get married on his mother’s birthday in September, so the October date wasn’t etched in his mind. But somehow, he mentioned none of this in September…

The financial pressure began to mount and I raised it with him. It’s your fault I can’t earn a living or study he’d say. “I’ve neglected my businesses to be close to you and the baby. You wanted me near you” he said.

He was not emotional.

My husband was always unemotional, and non-expressive when it came to me. He told me he didn’t know how to. It took 3 years into the relationship for him to say the words “I love you” to me. I didn’t think much of it because he said his family never really expressed themselves that way. He used the same line regarding not arranging a honeymoon, not being excited about being married and forgetting the wedding anniversary.

When it came to tears, he was stoic…even when he would comfort me it always felt forced, cold, and uncomfortable. He used to say he saw his sister’s fake cry to get out of trouble so he’d become immune to tears. The worst was when I saw a smirk on his face as I related something to him in tears. That cut deep. I’ll never forget that. I then made a decision never to cry again around him…

Any discussion always turned into something about him…when I eventually caught on I decided every time he’d turn the conversation around towards him I would gently bring it back, continuing on the initial line of conversation. But then I realised it wasn’t working. We’d end up having two completely different conversations. So I gave up talking about myself and my interests.

So I sold my property and split the profits 50/50 with him because, remember I owed him. We rented again, in my name of course and the arguments intensified because I dared to suggest he get a job! He told me he was insulted by that.

Physical violence started again.

I attended a work function and he called my secretary to check that there was a function indeed. We argued when I found that out and when I spoke up and looked him in the eye as I spoke (because for him that’s an outright challenge for a woman to dare look him in the eye) he hit me.

This time, it was not one, not two, but countless blows to the head and face while our nanny listened on. Two hours later, I was at work, stopping at every restroom along the way to check whether I was bruising or not. I never wear makeup, but I did that day.

My consolation, that my daughter was at playschool and certain that he would never do that in her presence.

Numb from it all, we stayed together but I could sense the end was near.

One day I asked him: “Why are you even with me?” His response was, “I get a lifestyle I wouldn’t have if I was on my own”…not because I love you but purely because of the lifestyle. Again I raised the issue of finances and his suggestion was “Leave your job for the pension payout”.

I had my answer…he didn’t love me. I owed him and he was cashing in.

During stressful times my body’s response is always a cold or the flu. One evening I came home with what seemed like the flu, shivers, aches, the works. I wouldn’t be able to cook that evening. He whipped up some mashed potatoes and chicken livers. He woke me up to eat and as I opened my eyes I was met with a look of disgust. By then I could read his eyes very well and that was definitely not a look of concern. I was devastated but kept it to myself.

We moved house again and one Friday afternoon, after a tough week at work, I said, as he was leaving for a “meeting”…“Why don’t I ever go out?”

“You can’t, you’re a mother and a wife,” he said. “Besides, this is a work meeting”.

He worked but I saw none of his money. I paid for everything.

4 years of work meetings and I had not seen a dime of any money. What little he received he used on himself and his vintage car hobby (that he hid from me). None of it ever went to accommodation, living expenses, fees for our daughter, medical expenses, etc…nothing… All of it was on me. One month, I couldn’t pay for my daughter’s daycare fees. I had some money in a credit card that I was trying to pay off so I asked him to help me out. He gave me excuse after excuse so eventually I used my credit card to pay. He received a call from the school saying that they’d received the payment. He was mad! He accused me of getting my lovers to pay for our daughter’s fees. I had to prove to him that it came from my credit card and there hadn’t been a deposit from an unknown beneficiary to allay his concerns.

That day we argued. I remember it vividly. We had a glass table in our dining room and all I could see was him approaching with that glazed look of rage in his eye…he was going to hit me and in my mind, I saw my head hit the glass table…so I left to avoid that.

That was my coping mechanism…every time we’d argue I could see the rage build up in his eyes and his breathing would start to change so I would excuse myself for fear he would hit me. I’d be followed by him shouting and telling me to go to my lovers…

Then one day I realised…

That Friday, I drove to a McDonald’s parking lot. I hadn’t spoken to my sisters in months, my parents had died so I had nowhere to go…as I sat there googling divorce attorneys it dawned on me that I couldn’t leave…I was not about to let him bully me into leaving a home that I pay for.

So I went back home and he left for his “meeting”. While he was out I very calmly realised that I could not expose my daughter to the types of arguments and tension that existed in what was meant to be a safe environment for her. She was two at the time but she I could see what it was doing to her. I got some boxes from our recent move and neatly packed all his belongings into his car. If I wasn’t going to do it for myself, I would do it for my daughter. She deserves a safe environment to grow up, with at least one happy, emotionally present parent. I was numb in my marriage. I was miserable and I didn’t want my daughter’s memories of her mother to be of a depressed, emotionally unavailable mother and an entitled narcissistic, chauvinistic example of what a husband and father should be.

He came back and looking for something to change into, realised that his clothes were missing. Huffing and puffing, eyes glazed over he came over and I knew what was coming. Another beating. Kicking, cussing, hitting. I didn’t want to wake my daughter with my screams so I just took it.

Eventually he left. Afraid he would return, I took my daughter and drove to the police station. I was met by a lovely warm lady cop with compassion and professionalism. She asked whether I would be pressing charges and I said no. So the next option was to get an order of protection…I had every intention of getting it but I couldn’t for fear it would anger him.

For years I walked on eggshells around this man. He felt I owed him my life. That I wouldn’t have amounted to anything without him. My family would be nothing without him he’d say. He’d tell me I was weak…and he was there to be my strength. He was God’s gift to me, my family, and the rest of the souls who owe him their undying gratitude.

He was this amazing, smart, seemingly successful “entrepreneur” who lived by his own rules because he was “failed” by the system. I would be introduced as “just the accountant” to his acquaintances (which I am not). My salary was referred to as “the little income you bring in”. All his failings were always someone else’s fault, the system, me, having a daughter, his ex, his family, and all the people he helped who didn’t appreciate him.

Because he was rejected by the system, my husband lives outside the confines of the law…I can’t tell you how many times I have had to pay fines because he felt the car was better looking without a license plate. Never mind that you are required by law to have one. He feels it’s not necessary so he won’t get one. And his own clothing and storage account that went unpaid.

In my husband’s head, he was doing me a favour allowing me to drive the car that I had bought because it was a “man’s” car. The house I would have bought and paid for myself would have had to be in his name because he is the man.

He refuses to agree to any type of parenting schedule for our daughter. Anything that requires him to sign a legal document he avoids like the plague. Maybe that’s why he was so miserable on our wedding day. For 18 months I’ve tried. He sees her at his convenience. For months after we separated I desperately tried to keep him involved. Open days at potential schools, he was always busy. Our daughter was accepted into one of the schools in the area. I raised more than half of the cash for the acceptance fee. When I asked him for the rest he ignored my calls for weeks. When I thought of all the money spent on him and here I was unable to pay for something as important as securing my daughter’s education. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I chose to put a man above my daughter’s needs. Eventually, I had to inform the school that we wouldn’t accept for that year. His copies of her school reports go uncollected at the school. The excuses came in thick and fast. Eventually, I gave up. I wasn’t going to take responsibility for forcing him to have a relationship with her. Any time spent with her he saw as a favour for me (he called it babysitting when I asked him to stay with her in my place when I went on a work trip overseas). It breaks my heart.

My husband is demanding spousal support from me because he is the victim in our divorce. He refuses to have joint custody of our daughter because he is now “homeless” and living with different friends now and again. He therefore expects a house from me as compensation for all his “contributions” all the while not paying a dime towards his children.

He has yet to respond to a settlement agreement given to him over a year ago. His last response “I will have my attorney look at it”. I’ve tried to meet him halfway and arrange for him to collect the divorce papers himself so as not to have him served in a public place. He feels that’d be an embarrassment to him.

This divorce has been one of the most painful experiences in my life, right up there with the death of my parents. The stress became so bad that in trying to keep it all together I neglected my health. It started as a common cold I guess that I self-medicated because who has time to see a doctor anyway? I kept going to work, and then the cough persisted. I lost my voice in the process. I’m a university professor so I need my voice to teach. Eventually, I began coughing up blood, a tight chest, dizzy spells, and slight pain in the chest so I eventually saw a doctor. X-rays showed fluid build-up in the lungs so I’d have to spend the night in hospital. Further tests revealed I’d had a heart attack.

I hadn’t had a dramatic pain in the chest so bad that I’d clutch my chest and collapse to the ground. But, yes, it was a heart attack. A week in the hospital and a whole battery of tests every day and poking every day. At just 34 I’d had a heart attack. My dad died at 63 from a heart attack, my mom died 18 months later from complications of heart surgery…so maybe it’s genetic. But what I do know is the stress certainly did not help.

As I was waiting for my ride home from the hospital, I received a call from a lady at my husband’s urologist whom he had seen two years prior…the amount was still outstanding and my husband wasn’t paying. They’d called him earlier and he told them it wasn’t his problem, that his wife would sort it out.

I have had a hard time accepting that he is a narcissist…I loved him once and it is hard for me to accept that maybe he didn’t love me…I was a supply source for whatever he needed during the time we were together and now that I have gone completely no contact with him he is deliberately making the divorce harder than it has to be. There are no assets to be split up as we had a watertight prenup…my only concern is my daughter. I hate that she has a narcissist for a dad. He sees her only when it is convenient for him. He refuses to sign a parenting or custody agreement because he operates outside of the legal system. It hurts that he cannot commit even when it concerns his daughter. I saw how he treated his daughter with the ex he proclaimed was a lunatic. He would miss child support payments altogether or pay as late as possible. I would have to remind him to pay his ex. I don’t expect any child support from him. I actually asked my attorney to take that clause out because it would anger him and he wouldn’t comply anyway. His ex is an attorney and she couldn’t even get him to pay. I’m sad for my daughter.

by: Survivor Of Emotional Abuse

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