I am 29 years old and my husband and I just had our first wedding anniversary. He is four years younger than me. I have a seven-year-old son from a previous marriage, and we have a month-old daughter together.
Two years ago when we first met, he gave my child lots of attention. It impressed me a lot that he was a loving person, just as how a father is to a child. I thought that he could be a great father to my son.
We got married nine months later. I thought that I had made the right decision until we got home from our honeymoon and I saw his true colours. He demanded my attention, saying that I was his wife and that he was married only to me and not to my family or my child.
It was heartbreaking to see that my husband didn’t really love my child like his own, although he put on a mask when he was with his family. I felt like I had chosen the wrong man to settle down with and wished I had checked his background first. The situation became worse and we quarrelled most of the time. Sometimes it would take us days or weeks for things to be right between us again, but then the cycle would repeat itself, even when I got pregnant. I pitied my child as he did not know what it was like to have fatherly love and attention.
After giving birth, I thought that he would change but the situation worsened and he started beating me over the slightest thing. And then I found out he had been texting another woman. I checked his phone while he was in the shower and saw the messages. They met through an online dating app on the phone. Their texts contained a few words that lovers normally use. I snapped a few pictures as evidence and then pretended like nothing had happened. The exchanges went on for a few days and I got new evidence. This included nude pictures.
I told my mother and mother-in-law what happened. They couldn’t believe it until I showed them the pictures. I was furious with his behaviour and confronted him. He kept denying it. I told him that it would be better to admit it now than later. He asked for proof and after I showed him my photos, I told him to pack his bags and leave the house. He broke down and apologised for his mistakes but it was too late as I was already very furious, tired and wouldn’t buy his crying or apology.
In the midst of packing, my husband left the room and came back with his dirty clothes and a Swiss army knife against his wrist. He threatened that he would slit his wrist if I did not accept his apology. At the time, there were only two other women in the house with two children soundly asleep. I was afraid for their safety so I called for emergency help and they came on time, took statements and took my husband away. He wasn’t allowed to step into the house again and has stayed away from us for three weeks now.
I felt that I was betrayed and that he took revenge because I wasn’t giving him much attention after we got married and now have a child together.
Please tell me, Thelma, should I get a divorce? I really think that I can’t trust him anymore and that he has wrecked our marriage and our family.
Your husband is bad to your son, cheats on you, beats you, and when you quarrel, you become so worried about the physical safety of your kids, that you have to call for help. And yet, you are thinking you should go back to him. Seriously?
Look, there are a lot of elements in your letter that worry me. It sounds as if you married in a rush, and then immediately had a baby, without knowing much about this man. Sadly, you married an abuser.
In fact, your letter describes a classic case of domestic violence. You see, most people think of violent relationships as being consistently horrible. There are such relationships, however, and more often, the visible abuse peaks and ebbs.
Many violent abusive relationships follow a distinct pattern.
In the first stage, the abuser is sweet as honey. You’re in love, everything is amazing, and life is super.
In the second stage, life becomes tense. You can’t do anything right, and everyone is on edge.
In the third stage, there’s an explosion of violence. When it ends, you may leave or not.
In the fourth stage, the abuser cries, promises never to do it again, and generally acts as if they’re very sorry. You think it’s true reconciliation, so you agree to stay in the relationship.
Then you go back to the first stage, where everything is amazing. Guess what happens next? Yes, within a short time, there’s that tension building again. Because you’re in a loop of violence.
Apart from this cycle, there is a pattern of common behaviours that help the abuser control their victim. This part of domestic violence is all about affecting the victim’s emotions. The abusers use hope, guilt and fear to manipulate their victim.
For example, an abuser will try using jealousy, bad temper and violence to control you. If they can, they keep you short of money, so you have to depend on them. And all the time, they’re running down your self-esteem by telling you that you’re stupid, ugly and a waste of space. Finally, they will separate you from your family and friends, so that when they hurt you, you have nowhere to run.
My dear, your husband sounds like a textbook case. If I were your mum, I’d be telling you to divorce him and to keep him out of your life. However, you have a tiny baby together. As such, I think you need to see a lawyer, one who is familiar with domestic violence cases.
Also, get help from an NGO familiar with these issues. Use their counselling services so that when you are free, you won’t repeat this mistake.
Do be careful of this man. He is violent and he may try to hurt you and the kids. Guard yourself and your babies. And know that I’ll be thinking of you.