7 February 2013

how do you know when it's time to go?

It’s not as easy as people think it is. There are many reasons why, but these are some of mine.

I’ve told you that K punched me in an argument whilst we were in the car on the way to madams’ hair appointment. I’m pretty sure I also mentioned he used to tell me I wasn’t good enough.

But I’m afraid I held back. I guess because it’s hard for me to admit how much I let him do to me before I finally drew a line under it. I guess because I’m an intelligent person I didn’t ever think I could be that foolish.

I always thought it was a fairly black and white thing. If there is violence in the relationship then the victim leaves. That’s what sensible people presume, why they don’t understand why the victim stays. But there is more to it than that.

There’s the emotions that are involved, the way that slowly but surely you don’t even know how you got there. K wasn’t a violent person (I still wouldn’t say he is) however he had ways to try and control me that I didn’t even notice until very recently. He told me what he thought a wife should be and although I laughed it off and filed it under “whatever” it can’t be unheard. He criticised the things I wore until I started checking with him about what I was wearing. Not even in a big way but things like “I think you should change that top, it doesn’t go with your shoes” or something else, perfectly reasonable. So I would get changed, then ask his approval. Because I wanted him to like how I looked. I ran outfits by him, I did ignore him sometimes, but I still did it.

He complained about my driving, about the fact I obsess over travel details, that I talked too much, that I was too untidy, that I didn’t eat chicken properly (no, I still don’t know what “properly” entails). I know these are the same little niggles all couples have. But there was never any positive. It was all constantly negative. And I started to be miserable. I told myself that all relationships go through bad times that he was really busy and working too much.

There were days when he was that wonderful, funny, charming guy that I fell for. We would have fun, we would laugh, and we would talk about the future. I loved those days. They would top me up and I would be content again for a while.

Those days got further apart. And when I was pregnant (which is apparently a common time for escalation) things started to get worse. When I was about 16 weeks he and I had an argument. Nothing too unusual, big or even that out of the ordinary about that. But I wanted to go to my parents later on and he didn’t want to let me. He locked the doors and hid my car keys. I couldn’t leave. He said I would have to phone the police and get them to arrest him. So, I did. I phoned the non-emergency number (because it wasn’t, like, a real emergency) and explained my husband was stopping me from leaving my house. That he was sitting right next to me whilst I was on the phone. They put me through to the 999 control room and they said someone was coming straight round.

K let them in and then the poor guy had to negotiate with him. He did threaten to arrest him but I pointed out I wasn’t hurt and didn’t really want that. I just wanted to go to my folks and give us room to both calm down.

He complained he wasn’t involved in decision making for the baby and that we needed to clarify a few things. So I agreed we could talk about it only not until the morning. I left, went home and came back to chat with him later. He made me feel like it was my fault that he’d over-reacted and given how emotional I was at that stage in the proceedings I accepted it.

Fast forward to when madam was a few months old (roughly 7, but I can’t quite remember). She had a bad cold and was really grotty and quite tired as she’d had trouble sleeping. As you can imagine, I was fairly tired too. I’d made lunch and K had madam next to him in her high chair and was trying to get her to eat. She was mainly refusing and he was getting worked up and making her worse (in the way that babies do). I pulled her over to my side of the table to soothe her a bit and to hopefully get her to have a few spoonfuls. This was wrong. He got really mad about me taking over the feeding, pulled her back towards him and she started screaming. I’m afraid I saw red, I did something I thought only people on TV did. I threw my plate of food at him. I missed (because my aim is so good!). And he slapped me across the face. Hard. I couldn’t believe he’d done it. I never thought he’d ever hit me. I just kept saying why. I got up from the table and sort of cowered on the floor as he looked like he was going to do it again. Instead he emptied his plate of food all over me and just kept yelling. I grabbed madam and went and locked myself in the bathroom. I was crying so hard. I ran a bath for me and her, as she’d got food on her too, and we stayed there for a while.

I managed to escape into my bedroom, rang my dad and just said “he hit me” my dad told me to stay put and he’d be there ASAP. Mum and dad turned up about 45mins later and asked where he was to which I said downstairs. We got my things, madam’s things; I grabbed our passports and madam’s birth certificate. I wasn’t going back.

Well, that was the plan.

My parents were great. They didn’t ask any questions and just left me be. But we had to talk about it eventually and the next day we had a chat. They asked what had happened and I explained. They asked what I wanted to do and whether I was going back. Because it wasn’t just me, it was madam too. And there it was. He loved her, he was great with her and I couldn’t take her away from him when so much stuff was going on in our lives (redundancy, new baby, his father was ill). I had never thought he could do that, never. So I called it a one off and went back. And it was ok, not wonderful, but ok. I have no idea how my parents let me go, I don’t think I could.

And then we moved back to Beverley, and he ended up in America less than a month later. And I was so lonely. I missed him.

Even after he came back I wanted to make it work. Until he hit me again. And for those who are counting that’s twice he hit me in front of my daughter.

And he drew his own line. I got my dad to help me kick him out and I tried to harden my heart. I will not have my daughter grow up with a woman that accepts that treatment. She has to know that it’s wrong. And as soon as I let him back in, that will be my telling her that it is. Because she is so intelligent and so quick that she remembers what he did. My fear is she’ll never forget.

I’ve tried to let her develop her own relationship with her father because she loves him, and he her. But I can’t leave him alone with her for my own security and that means I have to see him. And when we’re together in short bursts he is all those things I love about him. Making it so hard for me to stay strong and I slipped over New Year. But I’m going to win this fight. Because I deserve better, I deserve someone who actually loves me too, who will be there when I need them and who will actually treat me as an equal.

And so does my daughter.

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