Day 13 of Blog-tember, and today’s prompt is:
Your current relationship status. If dating/married, give us a glimpse of your story! If single, share about this special season.
The one I’ve been dreading. Far too raw. Far too personal. But, I decided, it’s a story that needs telling**. I’m not the only ‘stuck Mum’ and not the only one who’s been – or will – go through what I’ve lived through, unfortunately.
My relationship: it’s complicated. Very complicated.
Married – for sixteen years – to a man from a different culture, we moved here, to his country, many years ago, for his work. My son was born here, prematurely (I had wanted him to be born in to my culture). My husband never allowed me to leave the country (here, the other parent needs to sign papers allowing the trip if only one parent is travelling with the children), so my daughter was also born here. His behaviour became increasingly controlling, unpredictable and, frankly, frightening as time went on.
We left the country together last year, for security reasons, only for him to abandon us before we reached my country, promising us he’d meet us at our destination ‘in a few weeks’. He never arrived. Instead, the police arrived at our home, asking for our passports and telling me I could not leave that address with the children: he’d accused me of abducting the children under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. [According to research out of the University of California Berkeley, headed by Jeffrey L. Edleson of the University of Minnesota, a high percentage of cases brought against women under the auspices of this law are extensions of domestic violence against the woman. Courts have got their knickers in a right twist about the implications of this shoddily thought through legislation. It seems the Very Clever Judges don’t know what to do about the plight of us poor women, poor things. I imagine how poorly they must sleep at night, under the strain of it all].
The case went before the Court (he managed to fly over for the Court case). I had a 50/50 chance of winning but my husband threatened me that, if I lost, he would report me in his home country for arbitrary exercising of custody: if found guilty of his (false) accusations, that would mean an automatic loss of custody upon my return. I wasn’t capable of proceeding: even the slightest chance of losing custody was too much to bear. So I buckled to the bully and his tactics. To save my children the terror of facing a life near him without me in it.
We signed an agreement before the Court and we returned to his country, him first, us a few days later. The agreement consisted of 12 points, 4 of which were broken by him within a week of our return and a further 6 within a couple of months. In the airport upon arrival, as he met us, he asked me for a divorce, said I was not welcome here and that our home is not my home and I had no right to be living there. We got to our home, there were security cameras in every room.
Therein the abuse began again. Multiple times daily, nightly. Physical. Emotional. Psychological. I’ve since read a great deal about the Stanford Prison Experiment: imagine that every day for months. That’s about the closest description I can give. I slept on the settee for months, underneath one of the cameras, quite literally, some nights, fearing for my life.
A few months after – just a few months ago – the financial abuse started, of the most shocking kinds. Theft of my possessions. Destruction of my tools and paperwork for my businesses. Money taken from my bank accounts.
He – finally – left the family home a few months ago, after I reported him to the police. Left with no regard for the children’s welfare, essentially saving himself, as he said, ‘From the mad woman who’s saying I hit her’.
We’re waiting for a custody decision to be made to be able to divorce.
In the meantime, he’s just been told he’s suffering from narcissistic personality disorder with paranoia (hence the false accusations and aggression and abusive behaviour, which is, apparently, part and parcel of the condition).
My head is reeling: this is a man I once loved. A man who, because of his condition, is not actually capable of love, but only a close approximation of what he felt ‘love’ looked like for me, to be able to snare, entrap and use me. A man who has told so very many hurtful lies and untruths that it’s hard to even comprehend, let along overcome the violent feelings of disgust that well up inside me when I think of it all. A man who has split a family apart for his own selfish ends. Who has no regard for anyone other than himself. Who has been physically violent to us all.
And now I find out he’s ill, with a psychiatric diagnosis.
My heart is large – very large and very deep – but even with this diagnosis, I don’t know where to even begin to forgive him, let alone reach a point where I could forgive him.
I’m at the stage, at the moment (this is all very recent!) where I’ve accepted I can’t change him or what’s happened and I’ve accepted that the only way for me to deal with it, at this stage, is to forget and move on. I have done nothing wrong and I have two children to raise. I can’t live with this going round and round in my head any longer so I made the decision to cut it all from my life, to accept I’ll never understand and never be able to forgive and, in that way, I feel I’ve received the usual benefits of forgiveness (I now feel at peace with myself) and can move on without playing repeats of ‘What if’ and ‘How come’ and ‘Why me?’ in to the wee small hours.
It’s a long, windy and tortured road but I feel free for the first time in a long, long time. Free to be myself, to express all and everything I am and to enjoy life. Life is too short to waste it on negative emotions. Really.
I’m in a country I don’t want to be in – we were only ever here because we were married and because of his work – but I’m stuck here until – I don’t dare contemplate if – I’m allowed to leave with the children.
So…from this point on? I have my heart and arms open to the world, I’m committed to listening to my intuition and to follow where she guides me. She knows better than I do where I want to be, so I’m tagging along for the ride and am determined to enjoy every damn minute of it.
My bottom line: I’m alive, I’m healthy, I have two beautiful children, I can – if necessary – make a life for us here, as a single mother. Anything that enables me to be physically, legally, free to move my children to where I know they should be growing up, that’s the icing on the cake, but I’m not going to ruin our lives pining for something that might not happen. I could cry myself silly and work myself in to a frenzy about our situation but what’s the point? It won’t change a damn thing, unfortunately, and would just cause more harm to the children. They need me, need to see me strong and happy and emotionally stable, because I’m their point of reference, their world (at this point in their lives).
**Not only for other women who’re in the same situation, but also for my children. I want them to know what happened, what we went through, as a family, during this period. I feel it’s important for me to make a stand, and ‘put myself out there’ on this issue. I joke that I have a fantasy that I’m the Erin Brockovich of the Hague Convention and that Kristin Scott Thomas will star as me in the Hollywood version of my book….shit happens, as Ghandi knew – and voiced much more eloquently – until people take a stance against said shit. One woman can be a voice that lets others be heard and opens a pathway to multiple freedoms.
Hollywood, if you’re reading, I have a draft of my book – ready to be made in to a screenplay …
(There’s the cue…Universe do your stuff! )