My Decision

My Decision

This morning I read a status on Facebook which reminded me of piece I wrote about 7 years ago following my divorce from “The other parent”. Life has moved on since then and I am now remarried. My sons have all left home and gone to university. The two eldest have graduated and live in London with their girlfriends. Third son has just graduated and will be doing a masters in September and youngest has just completed his first year of Uni.

For me the healing process is still ongoing but I have come a long way in the last 9 years.

MY DECISION It has been a couple of years now and I don’t have any regrets.

Some time ago, I think it was the middle of last summer my mother asked the question.

‘If you had known how hard it was going to be would you still have done it?’

I consider this carefully before replying. I am not sure why as I knew the answer, there was never any doubt in my mind.

‘Yes most definitely, it was the best thing I could have done.’

Indeed it was the only thing I could have done. I had given it my best shot. 19 years of my life I had given to that man. But the day had come when I realised that enough was enough. He couldn’t understand it when I told him I didn’t want to continue living with him. He couldn’t work out what was wrong with me. We had a good marriage didn’t we, we never argued did we? He was right in a way, as until the last few months we had very rarely had a row.

Firstly he was never around to have a row with as he was always either at work, pub or asleep. (the perfect marriage in some ways). Secondly we never rowed because, when he was around he made me feel so useless and weak that I never dared to argue with him and on the occasions when I tried to vent my anger on him he would turn it around to be my fault. Like the many Saturday mornings when he came home from shopping. (I wasn’t allowed to shop I spent too much, whereas he always bought bargains – you know the deals where if you buy this you get that free or the end of date things). We had a freezer full of things we would never use and a fridge full of things that had to be eaten in one day but nothing for the rest of the week.

He often came in with a mood on, this would make me grumpy, (no one likes to be moaned at for no reason). Because I was now grumpy he would complain about my mood and stomp off to the pub.

During all these years he would tell me that I was ‘fat, ugly, useless with a brain like a sieve’

Now after so many years of being told this it becomes hard to believe otherwise.

I believe that if you get married you should try to make the marriage work. I was not going to give up easily. I had to try to make it work. Besides I had nowhere to go and 4 children to consider. Because I had done such a good job of trying to make our marriage work he had no idea that it wasn’t working. The end of our marriage came as a big shock to him. For me it never really was a marriage. I had never been in love with him. We had never courted as such, just fell into a relationship as when we met we were both getting over broken hearts and needed someone to turn to. If I hadn’t got pregnant the marriage would never have happened.

Now, though we are divorced and I have never been happier. Financially we were never really solvent as a couple. Does anyone know a solvent alcoholic? But we did have two wages coming in, his full time wage and my part time wage (part time!! I worked longer hours than he did for half the money). Now it is just me and the boys, I am the only one bringing any money into the home. It has been a struggle and there are days when we have to keep our coats on because it’s too darn cold and I don’t have any spare cash to buy gas. (Yes I have had to get a key meter for both the gas and electricity). There are days when we have just 2 slices of bread and no milk. But we manage, I have not killed any of them off yet.

Are we better off now? Financially no we are worse off but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it isn’t going to be like this forever and now that I have a full time job that I enjoy things can only get better. However we as a family unit are much happier. Gone are the days of dreading the door opening, wondering if he is in one of his soppy drunk moods or in a nasty bad tempered mood that has everyone either cowering behind a cushion or hiding away in the bedrooms. Gone are the days where everyone had to be silent or risk his bellow of ‘Stop that noise’ or ‘be quiet’ In the past two years there has very rarely been a cross word spoke between any of the five of us. It took me a few months to realise that he was never going to be here again chastising me for staying up late or reading when I should be doing something else. I can have friends here if I choose. (visitors were forbidden when he was here).

Our house rings with the sound of music (not always to my taste, teenagers!!) and laughter where before there was only silence broken by shouts of ‘silence’. There is an air of confidence about us all that was not there before. I have learnt that I am worth so much more than I ever knew. I am happy, I laugh, I joke, I feel sexy, I feel worthy, I have finally come to love the person I am.

Just the ticket

Today I needed to collect something from Chichester, Owl was busy so I was going on my own. I am learning but I still don’t know my way around. I can find my way to some places but still need directions to others. We had gone into Chichester on Friday (being Black Friday) the roads were crammed. Parking was a nightmare.In the end Owl dropped me off whilst he drove off to find that elusive parking space.

I thought about where I would park today, and how to get there. I had a look on google maps, that was when it hit me. The rail station was at the end of the road I needed to get to. A plan was forming in my head. I didn’t bother to tell Owl as he was already concentrating on his own plans for the day. My biggest worry as I set off was that the station car park might be full. Luckily there were a fair few spaces, however my problems were only just about to begin. I had always thought that there was only the one pay and display machine at the entrance, now though I could see another machine not far from where I had parked.

Now when did they change these machines? I know I am not a frequent user but really!

I could use my card in the machine or I could download an app or I could call the number on the board. I inserted my bank card but couldn’t make it go to the off peak charge of £2.00 it would only charge me for the day  £6.50. I tried several times but still couldn’t get the machine to do what I wanted. So I changed to another method. I rang the number advertised, the automated voice gave instructions including asking for the number plate, make and colour of my car. Then it wanted to know if I wanted to pay for x amount of days or a month? Noooo I only wanted a few hours. I decided to walk over to the entrance to see if that machine still accepted coins, it didn’t. I paid for a whole day by card via the machine. Having gone back to my car I placed the ticket on the dashboard.

A brief stop on the way into the station to purchase my ticket, this was a little easier as I have done this before. I only had 10 minutes to wait for my train. Luckily I hadn’t pre booked as I had seen three trains going by in the time I was messing around with ticket machines. The journey into Chichester was uneventful and fast as there were no stops ( well there were but we didn’t stop).

Once at my destination, I did a spot of Christmas shopping, not much left to do now! Before making my collection. By then I was feeling thirsty so stopped at a small cafe for a cup of tea and toasted tea cake.IMG_2196

Catching the train home I had 15 minutes to wait but the time went fairly quickly as I indulged in a spot of people watching. It was now the time of day that the local senior schools had finished for the day, so there were several teens in school uniform on both platforms.

The train arrived and I stood with others waiting to board. I noticed among the others a hunched up old man. He followed me onto the train, I sat on the right of the carriage and the old man sat on the left opposite a young girl in uniform. At first I had thought the man was a down and out, but a glance sideways I changed my mind and figured that he was in fact just an old man hunched down into his coat against the cold wind. A few moments into the journey I noticed him fumble with the zip of his backpack. I though he was retrieving his phone as I could hear a muffled ringing. To my surprise he took out a bottle of jagermeister. He proceeded to take a swig from the bottle replacing in back into his bag. The young girl caught my eye but neither of us said anything. I half expected her to say something once he had left the train a couple of stops later. She didn’t, so I kept quiet also.

It wasn’t long before I was walking back to my car, I was ready for home.

Coercive Control

Eight years ago I was going through the process of divorcing my then husband. I divorced him on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. I had spent many years subjected to his emotional abuse. I was lucky that on the number of occasions that I had to call the police to the house or I went to the station to report a particularly nasty incident. The police were very understanding and didn’t just dismiss my complaints against my husband. Even after our divorce, when he was no longer living at the marital home (by court order) he was still subjecting me to harassment.

I am glad to say that he no longer behaves that way towards me. I don’t have much contact with him, for which I am glad, but when we do speak on the phone it is usually very civil. He is in contact with our sons which is as it should be. They are young adults themselves now, they don’t need me to make arrangements for them.

In recent days there have been reports in the news that The Home Secretary is about to announce new powers against non violent abuse. In theory I can only say that this is a good thing. However I have mixed feelings about all this.

I guess I should be jumping for joy that now (or at least soon) it won’t just be the people who use their fists to control their partner but also those who employ mental abuse, who can be convicted for their actions. Don’t get me wrong I am really pleased that mental abuse is being recognised as damaging to those subjected to it. You no longer have to wait for the abuse to turn physical, you don’t need to have bruises as evidence of suffering.

I know that those in authority want victims of this kind of abuse to come forward. Nobody should suffer the way so many do. I have been hearing and reading that this could lead to abusers receiving up to 14 years in prison. This is what worries me. I wonder to myself, will this encourage victims of abuse to come forward? I am not so sure that it will.

My own feelings about this are that when I was going through the misery caused by my then husband, I wanted him to stop, I wanted to escape from the whole situation. What I didn’t want was for the father of my sons to be put away in prison. I wanted a better life for myself and our children. I wanted peace, safety and my sanity back. That didn’t mean that I wanted my husband behind bars, I just wanted him to leave me alone.

Today I had time to think about all this and I asked myself the question. If at the time of our divorce, the police had had the powers that reports state will be vested on them in the next few months, would I have wanted my husband to be convicted of Coercive Control? I am not sure I can answer that. I was in a very desperate state and needed things to change. If that had been the only way to escape, to give my children a more peaceful life. Maybe. Maybe not. I was already depriving him of our home and our children. Would these new laws have encouraged me to report the abuse, I don’t think so.

We already have laws regarding physical abuse but that doesn’t mean that every victim of physical abuse will report it. Why would this be any different? What we want is protection from our partners, we want to stop looking over our shoulder, waiting for the next punch, insult, controlling device. We don’t always want our abuser locked away. Our children deprived of their other parent.

I do want the victims/survivors of emotional abuse to be given the same protection by the law as those who suffer physical abuse. I just don’t think that the promise of a jail sentence is an incentive to persuade sufferers to report their abuse.

Where did my dad go?

On our recent visit to London to see Statto and Miss Effervecence, I was standing on the pavement with Skater, whilst our host and hostess made a few purchases from a store near to the station.  We were chatting about this and that when the peace was broken. Inside the shop a man was being abusive to a member of staff. His stream of abuse was uncalled for and a security man did his best to usher the man out onto the street. It didn’t take long for this man to return to the store only to be ejected once again. At this point a couple of obviously homeless people were passing and the woman persuaded the ejected man to follow them. Her partner was busy picking up dog ends from the pavement. (This action amazed Skater more than the abusive guy).

A few moments later Statto and Miss Effervecence emerged with their shopping. To my amazement Statto asked.

‘Where did my dad go?’

Now I know exactly what he was really saying. His dad was not in London at the time (as far as I am aware). However the abusive guy who was obviously drunk was behaving in a way that Statto had witnessed from his own father many times over the years. I had also recognised the paranoid behaviour of the drunk, believing that they were being insulted when they weren’t. It reminded me of one particular summer evening years ago.

I had dutifully collected my drunken husband from the local pub, bundled him into our car and driven him home. Our house was not situated directly beside a road, we had a public footpath to negotiate before reaching our own garden path. The public footpath ran along the side of my friends’ back garden. It was a hot summer evening and our friends were sat in their garden with other friends having a laugh. Considering that the garden in which this group of friends were enjoying their evening together, has a 6′ brick wall around it, they would not have been aware that we were passing by.

However on hearing laughter my husband in his drunken state believed that they were laughing at him. This led to his agitation, causing a string of curses and threats to beat up anyone who was laughing at him. Now I know for a fact that his presence had gone unnoticed by the group within the walled garden. Although I am sure that had they seen the way my husband was stumbling all over the place including falling into the rose bush at the side of their driveway, then they would certainly have laughed.

In his drunken state my husband was convinced that he was being insulted and was determined to punch anyone who was insulting him. No amount of cajoling could convince him that nobody was either laughing at him or wanting to fight him.

I have noticed over the years that it is not unusual for someone under the influence of drink to imagine that someone has insulted them. Now that I am aware of my current husband’s drink problem, I can see that this has been part of the problem when he has imagined insults by family and others, where no insult was intended.

Drink has a lot to answer to.

I am just grateful that my four sons have all grown up to be, not tea total, but moderate drinkers. They all enjoy a drink from time to time but none of them are heavy drinkers.

 

 

Life in a mirror

Recently I did something that I couldn’t believe I was doing. It was a Wednesday evening and I had just arrived at a meeting of the Writers Circle that I now belong to. The meeting hadn’t yet begun, the last few stragglers were taking their seats. It was announced that due to personal reasons our Treasurer was resigning after 15 years. A request was made for a volunteer to take up the mantle.

That was when I heard it. It was my voice, and the words, not unfamiliar, were not what I expected to hear coming from my own mouth.

‘If nobody else wants to do it I will.’

It didn’t make me feel good, I had misgivings about this. Although I had done it before, twenty years ago I was the treasurer of our local Playgroup. I was worried about having other people’s cash in the house whilst we were struggling financially ourselves. Over the last couple of weeks since we sold our car, our own situation has become more relaxed. I began to feel better about my new role.

This weekend I called round to visit my predecessor for the handover of all the Treasurer’s paraphernalia. We chatted for several hours. We didn’t spend much time discussing the Writing group. Instead we talked about our own lives.

I had never imagined that I would meet another person whose life was such a mirror of my own life. She has lived my past, she has lived my current life. She is living my future.

It is strange but the revelations that came about through our conversation are both scary and at the same time comforting.

The difference a year makes

This time last year things between us were not good. We had been married for a whole 6 months. When we married I felt happier than I ever remember being in my life. Three months into our marriage we had our wonderful honeymoon in California. But within days of returning home things began to go wrong. My husband was not himself, he was showing signs of dementia or so I thought. However it turned out to be a mixture of anxiety attacks, and an over indulgence in secret vodka drinking.

The anxiety attacks were dealt with by the taking of anti depressants. The alcohol abuse is an ongoing situation, but at least I now know what I am dealing with. At the time I was extremely angry, I felt that I could not trust my husband. I felt betrayed.  More than anything I was angry with myself for not realising what had been going on.

Owl still drinks but, we never go out to the pub anymore. Back in March Owl had a fall in the road  due to his legs giving way. His alcohol level had dropped. I took him to hospital with a cut head and broken hand. There he was given some medication to replace the alcohol he hadn’t had. He was promised help by the hospital clinic. This didn’t materialise other than one appointment where he was told that he is a binge drinker and should cut down for a week then stop. Ha ha what planet did that advice come from.

Anyway, for a time Owl was not able to do much at all. Gradually though he has become stronger and fitter. He has been very busy working in our garden doing all the things he should have done last year but wasn’t in the right place to do anything much except sleep.

The shed that I bought for him last year was finally erected. Owl began by making it stronger in places by making wooden braces. He painted the shed forest green.shed 1  shed 3 before adding fixtures for everything to go inside, there is a purpose build space for everything that goes in there.IMG_1944 then he painted the old shed green to match the new one. IMG_1947 the back gate was also painted green to match. This also involved taking off the ironmongery to be painted black.back gate When he had done that he reorganised the space near to the back gate which meant adding a hanging basket bracket to the wall as a hose tidy.under magnolia tree Once all this had been done he turned his attention to the hedges that he had hired someone to cut a few weeks prior. He was not happy with the way they were looking. He spent the next couple of weeks cutting the hedges by hand. hedge 1 now he is simultaneously working on the five bar gate and taking up the decking at the front of the house.hedge 3 Oh and I nearly forgot he has painted all the fences under the hedges and along the outside of the house.

None of these things would have been possible a year or even 6 months ago. I am so pleased with the progress he is making. I am also pleased that he has even begun to apply for work outside the home. Ok so I have been applying for jobs on his behalf but he has sent his CV to some places too. Step by step we are getting back to where we should be.

Better than before

I recently discovered Betternotbroken a fellow blogger who has escaped from an abusive relationship. I have only read a few of her posts one of them being four sly abusive tactics. Reading this post I recognised these signs although at the time I hadn’t figured them out.

Sleep derivation, yes I was subjected to that, I would be asleep when he came into the room shook me awake and began talking (rambling about anything) if I started to fall asleep again he would shake me again “I’m talking to you.” This would sometimes go on for hours even though all he was doing was going round and round in a circle telling me the same things over and over.

He would insist that I join him in the pub, or often it would be to collect him from the pub. I would end up sitting at a table with our boys for hours on end whilst he talked to his ‘mates’. Sometimes he would buy me an orange juice but he wouldn’t bring it to me. He would be too busy having a conversation with one of his fellow drunks. He would have the same conversation with each mate as they came in. Everyone in the pub knew who I was, I knew most of their faces, I also knew their names because he talked about them a lot, I wasn’t sure which name belonged to which face though. I couldn’t make a scene in front of all his mates, what would they think of me. He was very popular, everyone liked him.

How many times did he tell me how much he fancied the barmaid, he could give her one! It didn’t matter where we were but if he saw a good looking woman, he could always give her one. It didn’t matter that he was married and his wife was there. There was one woman who was a regular in the pub, she was not good looking, she was another drunk, she also had a downs syndrome daughter. (I did feel sorry for her to a degree). My husband would spend far more time talking to her buying her drinks, than he ever did me or our children. (I wasn’t totally surprised when they began living together after we divorced).

When I turned 40 I decided that yes I did want to have a party, not to celebrate being 40 but to celebrate being alive, I had been in remission for a year. I asked my husband to organise it. At the last minute he booked the function room at the pub, I would have preferred somewhere else but that didn’t matter as long as my family and friends were there. He managed to stay for an hour.  He didn’t even go next door to the bar, he went home!

Slow sabotage. He would tell me that I was fat, and yes I had put on weight after having his children. Whenever he felt guilty for spending too much time in the pub, he bought me chocolate, even though I was trying to diet. On mothers day or my birthday, he bought me chocolate (often end of date, price reduced). He would often produce lovely sweet desserts for me to eat, if I failed to eat it all, I didn’t appreciate the effort he had made for me. So although he told me that I was fat he did everything he could to stop me for losing weight. For many years I was told that I was ” Fat, stupid, ugly, with a  brain like a sieve.” I was lucky to have him as nobody else would have me. I couldn’t wear make up or have nice clothes, I lived in baggy t-shirts, sweatshirts and jogging trousers. After our marriage ended I began wearing nice clothes again. Now I prefer skirts to trousers.

When the children were very small I had a number of part time jobs. In theory he would come home from work and I would go to work. Only this didn’t actually happen. Sometimes he would be late home (because he had stopped for a drink) so I would be late getting to work. Other times he didn’t come home, instead I would have to ring in sick or have a reason for not going to work. Gradually I realised that because of him I was slowly becoming unemployable. Who would want to employ me when I couldn’t be relied upon to turn up on time if at all.

There were other ways that he undermined me, like constantly telling me that my friends were not nice people and they were just using me. I shouldn’t trust my friends. If he came home and found that I had a friend with me he either went to the pub or else hid upstairs in our room until they had gone. He was making my friends feel guilty for being there. Gradually most of my friends stopped visiting.

In the days before I had a mobile phone, my husband would phone me from work numerous times each day. He was checking that I was ok. I couldn’t go anywhere without telling him. If I was late getting home from the school run because I had chatted to one of my friends on the way home he would know, because I wasn’t there when he called. When I got my first mobile phone he was able to call me wherever I was. It didn’t matter where I was, for whatever reason, he would be constantly phoning me. When I was out with my mother she would get so fed up with the phone calls that she would tell me to turn the phone off. Of course I never could.

By this time the only times I ever went out without the boys was with my mother. If I was going out for any reason and needed my husband to look after our sons, he would be out until I was due to leave. I would be panicking that he wouldn’t get home in time for me to go.

When I was out ie my mum’s graduation, he would call me with an emergency that meant I had to rush home. I only ever went out 2 or 3 times a year.  (not including day to day stuff).

All this stuff was just how my life was day to day, nothing major, there was no violence, just slow drip drip control, separate and defeat. Once I finally had enough and managed to bring our marriage to an end (the abuse intensified for the 7 months were we under the same roof). It was a difficult time but I fought so hard to get out of that situation.

Moving forward a few years, I was at a party with a friend, when I met Keith. I liked him and we swapped email addresses and phone numbers. By the time I got home he had text me and emailed me. Over the next week or so we exchanged emails and text messages. We talked about meeting up the following weekend. Then he asked me why my marriage had ended. I told him that my husband had been emotionally abusive. Keith then admitted to me that he had been emotionally abusive to his wife, in the end she killed herself. ( He was a respected member of his local community). We talked about my husband and I said that I didn’t think my husband was aware of what he was doing to me. Keith told me that my husband knew exactly what he was doing. I declined to get involved with Keith. I had fought so hard to get out of my marriage that there was no way I was going to put myself back in that situation, especially knowing in advance what he would be like. Oddly he still thought I would go out with him. It took weeks of ignoring his messages before he finally left me alone.