We accept the love we think we deserve

My parents were, quite rightly, very clear that I would not be spending my time at home navel gazing all day long so I got a job as a cashier in a service station. It was only part-time hours but it brought money in and gave me a start towards clearing the mountain of debt I was in as well as paying rent money to my parents. The work was easy enough and there was a good variety of people coming in each day which kept me occupied although I knew it was not what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. After a few months I decided to enroll in a local University which agreed to transfer the credits I had gained at the previous University.  The course had a lot less lecture hours (12 hours a week) than my previous course and as some of the lectures took place in the evenings this meant I was able to keep my part time job.

It was while working at the Service Station that I met R, the man who became my husband and almost broke me altogether. The strange thing about my relationship with R is that it took me a long time to realise that it was an abusive relationship. I had always believed that I would never allow myself to end up in another abusive relationship; I promised myself that I wouldn’t put up with anyone abusing me ever again, but I did. It’s clear to me now that I accepted R’s behaviour towards me because my self esteem was very low, this was why I never questioned his logic when he blamed me for his outbursts of aggression.

R was a long-term, regular customer at the Service Station I worked in. He would stop in everyday to get fuel for his works van and always chatted with the staff. I found him to be very charming and engaging and I always looked forward to him stopping by as it was good to have someone to speak to every now and again as most other customers practically filled up their cars and then threw money at you before rushing off leaving you feeling like a piece of crap.

At Christmas R bought me an extravagant gift of jewellery which I was bowled over by, everyone else in the Service Station told me that he was clearly besotted with me but I didn’t believe them, I couldn’t believe that anyone would want to be with me.

R asked me out just after Christmas and we went out for drinks at a local bar after one of my weekend shifts. He behaved like a true gentleman during our first date, he listened attentively to me as I told him that things hadn’t worked out like I planned and I had returned home again to start over, that I was at University and hoped that I would get a good job when I finished. He told me about his job and plans for the future and that he hoped to find someone to share it with before he got too old (I found out that he was 10 years my senior but that didn’t bother me at the time). After a few more dates he asked me if I wanted to stay over at his place, after my disastrous night with D I decided I had better warn R beforehand. I told him that I would like to stay but that I was very nervous about it as I had been abused as a child and found intimacy very difficult. He asked me questions about what had happened and I told him as little as I thought he needed to know. R then asked me if I had seen a doctor, at first I was confused as to what he meant by that but then he said, “Are you clean? Did you get any diseases from your abusers?” I told him about having had PID and that, other than that, I was ok. He told me he needed to think about this for a while and we called it a night. I fully expected that I wouldn’t hear from him again and I didn’t blame him, who would want to take on someone with my history?

R called me the next day and said he wanted to meet for a coffee, I was surprised but excited and agreed to meet him the next day. He told me that he had thought long and hard about what I told him.  He told me that he had a strong desire to have children of his own one day and the fact that I was unlikely to be able to was difficult for him to accept but he liked me enough to overlook this. I was absolutely delighted to hear this, it was like I had been granted a stay of execution – in actual fact I had given him his first round of ammunition against me. I should have called a halt to things there and then but quite frankly I was so grateful that anyone would give me a second glance that I fell into a trap of trying to please him all the time as I didn’t want to be alone.

I started staying over at weekends and things went ok, there were no flashbacks, no panic attacks, it was all ok. Things at home though were not so good, I was clearly cramping my parents style – my Mum would frequently ask me if I could move into halls of residence at the University rather than commute each day. I wasn’t keen on this as I was still in a huge amount of debt and knew that more would ensue as I had to buy books. I started to stay over with R more and more frequently and after a few months he asked me to move in with him but only as his fiancee. I was absolutely delighted – I would get out of my parents hair and cement my relationship with R. Instead of being the beginning of something wonderful it became the start of a nightmare period from which I couldn’t see a way out.

R had a bit of a jealous streak from the outset, he didn’t like the idea of me having male friends and would always want to accompany me if I went out with male friends from university or work. At first I thought it was endearing as it meant that he thought I was good looking enough that someone else might fancy me and I felt good about it but over time he became so overbearing that my friends backed off as they didn’t feel comfortable in his company. If I did go out without him he would phone constantly to ask what I was doing or would sulk when I left him home alone. Eventually I stopped going out and spent time in the house with R instead, he would constantly tell me how lucky I was that he was willing to put up with me and that I wouldn’t find anyone else willing to be with me given that I was unlikely to ever be able to have children and I believed him.

R also had a very violent temper and would fly off the handle at the slightest thing, he would tell me that it was always my fault for not doing it right or not doing it when he wanted it done. Again I never questioned the logic of this – instead I modified my behaviour to please him and so prevent any violent outbursts. The level of violence increased in such small increments that I barely noticed, he started by throwing things around, knocking over furniture and then breaking things that were important to me such as a tea cup that S had bought me for my birthday, it was a beautiful cup with a poem inscribed on it and he smashed it in front of me because his dinner hadn’t been ready for him arriving home one night.

Despite all these things I married him, I truly wish I hadn’t but I seemed to be propelled into a course of action that I could see no way out of. I think deep down I didn’t want the humiliation of calling the wedding off, I didn’t want to be seen as a failure. I hated my wedding day, hardly anyone came outside of immediate family and that was because I couldn’t think of anyone to invite, I was practically friendless by this point because of R controlling me.

R treated the wedding certificate as some kind of proof of ownership of me. He wouldn’t let me go anywhere unless I had “permission” from him and had told him exactly who would be there and if they were single or not.

Things got very ugly when I got a new job in an office, my new colleagues were very sociable and always organising work nights out which led to many clashes between myself and R. I confided in a work colleague and she told me that R was an abusive spouse, I tried to deny it as he had never hit me but she told me that this was irrelevant as it would only be a matter of time before it escalated to that. She put me in touch with another colleague in a different department who had fled an abusive spouse the previous year and she told me about her relationship, a story which mirrored my own. With the support of my colleagues the scales slowly fell from my eyes and I realised that R’s behaviour was not right. I started to challenge some of his outbursts but this led to his rage increasing and he told me that “those whores” (my work colleagues) were “putting ideas into my head”.

Unfortunately my colleague had been right – it was only a matter of time before he hit me and that was when I found out that blood might be thicker than  water but friendship is thicker than anything.

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