Updated: Mar 12, 2022
It started with a job interview at a large department store in Cape Town. Dressed all in black as required, I entered the interview room in November 2008. He was there, conducting interviews with the HR manager. I did my best and a few days later, I started working in the Womenswear department. I made a friend, and shortly thereafter, she told me that her friend likes me, and she was playing matchmaker. One day, I went looking for him and boldly said, “I heard you like me.” He was shocked. Quickly, we started building a relationship, we spent time together, and two weeks later, I bought him a birthday present. Then it rapidly became serious.
We got engaged (with no ring) and got married six months after our first meeting with his sister’s family heirloom ring (which I had to return once he could afford to buy me my own one). Already, before the wedding, things were turning out not as expected, but I didn't listen to my instincts: health issues I never had before caused hospitalization, despite me being healthy; there were incidents of strangers helping me after fainting; I started losing weight, which never happened before in my entire life; I was looking older than I was when I was always young-looking; and I had sleepless nights - insomnia and night terrors kept me awake at night. I ignored it all.
The night before our wedding, he called me to say it’s off. I went to his family, and his brother in law was adamant that I shouldn’t marry him, but refused to reveal his reasons for saying that. So, we got married. The worst part of it was that my now husband asked me to keep secret his son from a previous marriage. I agreed unfortunately and even paid maintenance for him a few months.
Two months into our marriage, a female employee of the store we worked at, accused him of harassment. No one believed her and people said she was jealous of me. He subsequently walked out of the job he had been at for over five years and I became the sole financial provider. This was the first of many times, where I was the financial provider within the marriage. I was called the “supportive wife”, who never doubted her husband, who provided financially for him, just all round perfect.
But it was far from perfect. I pretended that it was ; covered my misery and paid and paid and paid - with money, my time, my emotions, my “everything”. Some may think that I was an idiot for doing so. Not long into our marriage, I found out I was infertile and had to have major surgery. I told him that he could leave me because of this, but he declined. I felt secure in my love and marriage, yet I was unhappy in my situation.
There were instances of punishment from him - threats like “It’s my way or no way or the highway”. I had to take it sexually, and mentally from him; he hit me once, but never did again and was sorry for it. I reacted emotionally, and I learnt that that was how he was able to control my life - through money and manipulation. He said that I couldn’t go to my family if he didn’t go with, or if he didn’t approve, and I had to give him a week’s notice if I wanted to go. And always saying that he stayed with me even though I couldn't have kids. Every time he said that, or when I was denied access to see family or friends, my heart broke. Why did I stay so long? My character flaw is that I’m loyal, I can take a lot, and I keep pretending.
My advice is: take note of what happens, listen to your instincts, and trust your gut.