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During marriage, don't lower your standards

Part II: The Marriage

We had a good time for a while; we celebrated a few anniversaries and had a great social life.

We wanted a few things, and applied for credit – all the loans were in my name. Emotionally, he tied money and his love together, and I fell for it. And I say that, because he would emotionally blackmail me by saying that I don’t spend enough time or money on him to show my love. And we would argue and I would feel empty after. Credit was the only way I could afford it, until I could no longer make the payments. He would work occasionally, but most of the time he was unemployed.

He didn’t even spend R1k of his provident fund payout on me. I never wanted material things, only financial support for the debt I was setup for. I also wanted emotional support and physical satisfaction – things I read about, but didn’t experience. Instead, I was unsatisfied, fearful - making me cry out and left wanting. In actual fact, I was glad to be barren and unable to have children with him because emotionally I don’t think that I’d be able to do it alone. I wanted more love, more respect; and no more emotional blackmail like “I could have married someone else like you wanted”.

And then we were three

In the seventh year of our marriage, he told me that his ex informed him that he had a son - a child that he didn’t know of. And his family backed up his ‘story’. At the beginning of 2017, his 14 year old son came to live with us. This made me feel whole as I became a mother to this amazing boy. All our friends and my work colleagues had different reactions; most of them asking “What am I still doing with my husband?” I was adamant: “I became a mother to a boy without going through the pain of birth and my husband gave me a son, which I couldn’t give him.” It was a transition - we became a family and I felt whole again. My perfect life started, but not after struggling with anxiety, depression and, once again, the night terrors which I had before we married. He always used to say: “A couple won’t break up, no matter what, if they are together five years because they know each other.”

Then the emotional abuse continued: if I didn’t agree with him about something or his way of parenting, he would say things like, “I will send my son back to his mom.” Although I cried about it, I was frustrated, I whined about it to some people, I accepted his decision begrudgingly because according to him, we must have a united front. Then he said it one time too many, and I replied: “Then you won’t get to raise him either!”

I wanted to have a say on how we raised our son, but my husband wouldn’t have it. We got into continuous arguments about parenting. One day it became so bad that he lost his temper and I instinctively had to protect our son, so I pulled him behind me to avoid the lashing which my husband was going to give him. And then it became evident that my husband was repeating history. When he was growing up, his father gave him beatings for nothing. This was a sore topic between them when my husband’s dad was alive. And also evident was that I would take my son’s side in everything. This changed my feelings toward my husband - I felt less love and I had less tolerance of him and started to live for my son.

Life went on; my parents supported me - or should I say us. We were living in their home, eating with them, and they were tolerant of him not working. I worked, paid bills and supported our family in all aspects and I forgot to take care of myself. My health plummeted again: anxiety, depression, physical pain from everywhere. With hindsight, I realize emotions can be felt physically.

The Turning Point

Then something wonderful happened. My parents were gifted a full Hajj experience (may Allah reward those who made it possible). Two months before this wonderful event, my husband’s WhatsApp was open on our TV and a woman had sent him pictures, inappropriate pictures. I’m not a jealous woman, but what I did find was his inappropriate reply to those pictures: naked pictures of himself and him expressing the need to be with her.

I cried and screamed and broke down to my Mom. I was angry and I swore that he and I were done. Our son was not going to keep us together anymore! I ran out before confronting him because the house we live in was too small to contain my grief in that moment. I returned home after hearing what my Mom said, and I confronted him. I told him that I was done (at the start of our relationship, I said that I won’t tolerate a cheat), packed up his things and asked him to leave two months before my 40th birthday and my parents’ planned Hajj. He said that he wouldn’t leave me; told me he would take his son with him (in an attempt to get me to stay with him). I replied that he could take him if he wants. That shocked him, of course, and I wasn’t saying it with tears in my eyes then. Then my son said, “Mommy, everyone makes mistakes, please give Daddy a chance to make it up to us.” These were his own words, not a manipulation from his father, so I relented, and gave my husband another chance.

Second chances

We planned for my parents Hajj and things got better. I still couldn’t trust him and kept him at arms length. The saying, “I trust you as far as I can throw you” became very true for me at that time, so for him it was no friends, or limited outings with them, and no more money to support his lifestyle even when unemployed.

My parents left for Hajj, and it was a blessing. Now we had to run the house, and without my knowledge, my husband bought food on credit. When it was Eid, he made seafood dishes for Eid lunch. It was excessive to say the least. In the evening, friends showed up and we dished out the leftover food. They were speaking about the food sold on credit by this single mother. I held my anger because I was the one who had to pay for it. And we owed her hundreds! The next day, I went to her and told her not to give anything to my husband unless I approve it because I am the one paying for it. Never in my life did we eat on credit, and I wasn’t about to start now!

My parents returned from Hajj and year-end was approaching. I was still having my husband earn my trust for cheating on me. He tried, he did; he listened. I still didn’t trust him but I was trying as well.

The Tipping Point

On that weekend prior to the first lockdown announcement, my husband got a job away from home. He couldn’t give me more details. This annoyed me as I didn’t feel like it was a good time for him to be away from home. My gut was telling me something was off because he was resistant to giving me information, yet I resigned myself to let him go.

He contacted me for the first time after leaving, four days later. He had misplaced his phone and lockdown restrictions meant that he couldn’t travel. He used someone’s phone and called a number he found on himself – our next door neighbour’s number. The neighbour delivered the message to me - my husband is sorry, he lost his phone and will be home soon. I lost my cool! Not only did we not know where he was, who he was with, who he was working, how he even got the job and how much he was to be paid, but he lost his phone and didn’t know my number after a decade!

When he came home, I was at my last wits because I simply couldn’t trust him even if what he said was true. He was aware that I could no longer endure what he was doing in our marriage, so he packed his things and said that our son must come with him. I convinced him to let the boy stay to diminish the disruption to the boy’s life, and this resulted in our son staying with me.

What I’ve learnt

My advice pertaining to this experience is that when you have standards, it may seem to others that you are picky or full of nonsense, but don’t let that lower your standards ever, and don’t settle for less than what you want for yourself.

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