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Turning the tables

February 2010. I turned the tables and finally showed my ex-husband the door. He left without a word and that was the end of that.

I had a lucky escape I would say. No one could say that I never tried in the marriage. I gave him four and a half years of my youth. I had no offspring and knew I just needed to get out of this mental hell.

I was 22 years old when I met him at work; he was my client. He was tall, handsome and oozing confidence. He was charming and eye candy to many of my female colleagues. I found him obnoxious, to be honest. He was rude and acted like he owned the ground he walked on. I complained to my manager as I couldn’t deal with his attitude. Things started changing after that: he would come with breakfast for me in the mornings and leave me small gifts at my desk, and so the romantic courtship began. I had travelled extensively, lived abroad, finished my university studies and had a reputable job all at a young age. It was still fairly rare to find young girls achieve this much and I always felt I would be better suited marring outside of my community or even outside my ethnic background. But here I was, wooed by someone of the same background. He came from a forward-thinking, well-travelled and well-known family. He told me what I wanted to hear and before I knew it, we were talking about when to get married. Truth be told, my family were not too keen on the marriage. They thought I could ‘do better’, but respected my choice nonetheless.

The wedding was lavish and the first weeks of marriage were great - newlyweds and looking forward to a six-week honeymoon around half the globe. Things started to change once we got back. There were constant jabs about my desire to pray five times a day and suggestions to take off my headscarf. He insisted on going to ex-Muslim conferences and questioned the existence of God. I never saw this coming. In a short space of time, it was as though I didn’t know him anymore. I was embarrassed to speak to my family and friends because it was a marriage of choice, and one would assume I would have known his stance on religion while getting to know him? His family didn’t react a great deal. Although, it got me thinking: they must have known this about him. I never challenged this thought, but they probably thought that marrying me would ground him again!

We loved each other dearly and I cared for him a lot, and I was prepared to overlook this big cloud. He had a tough upbringing and I understood that his idea of religion was ridden with baggage and cultural experiences rather than in its true essence.

Things started to get worse when he began controlling where I worked and how much money I earned. I gave up four jobs in the time I was married because with each job, he complained either that the workplace was too far, or the job required too much of my time away from him, etc. He asked for bank card so we could “better manage finances”. I would plan vacations, then he would go to the exact places with his friends and leave me behind. I always complied, but I was so confused.

I couldn’t understand why a person would treat another like that. It was clear within the first year, his idea of marriage was for a woman to be submissive, cook, clean, have sex and make babies. We started living parallel lives, but he would come home in the night demanding sex, even when I was asleep. Our conversations always ended in arguments and he would always tell me I should leave if I didn’t like it in the relationship. I eventually opened up to my family, but I was very surprised by my mum’s reaction. What struck me the most was when I was told, since he’s not physically violent, that I should go back and keep trying! I suggested marriage counselling, but he never agreed to the dates for the meetings and the cycle continued. He denied me so many of my rights, including that to start a family.

I felt so trapped. Alone in a marriage and a flat mate as a husband. I told myself I am worth much more than this. I stopped being angry, and turned it to sadness. Sadness that I am letting time pass me by. I started to rebuild my career and focus on my mental and physical health. I didn’t care what he did or didn’t do anymore. I didn’t have any children and exiting this so-called marriage was my only choice. If I went to my family, I knew they would only convince to stay. So, after four years, I finally divorced myself from him, that life and that marriage.

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