Once upon a time, there was a fairytale wedding. The bride wore a beautiful long white dress, with a veil over face. She walked down the aisle of a quaint blue-stone church and was married by a man of God. The wedding was celebrated with a grand reception in a heritage listed building, filled with candles and fairy lights. And the happy couple lived happily ever after.
Except they didn’t. The bride had married a man who had emotionally and verbally abused her for many years. She married him because she thought that he was right; and that she was worthless and deserved to be treated the way she was. She believed that no one else would ever ‘put up’ with her and that she should be grateful that anyone wanted to be with her at all.
She left him ten months after the wedding when she realised that no matter how badly she thought of herself, she could never bring a child into this environment, with this man.
And eventually she did live happily ever after.
I have mentioned before my ‘first marriage’. I have never written about it because I guess I am scared. Scared that my ex husband will read it. Scared of the ramifications. Obviously it was a massive part of my life though, so it feels strange not to talk about it, when I talk about so much else.
I don’t know how to write about my first husband, so instead I will tell you all that is different about my husband now, my soul mate, the father of my daughter.
He does not tell me that I am stupid.
He does not tell me that I am too fat or too skinny.
He does not tell me that I am useless, that I can’t do anything.
He does not tell me what television shows I am allowed to watch. He does not say I can’t watch Sex and The City, because the women are too slutty. He does not tell me I’m not allowed to watch hospital dramas because his ex used to love them. He does not tell me I have to choose, either Home and Away or Neighbours.
I don’t have to ask his permission if I want to buy something. I am allowed to buy more than two magazines a month, if I want to.
I don’t have to check with him before I buy clothes, in case they are too ‘slutty’.
He has never called me a bitch, a slut, a scrag, a fucking cunt.
He doesn’t tell me what I must cook for him and how I must cook it. He doesn’t care if I put the milk in mashed potato before the butter.
He doesn’t stop liking his friends if they like me, because ‘what kind of person are they if they like someone like you?’
He doesn’t lose his temper in the supermarket if they are out of stock of something he likes. He doesn’t kick products off the shelves, yelling and swearing at the staff.
He doesn’t put me down in public. I don’t have to warn people before we go out, ‘Please don’t be offended, it’s just the way he is’.
He doesn’t hate all my friends and get angry when I spend time with them or talk to them on the phone.
He doesn’t scream in my face, throw things at me, punch holes in walls, up-end couches, coffee tables, heaters. He doesn’t smash things.
He doesn’t physically restrain me and keep me locked in the bathroom whilst his brother bangs on the door, telling him to let me out.
He doesn’t have secret bank accounts where he hides thousands of dollars from me.
One of the first things he said to me after our wedding was not “Shut the fuck up”.
I am not scared of him.
I do not wish that he would just hit me. I don’t scream in my head ‘JUST HIT ME. HIT ME AND THEN I CAN LEAVE.’ Because if he hit me, well that is abuse. It’s OK to leave someone if they abuse you.
It’s OK to leave them if they leave a mark on your body. Because no one can see the marks they leave on your soul. No one can see how tiny and worthless and nothing they make you feel. How tiny and worthless and nothing HE made ME feel.
We went to marriage counselling once, my ex husband and I. We never went back as at the end of the first session, the counsellor handed me a leaflet about a support group for abused women. He was furious and naturally thought she was an idiot. I was confused. I wasn’t an abused woman? Was I?
The man I am married to now, loves me. Adores me. He has never called me a name. Never put me down. He respects me. I don’t have to ask his permission to do anything. We are equals. I am not afraid of him.
I am not afraid of him. Maybe abuse doesn’t have to leave a mark? A bruise, a cut, evidence. I was in a relationship with my ex husband for seven years and I can’t remember ever not being afraid of him. I am still afraid of him.
On the 26th of November 2011, I married my soul mate, my best friend and the best father of our child I could ever ask for.
And we lived happily ever after.