She shouldn’t have answered the first question he asked. It was ‘Why do you cry all the time?’ Why was this person, who had made it so clear two years before that he disliked her as a person, asking this? She answered that she had separated from her marriage, was diagnosed with depression and having treatment. She overstepped a boundary answering that first question.
Her marriage had been great while she was a full-time stay at home mother. She loved it and gave it her all. When the children were independent of her she went back to work and was always there for her children before and after school. That is when the controlling behaviours of her husband became worse. In 21 years of marriage, she never had a night out with girlfriends. If she was even 10 minutes late home from work, she would get a phone call asking where she was and then was scolded for having a coffee with her best friend. This control extended to spending time with family members. If he heard her laughing on the phone he would yell at her asking “why do you need friends? Aren’t I enough?”
He hated that she loved her work as a teacher. Hitting walls and throwing things became frequent, screaming at her, ‘you are bullshit the amount of help you give others!’ Over the last 8 years of a 21-year marriage, her spirit was crushed. He made her feel that she was wrong and he was right. She felt she was was never enough. But she had felt like that before in her teenage years. It all resurfaced. She felt that she didn’t matter and that all she mattered for was housework and sex. He really didn’t know her. She also lost sight of herself.
Her usual ‘go to response’ for dealing with these emotions was to not say a thing and ‘do more and try harder to be better.’
- More chores – even to do things that he usually did
- More pleasing – don’t ‘rock the boat’
- More running and less eating – previous thought and behaviour patterns of anorexia from late teens that she never received psychological help for.
The dominating thought her whole life was ‘you are only worthy if you do more. That is the only way you will be loved.’
He still had her body but during the last two years of the marriage, the lights were off for sex. Sex will make him happy she thought. It wasn’t that she didn’t like her body; she always did. But she never felt loved for who she was. So she didn’t want him to see her body anymore. Tears in the dark always followed after sex, as he rolled over and fell asleep.
During a couple’s counselling session about 9 months after they separated, he was asked two questions in front of her.
- What do you understand of your wife? His response: ‘I don’t know. I only know when when she’s around, the house runs smoothly.’
- What do you miss about your wife? HIs response: ‘I miss seeing her naked.’
The session was terminated as she broke down sobbing, her thoughts confirmed. She hated herself and her self-worth was at zero. Six weeks later, she offended.
The second question he asked her was could she help him with maths, as the year 10 exams were approaching. He kept telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had. He also said not to tell his parents that he had asked her for help. He would tell her that she was kind, but not to tell his friends that he had asked her for help as they thought he hated her. She should not have said that she would help him. She should not have given him her number to organise a time to help him through the holidays. He sent her a message with a ‘kiss’ at the end ‘x’. She broke another boundary by giving her number. It was all wrong. But his attention was soaking into her broken, dry, bleeding spirit.
When he pulled the condom out, her first thought was ‘Oh shit!’ Then, ‘If I don’t, he will not like or value me anymore.’ It was the same unhealthy thought patterns that she had lived with for decades. She now loathed herself. She hated what she had done. Shame covered every part of her being. She wanted to take her life but thoughts of her children stopped her.
Four and a half years later, she was arrested. She was frightened and relieved at the same time. The guilt was too much to bear. Now she had to face the outcome. She pled guilty. Trembling, shaking and sobbing she left the barristers office. At one of the many sessions with a forensic psychologist before court sentencing, she asked why with him? It was against all she had ever believed and lived by. ‘Because he was there, telling you all the things your husband should’ve been saying all those years.’ She acknowledged and accepted that she was the adult and should’ve known better.
Sentencing day came. The judge acknowledged her vulnerability. He acknowledged that not many plea guilty in these cases. She accepted there was a price to pay and she paid with a prison sentence. She continues to pay the price because of the label of a ‘sex offender’, that stirs up fear in many.
She has lost much but she has also gained priceless pearls. She now knows her worth. She has gained the courage and strength to speak up for herself. She now knows that her family, children and friends love her unconditionally. She now knows that she is enough. She knows she beat the underlying causes of the anorexia, as the environment of prison was not conducive to any sort of recovery. However she put into practice all the unlearning she had worked on with her psychologist before she landed in a cell. The hardest part was to forgive herself and longs for the day that society can forgive her.
Do not fall for the notion of the world that screams at you in so many ways that you are not worthy. Do not fall for the vision that it is your physical body that matters and that you will only be loved for sex. Do not fall for the voice that tells you you are never enough.