I met him at the age of eighteen and he was two years older than me, ready to settle down. He was all I wanted in a man, tall, dark chocolate skin, and handsome. As if his physic wasn’t enough, he was focused, determined, respectful, loving and a go getter. His character and appearance combined made him simply irresistible. I was in love, and two years down the line we got married and I got pregnant. After our third child is when he started coming back home late, having unexplained work trips and the arguments had increased. What was wrong with me, was I not bathing enough? Had the sex become ‘not good enough’? Had I gained too much weight? Was I simply no longer woman enough for him?
He had changed, changed from the person I fell in love with. It felt like I was living with a stranger, someone I had never met and not the person I had said ‘I DO’ to. The children no longer knew him, he had become a visitor in his own home. I initially followed the cultural advice that since the man was the head of the house, you could not question his behavior (hanzi murume haabvunzwe). Rumors started building up that he was seeing another woman, I was in disbelief, in denial, and never imagined that a man that used to adore me that much would opt for another. What was wrong with me, was I not intelligent enough? Did I not dress up smart enough? Was I not cooking well enough? Was I simply no longer woman enough for him?
The day I decided to question him is the day everything completely changed. I had spotted his car at a local flat and after lying about his whereabouts that afternoon I told him I had seen him. He admitted to having a girlfriend but insisted I had to be punished for questioning his behavior. I had married a monster, my very own lover had become my very own abuser. All I did was cover my face as he bashed and shamed me, little did I know that my youngest child was watching. After this day I prayed he would change, I fasted for that man that I had fallen for to return. I blamed evil spirits and in my heart I believed he would change. This was not the last time he ‘punished me’, I had literally become his punching bag. When he had had a bad day, when he had had a fight with his girlfriend, or any other day, I had become his stress reliever. I needed to tell someone, but cultural advice that I had been given continued ringing in my head. (Chakafukidza dzimba matenga), you had to keep to yourself and not let the world know what was happening in your house. What curse had God brought into my home? What sin so big had I committed to deserve this kind of punishment? Had I not submitted all by plans to God prior to my marriage? Was I simply no longer woman enough for him?
The day he came and told me his girlfriend was pregnant and he wanted to marry her is when I finally discovered that I was not the problem and neither was God. All this time I had blamed other people for his shortcomings and all his outbursts. Him banging the door in my face; waking up with a black eye and making excuses to the world on how I had banged my head on the cupboard. I had gone for years making excuses for him and blaming myself yet I was not the problem, neither was God but he was. I had not gained too much weight, the sex was still good enough, I was bathing just right, I was still intelligent, I still dressed up just right, my cooking was still on point, God was still God and I definitely still was woman enough!
This is my mother’s story, her body, her right, she felt violated. Violated by the man she loved, and still loved, but after all the bashing and buttering, she had had enough and had the strength to leave. She had the strength to make the decision that she had had enough and it was time to take back her body, and her right. The day my father bashed her I was the daughter that was watching and this memory had lived with me twenty-five years down the line.
Now, I am stuck in an abusive relationship. I have been making excuses because he does not beat me up, never has he laid his hand on me. However, he has raped me a number of times – he calls it conjugal rights because I am his wife. He does not allow me to work and says he will provide all I need but I have to account for every cent spent. All the nasty words you can think of, he has called me those. At times I wish he would slap me instead of the names he calls me. Why am I still here? Why am I still making excuses for him? It is easy to understand how you can go from an abusive parent to an abusive husband – or indeed to become an abuser yourself. It is a familiar place in emotional terms. It has a safety of its own. You understand the dynamics of abuse even if you don’t like them.
Day 29 of the #30DayAfriBlogger challenge and we talk about toxic relationships. Most of us know when we are in one but we keep at it for one reason or another. It is important to look at the reasons why women stay in abusive relationships but equally important is why some men are abusive. Knowing that you are toxic can be the root change for your next relationship. This can even be a simple friendship. Maybe you know you give crap advice as a friend, or maybe you have nothing to offer in a friendship; fixing that about yourself may reduce the toxiticy in your friendships.