About 25 years ago, I met the man of my dreams. Sophisticated, six years older than me, with a good education, more than enough money, who owned his own business. And he liked me! He pampered me, put me on a pedestal and couldn’t spend one day without me. So it wasn’t long before I moved in with him.
Slowly but surely strange things came to light. For example, he had told me that he was from France (his last name sounded French). Later, I found out that he was born in Germany, where his whole family was still living. And there were more things, that I considered unimportant, that turned out to be untrue and that we would argue about.
He didn’t appreciate me confronting him with his little fibs. Whenever I tried to talk about something that was bothering me, he would turn the tables on me, and said I was imagining things, accused me of lying or claimed I was crazy.
He regularly let me know that he was ashamed of me. I talked too much, laughed too loudly about things that he didn’t think were funny, or accused me of making a fool of him. He also had a lot to say about my appearance: I was wearing too much makeup and my clothing was too flashy or unkempt, my breasts were too small, my bottom too big and my legs too short.
Every afternoon, he would ring me to tell me what time he would be home. About half an hour after the designated time, he would ring to say he was on his way, only to arrive hours later. He was manipulating me in this way, and I often found myself waiting in vain for him to be home for dinner while the food got cold. And if I had not picked up the phone, he demanded I tell him where I had been, with whom and why.
Like I said, he was romantic and sweet as well, but those moments became rare. He had told me about his terrible childhood with his father who used to abuse him. I thought my love could cure him of his need for other people’s approval and the importance of material goods and keeping up appearances.
A year after we met, we bought an old farm, and I was convinced that everything would change for the better. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I had sold my apartment and had reduced my working hours, and because I was now financially dependent on him, he thought he had complete control over me. During our first night in our new home, he frightened me in such a way, that the next day, as soon as he had left for work, I packed a bag and rang a friend to ask her to come and get me.
That didn’t mean my troubles were over. The relationship had a long financial aftermath. I had no money, no home and no furniture, only a couple of bags of clothing. In the space of one year, I moved from temporary bedsit to apartment to guest room eight times.
And then there was the emotional aftermath. How could I have let someone treat me this way? How could I have been so stupid? Didn’t I have any self-respect or feelings of self-worth? The answer is yes and no.
A relationship doesn’t turn into hell from one day to the next. It’s a process. And because I was living it, I wasn’t able to look at the situation from a distance. I was looking for love and stability. The things I accepted from this person and my role in the relationship had everything to do with my past and my self-image. And he used my vulnerabilities against me.
I do not blame him anymore. And I never thought he was a bad person. But I do not want to think about what may have motivated him. I am proud of myself and very happy that, in spite of not knowing what the future would bring, I decided to leave him. And I learnt a lot. Thanks to this relationship, I got to know myself better and started thinking about my own responsibility in relationships.
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