What do we know when we’re young? Not only did I grow up in an insular small town, I was lucky enough to have a religious upbringing, with its bonus effect of screwed up views on sex. Sex is only okay after marriage, so if you are stupid enough to have sex with a guy, of course you are in love with him, right, or you wouldn’t have had sex in the first place, and marriage is definitely in the plans. Does it count that it was only the second date and he says he is too tired to drive home, so you let him stay and get some sleep and you wake up to find him inside of you? Does that count as making love? Do you have to love him then? Hell yeah!
So then I admit that I don’t love him, and try to break up with him, even though that is a sin, because I already slept with him, but he is persistent and won’t go away and buys me things, and takes me dancing… and well, makes us a couple, so – I must love him now, right?
And I try, I really do try to love him, and I convince myself that I really do love him. I do love you. Yes, I love you. Yes, I’ll marry you. Yes, it’ll be great. He’s calm and fun and has a good job, and it will be good. I have to marry someone, I have to take myself off the market.
And it is pretty good – the buyer’s remorse all the way back from the East Coast on our honeymoon aside – WHAT have I done? What HAVE I done? What have I DONE??? No, no, no. You’re married now, you’re off the street, you’re safe. My dad will never call me a slut again – even though I was a virgin when he said it… It will be fine. It will be fine. It will be great!!
Two years into the marriage I am finished. Just, so done. I leave, but five weeks and daily pressure from him later, and I’m back – to prove what – that we really are bad together, so that he’ll just leave me alone. And my father will leave me alone, because it will be my husband’s idea to leave next time.
But there isn’t going to be a next time. There’s going to be a big huge trip around the world, and I fantasize about leaving him in Timbuktu, where no one can tell me not to!
But, we get robbed our first night in Hawaii, and we have to work through it together. And there is no one else to count on, and I do start to count on him, and we work together pretty well, and the next thing I know two years have passed and we’re home with our baby and of course I’ll have another one, because, you don’t want to raise an only child, and then the marriage doesn’t feel so good anymore, it feels like the bad old days, so, I have a third baby, because babies are wonderful, and they keep me busy and give me focus and make me forget that I’m unhappy.
And then there we are, and life goes on, and I change my hair and I change my job and we move to another house, because I keep changing all the things I can control, trying to live with the things I can’t change.
And three kids are a lot to manage, and he isn’t great at managing, so he isn’t very nice a lot of the time, but he is gone quite a bit, with work, and things he likes to do, and generally speaking, I’d rather be alone with three kids than have him there.
And he’s really, really hard on our son, who is supposed to be perfect, always perfect, but no kid can be, and when he cries himself to sleep and I ask why, he says, “Daddy doesn’t love me.” It breaks my heart, but, my husband just thinks that’s the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.
And there’s no such thing as marital rape, is there? So, sometimes I fantasize that my vagina comes equipped with a giant pair of powerful snipping shears and this time, when he enters me, I’ll use them, and then that will be that. Forever.
And I council friends in abusive relationships that they have to leave, they have to get out, and I don’t see myself reflected in their words.
And I’m so proud that when I get in the car and leave for work in the morning, I can scream one loud scream and release all the fear, all the hate and anxiety, and I’m good for the day. I’m functioning well.
And I think I have to stay for the sake of the children, but I come to understand that I have to leave, for the sake of the children.
And it takes me years, but I finally tell him that I want out. I give up, I call it quits. I have to. He just says no, I’m not allowed to. And when I cancel my appointment with a lawyer because he has finally agreed to go to a mediator to work out a separation agreement instead, but then tells me he has changed his mind and we will stay together, because that is what God wants for us, I cry and cry, and I know that I will kill myself or find a way to leave.
I get a lawyer, which makes my husband very angry, and yell and rant, until one night he stops yelling and pushes me into a wall and holds a pillow to my face, and when he lets me go he says that I’d better not tell the police, because he’ll tell them that I tried to hit him.
And when I sneak out of the house in the mornings, leaving the warmth of the spare room bed, and silently open the door to take my morning run, he is there, dressed for jogging, too, right beside me down the street, quoting scripture on wives obeying their husbands and the sanctity of marriage, even though I know he’s never been a Christian, and just went along with the church thing to please me. And the only thing that saves my runs is the fact that his knees are bad and he has to head home after just one block.
We agree to tell the children together, tell them how much we love them, and will continue to love them and be their mommy and daddy. We sit them down and he tells them that mommy is destroying this family, and we would have all gone to Disneyworld this summer, but mommy is making him leave.
But finally, my lawyer’s threats do get him out of our home, cursing and bashing his way through closets and drawers to pack his things, telling the children that mommy is bad and he wants to stay. I convince him that the children need time in their home to adjust before we sell it, and I leave the house on his weekends with the kids.
But one day when he comes to pick them up, he’s at the front door, and before I can close it behind them, he slaps me hard across the face. It leaves a mark. My friend tells me to call the police. I think that’s excessive but agree because it would be good to leave a record in case it happens again. I’m pretty sure it will happen again.
But zero tolerance means they have to charge him. I’m surprised, but agree. Before the court date, the mediators make contact, telling me we can just sit down and work it out. But by then the yelling is so bad and child exchanges so rough that I want to go to court. I want to send a message that he has to stop. I know if I don’t tell my story it will get worse and he is itching to hit me again.
I testify on the stand, with his mother sitting behind me, groaning and tsk, tsk tsking at everything I say. He grins all through the trial, which makes him look slimy and guilty as hell, but I know that it’s because he is uncomfortable and scared. The judge finds him guilty and gives him a one-year suspended sentence, and a restraining order, which is worthless, because he still comes to my house to pick up the children. And he is angry.
And when he kicks in the side of my new car, and rips the molding off of my screen door, I know he would rather inflict that damage onto my body, but thank goodness he doesn’t want to go to jail.
But one night when the screen door bangs, and my son runs down the hall and locks himself in the bathroom, saying, “It’s him,” I know I must find a way of convincing him to just kill me and himself, and leave the children alone. But then, it is only the screen door, banging in the wind, because it no longer fits tightly.
And life goes on, and I manage, and I know I only have to deal with him and his anger every other weekend, until one day our daughters tell a secret and expose a truth, and I don’t have to deal with him every other weekend, because he is in jail, and we are safe.
And life goes on, and we can rebuild. We can breathe, and we are safe, and the contact ends, and my children call my new husband by his first name, because dad is a dirty word they won’t apply to such a beautiful man.
And at the very least, I know the choice that I have made in mid-life, without parental or religious pressures, is infinitely better that the one I made when I was young, and my husband and I tell each other every day how lucky we are to have found each other, because we both know what it’s like to be with the wrong person for far too long.
About the author: Talia Pura is a stage and film writer, actor, director, designer and producer. Her plays, films and aerial dance performances have been seen around the world. Her theatre company, Blue Raven Theatre, is focused on producing comedies and dramas by and about women. Another passion is sharing her brand of devised theatre, which she has done through workshops in Sri Lanka, Brazil, South Africa, the Philippines, Thailand and in Canada and the US. She has published numerous plays, two drama teaching resource books, STAGES: Creative Ideas for Teaching Drama, and CUES: Theatrical Projects from Classroom to Stage, and a picture book; Alexia Wants To Fly. She holds a BA and BEd in Theatre Arts and an MA in Creative Writing. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the USA, with her husband William and grandson, Oliver. Visit Talia’s website at www.taliapura.com.