I originally wrote this for Huffington Post and it was published by them, in a slightly different format, earlier this year. It’s a heart felt piece that I found difficult to share, and even now I worry about the back lash from friends and family…
I am an outgoing, lively person who stands up for herself, at times a force to be reckoned with, so how could I let myself be bullied for six years? To compound the issue the bully in question died and I have felt obliged to honour and defend his memory ever since. And that is twenty long years. The bully in question was my husband, and I loved him very much. He was a larger than life character, always had a plan for fun and adventure, full of the ‘bad boy’ appeal that some women seem drawn to. I loved his company and was never bored but I was never totally relaxed.
My husband cheated on me all the time. He told me that at 5’8” and weighing just over 9 stone, I was fat and ugly. On my week day off from work he would come home and don a pair of white gloves and run his fingers over the tops of doors to make sure I had cleaned the house properly. If he found my underwear drawer not to be arranged in piles of white, black, etc he would empty it onto the floor so that I would have to tidy it. If I said or did anything to upset him he would pin me up against a wall and scream at me. One night we had friends over for supper and I had made some terrible gravy. While our friends laughed about it he took me into the kitchen and held me off my feet by my chin and told me he was ashamed of me. He gave me £10 a week pocket money and I had to write everything I spent that money on down in a notebook, and I daren’t buy anything to wear without his approval. I earned more than he did but all the money in my bank account went on the mortgage, car loan and council tax and there was virtually nothing left. There is more, but it’s a long time ago now.
He was in the military working alongside the Special Forces and told me that he could not tell me anything about his work, where he was going or what he was doing. Other wives seemed to know where their partners were but I was happy to be in ignorance because I didn’t want to know the truth. He was away with work for about 6 months of the year, and would write to me everyday he was at war or on detachment as there were no mobile phones in those days. While he was away he used the time to enjoy the company of other women, once even managing to infect me with an STD on his return. When he pushed me around he blamed PTSD after the first Gulf War, but he was like it before he went.
While he was away I could relax, leave the house a little untidy and eat what I liked. I could go out with friends for a meal and not be told what I could have off the menu in case I gained any weight. I maintained a strict exercise regime so that when he checked my running times and calories burned on the heart monitor after exercise I didn’t fall behind. It was easier to do 4 aerobics classes a week and run 30-40 miles a week than have a row about why I didn’t want to. I once ran 6 miles on a torn calf muscle rather than be told I was a wimp and making a fuss about nothing.
His behaviour towards me explains a lot about the way I behaved after he died. I had to prove I wasn’t fat, ugly or unattractive so I slept around, spent far too much money on clothes and makeup and carried on dieting and exercising madly. I could never trust any boyfriend I had and would press the ‘destruct button’ on my relationships very quickly rather than find myself vulnerable and hurt.
When he died I didn’t know what to think. I missed him terribly, but there was, and this is very hard to admit, an underlying sense of relief. I had an honourable way out of a ghastly situation. I didn’t have to admit to everyone I had made a mistake. The man I loved, who was a total shit to me at times had just died. His last words to my face were, “I don’t want to go away, I love you so much.” At his funeral two women felt able to send single red roses with messages of their undying love for him and I had to hide them under another wreath so that his parents didn’t see them. Every year since I have messages of love and condolence from mutual friends. They have no idea.
“One should never speak ill of the dead.”