One day he told me that I was crazy and that I had to see a psychiatrist. So I went. When I told him what my life was like and what had been happening the man said: “You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to see what is happening. You have to leave this man. People in concentration camps were depressed. You are living in a concentration camp. If you don’t leave him, you will become chronically depressed and then what will happen to your children?”
At that time I started to think about leaving. Before, I didn’t want my children to come from a broken home. Now I realized that I had to leave, and that I had to do this for my children. I couldn’t let them grow up with a father who was constantly drunk and yelling at their mother. I didn’t want my children to think that this was a normal family life.
One Saturday I found out that he was sleeping with yet another woman. I filled two small plastic bags with clothes and I went to my mother. Before leaving with the children I told him that this was it and that I was never coming back.
He didn’t believe it. I was very close to his family (and still am) and his brother called him to ask what was going on. He told him that I was free to come back but that he wouldn’t change at all. His family had seen some of my bruises and they supported me.
Tried to win me back
When things started to sink in and he realized that I had meant what I said, he did everything to make me come back. He said that he didn’t know what he had had until it was gone. But he never apologized or never said he would change. I wouldn’t have believed it anyway. I had told him on numerous occasions that he had to understand what I was like: I am very patient, but once my patience runs out, I leave and there is no way back. I do not believe in trial separations. When I have made up my mind, I stick to it.
He now understood that I wasn’t coming back. Now he did everything in his power to make me suffer. He hired a notorious lawyer. This lawyer would stop at nothing. He described me as being a terrible mother and he wanted shared custody. The judge didn’t give him shared custody. He also had to pay child support.
By that time, I had found a new job. Six months later, he called me and said that he was fed up with the restaurant. He would leave and I had two choices: I could go back to the restaurant or he would file for bankruptcy. And since he had nothing, I would have to pay for all the debts.
I decided to go back to the restaurant. Things were terrible: it was dirty, most clients had left (if you’re treated in a disrespectful way or you don’t know if the restaurant will be open you won’t go there anymore) and he had sold kitchen equipment. In the weeks before his leaving, he had thrown parties every day with his friends, giving away all the beer for free. It was a disaster; I was now 400,000 dollars in debt.
I worked from morning till night, only taking time off to feed and bathe my children and to put them to bed. Then I went back to work.
Did not pay child support
He did not pay any child support and did not want to see his children. After three years, I was fed up. I took him to court. His was convicted: 5 months probation and a 500 dollars fine. He also had to promise he would now start paying monthly.
He wanted revenge and he knew that the best way was to try and take my children. Now he went to court, again asking for shared custody. He lost.
Now, he wanted to see the children during weekends. I did not want to be the evil mom so I took the children to him. He was constantly spoiling my son and treating my daughter terribly. He had never wanted her and he made sure that my sweet adorable girl who was then only 5 years old felt it.
For example: my son was allowed to take sweets whenever he wanted, but my daughter couldn’t have any. My six-year-old boy understood that this was not right, so he always took 2 and then hid with my daughter to eat them. There are so many similar stories I can tell, most of them I have only learned recently. My daughter is starting to remember and tell everything that has happened.
In the end, the debts he had made in the business were too high, so I had to file for bankrupcy. He of course thrived on my misery.
My children and I lived with my sister for over a year. Money was very tight and again, he stopped paying child support.
So many things have happened since then. I opened another business. One night, a man broke into my house and raped me. I suffered from PTSD and again, I had to file for bankrupcy. I decided to go to hospital. I was there for three weeks. During the therapy it became clear that I have two traumas: the rape and my relationship with my ex. My ex is the biggest trauma.
My misery made his day.
Control from a distance
I feel that over the years, he has been trying to control my life even from a distance by paying child support or not (normally he doesn’t). At one time, he said that he wanted to pay, but there were conditions: my children couldn’t go to day care or babysitters, I had to take care of them.
Sometimes, he demands to see the children (my son) and then they don’t hear from him in a year. My daughter who is now 8 doesn’t want to see him anymore.
His alcoholism has caught up with him: he has liver cirrhosis stage 3. It is incurable, if he stops drinking he has 1 or 2 years left. He keeps on drinking. When he was rushed to hospital last December, I even went to visit him. When I left the hospital I cried and I was angry at myself for doing that. After everything he has done to me, he does not deserve my sympathy.
I had hoped that this would change him and make him become more of a dad for his children. Nothing has changed. I even had to take him back to court for failing to pay child support.
7 years later
It has been seven years since I have left him and I still keep thinking about it.
He has messed with my head. At first, I think he enjoyed the challenge of seeing how far he could go. Years later, when he had destroyed me, I think that it was just fun for him to torment me and see me suffer.
Even my demeanour changed: my confident posture was gone, my back was slightly stooped.
I often think about all he has done to me and how he has gone about it. If the plan was to destroy me, he had executed it perfectly by building up pressure and control, gradually destroying my self-esteem and more and more isolating me. He had alienated me from my friends and there were no more colleagues to turn to. I had no more money, only debts.
He hasn’t only destroyed my self-confidence, he has told stories to other people about me. It was a character assassination.
Planning a war
I sometimes compare it to an army staff that is planning a war. Once one target is destroyed there is a new target. By destroying all these targets, in the end the war is won. If this had been planned from the beginning it was brilliant in its simplicity and perfect in its execution.
But it had taken years to arrive at that point. Such an evil plan required patience. And that was something he didn’t have. He is the man of instant gratification. Whenever he wants something, he wants it now.
It has dawned on me this wasn’t a consciously constructed and executed plan. Everything came natural to him. I think that this scares me even more. The realization that there are people who are so evil to the core is frightening.
My big mistake
In fact, this has been my mistake from the get go. I always believed that every person has something good within, and that love and support will make this goodness surface. This man, however, hasn’t got an ounce of goodness inside.
He has changed me and I have never been the same again and I think I never will be. There is a me before I met him and a me after.
I had developed an addiction to sleeping pills. I was drinking too much. I had terrible nightmares. When I left him, that didn’t change instantly. When a man paid attention to me, at first I was surprised. But I liked it and it didn’t matter whether this man was married or not. This was so out of character.
This behaviour is now gone, but the lack of confidence stays. The nightmares too. Rationally I know that I am an intelligent woman, a hard worker and a good mother, but there is still that little voice in my head that keeps telling I’m not.
I will get there in the end, but I have a long way to go.