I had been unhappily married for about 18 years and constantly having thoughts about leaving my husband but just never seemed to get up enough courage to actually do it. I would go crying to my friends after any of his frequent verbal attacks on me and say that I couldn't go on any longer, but yet when they offered me a room in their homes and told me to leave I would always get second thoughts and suddenly begin to apologise for him saying that it was just me having a bad day, that he wasn't really that bad and that I was only making a mountain out of a mole hill. So I would go back home to carry on, partly because he had done so much psychological harm to me that I no longer seemed to have any character left. I ended up believing that I was indeed an old and useless woman and as he always reminded me - how was I going to live or survive in the outside world without him as I had no money of my own and nobody would ever employ me.
He was the type of man. which I came to understand after I left, who was really deep down a very weak man and so the only way for him to feel stronger and more powerful was to put his wife down at every opportunity possible. This was his way of controlling me and brain washing me into thinking that I was completely useless. I felt old, ugly, useless and I had to thank my lucky stars that I had him to look after me. He even controlled me so much that when we were out with friends I had to keep quiet and if I dared to contradict him on anything I would be in real trouble when we got back home. Of course that is the other problem which is that in front of people he would always act in the proper way so people thought he was charming but when we were alone he would sure let out all hell at me.
I cooked, I did all the home decorations like making curtains, lamp shades, putting up shelves, painting all the rooms and even producing all the artwork on the walls as one of my escape moments was while I was painting on my canvasses. And yet when I used to ask whether we could go on a holiday somewhere he used to answer that why on earth should we do that - it would cost a lot of money (he was really mean with his money despite being a private dental surgeon) and he was perfectly comfortable in his home. It never occurred to him that he was comfortable because I was doing all the work!!!!
I look back now and I know that I was so stupid but unless you have been in the same position you will not be able to understand how strong the effect of brain washing is on you.
Just at the point that I thought I could endure no longer he told me one day that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis!!!!! As you can imagine I had arrived at the point in our marriage where I no longer loved him and was just there out of fear of not knowing where to go or what to do and so when he uttered those words to me it was almost like a bullet straight to my heart which dispelled in a flash any hopes of escaping ever. My father had always taught me that you always have to help people that are not as well as you and I in fact had a younger sister who was mentally retarded and so this had been instilled in me since a child. It was clear that from now on I had to forget about my own life or what I yearned for and just concentrate on looking after this sick husband who was most probably going to get worse each year.
Well to cut a long story short I stayed by him for another full ten years tending to all his needs, trying to make his life more comfortable, trying to cheer him up but I never got not one bit of thanks for any of it. If his lunch was served just five minutes later than the normal time he would throw a fit. If the food wasn't the right temperature - another fit. When he didn't feel like going to any of my family's celebrations he would shout and ask me whether I was so stupid that I couldn't see how ill he was and yet when we had to go to one of his own family's celebrations he always seemed to be well enough to be able to make it!!!
It was a very bad time for me and although I always kept on saying to myself that it was such bad luck that my husband had this disease I also began to wonder whether he had the right to make my life hell. I had been willing to give another go to the marriage when he told me about his illness, had tried to help him but none of it seemed to help us much and there was this underlying resentment on my part.
As I had no children (and maybe it was just as well), my only real joy in my life was the horse that I had and so whenever I was really desperate for love and attention I would go over to the stables to visit him and he only had to hear my car for him to start neighing out to show how much he loved seeing me. I had had him already for 9 years and he was at that time nineteen years old (although he in fact went on to live until the ripe old age of 28 and I like to think it was because he was so well loved and so well looked after!). But he wasn't a present to me but rather a hand down after my husband had taken up polo for a few years and then tired of it, with me being his groom so that he could save money on hiring a proper one. If you are not into horses you might not realise that the life of a groom is quite a hard one to say the least and I think that only people who really love horses can sacrifice themselves to do it. You have to get up early to feed them. They have to be exercised at least twice a day (at least polo poinies do because they have to be kept in an athletic shape and form). Their tack (saddle and bridle) has to be kept clean. They have to be groomed. Their hooves kept clean. Their stables have to have their dung cleaned out daily and fresh straw put in etc and etc and etc. But I adored horses and so eventhough it was hard work I loved it as my horse never once shouted at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He never found a buyer for the horse because Doloreño (or Dolly as I called him) was a bit difficult and would throw anyone off if he was in a bad mood with them or if he didn't like them he would simply bolt with them on and hope that they would eventually fall off!! So he was obviously a bit too problematical and not appealing to hardly anyone except me who got to understand and love him with all my heart. He was quite a character and had such a lot of spirit in him which is maybe why I adored him so much - he seemed to have everything that I had lost.
During the ten years that I stayed on with my husband my beloved father died two years before I eventually left and I often wonder whether I didn't leave my husband before because I just didn't want to upset my father. My father had always been very religious, something that unfortunately I didn't inherit although I respected all his beliefs, and I thought that he would have felt quite bad to see his daughter go through a divorce. Although somehow as soon as my father died I actually began to receive an amazing strength that was quite unexplicable. When my husband started shouting at me I was beginning to look at him with a defiant look in my eyes that made him even madder. When he wanted to pick on me I would grab hold of my portable cassette player, put on the headphones and begin to listen to my music at full volume and it was just bliss not being able to hear what he was saying. It was just as if the 'worm had turned' and I suddenly realized that I was beginning to get my character back. As soon as I realized that this was happening I went from strength to strength. I was not going to let him dominate me any more. This was my life and unfortunate as it was that he was ill (although in ten years he had hardly deteriorated at all) he had no right to try and ruin mine as well. One day I saw a car go by with a sticker saying 'Life is not a dress rehearsal - you only get one go at it' and this decided me - I just couldn't go on with him any longer.
He had never actually hit me, although one day he threw me against a door and I ended up with a bruised back from having been pushed into the door handle, so the courts actually decided in the end that although it was a clear case of pyschological abuse it had also caused me physical harm in that the muscles in my neck and shoulders were completely knotted up causing me frequent dizzy spells. I had developed an anxiety tick in that I was always gasping for breath and clearing my throat and I had also developed some nasty skin rashes which were also a clear consequence of nerves. Just to let you know that when I finally left all these problems simply disappeared within a matter of weeks!!!
The final crunch came when one day I had prepared a Sunday lunch and served it up on the dining room table, which was also where I used to paint, and he suddenly pointed out (well pointed out is obviously a very gentle way of putting how he actually said it!!!) that the pots of turpentine had left ring marks on the table and how could I have been so stupid as to allow this to happen!!! He began ranting and raving and although I said that I was sorry he answered that 'sorry was not enough' and he continued shouting abuse at me. Well it was the first time that I was able to look him straight in the eye and I said to myself that this was the last time he was ever going to be able to shout at me because this was it, it was the end and I was going to leave even if I had to be out on the streets with nothing, as he so often reminded me.
I went to my room, because by now we were already sleeping in different rooms, and I began packing up my personal stuff into supermarket bags as obviously we had no suitcases due to the fact that we had never travelled anywhere. I rang an uncle of mine, who was a lawyer, and he advised me that I had to leave a note saying that I was leaving for a few days due to his abusive behaviour (apparently like that he could never accuse me of abandoning the matrimonial home, which always puts the woman at a disadvantage). I slept very little that night as I was so nervous and when the alarm went off at six o'clock in the morning I found that both the calves of my legs had gone into a horrendous cramp. It was so painful but I just couldn't give up now so I started walking round the room and putting as much weight and pressure onto the balls of my feet to try and get this cramp to go away. I even laughed to myself saying that how ironic it was going to be that after so many years of wanting to leave that it was going to be my own legs that were not going to let me walk out of the house!!! But luckily they calmed down and I was able to make it to the car and drive away for the last time.
This all happened on the 1st May 2000 (funny that it was also the Labour Day holiday because from then on I had to work!) but I have never looked back.
I indeed stayed at my friend's house for a while until I got myself into order. I had to begin by taking a course on computers because when I had last worked many years ago at the age of 21 they were still using IBM typewriters. I earned some money to keep me going by giving english lessons to Spaniards. I got a job as a secretary within a real estate agency. With the salary I was able to rent a small bed sitter which seemed like a palace to me as it was all mine and I decorated it exactly the way I wanted to and made it look very homely and cosy. And I generally began to make a new life for myself and although there were quite a few stumbling blocks and it was also a bit frightening, as anything new is, I managed to overcome everything and come out smiling - it was great and I really wondered why I had never done it earlier but you viewers reading this will have realized, as I have, the reason for not having done it before!
I have now become an estate agent myself, fallen in love and married a lovely and gentle man who is so strong that he doesn't need to prove it to anyone and least not to me and I am a very happy 56 year old woman who hopes that she has been given a second chance at life. I now look at myself in the mirror and don't think that I look at all bad for a 56 year old woman and my new husband is always telling me how good I look so I have probably rejuventated at least ten years just for being given all these complients!!!
All my friends tell me that I haven't stayed bitter at all but that is because I prefer to think that everything you go through in life, whether bad or good, is all a lesson and so instead of being bitter from the experience I prefer to say that I have learnt from it. I now certainly know when I am beside a good man (having known what a bad man is like), I now know what real happiness is (having known sadness) and I also know that you can never really appreciate good times if you have never gone through any bad times!!!!