Not on my neck!

I missed the start of the item on the news so I only caught the end of it. A lady was speaking about not wearing polo neck jumpers. It was something about her neck. At first I thought she had had her thyroid removed. As the news item continued I became confused. The journalist was talking about domestic violence.

I have never claimed to be a victim of domestic violence. I was a victim of emotional abuse/coercive control. However during our divorce, (a time when we still lived in the same house for 7 excruciating months). He thought it was funny to put his hands around my neck on an almost daily occurrence. He didn’t use pressure, he never left any marks.

He was aware that I didn’t like anything around my neck so he used it as a form of mental torture.

I hadn’t given it much thought in the last 15 years but having said that it does limit my choice in clothing. I can’t wear anything with a high neckline. Anything that is anywhere near my neck and I start to panic.

15 years later we are friends now. It helps having two grandchildren in common. He was here (as our support bubble) for coffee and a chat this morning. We don’t talk about the bad times. However I don’t think I will ever wear a high necked top/jumper again. Just thinking about it gives me the shivers.

I’m not like them

I have often been told that I come from a long line of strong women. I am told that I am a strong woman too. I have memories of my Great Grandmother Alice but only as a very old woman. I have memories of my paternal Great Gran (mostly of having to stay with her and being fed undercooked eggs for breakfast). I understand that both these women were strong willed women in their day.

I obviously have memories of both my Granny and my Grandmother. My Granny was one of my favourite people in the world. I can’t in all honesty say that I knew a great deal about her life but I loved her dearly. She was taken away from us far too soon, She had a massive heart attack in the night when she was just 67. My Grandmother was a lady who I wasn’t so close to when I was growing up. I grew closer to her in her later years. How many women in their 90s complete a degree with the Open University.

My own mother has always been strong. My father wasn’t inclined/able to support us properly so my mother trained (whilst bringing up 3 teenagers) to become a Lawyer. Life wasn’t easy for my mother when we were small. She did what she could to make a better life for all of us.

During my adult life I have been reminded by my mother that we are strong women. I have been told by others that I am so strong. I struggled to bring up 4 boys whilst being married to an alcoholic. I survived stage 3 cancer in my late 30s. I fought to get through a nasty divorce. I managed to keep myself and 4 boys going through financial struggles following my divorce. Then I remarried and found myself hitched to another alcoholic who was also a narcissist. I managed to get out of that situation.

All my life I have been reminded that I am strong and come from a line of strong women. I’m not though. I have never felt strong. I have done what I had to do for my boys. I have always felt that I have to get through everything because I come from a line of strong women. I can’t let the side down and be the first non strong woman.

I want to be allowed not to be strong. I want to not have the responsibility of keeping up with my strong women.

WHY do I have to always be strong?

Relationships

A few days ago I went to have a look at a blog written by someone who had liked one of my posts. I started reading a post about relationships and letting God into your relationship. So many people give up on their marriage at the first sign of problems but if you let God into your relationship you can get over any problems you have.

This might upset some people but although I consider myself to be a Christian and try to live in a way that is kind to others. I do not actually believe in God. I kind of believe that there is something greater than us mortals but I’m not sure what. I digress. What I really want to say is that I think this philosophy that God will make your marriage work is a dangerous one.

It doesn’t take into account the many relationships that include abuse, either physical or emotional or both. It doesn’t take into account the marriages/relationships based on lies.

My first marriage was to a man who was what is now referred to as coercive controlling. I didn’t realise for a long time what was happening. It started with the dictates over what I wore. He didn’t like me dressing up to look nice. I ended up spending my time (outside of work) wearing baggy T-shirts, sweatshirts and baggy tracksuit trousers. Then there were the constant phone calls which, I now know, were not concern over how I was doing each day (multiple times) but checking up on me. If I was late home from the school run I had to explain where I had been and who with.

I was gradually pulled away from my friends. “They are using you”. When I eventually got a mobile phone the checking up increased. Even if I was with my mother the calls would be constant. In the end she would ask me to turn it off. If I had plans to go out, he would only arrive home at the very last minute to look after the children. Even having a part time job was difficult, I felt I was becoming unemployable because he often didn’t come home in time for me to go to work. That’s just a sample of what life was like in that relationship. I fail to see how this would have been helped by having God in my life.

My second marriage was not better, it was different. Again I don’t believe God would have made life better. When I met my second husband he knew that my first husband was an alcoholic and I didn’t want to travel that road again. It wasn’t until 6 months after we were married that I found out that he was a secret drinker. Our marriage was based on lies. I never would have married him or even gone out with him, if I had known he was an alcoholic. With my first husband his drinking was public. 18 pints of beer at the pub, any excuse for a drink. My second husband was home alone all day while I was out working. Now I know why nothing ever got done. He was sitting in his home office drinking bottles of vodka. No wonder he got through so much cash. No wonder he didn’t need to drink much when we were out.

My second husband is a narcissist, everything was about him, his needs, his wishes. His dislike of my children (he had promised to treat them like his own). He could never refer to them by name, to him they were ‘pond life’ or worse. I know this was a reflection on him not them. How would God have made life better when one partner is a narcissitic alcoholic?

These are just simple examples of the relationships I had with my husbands. There are many many people, not just women but men too who live in worse situations than I did. For them they need to get out of their situation not invite God to help them stay in it.

I’m not saying that there is not a place for God in marriages, just not all marriages. Some people would also find God helpful in their lives whilst they get out of their situation. God also has a place in helping people recover from those situations. I don’t think it’s right to say he can make every relationship work.

Writing

In my family it would seem that the women are/were writers. Both my grandmothers wrote. I have always known that my maternal grandmother wrote short stories. I have a copy of one that she wrote. I believe that she wrote stories for WI but also sent some to magazines. My mother told me years ago that her mother had earnt money from doing this. It was only in recent years that I discovered that my paternal grandmother had a whole file of poetry that she had written. I have never read any of it.

When I was young I liked to write short stories (mostly for children) I never did anything with them. It was just a hobby during the quiet periods at work. When I was 21 my maternal Granny died of a heart attack. After her death I couldn’t bring myself to write any more stories. I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up a paper and pen. I thought that was the end of my writing. In truth I carried on writing but not in the same way. Over the years when I was troubled I would write down my feelings. If someone had hurt me, whether in my romantic life or in life generally, I would write them a letter. I never gave /sent the letters but it helped me to put my thoughts together.

I have always known that my mother liked to write. we were talking about it yesterday. She has a file of poetry that she has written throughout her life. I can’t say that poetry is my thing but there have been a few scribblings in the past. Writing must be in my blood. Both my husbands have been good at art (second husband was a graphic designer). My eldest son and his fiancee are both artistic. I can’t draw a straight line let alone anything else but my artistic side comes out in my writing and recently my knitting.

After the end of my first marriage I joined the world of blogging. Years of living in a coercive controlling environment for many years my confidence was at rock bottom. Blogging helped me to grow my confidence. I became part of an online community. I received feedback from everything I wrote. I was getting the affirmation I hadn’t had before. I started writing posts about my life. I also began to write short stories which I shared with my friends. A few years down the line I was writing less and less. I was running out of inspiration. I was also working full time again as well as running a home and family as a single mother. I was tired.

I had been married to my second husband for about 9 months when a friend inspired me to start this blog. Over the years I have had problems with finding things to write about. I didn’t want to constantly write about my marriage. I didn’t want to write about people in my life. I have written the occasional piece for several years. It is just recently that I have begun to write more regularly again. I am never going to write a best selling novel. I might eventually get back to writing short stories again but for now I am happy just putting words together for my blog. Each day is something different. That in itself is amazing in this current life of not going anywhere or doing anything.

Behind closed curtains

It would seem that it is possible to become friends without forgetting.

A couple of days ago I was in my car and the song on the radio was The Police – Every breath you take. For a lot of years I mistakenly took this to be a very romantic song. Just like many others. I am aware that Sting has said it is not about romance. I came to that conclusion myself back in around 2006 when I was going through a rather nasty divorce. I’m not sure now which came first but I can’t listen to that song anymore without feeling freaked out.

After my then husband had moved out of our home it didn’t take long to discover that I was being watched. I would get messages about what I was or wasn’t doing. I became so paranoid about this that I insisted that we kept all the curtains shut day and night for months. I hated that not only was my ex watching me but he also had some of our neighbours reporting back to him. Both before and after the divorce, he was making threats on my life.

The police installed a panic button and my children were put on the ‘at risk’ register. One summer Sunday night he was phoning me relentlessly but I refused to answer. In the end he changed tactic and started calling one of my sons. It was the middle of the night. I agreed to speak to him if he left our sons out of it. He first of all told me that he was going to kill himself by throwing himself on to the rail track. He then changed his tune and said he was going to kill me.

I had got into the habit of writing a diary of everything that happened. A suggestion from the police. I had been writing it in a note book but by this time had started writing it on my computer and emailing it to a trusted friend so that there was a second copy. On this particular early morning I was writing about the latest phone calls. I rang the police to tell them of this latest development. I heard a tapping on the back door. I thought it was our cat. The cat flap was set so that she could get out but needed to be let in. (otherwise other cats came in). I was just about to open the door to let her in when I saw finger tips gripping the window sill. It was my ex trying to trick me into opening the door.

As I said, I was on the phone to the police. I yelped and said in a panic. ‘He’s here!’ I was told to go upstairs, they were on their way. Reaching my bedroom I saw him go to the garden shed. I was scared that he was finding something to use to break into the house. To my relief he didn’t, instead he went into the shed closing the door behind him. When the police arrived I told them where he was. On being found he said he was there to collect his lawnmower! He was arrested and charged with harassment. Next day he was released and called me to instruct me to tell the police that he had asked me to get the charges dropped. Obviously, I did do just that. They added intimidating a witness to the charges.

Months later, his case was to be heard in court. He had pleaded not guilty just so that I would have to go to court as a witness. At the last minute he changed his plea to guilty. That was a relief. He was given an injunction preventing him from coming near me or the house.

For years after this I had as little contact with him as possible. I had changed my phone number I don’t now remember at what point I did that. It must have been before the court case because changing my number meant that I had no record of his text messages and voice mails.

However now all these years later we have managed to get over all the animosity. We have become friends. Not only do we have four sons together but we also now have two grandchildren. This and the fact that he has not had a drink for about 4 years have helped. I still find it awkward because of the bad history between us. Most particularly the last 12 months have brought us together as friends. He has been a great help to me and my mother during lockdowns and health issues. He has become our support bubble and we have become his, since his friend who he had looked after for several years died at Easter.

I am grateful for all his support and glad for the sake of our children that we have managed to put the past mostly behind us. Some of my friends are worried about our friendship thinking that we would end up getting back together. That will never happen. I know he doesn’t drink anymore, we have 30+ years of history but there were many reasons why I divorced him. Being an alcoholic was only one of the reasons. I am pleased for his sake that he is sober.