In the first few weeks after I left him, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about my marriage, however I felt I owed it to myself to give it one more try. I had hoped that the fact that I had gone so far as to leave the country would be a wake up call for him. He would finally realise that he couldn’t just bully me anymore. If he loved me and was serious about wanting to save our marriage, he would find the help he needed and then we could work on us. If he didn’t care I would witness the usual cycle of his behaviour. I asked God to open my eyes to what I needed to see and know and to close my heart so that I wouldn’t be deceived by it. After that it was time to sit back, wait and watch.

Once settled into Neriah’s home, it was so refreshing to be able to talk freely and openly with friends and family on the phone. I didn’t have to be concerned about being on the phone. He had walked out on me once just because I was speaking to a cousin that I had not touched based with in a very long time. After that I only made phone calls when he wasn’t in the house. Control. Now I could speak to whoever I wanted for as long as I wanted. You never realise how constrained a relationship is until you are free of it.

Every God fearing Christian man is given the honour of being the ‘priest’ of his home. He is the spiritual leader and should lead by example. My ex-husband was great at tearing down, it wasn’t in him to build up. Getting to church on time was a weekly hassle. I don’t like being late, he didn’t see the importance for punctuality for church or work for that matter. Before I met him I enjoyed participating in church activities especially the ‘work days’ but there was an unspoken rule that I shouldn’t go. I had enjoyed playing music especially gospel, he took issue with my musical selections. The things which were important to me, the things I loved were continuously a source of friction and long unnecessary arguments between us. He denied me things just for the sake of it, he opposed things just because he could. That was how he built a prison around me.

Let me further illustrate. Imagine you are inside an invisible box which has wheels. It’s designed to move whenever you move. If you do or say the wrong thing the box gives you an electric shock. It’s not strong enough to kill you but it’s very uncomfortable. If you do the right thing the box doesn’t hurt you. The box is in total control and it doesn’t take long before you think you have learned which actions are not allowed. You soon work out that the rules change making it impractical for you to be free of electrocution. You don’t want to be at it’s beck and call but your instincts are about survival. You do what you need to do to stay electrocute free. This is what it’s like to be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

My conversations with friends revealed that he was going to all church services and even arriving there early. Sometimes, whoever was on duty to lock the church doors had to wait on him because he wanted time to pray. He turned up at church work days. My friends whom he had previously pretty much despised, he now turned to, to ask that they intervene and persuade me to return. He was taking the time to greet others after church and to say hello when formerly he couldn’t wait for service to be done so he could drive away; so scornful he was of the congregation. He asked my parents, our pastor, the elder and his wife to meet with him. He wanted them to speak to me on his behalf. He just wanted his ‘good wife’ back.

A friend asked if I would give him a second chance. He had never spoken to her before, but one day after church he had sought her out and told her how sorry he was. I wasn’t moved by any of his actions. I told her to watch and wait. I briefly explained that this was his Mo. After a fight or disagreement he would show ‘sincere’ signs of remorse which was always rapidly replaced by disdain. Time would tell whether his grand display of remorse was genuine or not.

I had blocked him on WhatsApp and Facebook. I only allowed him email communication. His emails typically expressed his grief and his asking of forgiveness. I didn’t believe the former but complied with the latter. He even informed me that he had booked a counselling session. We had one phone conversation at his request and which I granted. My ears were waiting for his usual lingo. We both cried. I cried because it was painful hearing him say the right things but knowing he wasn’t genuine. I was very clear that I needed time to think about what I wanted to do and that I wasn’t sure when I would return. In ending the conversation I found that as usual, he had heard what he wanted to hear. He wanted me to return and when I repeated my terms he became angry. No more conversations with you my dear. He did email an apology and of course I gave him another token of forgiveness from my box!

Very soon after that conversation the tide changed. I never specifically asked because I really didn’t want or care for the details, but the gist was that he was slandering my name to anyone who gave him the time of day. I had told him once that he could never come between my family or friends and I. Well I suppose that’s when he understood what I meant. They all knew me way before he met me, so he couldn’t tarnish my reputation.

When I saw the cycle complete itself (his repentance switch to anger), I knew then that my marriage could not be saved. There is nothing impossible for God once it is his will, but He never forces us to change. My ex-husband never saw any reason for him to change, and the only way a human can develop is when they acknowledge they need help. God doesn’t force His will on us, we are always free to choose. He made his choice, now I would make mine. ‘Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” Isaiah 30:21 The Message Bible.

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