When I first started to suffer abuse in my relationship, I was too ashamed to tell anyone about it. You see, ours was a beautiful relationship when we started out and it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that things were falling apart. In those days, Kenny and I were lovebirds in every sense of the word. We went out a lot and took loads of pictures. We even dressed alike sometimes to church, and the campus knew how close we were. All through our university days, we were the toast of campus, winning two awards for best couple in a row. Boyfriends having trouble with their girlfriends asked Kenny what to do, and girls also came to me for tips on making their boyfriends more dotting and romantic. Life was good, and although we had little quarrels here and there, there was nothing too big for our love to overcome. We fought for each other’s love and made up sweetly after an misunderstanding. I never imagined that things could take such a drastic turn for the worse.
After school, we were both lucky to get jobs immediately, and I just felt the next natural step was marriage, but I did not want to push for it, seeing as we were both still in our early twenties. It didn’t matter that we had good jobs and our parents were in support of the relationship. I just wanted to enjoy what we had, but then, Kenny proposed to me on the eve of our fourth dating anniversary and I gladly said yes. Even though we had gotten engaged, we were slow in planning the wedding. We reckoned that we still needed to save money from our collective salaries, so we could afford the wedding we wanted. Somewhere in between, Kenny started growing distant and we saw less and less of each other within the week. Usually busy all through the week, and having laundry or an occasion over the weekend, prevented us from seeing. We were still living in the same town, but we sometimes saw just twice in a month. Kenny asked me to move in with him and I joyously agreed.
Living together was not the fun pre-marriage experience I had anticipated. I soon discovered how impatient my fiancé was. He wanted things done in a certain way, and all the feminine touches I tried to bring to the house met with resistance. Soon we were quarreling over everything; what I cooked and didn’t cooked, whether I washed for him or not, what I wore or didn’t wear, where he went or didn’t go. We had more fights and arguments than fun and laughter. It wasn’t long before he started to stay out late and obviously started cheating on me. A part of me died the first time I caught him cheating. What hurt the most was that he didn’t even try to deny it, nor did he beg for forgiveness. “We are not married yet oh, I am still a single man” he was quick to tell me, as he snatched the phone with incriminating evidence from my hand. “Stop snooping through my phone, you will keep finding what you are looking for” he added smugly as tears flowed from my eyes freely. I could not believe this was my Kenny, sounding so callous and wicked. But that was only the beginning.
As things took a downward slide, I found myself lying to my parents and friends. I pretended that all was still well in paradise and I masked my hurt professionally. Inside, I was dying of the hurt and betrayal, outside I was the happy fianceé who could not wait to walk down the aisle. There were times when Tolu and Zinny were close to finding out, but I always had a cover up story to explain my red eyes, eye bags, and minor scars. When they caught me crying uncontrollably, I attributed it to work stress or mood swings. It was such a burden to carry such emotional load alone, and being unable to tell anyone. I knew my parents and friends were not going to judge me, but I just somehow felt they were going to be disappointed. A lot of people believed that true love was real because of us, and a part of me wanted them to keep believing. I was scared some people get say something like “If Kenny and Jacy couldn’t make it, no-one else can”, so I stayed put, hid my hurt behind layers of make up and a fake smile, and pretended to the world that all was well.
Keeping up appearances when a relationship or marriage has fallen apart can be so stressful and tiring. Asides the hard work that goes into pretending that something dead is still very much alive, and having to bring up cover up tales after cover up tales, and having to remember all the previous lies you have told, so everything sounds believable, you also prevent yourself from getting help. No-one can help you if they do not know that something is wrong. Abusers always find a way to make you feel like you are the problem and everything is your fault, but the minute you open up to the person, that person can help you see that you are not the problem, and you do not deserve to be treated the way you were. They can help you get the strength you need to move on and let go, while keeping up appearances would only help you delude yourself that things are indeed not as bad as they really are, people on the outside can help you realize that you should not get used to being ill-treated, cheated on and abused.
I agree that privacy in relationships, especially marriage is paramount; but there are times that one needs to speak up. No-one needs to know when you have mild quarrels over food, money and other trivial matters; those issues should be handled in a matured manner by the couple. However, when your physical, mental and emotional well being is being affected negatively, then somebody needs to know. You should not die in silence, just because you want people to see your relationship as picture perfect. Your sanity and safety should be the priority, not people’s opinion. If you are lucky, these important people can call your partner to order and things can get smooth again in your relationship. If the relationship refuses salvaging, then you at least walk out with your head held high and start a new journey of recovery.
I wish you all the very best!