The only thing worse than being in a toxic relationship is feeling trapped in it.
A Toxic Relationship
According to Psychology Today, a toxic relationship is any relationship that is unfavourable to you or others. My marriage was both! And sadly, I was stubborn enough to settle for far too long.
It started long before I was married
My parents split up when I was 12 years old. I was raised by my mom mainly and even though my dad is a caring person (with his own set of issues of course) I had serious daddy issues.
Naturally, my dad’s reaction to my post-matric career/study options, fueled the rebel in me, which lead me down a rabbit hole to being a mom at a very young age.
I fell pregnant at the age of 19 years.
As a single mom, my greatest longing was to be apart of a functional happy family.
Disney fairy tales made me believe, that it was fate when I met my soon-to-be ex-husband in 2010. Not that I believed in fate, but somehow, I just thought the whole thing was simply perfect! Too good to be true, a match made in heaven.
I found a man that not only loved me…
But who also adored my son. What more could any person ask for?
The wedding date was set for the 1st of October 2011 when I found out I was pregnant in February the same year. Oli was planned, however, based on what I naively knew about older men (my ex is eleven years older than I am) I went off the pill too soon and fell pregnant almost instantly.
During my first trimester, the writing was on the wall. My ex and I had a series of massive fights to the extent that we broke off the engagement for a short while.
I was trapped.
No longer a silly teenage girl and yet soon to be the mom of two human beings. The thought of being a single mom to two was merely too much for me to cope with.
In a state of fear and delusion, I got married.
I went into a marriage blindly, naively, thinking that if I was in the marriage, things would change. I believed a ring on my finger and a legally binding document would ensure that I would have a person next to my side, who would love and protect me and the kids. In turn, I vowed to be a supportive wife and I honestly believed God would bless the marriage.
Divorce was never an option!
I knew marriage would be hard, but oftentimes, wondered if it was meant to be that hard.
A couple of months after I had returned to work from my maternity leave, I made an individual appointment with a sexologist. I honestly thought something was wrong with me. My husband expected things from me and I couldn’t deliver and the harder I tried to satisfy his needs, the less I succeeded.
Within the first year of marriage, my ex and I were in a crisis zone, spending time with a marriage counselor. This was the first and only time, my ex attended a set of therapy sessions with me.
In 2014 I found myself in psychologists rooms once more. This time on my own. I needed a professional to walk me through what was happening in my life and marriage. I was still in denial and believed that I needed to change, to be better in order to make my marriage work.
The crazy thing is, after a couple of sessions, the psychologist told me to get out of my marriage and file for a divorce.
I shot her down, stopped going to sessions and plotted along in a dysfunctional marriage.
A Sick Child
The following year (2015) Oli was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH). A rare auto-immune disease/ cancer. At that stage, my ex was working on a goat farm, earning good money but working crazy hours.
Oli had a lymph node removal operations. I was by his side without the support of my husband.
In order for the doctors to confirm the severity of the disease, they needed to conduct a number of tests, including a bone marrow aspiration. Throughout the various procedures, with every doctors’ appointment, follow-up appointment and with all the bloodwork that was done, I was there with Oli without my husband.
In 2015 I stopped making excuses for him
During Oli’s battle with LCH, I managed. I wasn’t alone, I had the support of friends and family, but my husband was no-where to be found.
The realization that I was on my own, forced me to assess my life and what I wanted in the long run.
In 2015 my ex made a cash offer to purchase a house.
This happened around the same time, that our landlord terminated our rental agreement. Instead of being honest with me, he schemed and made me believe, he had the means to purchase the house. We were ‘homeless’ even though, we drifted between guest cottages and family homes for months.
Forced to resign
In September, my ex was forced to resign from the goat farm employment he enjoyed. On the one hand, I was relieved and thought our family life could return to some sort of normalcy. On the other, the financial implications of his unemployment was a huge concern.
We updated CV’s, wrote cover letters and certified certificates in order to give him the best chance at suitable employment.
His primary qualification…
For as long as I had known my ex, I was under the impression that he was an animal health technician, registered with the SA Veterinary Council as a para-veterinary professional.
When I couldn’t find a copy of his registration, I started looking for a copy of his animal health diploma. I couldn’t find it. Naturally, as a supportive wife, I went to great lengths to contact the university to obtain a copy of his results and proof of qualification.
The Final Straw
Throughout all of the above, I stood by him. I was ready to defend him. In my mind, it was us against the world.
My trust was finally betrayed towards the end of 2015.
My ex had found employment in a pyramid scheme company. His confidence boomed! He even believed he would be the next South African billionaire. Unfortunately, the employment offered commission only as formal income!
When I told him I disapproved, I was told that he would file for divorce if I held him back.
At this stage, I realised that I really was all on my own anyway
I confronted my ex about his qualification. I confronted him about the investment he had that would have enabled him to purchase a house cash, amongst others.
In the end, after resilient persistence, he finally told me that he had lied about it all.
When initial shock faded, overwhelming anger rose.
I started drawing lines between every failure or defeat in our lives and realised every single incidence, apart from Oli’s diagnosis, was directly linked to a decision we or I made based on a lie.
Getting out of a Toxic Relationship
I wish I could say all of the above was enough to convince me to get out of the toxic relationship!
The truth is, I didn’t want to get out. In my state of delusion, I still believed things would be easier, now that everything was out in the open.
The Psych Evaluation
I knew the lies were bigger than him. Perhaps I wanted to believe, there was an explanation to be found. Something that would explain the unknown! I wanted my ex to see a specialist.
My ex knew what my expectations were and yet he wasn’t willing to comply. He wasn’t even willing to try.
Advice for Anyone Trapped in a Toxic Relationship
I am the product of a broken home. My religious convictions kept me in a toxic marriage far too long. Fact remains, we need to take responsibility for ourselves, our own lives and our future!
We don’t have control over all things. But we need to be active in pursuing the life we seek. I will never be an advocate for divorce. I will, however, say choose well, make wise decisions and listen to the people around you that have your best interest at heart.