I have an honours degree from a local university. I graduated last year. Though I am in and out of part-time jobs, I make a decent living. The money I make is enough to buy me airtime, clothes and soothe my weird food cravings. I am also saving 50 percent of what I earn to buy a car. For a 25 year-old woman, I think I live a fair life.
My love life is fair too. I am in this bitter-sweet relationship with a guy I have dated for over four years. Bitter in that I think I am psychologically and emotionally abused, but I can’t let him go. Sweet in that I know he loves me and that he does the things he does because of the short temper he has. He is my prince charming and I am his Cinderella despite all the pain he unintentionally makes me go through. I know deep inside that all this will pass. He will change.
Emotional or psychological abuse can be verbal or non-verbal. Verbal abuse slowly chips away at the confidence and independence of victims with the intention of making them compliant and limiting their ability to leave. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming and shaming. There is also non-verbal abuse which includes isolation, intimidation, threats of violence and controlling behaviour.
Many abused women define the psychological effects of domestic abuse as having a ‘more profound’ effect on their lives- even when there has also been life-threatening or disabling physical violence. Despite this, there is almost always pressure to define domestic abuse in terms of actual or threatened, physical violence.
Though I am aware of all of this, I still anticipate change from him. I remember vividly two years ago, when he lost it completely. It was date night and he didn’t show up. But because of how sorry he was, he rang me up around 11pm to apologise. I forgave him instantly, thinking that he never meant to hurt me. Barely an hour later, he was standing at my gate begging for my forgiveness. I let him in and he explained what had held him up. What was charming and romantic about the way he did it was that he shed a tear or two while he was at it. Seeing how special it made me feel, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to play hard to get a little bit.
“You do this all the time, how do I know you are not bluffing? You’re smelling of alcohol and you expect me to be naïve enough to just believe that you didn’t mean to go out with your friends when we should have been hanging out just the two of us as planned? I guess I am not worth it to you?” I said to him disappointedly. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but this was my indirect way of getting him to apologize some more. He stood up, looked down on me, raised his voice and said: “To hell with your bullsh*t accusations! You see why I prefer to hang out with the guys more and not you? Where is the fun in all this? You are such a bore!”
Frustrated by his reaction and that he confessed that I was a boring, I went outside, got some air and went back inside the house. To my surprise, he looked at me with disgust, looked aside and kept quiet. The silence in the room was so loud, it made my tummy ache. It was too much. Moments later, he told me he was leaving. I got up too, took the keys and followed him. As we approached the gate I asked him why he came to see me since all he did was not talk. He remained silent. I asked him again. He grabbed the keys from me and unlocked the padlock. Just when he was about to open the gate, I asked him again.
“Am I under some kind of interrogation I’m not aware of? Please leave me alone. You know what, f*ck you, f*ck all the sh*t you’re saying and leave me alone! What is wrong with you?” he said with a raised tone.
I froze. Everything started to spin. I felt dizzy. I was in shock. In disbelief, I asked him what he had just said. All I remember were the f-words he repeated over and over again. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt immense pain deep inside. I was shaken, hurt, confused. I felt pathetic. Those words lessened me to a useless dog. Maybe a dog deserves better treatment. I felt myself transform from a human being into nothing. I raised my face and asked what he had said.
“You think all this crying will get to me, think again. You brought this all to yourself because of your bullsh*t accusations. Hell yes, I mean every word – f*ck you!” he said angrily and left.
His words pierced through my heart like a needle, bruising it from the inside. I felt pain. I sobbed the whole night. Like a broken record, his words kept playing in my mind again and again. I became a zombie for a week. I lost appetite, concentration, self-esteem, dignity, confidence and everything with value in my life. I lost it all. Although I had been the naughty child when I was growing up, I never experienced such verbal, emotional and psychological cruelty.
When I felt strong enough to face him, I phoned him so that I could break up with him and move on with my life. But the things he said on the phone made me realise I would be incomplete without him. He told me he had changed and would never ever do it again.
True to his words, he had changed his game. Things got worse. Ever since then, I began to be more of his punching bag, at the receiving end of all his frustrations either from his family, work, his failures, his friends, his insecurities, his fears, you name it. I faced it all. He started to see me as the person who would help him relieve his anger with the verbal, emotional and psychological blows he threw at me. It made me feel important to him, like a comforter. I guess it’s how things become when you are immune or used to it.
It’s been years now and I can’t seem to let go or better still, leave him. I cry every night, praying that God changes him. The more I pray, the more I realise how dangerous he is. Who am I to fight this alone, when everyone seems to be busy minding their own business? All I hold on to are the sweet memories of this bitter relationship. Will I ever leave? I am afraid. I am scared. I am a victim, crying silently.
This article was submitted anonymously by a writer who is currently in a verbally abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship and need help getting out or need legal advice, please contact: Musasa Project or Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA).
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