By Esteri Akandwanaho
Today, at 9:50 am, I googled, ‘how to cope with being married for money’ – Google only brought up how to handle finances and financial inequality in the home and I realized, my African warped society reality is not going to be helped by Google.
So then I went on and googled, ‘how to cope with a false marriage’.
Several pages came up showing the many ways immigration departments around the world strive to keep their territory clear of ‘aliens’ through Sham Marriages.
Excuse the cynicism… you see, I am a recently divorced woman aged 33 who is coming to terms with the idea (many of my loved ones call it a fact) that I was deceived for many years and ‘used’ (for those outside the African Culture, this word ‘used’ suggests much more than its English meaning, it is the same word used to talk about a Sexual Abuse Victim, A rape, Defilement, etc… all of which are culturally taboo subjects). So here I am, with my used self, searching for ways to cope with the rage of emotions inside me. I find a site on the HuffPost, in the LIFE section titled: Marriage Fraud: How One Woman Discovered Her Husband Was a Conman. It is an interesting read up but nowhere near what I am feeling. The parallels are all too familiar though.
Here is what I’m learning;
1. An individual can present themselves to you in only the light they believe you will take to or like (now now, before you roll your eyes all ye ‘exposed’ young ladies, please be reminded that I am not here to receive your judgement, I’m struggling with much of my own so if you already know this, well done!) But for those who do not know it, here’s what to take home: ‘Always believe the action’. Love DOES – and so you will see and be treated to ACTION.
Lies, well, they lie… they are bountiful in words and promises.
2. Emotional Abuse is greater than any other instrument of destruction because;
a. It creates a massive cloud of doubt in your mind to the point where you are not certain if you did in fact say or do a thing (often a bad thing or not enough good things blah blah blah) – Eventually, this leads to your wanting to politely skirt around issues so that you are not not doubting yourself but also not confronting the problem that you know is a problem but face severe in my case very underhanded methods of torture like silence, quickly moving on to the next thing as though nothing happened – that last one is the absolute worst because the bird sitting on your shoulder suddenly multiply and have schizophrenia too — was it me?
Did I say or do something? Am I not working hard enough? All of these quietly undercut the very real and tangible resentment that is eroding your cheer, passion, and life! Soon you are a walking shell that is frightened to pronounce yourself on anything and you don’t even know why… Your body is slowly sharing somatic stress signals with the brain but because you do not know what they mean, you gather you are running mad altogether.
At this point, you have given up speaking sense to the blatant disregard for any values you hold and so when the conversation is left to hellos when the door opens and pretend smiles for the kids, you are a shadow of a person just coasting through life.
Here’s the up side, you are NOT crazy but the environment is not allowing you to see much else. You are wounded and need to step out of yourself long enough to see that life can be beautiful again.
You may need to go outside with friends, or talk to someone or go dancing to release all your pent up energy. Don’t do what I did though… going to find these things without realizing what the real problem was … that only leads one to reckless abandon so to speak, an open door to the attacks or rebuttals of the sociopathic nature of abusers for guilting and worst of all, the big ‘S’ Shaming.
b. Emotional abuse taints your personality and slights it to cynicism and disbelief. In the aftermath of the fast paced exit from the marital home, I met with myriads of family, friends, snoopers and more. Many of them, in fact, most of them I am certain meant well, but they sounded crazy to me. Absolutely crazy because i) They had no idea what I felt ii)Even I had no idea howI felt or what was going on or whether I wanted to understand it – all I knew is it felt so much lighter to be away from the environment that caused me to lose myself and all I believed. It took a while though, with this increased socialising (I am a very private individual) I started to see that society has always been broken. I seemed to be one of very few people who believed that a loving couple can sustain a happy marriage with work. Instead I was met with more stories of extreme sadness and lustful pleasures to numb the desire for real companionship within the space of marriage. This made me super cynical and I winced at every display of what I now lumped as pretence all around (and here’s my apology to all the truly mushy loving couples I judged). Here’s how to slowly start coping with this part – You are central to what happens to and for you or against you. Be present. In presence, you will see more clearly whether you want a thing or not. Whether it be a good thing or not, you will have started with the option of consciously consenting to it. This requires you to also build the ability to say no. A very hard thing for those of us that registered as wanting to please those around us. It may increase the charge of conflict around you for a time but it will be good use of your voice to establish boundaries.
c. You will cry. And cry. And cry… and it is okay. I have come to think of my tears as an avalanche of all the energy I was strong enough to say no to the bottles of wine and dinner parties but didn’t get round to spending at the gym in good ol’ constructive healthy body, mind, and soul activity.
So the tears feel better than all of the above but it is not a sustainable coping mechanism. As I stood at the Airtel counter just a few days ago to renew my sim card, I started to tear because of an emotionally charged phone call urging me to be prepared for court and be there on time.
The caller had no idea I was standing in line, had no idea I have not been doing by breathing or gyming, and had no idea I could breakdown for any and all reasons. And yet, instead of dealing with myself, I started to mumble how they might not have thought of a better way to share or to call me after work hours to discuss this.
I quickly brought it back to myself because I do love the caller and know none of it was their intention but the tears were still waddling over my lower lid as the lady took a new photo for their system.
So here’s how you cope: you don’t slack on meditation, Prayer, the gym but on the way to consistency, you find time and space to work through the tears and the emotions behind them.
d. There will be fear. At first you won’t be able to establish why or where it is coming from, but you will have fear and anxiety over seemingly simple tasks. I heard of some people who faint from their anxiety.
Thankfully, I have no fainting but the heart arrhythmias, muscle clamping, and general discomfort, shortness of breath, insomnia and nightmares are things that make life a little tougher to manage. While others may nudge you to tough it up, these are also things that shorten your life span.
So here’s what I think… you made it out and you are starting anew.
Every day you have to wake up and forgive yourself for betraying yourself but also recognize that there is healing to do (for someone who loves clarity, this has been the hardest for me – the idea that healing is or may be a lifelong process).
You will also need the grace to remove yourself from your emotion in order to still be objective about certain things. Most of all, know this; fear is the only thing preventing you from your destiny.
Once you put that into perspective, you know to deal with the emotion against your desire to be grounded in who you are meant to be.
There is a lot more to learn but writing this has enabled me to be sure of no unscheduled cry fests later in the day.
My prayers and earnest heart goes out to all who are suffering an emotional affront whether in a marriage or other relationship. Be steadfast in your resolve to love yourself enough to create those boundaries that are needed to preserve your integrity.