There is always one question you ask me. One of those questions that would require hours to explain. I end up not answering it properly, because the conversation veers off in a different direction. We’ve done this a few times already.
I’ll answer it here. It seems the best option right now, and we can carry on from there, if you like. This way, I can put my answer into words that make sense. When I try to put it into spoken words, I mix the timeline up and forget explanations that are necessary to understand the context.
So – Why did I stay?
It’s a question that I’ve been asking myself for the past 6 years. I think I have an honest answer now.
I will start long before I met Mr Ex, I will start 2 years before that, when I was 17. I was going out with somebody, Mr M. He was quite a boy actually, a little younger than me, an adopted kid and an aspiring musician. In fact, we met properly because we both played in the selected school orchestra. I grew to love him dearly, in a weird kind of way. There was no falling in love with a bang with him, but I was in love. Anyway, his parents were very strict. Apparently, in a discussion with them about me (they didn’t like the fact that he might become distracted from his music career), he told them that he intended to marry me (he didn’t tell me this though!). They went mad and forbade all contact. They even had some of the teachers at school keeping an eye on us.
He tried. He tried to find 5 minutes here, another 5 there. But it was wearing him out, and his situation at home wasn’t helping. His parents were watching his every move and were happy to dole out punishments whenever thought he had stepped out of line and seen me again. And so, in the end, he told me he couldn’t keep it up anymore.
Then he did something that I’ve never been able to understand in anybody. He kept right away. He made a point of keeping his distance, avoiding eye contact, and going completely quiet.
This broke my heart. I began to doubt that he had been sincere. I began to think that perhaps his parents had only been an excuse, and easy reason. As far as I could see, he wasn’t behaving as if he was hurt or unhappy, or as if he cared about me at all. People told me he was going out with that girl, then with this one.
I began seeing other guys – none of them anything serious or for very long. Mr M and I ran into each other sometimes, and exchanged an update, but no more than that. Once though, he called me in the middle of the night, drunk, somewhere outside, and I drove to his town to look for him, because what he had said worried me. I didn’t find him, but we ended up meeting up the next day, and this was the first time we had a chance to talk for a bit. He said that he still felt the same. But then the parents sent his sister out to look for him. He asked me to come with him to see his sister, thinking she would be delighted. She wasn’t. When he got home, she told his parents where he had been and apparently, his father beat him so hard that he passed out. All this is stuff that I never heard about until much later.
After that it was back to no contact, and I again couldn’t understand why. Again I began thinking (after months of trying to get a sensible word out of him) that what he had said did not fit to how he was acting. I didn’t know all the horrible details, all the things he later told me he had going on, and maybe because of that, I couldn’t put the words together with the behaviour I was seeing.
The other context that was happening in my life was that I was gradually failing at singing. I have a different view of it now – but then, I was failing in everybody’s eyes. I was hoping to be an opera singer. This was where I saw myself. I knew I could touch people’s hearts with my voice, and I wasn’t bad at acting. I had (and still have) a natural singing voice that has something special. But however talented I may have been, in the eyes of my singing teacher, I was failing. I was unable to fulfill her expectations. She had taken me on at a reduced rate, and was giving me free extra lessons every week, all because of what she expected of me. Only that never happened, and she became frustrated and stopped believing in me. I mirrored this and became equally frustrated and stopped believing in myself, but I was unable to see that I had to change something in this vicious cycle. I simply tried working harder, practicing more hours every day, I would not accept what I could feel my teacher thinking. Then, I auditioned at the big English music colleges. My dream was to study there – I didn’t think much of the German music colleges, and I didn’t think about going anywhere else at that time. I was going to take the audition, be accepted, and show my teacher just how wrong she was – that I wasn’t going to disappoint her.
Then I failed all three, spectacularly. By the time I was taking the fourth, I had lost my voice. Funnily enough, losing my voice repeated itself in much the same way in a great wave of healing 10 years later… but that isn’t part of this part of history.
The third part of my context was the non-existent family. I broke up with my father at 13 – he was forever jealous, whatever I did, and was either upset with me or very angry. After a year of fighting, threats and discussions, I chose to stop trying and stopped talking to him. This wasn’t too difficult as he was never at home. He moved out when I was 15 when he found out that my mum was with somebody else and had been for a long time. The separation totally threw my mum. She was overwhelmed by having to move house, and having to work and look after her kids. I was the one who looked for a new place to live, and I’d have to check up on her to see whether she had actually called the places and organized visits etc. She made things all the more complicated by refusing to tell me how much income we had as a family, so I was fishing in the dark. She would just sit somewhere and stare into nothing. She went completely gray that year. She picked up a little after that, but she wasn’t ever somebody to be supportive for me, it always stayed the other way around. She made me feel uncomfortable (and still does to an extent) and generally never knew what was going on in my life. If I told her anything, she would be sure to forget anyway. I helped a little looking after my younger brother and sister, taking them to their first days at school and helping with homework and stuff like that. My mum provided for us in a general way – she provided food, payed the rent, did the washing, but she only really had a relationship with my youngest brother, 10 years younger than me. I spent most of the time looking forward to moving out, sometimes I would spend the afternoon at school to practice instead of going home, and once I couldn’t bear it and went off to live with a girlfriend for a few weeks. I’m not sure she even knew where I was.
With all this going on, I finished school and had no idea what I would do. Music seemed impossible, biology maybe. I enjoyed studying for the biology exams. I wanted to leave Germany.
Then Mr Ex marched into my life, one day before my last exam. We met in a train, and although he didn’t say anything, it was very clear that he was attracted to me. But then – in those days, I was used to men being attracted to me. I could induce it, even, and liked to play with that sometimes. In the end, we were talking, and we got along wonderfully. I was falling in love with a bang this time. He was charming, witty, attractive, and eccentric, nicely strange. It felt incredible. He was also 8 years older than I was, and was telling me all about his university experiences and work experience. Apart from seeming educated and funny, he also seemed experienced and in my young 19 year old eyes, very grown up and wise.
Things stayed this way for about two weeks. Then he asked me how many men I had been with, and I answered, honestly (I think it was 7…), and he was absolutely shocked. His main message was “how could I have spoilt myself in such a way for him? What kind of a person must I be to have been able to injure him so?” I tried explaining that I do make a big difference between something serious and simple fun, and that I was absolutely reliable and trustworthy in a relationship. I wasn’t unfaithful at all. I just liked to be adored from time to time, even when there was no boyfriend in sight, and looking back, I think I needed someone around just to help me believe in myself.
He was so disappointed, so jealous, and so cross with me. I should have just gone, then and there, but I couldn’t leave knowing that he thought so awfully of me. I wanted him to understand that I wasn’t that terrible, unreliable, slutty bitch he was painting me to be. I wanted him to understand that in a love relationship, I was completely committed.
That was the point at which he turned it around – he didn’t just leave it at that, he turned it into a count against me. He explained to me that that was why my life was in such a shitty place. He explained that that was why Mr M had left (he had squeezed all the details out of me…), and why I didn’t have any supporting people in my life. It was all my fault. It was because I was such a bad person. He actually said that he wasn’t sure whether he was ready to sink low enough to spend time with me. On the other hand he said I was so attractive and he couldn’t resist, even though he knew better.
To begin with, I was torn between trying to prove that I wasn’t this “awful, slutty bad person” and feeling that I had deserved better.
But he kept finding situations in which in his eyes, I behaved according to the “old” pattern. He reckoned that I bumped into a man on a crowded street because it excited me to feel his body brush against me. He disapproved of me seeing friends from school, as they were part of the “old” pattern. He made a huge scene when I wanted to go to the blade night in Munich because I had stayed with somebody I liked going skating with on a couple of occasions. I tried to explain that I liked skating with him because he was as fast as I was, but all that didn’t count. He got jealous if I went cycling somewhere on my own because somebody might see me. He started making sure that I never went out with clothes that were more revealing than he liked them to be. I wasn’t to mention anything that had happened before I knew him. I wasn’t to wear jeans, sometimes he said this was because he didn’t like jeans, but much later on he said it reminded him of the day we had met (I was wearing jeans then) and he didn’t want to be reminded of that awful day. With him, I learned to bow my head and to become invisible outside the house.
All through the first year I was torn between leaving and wanting to prove that I wasn’t a bad person. I still valued the same things in Mr Ex that I had valued right at the beginning. I wanted him to believe me and to trust me. I supported him with my very first job and paid for an apartment big enough for both of us, and provided everything we needed. He “couldn’t contribute” because he was finishing off his university thesis. He had various girls he would meet up with so that “he could understand what I was coming from” and make up for the feeling of inexperience he said I made him have. I put up with it because how else could I show that I really was faithful?
After about half a year of living together, we had a major row. We had rows all the time, mostly about how bad I was, but this was a big one and it left me hurting. By then, I had nobody to turn to. I tried to ring Mr M, who I had been on friendly terms with when I left school. I needed to talk to somebody who would hopefully be nice to me, although by that time, I didn’t believe that I deserved to be treated kindly anymore. Anyway, I didn’t reach him, but Mr Ex saw that I had tried to call somebody by checking the phone and phoned the number that he didn’t recognize. He did get through while I was at work, and had a chat with Mr M.
Mr Ex confronted me with this when I got home and told me that he (Mr Ex) had been right all along, Mr M had indeed told him that he was pleased to have gotten rid of me and that he agreed about me being a slutty bad person.
Another part of my soul shattered. I believed Mr Ex everything he said, after all, he was reliable and he never lied, or so he said.
Later that year, there was another major-major row. After that, I started looking for apartments to move into alone. He picked me up from the office where I was working then, making a huge scene of crying and telling one of the lawyers there how sorry he was and could he send me out to talk to him. He also made sure that I understood that this was only because of me – if I hadn’t been so inconsiderate of his feelings before I met him, he would be totally different. I didn’t completely give up on the idea of moving out and leaving, but it became less urgent, because he said that he was sorry to have hurt me so much. In the end, it was the last time I tried to leave.
Two months later I was pregnant with the first baby. After that, there was no question of leaving anymore. I now had three goals in life: caring for the child, proving that I was worthy of being loved, and not being a disappointment to Mr R in my education, i.e. being top of the class and managing exams without visiting lectures, as well as not disappointing him as a partner, meaning dinner had to be on the table when he came home and the baby had to be happy too, and sex had to be joyously given at any time he felt like it. And of course it was ok that he refused to ever hold the baby or change a nappy or do anything around the apartment.
This is why I stayed. I believed him, and there was no support network around to help me see otherwise. I was extremely vulnerable in every area that mattered to me at that time, and he provided answers that had some logic to them, even if they were based on lies. He promised me that he would love me – if only he could. If only I could show that I was a good enough person to love.
Later on I stayed for the added reason that he depended on my physically. I needed to take care of him and his ailing health. And you really can’t leave an invalid without showing that you are a very heartless, unfeeling person – the very opposite of what I was trying to prove for 9 years.
He is a broken person himself. More broken that my temporarily broken self ever was. I think that half the time he doesn’t notice what kind of harm he’s doing. I believe he bends the facts just how he needs them, so that he really thinks that he doesn’t lie. If I would have stuck to it one of the many times when breaking up was an attractive option, things would have happened differently. But I didn’t have the strength to do that then, and I have forgiven myself for being as weak as I was back then.
Your next question is “Then why did you go on to have four kids with him?” – I’ll answer that one another time.