I wanted to make a video, but I couldn’t. Even now that it’s all over, the very thought that my ex might watch it fills me with fear; fear for not only myself, but my family.
So, instead, I decided to write this anonymously. I hope that in some way it might help others understand and empower them to fight against domestic abuse in all its forms.
I met my ex-spouse at the international university where we both studied. Everyone on campus glowed with admiration for this person, constantly singing their praises as though there were not a single blemish to complain about. I, on the other hand, was constantly being slandered and backbitten by sisters and brothers alike; my Islam and ethics always questioned because I was a convert that hailed from a Western country. I was already having difficulty finding a spouse because I was far from my family, so this didn’t help at all. Thus, from the very beginning, the odds were somewhat stacked against me.
However, after a recommendation by a professor, I met with this person to discuss the possibility of marriage. The first thing I thought to myself was, “Me? Why me?” In my low self-esteem and desperation, I was shocked that anyone would even be interested in marrying me. But at the same time, I finally felt hopeful and happy.
Our first discussion went very well. We seemed to have a lot of chemistry despite my nervousness and lack of confidence. I was very open about my flaws and vice versa, so there seemed to be a lot of transparency and acceptance on both ends. What didn’t occur to me at the time, and what I would learn later, was that my future spouse was actually measuring me for vulnerabilities that they could exploit. Like a predator seeking out prey, their choice for marriage was more about who would be easier to control and manipulate; who could give them everything without it necessary to give anything in return. What this person wanted was not an equal, but a trophy and a servant. Unfortunately, given the negative perception of myself cultivated by years of degradation by my peers, I was the perfect candidate.
It didn’t take long for us to agree to marry. Things were settled almost immediately and my spouse’s parents offered to pay absolutely everything to help facilitate our marriage. They even offered to help us with the first months’ rent and expenditures, without either of us having to contribute at all. They said they wanted to do it for “the sake of Allah”. It was like everything was being handed to us on a silver platter. What I didn’t realise till later was that my spouse insisted on this sort of arrangement and that their parents had very little choice in the matter. If you ever want to know how your spouse will treat you, see whether or not they bully and control their family members. This is a sure sign that you won’t get the better end of it.
However, blinded by the seeming perfection of it all, I ignored the signs.
3 months later, we were married. 9 months later, we were separated. Eventually, we were divorced.
Despite the short period of time, what happened in between I can only describe as nothing less than emotional and mental torture. And while I am no perfect angel myself and committed my own transgressions, I cannot to this day understand why these things were done to me. I cannot understand why someone would want to do these things to me.
First, it was the incessant spying on my phone, computer, and social media accounts. Then it was classmates constantly spreading gossip to my spouse, which I would be reminded of; interrogations into my past became an almost daily occurrence where my answers were taken as lies and my tears seen as another opportunity for chastisement. Then came the dreams. Oh, how I hated the dreams. I would dread waking up in the mornings because my spouse would claim to have a nightmare about me committing zina. From that point forward, I would be questioned throughout the day, glared at with animosity; even told where to walk, where to look, and when to speak to the opposite sex. They would even go so far as to claim that the dreams were a “sign from Allah” that I was a horrible person that I needed to be controlled for my own good.
Never did I dare question the dreams, because everyone saw my spouse as the righteous one. I was the irredeemable one.
Then came the curfews. I remember coming home late one night to find my clothes thrown into the drainage ditch below our apartment as punishment for my transgression. I had to keep silent, knowing that the slightest protest from me would end up with my spouse calling their parents to “correct” my rebellious behaviour. It was always my fault for the reactions I received. I should have known better.
This followed with greater restrictions of where I could go and when. My private conversations were always being monitored, and if nothing was found, my emails from several years prior would be analysed to the finest detail, just so I could be questioned again and told that my past was never forgiven. This continued for months on end as I endured constant harassment and degradation. Sometimes it would be followed by an apology, but that was short lived.
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell anyone. No one would believe me. My spouse was perfect and I was fortunate to be married to them; to be married at all. Everyone was waiting for me to fail and my spouse knew this. They knew that no matter what happened, I would take the fall. So I endured, because I felt that such an end would be worse than what I was going through now.
Finally though, relief came from an unexpected source. Seeing as we were struggling students, I finally managed to get a full-time job as a teacher. Things were going well in the beginning, but then I ended up getting into a terrible work accident, which forced me to be hospitalised and need surgery. It was at this point that I felt I would receive some mercy. And for the first 2 weeks, there was some mercy.
“Now, my wife will love me,” I thought.
But it only got worse. As I was lying in bed one night, reeling with pain and unable to move, she looked at me with animosity again. I stared back wondering what I had done this time, even in such an incapacitated state. She responded with a sigh, as though she were regretting now having ordered the low-fat latte as opposed to salted caramel: “I wonder if my life would just be easier if you were dead.”
This is the only time I remember having cried myself to sleep.
As the weeks went on, I went through physical therapy. I began to master walking on crutches and transitioned to a cane. But the degradation didn’t stop. Instead, it intensified. Eventually, I couldn’t handle it and started to visit my friends I hadn’t seen in months. Despite the severity of the pain, I pushed myself to visit them so that I could mend the emotional wounds I experienced throughout the days. My spouse noticed this and retaliated. She confided in her friends that I was being a “lazy bum”, unfit for the responsibilities of marriage. She then started to insist I go back to work early so as to fulfil her rights.
I obliged. With 2 months left of physical therapy to go, I stopped and went straight back to work, never to return. I managed a week at work till I became too ill to continue. This led my spouse to become more agitated with me to the point that one night she decided to perform yet another interrogation session. I did not wish to comply with her questioning, which eventually led her to contact her parents again. But this time, I couldn’t stand being reprimanded again. I quickly rose out of bed, slightly groggy due to the medications, and wobbled my way to where she was sitting. I grabbed the phone from her hand and a struggle ensued. Eventually, I was able to get it out of her hands and threw the phone to the floor, shattering it. I didn’t mean to break it. I didn’t want to break it. I just did. In my desperation to be relieved from another verbal punishment, I destroyed the phone.
It was a mistake that would literally cost me my sanity.