My Husband ; My Tormentor PT I
Please read this disclaimer before reading this story.
DISCLAIMER: In this series, we will be covering stories on Toxic and abusive relationships. This may be a triggering topic for some. This particular story mentions instances of gaslighting, intimidation, threats as well as other forms of emotional abuse. It also contains mentions of stalking and controlling behaviour. Kindly remember to be mindful of your mental well-being and that of others when reading and sharing this story.
At the beginning of my relationship and marriage, I was very naive. I started like any other young girl, seeing life through rose-tinted glasses. I was married for about ten years, and it was only around the third, fourth, or fifth year that I began to realize how naive l had been. I think my ex-husband’s terrible behaviour was there from the start, but what did I know at 22 or 25? I thought this was the natural dynamic of relationships.
When we were at the lovey-dovey stage, I didn’t have much of an opinion about anything. We didn’t court for long. We had about six or eight months of courting before we got married. During the dating period, sometimes we’d go out and if I tried to say something like, “Why don’t we go to this place and not this other place?” He’d get upset. He’d retort that it was his choice and whatever he decided would be the only option. At that time, I didn’t give it much thought. I just assumed that it was a man’s work to lead, and mine was to follow. So his controlling behaviour started from there.
I am very outspoken with my opinions, and also extremely confident. When we started our relationship, my husband knew that I liked to voice my thoughts, and when we got married, I gradually noticed that he would shut me down, especially with issues to do with other parties – his family, my family, friends – sometimes even in front of these third parties.
I have this memory that I don’t think I will ever forget. One of my husband’s brothers, who was out of the country had returned and spent the night at our home on his way to his own house, which was out of town. He took a work trip to Ethiopia and bought us all gifts. He bought me one of these lovely Ethiopian dresses, so i went to try it on, and it was a perfect fit. I was excited, so I rushed back into the living room to show them. I was so grateful, and my brother-in-law was also happy that the dress fit so well.
When I returned to the bedroom to change, my husband followed me. He was livid. “Who told you to come and model for us? You didn’t have to put on the dress and come and show him.” He was always quick to tell me: Stop! Don’t! You can’t! You shouldn’t!
Another time, this same brother was at our place. It was late at night, and the kids had all gone to bed. The three of us were chatting when suddenly my husband said, “I think it’s about time you left the conversation. What are you still doing here? “He followed me to the bedroom again and told me I should give him and his brother space to discuss their things. That dismissal hurt. It is something that will remain etched in my memory. It’s one of those things that, after many years of reflection, I realize I should have said or done something about.
He always tried to shut me down when it came to conversations with his mother or sisters or anyone in his family. I would want to speak. In the same way that I like listening to everyone else, I like to be heard when I have something to say. He would shut me down without a care, and l always obliged. But I only realized this was a problem maybe four or five years later.
I got my first born at 24 and my second born at 29. I wanted out of that marriage by the time I got my second born. My daughter was barely three years old when our relationship started falling apart. My husband was so controlling, and I began not feeling safe at all. He would get so insecure.
When mobile phones first came out, and they were costly, I was one of the first people to own one. My husband bought it, and I thought it was out of love and trust. Everybody thought I was the most beloved woman on the planet because of how expensive they were. It turns out it was a monitoring device, as was the landline in our home.
My husband was a senior manager at Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC). He had access to a lot I didn’t know about, including all my communications. I was giddy about my new mobile and would dish out my number to all my loved ones and anyone who could afford to call me. Those days, phone calls were terribly expensive. The questions and criticism started almost immediately. “Why are you giving your number to people? Who is that calling you? I didn’t give you this phone for you to start talking to everyone.”
I was shocked to discover he used his position to get printouts for the landline to see all the calls I made or received. I am a teacher, so I had a lot of time during the school holidays and would talk to my friends and family while he was at work. It turns out he used to get the printouts, and I didn’t know, but I guess when something starts to fall apart, it unravels entirely.
One time, I was doing the kind of deep cleaning where you remove everything and turn everything inside out. I don’t think my husband expected me to do that kind of cleaning. I found the printouts of our landline in his bedside drawer, and he had highlighted every phone call l had ever made or received – his calls were left untouched. He even had question marks and notes against some of them. It was very frightening. When he came home that night, I asked about it, and he threw a tantrum. He said he wasn’t hiding anything and was planning to bring it up so I could explain myself.
Every time I see people talking about how mobile phones present a big challenge in marriages and relationships I think to myself, been there, done that, because things got worse with the mobile phone for me.
As the years passed, my husband would call people on my phone. In my innocence, I saved people on my phone as who they were – whether it was family, friends, or a colleague. Male or female, someone I had just met or someone I had known from my childhood. If your name is ‘John Kariuki’, I would save you as ‘John Kariuki’.
I was shocked that my husband would call the men on my contact list. I only learned because one of my childhood friends got tired and called me. He asked me to travel to Nairobi to have a conversation with him. My husband and I lived and worked in Machakos then. So I made the trip to Nairobi because I could hear the distress in my friend’s voice.
He told me a guy he suspected was my husband had called him on different occasions. I asked him to describe how the guy sounded and asked what he was told, and from his description, I knew for sure that it was my husband. He had asked my friend to leave me alone and asked why he frequently communicated with me. Here is the thing, though: I couldn’t even remember our last communication – I think it had been about three months since we last spoke. I tried to go through my call log to figure out what my husband meant by ‘frequent communication’ only to find that my entire call log was deleted.
These calls from my husband to my friend had gone on for nearly a year, and my husband had told him off each time. I told my friend l would deal with it, and I remember the one question he asked me: “Why is that man so insecure?” He pointed out that I might be in more trouble than I thought. How many others had my husband been calling if my call logs were deleted?
When I went home again, I tried to confront my husband. I didn’t tell him I travelled to Nairobi and met my friend there, so he assumed it was a phone call. He responded that I was confirming to him that I indeed communicated with other men. He denied everything, including deleting my call logs. All these things he was doing made me terrified. I felt like I was living with an enemy.
As things worsened in our relationship, we formed a habit where one stayed up later and came into bed when the other was asleep. One particular night, I was the one who went to bed earlier than him. I was dead asleep, and I eerily felt something stir me. To this day, I don’t know what caused me to wake up. I think when God wants you to see something, He will make it happen.
When I opened my eyes, I didn’t turn over. I had my back to my husband and was shocked to find a hand over my face. If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew he was next to me, I would have screamed. I’m a very deep sleeper, so my husband assumed I would not wake up. He was not being careful at all. He was even putting his weight on me as he reached out and grabbed my mobile phone. He didn’t know | was awake, but I could feel him sitting up and even propping up his pillows. I don’t know what happened with the phone since I was turned away from him. He was on the phone for at least half an hour before the hand came back over my head and put the phone back where it was. I didn’t sleep again until morning.
The following day, I found a way of accessing his phone at some point. I discovered he had transferred all the text messages I had sent or received from any guy to his own phone. Anything that he had doubts about, he had the message. I even found some chats between me and my female friends. I don’t know what he wanted to do with them. Remember, he was in the telecommunications world, so of course he had easily managed to transfer my chats.
I was now terrified of him, especially as he had just recently gotten a friend of his arrested. This was his best friend, and they were running a business together. He had visited us often with his family as our children were close in age. But one day, I listened as my husband talked to some senior cops and planned how to get his best friend arrested. They talked throughout the day as the plan was executed.
I have now concluded that my husband was alienating me from everyone – my family and friends. When we lived in Machakos, my home area was close by. If I ever visited my mother, my husband would throw a tantrum. He always said that just because I was near my mother, didn’t mean that I had to keep visiting her. My mum didn’t even come to my place much. She always kept her distance. She has never told me why to date. But I would visit home, his tantrums notwithstanding. Even with my friends, he had complaints – if it wasn’t how someone dressed, it was how they talked. He essentially didn’t want me to have anyone close.