Ibukun’s partner (Tunde) never hit her, but with his constant criticisms, complains, intimidation and demands, her life came to revolve around making him happy. He would encourage their children to ignore her, and his favoritism towards one of their daughters created conflict all the time. Ibukun began to see how much his attitude was affecting her daughters. She told him she was leaving, and told the court she wanted a divorce. She says that, although it has been difficult, life is easier now than it was living day-to-day with her partner’s emotional and psychological abuse.
At first, he made a big show of being protective of me – he told me he would always ‘look after’ me. Little did I know that what he really meant was that he wanted to make all the decisions and I was expected to go along with it.
We had our good times but once we were married, his desire to control everything became more obvious. He never actually hit me, but his behavior left me constantly on edge. He would push me, throw things at me, call me names, humiliate me in front of friends. These episodes would often be followed by him apologizing but then harassing me to make up by having sex with him. He constantly demanded that I have sex to prove I loved him.
After I had our first baby it got worse. She was an unsettled baby and I was beside myself from exhaustion from getting up in the night and struggling to breastfeed her. I’d stopped working and lost contact with my work friends. Feeling vulnerable and isolated from the rest of the world, I became very dependent on him.
I made a couple of friends through a mothers’ group, but he didn’t like that. Over time I had to cut myself off from them because he’d be so rude if they visited the house.
He acted like a loving father to the outside world, but at home he did very little for our daughters. I had to do everything, all the housework, all the care for our kids. Even when I was really sick, he refused to do anything to help. But at the same time, he tried to control how I dealt with the kids and how they related to me and each other.
He’d sabotage my attempts to create routines and often told the kids to ignore rules I tried to set. For example, if I told the kids it was time for bed, he’d say ‘we don’t need to listen to her,do we?’
He’d also tell our daughters what to wear and was always very critical of their friends. Our youngest daughter was his favorite – a fact which he made very clear to all of us. He’d say she was ‘his prettiest girl’, the ‘smartest’. This caused upset and conflict between our daughters.
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Basically my whole life came to revolve around making him happy. At some level I thought the abuse was my fault – I was inadequate and couldn’t cope well as a mother. I was ashamed to tell anyone.
As our daughters got older, I started noticing how his behavior was affecting them. My eldest shut herself off from everyone and became very withdrawn. Meanwhile our youngest was copying his behavior and became demanding and difficult.
I began to read books about self-esteem and relationships. They reminded me that I deserved something more than the treatment I was receiving from him.
One day, after bursting into tears in front of my Counselor, I blurted out what had been going on at home. She was very kind. She spoke about ‘domestic violence’ – I’d never thought that was what I was experiencing.
With the support of a domestic abuse service and my counselor, I found the strength to leave. It wasn’t easy, and took a lot of planning. I made a couple of attempts to leave, but he would beg and cry and tell me how much he’d miss me and the kids. I caved in and stayed.
But after one horrible incident, in which he pushed me up against the wall and threatened to kill me, I decided I had to get out. I picked the kids up after school and we drove to my sister’s place in the suburbs. There, I called him and told him I wasn’t coming back. He just exploded……….!
To be Continued…..
Please Read the Concluding part of Ibukun’s emotional story tomorrow Sunday (27th August) at 9am here as she tells us more on her ordeal and how she managed to put her self and her daughters’ lives back on track again.