When I met the father of my second child I was not looking for anything serious.
My first child and I had suffered enough with her father that I was sure that I would never have another serious relationship again and of course no more children.
I just wanted to date, have some fun and feel like a woman again.
This man was a charmer, witty and intellectual.
His personality and persuasive nature were very attractive and with time he convinced me that I could start over and have a complete family.
The abuse in this relationship was more subtle and much more difficult to recognize.
I tried to slow him down because he wanted to meet my child and parents right from the beginning of our relationship.
I made him wait a year to meet my child and two years to meet my parents.
Although, our relationship was always full of doubts and instability due to his lies and inconsistency, I slowly started to feel caught up and trapped in his game.
One minute I was the best thing that ever happened to him and the only reason why he was still living in this country next minute I was a horrible person because I refused to follow all of his demands and believe his incredible stories.
He spoke about having children with me often and giving me the life that I deserved.
However, often his actions were contradictory to his words.
I made it very clear what I would accept and not accept in our relationship early on and stressed often that my child was sacred to me and I could not just allow any man to be a part of her life.
I gave him many reasons to walk away and not get too involved with us explaining that we had already experienced a lot of pain and could not take major risks and making it clear that our lives were already complicated.
He ignored all of my warnings and fears and continued to persuade me to build a family with him.
For short periods, he would show me that my daughter and I were his priority but sooner or later he made it obvious and clear that his friends here and his family in his home country would always be more important.
He also made it clear on numerous occasions that he was not ready to leave his single life behind.
Whenever I tried to leave him, he would cry and beg for another chance and justify his bad behaviour by bringing up his unstable and unhealthy childhood.
When I would ignore his phone calls he would show up at my workplace offering to take me out for lunch or show up at my child’s daycare or my building unannounced with a huge smile on his face acting as if nothing had happened.
On many occasions, he would cancel our plans at the last minute or disappear for a while and later expect me to open my door in the middle of the night while he was intoxicated and acting as if he did nothing wrong.
I would find inappropriate text messages and online chats with women he insisted were just friends.
He asked one of these so called friends to send him a picture of herself without any clothes on and insisted that his other female friend wait for him to find her once he returned to their country so they could be together.
I was accused of being jealous and overreacting.
It always seemed that he wanted to live a double life. He made constant excuses why I couldn’t meet most of his friends and made little effort for me to get know his family who lived in his home country.
His alcohol and anger issues were very sporadic making it difficult to identify.
When he was upset he would walk away and disappear for a while and refused to negotiate or discuss solutions to our problems whenever he would return.
If he was going out without me, he refused to tell me where he was going and with whom but expected me to tell him everything.
He would accuse me of being controlling and possessive for demanding respect and asking the same things he expected of me.
When he would get really upset with me he would destroy my belongings in private.
He damaged my computer, my pictures with my child and her father, some of my jewelry, my camera, etc.
He also threw a plate onto the floor in front of my child out of anger.
He was normally good at hiding his jealousy but one night when he had been drinking and was sure that I had been talking to another man on the phone he began to yell at me and swear and threaten to damage some of my furniture late at night when my child and I were trying to sleep.
On another occasion, he was holding my wrists tightly so I wouldn’t leave him because he had just been kicked out of a Latin club for stealing from another woman’s purse.
I was embarrassed by the incident and begged him to let me go but he refused for a long time until another man told him to leave me alone.
That night he managed to enter into my building without permission and called me from the staircase to allow him into my apartment.
I was partially flattered and afraid of his behaviour at the same time.
During our 4 year on and off relationship he sometimes lived with us but I kicked him out on numerous occasions because I continuously felt he was being disrespectful and irresponsible and deceitful.
When I became pregnant with his child he became more demanding and irresponsible.
He expected me to help him with all of his immigration issues, finding employment, etc. but refused to help me with his child and any of the household chores. I began to feel that I was being used for him to stay in the country and that he wanted me to be his servant as well.
After we got married and had a child together he made it clear that my first child was not his financial responsibility. He pressured me to take my ex-partner to court for child support despite knowing the difficult history.
He also made me use all of my money to pay for the necessities of the children and the household and he was allowed to buy himself expensive clothes, go out with his friends and send money to his parents, siblings and cousins in his home country.
I often had to argue with him to contribute his fair share.
He began to insult me and criticize me often in front of my children.
The last time I asked him to leave our home he went to live with one of his girlfriends.
He told me that he was going to live with his male friend. I found out the truth months later when he called me from jail hoping that I would bail him out. He spent a week in jail for a domestic incident he had with his girlfriend.
I will never know why he really went to jail but I do know he tried to minimize the incident the same way he would always try to minimize all of the issues we had when we were together.
When abuse is not physical it can be much more difficult to identify and to walk away from.
Once again, I did not want my children growing up to believe that sexism and abuse of any kind is acceptable and normal.