I met Fernandez at a friend’s party when I was twenty. I was a late bloomer and had never dated before. I had spent more time on academic pursuits than boys during my teenage years. So, when Fernandez wanted to be my boyfriend, I agreed. I even accepted his ‘macho’ attitude as a sign of maturity due to our five-year age gap. Fernandez and I were complete opposites in terms of personality. He was the social butterfly and I on the other hand preferred meaningful conversations over small talk. Yet, we decided to get married after a four-year courtship.
Days before the wedding, Fernandez told my mum that he lost a lot of money in a business deal. My mum had to bear the full cost of the wedding till he could pay her back. Although Fernandez promised to return the money, I found out later that, that was never his intention. I wish someone had stopped me from marrying him then. At least, life would have been different for me.
Within the first week of my marriage, I started having doubts about Fernandez when he spent nights away from home. But he brushed them aside and told me I was overreacting. He claimed he was with his friends and had lost track of time. I grew up in a traditional family and was taught not to air my laundry in public, so I kept everything to myself. Hoping for a better future, I single-handedly serviced the mortgage loan for our home. I held two jobs to make ends meet even when I was pregnant. But my efforts were invisible to Fernandez. It seemed whatever I did was never enough for him. He blamed me for everything that went wrong and played the ‘tragic victim’ in front of others. His friends placed him on a pedestal thinking he was a righteous man while I was the incompetent wife. Even though I was a beautiful person inside and out, his manipulation affected my self-esteem and confidence. I started isolating myself from family and friends. They thought I was just being my usual self, the ‘anti-social’ person; a common misconception about introverts. Therefore, the change in me wasn’t obvious to them. Without anyone to confide in, I suffered in silence for many years.
My coping strategy was to detach myself from emotions and instead focus on my career goals. I achieved much but always prioritized his needs just to keep the peace. Many a times, when the kids didn’t complete their school homework or had forgotten to pack their books, Fernandez would blame me for being a lousy mother who only cared about my job. I swallowed my pride and apologized even though it wasn’t my fault. Even then, Fernandez continued being a self-serving and manipulative evil jerk with no soul or compassion. He treated me like a money-making machine and spent all his earnings on booze and entertainment.
One day, I caught Fernandez initiating sex with my domestic helper. After much digging, the Pandora’s box was unearthed. I found out that Fernandez had affairs with women ranging from mutual friends, domestic helpers to bar hostesses. I felt disgusted that despite having so many flings, he still had sex with me regularly. I gathered the evidence and considered my options very carefully. Then I confronted Fernandez, hoping he would come clean. I was even willing to start over again. However, Fernandez denied everything and smashed the evidence I had into pieces. That was my breaking point and something in me snapped. I picked up my left-over dignity and calmly told him I wanted a divorce. Fernandez did not believe me at first. He thought that I would never leave him and had taken me for granted. However, I told Fernandez that I meant it and he became aggressive and blamed me for the breakdown of the marriage. His anger got uncontrollable that I had to call the police.
The divorce proceedings lasted three years as he fought for equal division of the matrimonial assets. But, he lost the case and I finally gained freedom from twenty-one years of soul crushing abuse. Counselling helped me understand that sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we want it to be. We make mistakes but we must learn to move on. I still wonder where I had gone wrong. Then, I tell myself that a creep like him will never change and it wasn’t my fault. It was time to let go of the past and heal.
My teenage son asked me one day, “Mummy, do you think we will be happy when we find out how much you suffered? Just to keep the family together? You don’t deserve this and you know that”. And that statement was my hope for a better future without Fernandez.
Fernandez now lives in a rented room. He has to work for a living and his senior years will be spent in isolation without savings. He is no longer a good catch at the age of fifty. I believe that the law of Karma is fair and we will reap what we sow.