The father of my child, let’s call him Z, isn’t even registered on the birth certificate. The reason for this is his abuse, which ended in a restraining order and a court case. For two years after I never thought I could never forgive him. In fact, I didn’t think I could look at him again. After kicking him out of my house and moving on with my life I had to piece myself back together as a single mother of two.
This man was the one I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. He made me laugh, we would talk for hours, we would go on little adventures and he truly seemed to adore my son. Z was everything I was looking for in looks and in personality. Then he turned into a monster, I refused to believe it at first. He just wasn’t the same man.
Z wasn’t toxic in a lot of ways. He was proud to show me off, he made every effort to be with me, he would always call and he made it abundantly clear how he felt. Z didn’t play mind games; he was an open book. I found the anxieties and concerns of previous relationships just weren’t there. I could happily trust this man to have nights out without me or be with a group of beautiful girl mates in a bar while I stayed at home with his mother. It felt easy to be with him.
However, there was something seriously wrong with Z. His insecurities got the best of him. He became demanding and abusive; he became obsessed with my sexual history (nothing that exciting). Every day became a living nightmare. Z got worse and worse to the point where it felt like mental torture. I would kick him out and he would beg for me back, bringing presents to my door like a stalker. It became a twisted cycle. I called the police when he put his hands on me, threatened my family and endangered his son. I won’t go into detail about what he did but I can honestly say it was one of the worst years of my life. I was a shell of my former self.
I truly wanted to believe that the ‘real’ Z was in there somewhere, but no matter what I said or did he never changed. I chose to protect my children instead. Z had to go.
Two years later and I’m still in pain, I feel sick thinking back to it all. Z’s sexual abuse made a huge impact on me, I felt broken. I felt angry at him. My self-esteem was so low I even entertained a depressing relationship with what can only be described as a ‘loser’ for just under a year because I didn’t think I was worth any more than that. That loser happened to be an ex of mine, one that Z was particularly insecure about. Said ‘loser’ kept me in the darkness like a filthy secret for the whole time, basically used me and my home as a convenience, and I allowed it. He couldn’t ‘forgive’ me for having children after we ended the first time. After he dumped me just before Christmas I had a realisation. I had to change. I was punishing myself for something I hadn’t done. I was treating myself as less than worthy. I was crawling to someone who wasn’t fit to trim my pubes- because I was still a victim.
I had to set myself free. I had to stop hating Z, I had to forgive him. This may seem strange, that I had to offer an olive branch to someone who ruined me in order to become whole again, but it’s true. Hate only poisons the person drinking it. I had to let it go.
It came to me one day, as I was sitting in my lecture at university. I realised my ‘boyfriend’ had once again decided to ignore me all day. (I knew full well some dumbass excuse would come later ‘I was asleep’ ‘I was eating’, I truly think the guy would have pretended to be in a near-fatal pedestrian collision with an old lady to get out of talking to me) I felt the usual pang of anxiety in my stomach that comes with being in an uncertain relationship. I thought to myself, ‘Of all the idiots’ Z had to get insecure about. I wish I could tell him how stupid it was. I wish he could know that this man isn’t worth a second of anyone’s time.’ Then I just sent him a WhatsApp message.
‘I forgive you.’
Of course he thought I was drunk/being facetious.
Soon enough, after a couple of slightly frosty phone conversations we came to a compromise. He tried to argue with me, tried to make me bend my own terms and conditions to suit what he wanted. I didn’t budge an inch. He could see his son, under supervision. I was worried he still hadn’t changed. For my own sake, and my son’s I had to try.
Getting on the plane I don’t know what I felt, I just put one foot in front of the other.
So it happened, he saw his son. He was just like the old Z, the one I fell in love with. I had to remind myself of everything he had done, and play homage to the old adage ‘forgive, but don’t forget.’
I could see that Z truly cared for his son, even though he had no idea how to change a nappy.
We spoke about everything and for once I got an apology. I felt he truly meant it, I said ‘I forgive you,’ to his face, I meant it too.
In that moment I felt the weight of everything that had gone on between us, it hurt like hell, to sit there at a table with him in a little town in Romania, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and speaking frankly.
I’m glad Z’s an open book- we didn’t leave one painful stone unturned. We even laughed in the end.
Z needs therapy, he still has so many issues to work on. He’s aware of how fucked up he is, a fact that eludes many abusers for most of their lives. I’m extremely lucky. Z now lives in Barcelona with his new girlfriend and he plans to be a father to his son. I still haven’t put him on the birth certificate, it’s far too soon for that and of course I’m still conscious for my son’s safety.
However, forgiving him set me free. I looked my abuser in the eye and wasn’t scared. All I saw was a broken man,a man who projected his low sense of self worth onto me. I stopped blaming myself. I’m no longer a victim. I’m a survivor.