TWSC Submission: Healing from Extreme Betrayal

Photo: Shutterstock

The following story was submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

Everything changed when I was about 11 years old. My parents began having conflict and my father ended up moving out of our home, leaving my mother to take care of seven children single-handedly. The eldest was 13 and the youngest was still breastfeeding. I was the third eldest. My dad sold the house we were living in and left us all quite desperate.

We struggled to pull through school and I actually didn’t write my O Level (high school) exams. My mum relocated and left us so we became a child-headed family. I think she left because, at that point, the load was too heavy for her. She said she was going to work and took our youngest sibling with her. I was 15. My two older siblings and I had to figure out how to raise the younger ones.

At some point, I became involved with a guy. He was my first love and significantly older than me.

I was naïve and thought that being with him would ease the financial burden my family faced. Once I got married, I thought, I’d be able to take care of my siblings. That’s what I had in mind, but unfortunately, it didn’t go that way.

Love gone wrong

When my mom discovered our relationship, there was drama. My boyfriend sent his relatives to our family and they asked me to elope. I didn’t want to get married yet and told them that my dream was to go to school. They said that was fine, they would allow me to pursue my education but insisted I marry this guy.

I agreed, but soon realized that he was a serial cheater. Two months after I moved in with him, a woman came to the house. She had a child by him. My husband accommodated her and allowed her to live with us. He even bought her a phone and other items. When I asked him about it, that was the first time he got physical with me.

I had just gotten my hair done and he took a knife and started cutting through my braids. So, the next morning when they went shopping, I wrote a note, packed my bags and ran away.

I went to my aunt who lived in another town. When I narrated my story to her, she said that as long as I wasn’t pregnant, I could stay with her and she would notify the other family members. She also offered to find me a job so I could start fresh.

One week later, my husband came to the house and spoke to my aunt. I wasn’t privy to their discussion, but I was told that I needed to pack my bags and go with him. A traditional marriage ceremony was arranged and I became his official wife. I had no option but to go back home with him.

“Life there was suffocating, but I had no choice. I was still a teenager. When you’ve been through so many hardships, there comes a point where you are tired of fighting.”

I became pregnant. By this time, the other woman had left, but life was still tough. My husband was still beating me.

A family affair

One day, I went for a prenatal appointment. While there, I realized that I wasn’t feeling well and decided to go to the hospital instead; but I needed to go home first to get my health card. That’s when all the nasty trouble started. I got into the house and my older sister was there. She had moved into my home and even packed her panties in my drawers in the bedroom I shared with my husband. When I asked her what was going on, she slapped me and phoned my husband at work.

My husband came to the house with his relatives and told me that my sister was the one he wanted; and just like that, I was informed that I needed to leave immediately.

I was 8 months pregnant and just 18 years old. They packed a suitcase for me and took me to my mother’s house.

I had one request for my mother when I arrived at her home: ‘Please do not take me back there.’ I knew I was pregnant and married to him, but I didn’t want to be forced to go back. She seemed to understand, but my relatives argued that I needed to go back.

I went into labor and gave birth to a healthy baby. By this time, my sister was having a full-blown affair with my husband. Everyone knew about it but did nothing. I was stuck. I had no support from my family, I couldn’t take care of myself and now I had a baby to take care of. So we all stayed under the same roof – my sister, my husband and I.

“A few months later, my sister became pregnant. My husband’s relatives and my family arranged formalities so she could become his wife. I was just there, seeing all of this take place.”  

A small house…

Later on, the other woman who had come to live with us moved back in. So there were three women – each with their own child – and one husband. There was so much drama in that home. The other two women constantly bickered with one another, but I stayed out of it. I endured it for the sake of my baby.

When my child was 1 year and 6 months old, I decided I could no longer stay in that house. I wanted to go back to work, but I didn’t know who would look after my child while I worked. Another challenge was that I hadn’t finished school, so I didn’t have any qualifications.

I went to my mother’s home and stayed with her for a month. Then my father came into the picture. He seemed to support my decision to work and build a life for myself. I started looking for any kind of job I could find. I didn’t get far; my father packed my bags and took me back to my husband’s house. I pleaded with him to let me be, but he refused.

It was about the money. My family had received money from my husband as part of my bride price.

After some time, the first woman left for good. Then, my sister left. Life went on and I had my second child. I concentrated on school, wrote my O Level exams and passed.

It was a struggle because I had to sneak around to attend my classes so my husband wouldn’t find out. Him being a promiscuous person gave me the opportunity to leave the house for exams when he left to be with other women in the evenings. By the time someone told him about it, I had already finished writing my exams.

When I was pregnant with my third child, my sister returned. By now, I had established a small business and was at peace. I ignored their affair. Having passed my exams, I could now attend college; so that was my focus – putting myself through school.

Falling into Depression

A few months later, my sister became pregnant. She and my husband decided to get married and everything was planned in my house without my knowledge. They acted like I didn’t exist. My parents and other relatives were in on it. It was an extreme betrayal.

“I went into depression, there were times I could no longer even clean the house. I didn’t have the energy to do that. I would burner food when cooking. Smoke would fill the whole house and I would be sitting in the middle of the room unaware of what was happening. I would have blackouts in the middle of conversations.”

When I was alone, I would have alone time with God. I kept praying and God started opening doors for me. Over time, I became financially stable and I know it was God because the effort I put in didn’t equal the success I experienced.

I worked on a number of projects and did a lot of cross-border trading, started a backyard poultry business and sold groceries in a tuck-shop. It took me more than 10 years to get established after that toxic situation. Today I can afford to send my kids to the schools I want, and I have slowly acquired properties along the way.  

Forgiving my family

After a very long time, my sister called me and said she was sorry. I was able to forgive her because I told myself that God is taking care of me, so I don’t think I can harbor all this sadness, all this anger and all this resentment towards her. We are not close, but we are civil towards each other. She is still with my estranged husband.

As for him, the only thing that I knew was going to give me peace was just letting him be. With growing up and getting educated, I began to understand things from a certain point of view. I looked at the way he was raised, his background and his family. I understood how they think and realized that you can’t ask somebody to be remorseful when they see nothing wrong with themselves. So I accepted that there are things that I could not change. e only person I could change was me.

I have also forgiven my parents. Interestingly, they come to me when they need help and visit me more than any of my siblings.

I would encourage other woman by saying this…

  • Love yourself first. When you love yourself first, anything that doesn’t feel right to you address it there and then. It’s easier to solve problems before those problems have grandchildren.
  • Take care of your heart and trust in God. He will do more than you ask for.
  • Believe in yourself. Don’t focus on the situation that you are in; focus on where you want to go. You pull through whatever storm you are in if you just believe in yourself.
  • Don’t blame yourself. It is not your fault that you got involved with somebody who didn’t cherish you.
  • A relationship isn’t the center of your life. You shouldn’t be pushed into being in one out of fear of what society will say.
  • I survived. Whatever you are going through, you can survive too.

I was broken, but when I look back at those scars, I see that they made me stronger; and now I feel like I can conquer anything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.