An extract from Trapped, written by Sam Scarborough and published by Human & Rossouw at a recommended retail price of R240.
At which stage do I start living my life as I am, and stop living it through his everyday dramas? At which stage do I have my own news to tell my friends, unrelated to how things are going with him? What was I like before him? What did I talk about? I am consumed by my situation, by what I have got myself into. Surely it is better to be single? Why would anyone want this?
I have been told before that I alone am responsible for my own happiness. What is that about? I said to my ex-husband once, “Yes, it is true that only I can make myself happy. But you can make me really unhappy by playing golf every weekend.” I was right: someone else can make you very unhappy by treating you badly. So, how can it be up to me alone to be responsible for my happiness?
On one of our first Skype sessions after I left South Africa, one of my girlfriends came out with it: “Enough about him – I want to know how you are.” When will it be enough about him? When do relationships become the be-all and end-all of your daily life? This is new to me, my day-to-day life depending on how he is behaving. I live my life from one of his drinking session to the next.
Today he is as hung-over as hell. I am furious. I can barely look at him. His lips are purple again, from too much booze. He still smells of stale beer. He goes off to play his cricket game, his first and last of the season. He has had a great weekend, drinking with all his mates. You wouldn’t guess he has us in his life, would you?
There is no plan to take my daughter to the funfair, as he promised yesterday, and the day before. I end up taking her to the London Zoo. I wander around looking at the animals. It is bloody freezing cold, and I am lost in myself. I just want to cry – it has been a five-day drinking weekend for him – but I can’t. My daughter is with me.
He comes back from cricket injured. I laugh secretly. He is a total hypochondriac. He now looks like shit and is in pain. I insist on shagging him again that night, injury and all. It is okay. Nothing spectacular.
Lately he is obsessed with the length of my showers, convinced that I masturbate and leave him out. He has suddenly become jealous, obsessed with satisfying me. I don’t know what to make of it. At this stage, sex is the only thing keeping us together. And let’s just say he is not the best lover I have had. I have never known a man to get jealous of his partner masturbating. Especially since I had not been bloody masturbating. I mean, really!
I feel like I have a split personality: one part of me laughs morbidly while the other half’s heart is being trampled on. In reality, he is a binge-drinking alcoholic. I realise I am in one hell of a situation. I am hurting so much I want to make him feel my pain.
I decide I will have to bide my time until I can set myself up in London and leave him. His ego will be brutally hurt if I up and leave him. I feel like a prostitute. The only way I can keep the peace is by having sex with him. Am I sane at this point? I am playing a game, part of me hating him, the other part loving who I think he could be, having sex with him regardless of the verbal abuse. At which stage do I become a conscious participant, or am I an abused woman who knows no better?
My heart is still in it. If it were not, I would not be crying. I would not care. I would just leave. I am unaware that a big part of me is a bloody mess. I don’t take the part of me that is not coping seriously: the part that is highly traumatised and will do anything to get out of the pain. Some part of me registers that I have been drinking more than I am used to.
Day 19: All back to normal
The beginning of my third week in London is delightful again: everything is back to normal. He has bought my daughter presents, and he is great with her when he is sober. She is open towards him from the start; they have a good banter going. She is intelligent, which he loves, and he is very impressed by how well she is doing at school. I am enjoying the moment. Maybe he isn’t that bad: maybe he just needs time to settle into it, into us and the relationship. I have probably been overreacting.
Yes, I have been overreacting.
He cooks me dinner. We share a bottle of wine, and have a great evening. He loves Monday-night TV. I don’t like watching TV, but I snuggle down with him and enjoy it for what it is: time with him when he is sober, for once. He is lovely to me, full of compliments, full of love. When he puts his soft, warm hands on me, I feel safe; I feel taken care of. He is a large man, but I love it. I love his hug. I could just lie in his arms forever. In fact, on one of the first nights we spent together, we slept intertwined – we did not move all night. The thought niggles at the back of my mind, though – I am worried about his drinking. I think he is an alcoholic. Or is he just a lager lout? My friends in South Africa say all British men are like this. They convince me it is nothing unusual. One of them says that I should just shut up – I am living in an amazing place, he is supporting me, and my daughter is in a great school. She can’t understand what I am complaining about. I consider this. Am I being ungrateful?
Am I really complaining about him going out for a few pints with his mates? Is this what I have become?
Day 21: False hope
It is Wednesday night. He goes to his kids. I see a new pattern developing. He is in constant contact with me, and lets me know when he will be back, when he is on his way, when he is five minutes from home. It is puzzling… why all the information now when for the past few weeks he has totally disregarded me and come home hours later than he said he would?
Has he changed? Has he realised that he has treated me badly? Is he making amends? I feel relieved. I think we are on the right track, that things are settling down. I have hope again. I am smitten.
Sam Scarborough is a creative director, author, stylist and children’s decor consultant. Her previous publications include Children’s Rooms, Cool Spaces for Kids, and Baby Rooms & Nurseries, which she published herself, and Kids’ Market Day. She runs her own interior decor company, Kids Decor.