After the birth of our second child, our sex life completely diminished. I can pinpoint the exact moment our third child was conceived because there had only been one occasion when we had been intimate. The abuse was already taking a toll on me physically and psychologically because during the third pregnancy, an unhealthy fantasy kept reoccurring : in the fantasy I hoped that the new-born baby would look nothing like me so that I could claim the baby wasn’t mine, that she’d been cheating and that I could walk away dignity intact.
Around 2000, I purchased our first personal Computer. Throwing either the hardbase or monitor and cutting the cables with a knife became another common occurrence by Sandra. I had to have the computer repaired and a new graphics card inserted due to damage caused. My laptop also received this punishment on numerous occasions before finally becoming beyond repair. This type of behaviour only seemed to stop when our latest computer was a gift from my parents. During this period, Sandra’s only sibling suddenly died. I excused her violent behaviour towards me by attributing it to an outpouring of grief. After the violent episodes and when Sandra had calmed down, I would try and reason with her about her behaviour stating that it was not normal behaviour and help should be sought. Her response was always either denial or “you’re a man, you can cope with this.” This was the standard repose for the next ten years, By this stage, the children were beginning to take notice and I felt that I had to protect them as much as possible. I used reassure them by telling them that “Mummy wasn’t well and didn’t mean some of the nasty things she said”.
The verbal abuse directed towards me increased. I was told on a daily basis that she hated me and would make sure I ended up with nothing. All this was behind closed doors, the public face for both of us was all smiles and I was the chap standing in the pulpit pretending I lived the perfect life and encouraging the congregation to live in a similar fashion. It did have an effect on the children. None of us knew when the next verbal outburst would take place. We all walked on eggshells trying not to put one step out of place or say the wrong word at the wrong time. The children became very nervous around the home because their slightest action could draw a telling-off from their mother. Although their mother was never physically aggressive towards the children, the oldest child in particular was often the recipient of Sandra’s tongue lashing.
I was trying to help as best I could, and would try and do anything for a quiet life. Accepting that Sandra was going through a difficult time, I tried to carry out most of the household chores as well as take the most responsibility for running the church. I’d always done most of the food preparation, in fact, all through the marriage I was the first person up in the morning. I’d make Sandra a cup of tea and take it to her in bed. I’d then get the children up, give them breakfast, get them washed, make their pack lunches and take them to school/nursery. I’d do the majority of the ironing and always cook the evening meal. I became so tired trying to hold everything together that rather than cook, Sandra would insist I buy a take away for the family instead. On the meagre salary we earned, I soon maxed out the credit card.
The church leadership approached me about commencing a study course which would involve being away from home overnight once a month. I was desperate for the break. I needed the break. Events at home were taking their toil on me and no one knew my secret. Sandra wasn’t pleased when I discussed it with her. I recognised that I urgently needed a temporary escape from home and this provided it. It meant though that I had to ease my going away by supplying extra treats for Sandra and the children while I was gone, treats that I could ill-afford. Any work that I did that drew compliments from parishioners would be heavily criticised later by Sandra telling me I was worthless and useless. I never subconsciously devalued the quality of all I did, but it must have had an effect as the last thing I wanted was any sort of negative reaction from Sandra. In these early years, I was a prolific writer to the church’s worldwide theological magazine. The articles I wrote received positive feedback over their content and style, but Sandra’s temper was ignited even more when she saw my name appearing in print. As a result, I stopped writing the essays that had brought me pleasure and had also provided a form of escape from my dire home life.The study course finished and all course delegates were invited back to the college for a graduation event. Sandra refused point blank to attend the graduation citing that it was unfair dragging three young children all that way. I went to my graduation alone, surrounded by my colleagues who all had their families supporting them and joining in their celebrations. I wore the brave face mask once again. When I returned home, I wasn't even asked how the graduation had gone!
Another abusive pattern of behaviour emerged during this period. Relatives had picked up on the vibes in are home and all visits were pre-arranged. No one visited unannounced. I could guarantee that every time we were either travelling to visit relatives or they were coming to see us, Sandra’s behaviour would change for the worst. My family would be called all manner of names. If we were travelling, Sandra would behave in such fashion that we were always delayed in our journey. When we finally reached our intended destination, I would be very subdued feeling the pain of what had happened, whereas Sandra would behave as if nothing had happened and everything was fantastic.
The time had come for us to receive a new church placement. All relevant factors are considered by the church leadership and they then assign new churches. We were given notice of our new church but Sandra was adamant she didn’t want to go there. We couldn’t stay where we were because the new ministers had been announced. I was on the receiving end of a twelve hour verbal tirade until I finally made the telephone call to the church leadership to say we were refusing to go to the designated church. We ended up being assigned to a completely different church with no other options.