His face was furrowed and red with rage. It was just inches from my own. His hands gripped the heavy oak table like he might lift it and slam me with it at any moment. This was another of his tantrums that had no apparent reason. I was afraid of him like this. I knew he could hurt me.
“What is it you call love?” he yelled, pounding the solid wood with his fist.
I flinched and I was filled with an immense sadness.
My definition of love was in the sixteen years I’d spent alongside him. Every day, doing a job I had absolutely no interest in, a slave to the desk as I bolstered the building of our business.
It was in the long nights spent working, way into the small hours, going through monotonous paperwork and adjusting and modifying computer programs.
It was in laboriously learning all the deathly boring details I needed to know in order to do my job. It was being by his side through all the incredibly tedious seminars, speaking for him at shareholders meetings and sitting through the countless dreary, droning conferences, held in airless hotel venues, making small-talk with ridiculously pompous ‘stuffed shirts’, who had appalling taste in ties.
My definition of love was in the support I gave and in the counsel I offered whenever he wanted to rant and rave at somebody. It was in the patience with which I handled his criticisms and overt perfectionism. It was in listening to all his grievances and offering solutions, or hearing all his childish jokes, repeated again and again, and being kind enough to find them funny. My definition of love was in everything I did to make his life happen the way he wanted it to; and it was in everything that I sacrificed in order to do these things.
As my husband continued to roar, I began to wonder: What was his definition of love? Was it in his complete disregard of the sacrifices I’d made in order to support his cause... or his lack of appreciation for all the years of work I put in, unpaid... or perhaps it was in his ready acceptance of my money, used to get him up the property ladder?
Maybe it was hiding in the verbal abuse he dished out, or the public put-downs, or could it be, quite simply, that his definition of love was nothing more than an exercise in self-importance.
Wherever it was hiding, it had not shown itself for me in a long time. I was blamed for all the pitfalls in his life and all the stresses of his world. Deaths, client problems, regulation changes were all somehow my fault. He raged and bellowed his condemnation again and again, until finally I found myself looking at this man ...this stranger ...and asking myself, “Who is he? What is he doing here? More to the point, what am I doing here?
I had put my whole life on hold for this person. It wasn’t obligatory, I had done it out of love, and yet I no longer recognised him. The smile was no longer seen. The warmth of his affection was fast growing cold.
I was cheated on, bullied and even physically harmed, all of which left me filled with fear and mistrust.
The icy truth was that, once I’d given all I had, his mask had slipped and, in its place, the scowl of disapproval had taken up residence. None of it had been real!
Now, I find myself alone. He has moved on to his next conquest, a much younger woman with no idea what she is getting into. I am but a thorn in his side and he doesn’t appreciate that either.
I often think back to what might have been. Before we met, I had gone back to college (somewhat later in life). I had completed my courses and earned myself an access to university, but I was persuaded to change direction and build a new life this way. The sixteen wasted years I gave him instead cannot be recovered. University is no good as a career move for me now, because by the time I finish, I will be too old to put it to good use.
I should have been a cherished wife and valued business partner by now, an earned recompense for my concessions. Instead, I have nothing to show for my years of dedication and contribution but a deep mistrust of one particular man and indeed (as I learn of other women, similarly disrespected) a growing mistrust of all men.
Had I followed my chosen path, I could have been qualified and partaking of a role in life that I thoroughly enjoyed, and doing so from the province of a loving relationship ... that was my forfeit.
I guess the moral of this story is 'No matter who you love or trust, always look out for Number One, because nobody else is going to!'