If you leave your abusive man…

This blog post was conceived in rather unexpected circumstances. There I was, poking around at my ‘friends’ profiles on facebook. ‘Friends’ from high school, family ‘friends’, ‘friends’ from work and other ‘friends’ who’s paths have crossed mine strictly through the social network but I have come to hold dear nonetheless. There are even some who I don’t really know – call them stranger ‘friends’ if you likeinsert thumbs up symbol here?

It was evening, the kids were asleep, and there was nothing good on TV (is there anymore?). I was too tired to sleep. I had time and the internet on my hands.

I stumbled on a link posted by one of my ‘friends’ (God bless ‘friendship’ for the sharing of information) about a woman who had suffered physical and emotional abuse from her husband of many years. She had three children with him. I read her story, and voila! today’s post was conceived. There and then, on my sitting room couch, it happened! (These things happen in the weirdest of places; once in a matatu) As is common with conception, the minutes immediately after were kinda confusing; I wondered how to put it into perspective, and how it will be received by…well, you! Confusion galore; it happens even when this is what you have been yearning for after a dry spell of having nothing (yeah, I am still talking about the elusive blog post). I had had nothing to write about for weeks and all I wanted was for this ‘baby’ to happen.

So, I read the woman’s story; how she had made a good career for herself and how she helped other women address their relationship problems, yet she did not have the voice to stand up against her abusive husband. I read the comments posted on the story and realized that women give each other outrageous (for lack of a better word) advice!

There is a trait about me that I don’t like so much. Two actually…..or several, but who’s counting – let he without sin aye? Trait numero uno is I get agitated when I see a woman being abused. Do I think that the entire world lies on my shoulders? No. Trait numero dos, when it comes to relationships I give what you’d call ‘bad advice’. Advise that most women would rather not swallow. Sample this, instead of saying things like;

“Vumilia tu, sasa utafanya?” (Just persevere, what else can you do?) – Instead of taking this very defeatist approach, I would suggest letting him know that you are in fact not a punching bag (Let him have a good look at you if he still doesn’t see the difference). Put it to him categorically that you would like to be treated like a human being. That you will not condone his punches, cheating or him talking to you like you are some creature without any feelings. That is unacceptable to you!

“Just keep loving him, he will come to love you back someday” I think not! If love did not bring you together in the first place, he will stay with you only until love takes him to another woman.

“Give him sex, and good food. He will never look at another woman.” He will have his cake and eat it! You will feel used.

“If you leave, another woman will take your place in a few days!” – This is my favorite. REALLY? Help me understand good people, should you put up with a man who abuses you, cheats on you, gives you nothing but grief only so that another woman will not have him? How noble of you to spare other women the same kind of treatment!

Your ‘expert’ friends, family and strangers alike will never lack advice to give when you are being abused. If you leave him, who will take care of you? – Tell them ‘Uko fiti’; If you leave him, you will be considered a failure – He failed you, not the other way round; If you leave him, the children will live without their father – Correction, they will live without an abusive father. An abusive man is not just a danger to you, but a danger to your children too.

Think of how good it feels to have reciprocated, unconditional love. Just like when children are young, we love them so much and they love us back unconditionally. We are even tempted to believe that we own them; ‘our’ children they truly are. Our pride, our joy, our reason for living… You raise them and they grow up to become young adults. Then you ask them to eat their vegetables and they won’t – they don’t like vegetables anymore. They don’t want their hair in ponytails either; they would rather comb it back. Small decisions here and there that make you realize that you actually do not own them. A human being can never own another, not when one has their own mind and personality. Once she or he is independent, they choose, they decide, they do. You can only influence, advice and (grudgingly) leave it up to them. They will love you with all they have, all they are, but they can never be yours to own.

What folly then to expect to own a man and make him want what you want? You can love him with everything you have, you may give up everything for him, but you can never make him want the same things you do. When HE decides to reciprocate the love, you stay with him – That is a healthy relationship. When HE won’t love you back but you try to force it anyway, in the name of ‘kuvumilia’ that is when you suffer – what we call an unhealthy relationship.

If you are suffering silently through emotional and physical abuse, he is doing so only because you are letting him – That is the bitter truth. So what if people will talk about you. So what if society will shun you. If you leave your abusive man, you will reclaim your life and build a healthy environment for your children to grow up in. You will get your dignity back and stop living in fear; you get a chance at being happy again. If you leave your abusive man, you avoid health risks like contacting STDs and HIV. You run away from a potentially fatal situation {cf. Moses Dola Otieno Vs. Sarah Wambui Kabiru (RIP)}.

If you leave your abusive man, you will be ok.

You are only a failure if you allow yourself to suffer in silence, if you live your life by someone else’s script, and if your happiness lies squarely on another human being. So pick yourself up, stop listening to bad advice and pick yourself up!

Circumcision of women is headed towards the exit door (thankfully!); wife inheritance is dwindling away to the oblivion. Women own property now, they even inherit from their fathers. So excuse me if I am sick and tired of feeling like this every time I see and read about women being abused. Haven’t we fought enough wars? Haven’t we made any strides at all? Have we come this far for nothing? Domestic violence in this day and age should be unheard of.

Of all the choices that women make today- we choose success, good careers, the best fashion designs, the best homes, and we even choose great flashy weddings – Why oh, why do we not choose to be happy?

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