WE all have different perceptions of what's normal in relationships. For the most part, how we're raised, the values that we have, and the ideas and ideals that are passed down to us dictate how we think, how we feel, and how we act with our partners. They also dictate what we accept — like what we're willing to put up with — be they good or bad. And often, we revel in our idea of 'normal' until someone points out that something is awry and that, indeed, we're the exception rather than the norm.
What did you think was completely normal in your relationship until you discovered it was abusive, harmful, or abnormal behaviour?
I thought sticking to gender roles was something everyone did, and I wore myself down for years being wife, mother, helper, nurse, while my husband headed the household. So we'd both leave for work at the same time, for example, and even if he got home earlier, I'd still be expected to come home and clean up, cook, bathe the kids, wash dishes, and help with homework, while he relaxed. We went on like this for years, and it was when my eldest was getting married the other day, and I was giving her advice about how to honour her husband, that she laughed and said modern women weren't like that. She said she was in a partnership, not slavery, and her words made me realise just how much foolishness I had let slide all these years.
I didn't know the correct term for it until I was watching Iyanla recently, when I realised that all the relationships I was in were with narcissistic men who would gaslight me. My last partner, for example, would always tell me that I was over-exaggerating situations, convince me that things weren't as I remembered them, and then when I called out his oopsies, he would ask if I can't take a joke. It's just now that I realise that this was all abusive behaviour too, even though things didn't get physical.
People looking on the outside will tell you that you lucked out and have a good man, but that's just the persona they show others. At home, though there might not be physical abuse, there's emotional abuse and gaslighting. My husband is like this — we're the envy of the community because he seems like a great husband and father. But with me, when no one's around, he's not affectionate and will ignore me for days at a time, and he makes me feel so low and so small. I know it's a control thing to make me so dependent on him that I wouldn't know how to leave, and in a way it has worked.
My husband and I have a routine, when we have a disagreement we both give each other the silent treatment, and this can go on for weeks until one of us starts back conversing. This is very bad as communicating is so important in relationships. But when you both really weren't raised in homes seeing healthy relationships, it's a struggle to be better than what we know. Jamaican men are so broken that they're unable to have normal, healthy relationships.