Jessica’s* life appears normal, but no one knows that the 36-year-old editor is miserable – stuck with a man she regrets marrying and a son whom she feels deserves better. Unfortunately, she can’t see a way out of her predicament. She shares her story here:
“Everybody makes mistakes, but what if those mistakes turned out to be events that you will never be able to walk away from? That’s how I feel about certain decisions I made when I was in my late 20s. I got married for the wrong reasons, and later had a baby in hopes that parenthood would save my crumbling marriage. Little did I know that those choices would turn my world upside-down and leave me feeling like an emotional wreck.
“I married a man whom I thought was my best friend. Andy* and I met in university, and we dated off-and-on for several years. When I was 27, we decided to date exclusively. At the time, he was 31 years old and I figured that he was finally ready to commit to one woman. He’d had his entire 20s to play the field so the way I saw it, he was at the ‘right’ age to settle down. When he told me that he only wanted to be with me, I took his word for it.
“Not long after we got engaged, I found out that Andy was still touch with a few of his ex-girlfriends. Whenever I raised the issue to him, he would accuse me of being jealous and possessive and threaten to break off our engagement. Afraid of losing him, I backed off.
“I also didn’t like the way he looked at other women when we went out, but whenever I pointed it out to him, he would tell me that I was imagining things and call me crazy. Sometimes, he would even challenge me to leave him if didn’t trust him enough. I always backed down in an attempt to keep the peace.
“Looking back now I don’t know why I agreed to marry Andy. I guess I was afraid of being ‘left on the shelf’. I was scared to face the future partner-less and alone. I also assumed that Andy would change after he became my husband. ‘Maybe he’ll be a better man, maybe he’ll stop communicating with his exes once we tie the knot’, I remember telling myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“In fact, after we got married, Andy’s behaviour worsened. He started drinking more and was always out partying with his colleagues. I suspect that he was cheating on me too, but I couldn’t prove it.
“I spent most nights alone, too afraid to ask my husband why we couldn’t make our marriage work. I simply put up with his bad behaviour, thinking that it was probably my fault for expecting too much and for being overly sensitive.”
“I decided that having a baby might help Andy change his irresponsible ways, so when I discovered that I was expecting, about two years into my marriage, I was thrilled. Andy was happy too, but I think he also felt overwhelmed at the idea of being a dad. For a short time – during my pregnancy and for a few months after our son was born – life was blissful. Andy and I argued far less, he cut down on the drinking and partying, and I actually believed that there was hope for us.
“Sadly, when my son was six months old, life reverted back to those horrible and lonely early-days of our marriage. Andy was not only overworked, he was also under a lot of financial stress. He started drinking irresponsibly again, and a few times I even came across text messages on his phone from his exes and random women – although the texts were not proof that he was being unfaithful, they were still of the salacious sort and they raised suspicion.
“It was hard for me to talk to Andy about this; every time I tried, he would ignore me or tell me to mind my own business. I couldn’t even get him to go for couples’ counselling – he would scoff whenever I suggested it and tell me that if anyone needed counselling, it was I.
“I loved my son, but every day I felt guilty for having brought him into the world. He was so innocent, and there were Andy and I, fighting with each other all the time in front of him. I can’t count the number of times my son has seen me cry.
“As soon as he could talk, he would ask me where his father was or why his father was always angry. It broke my heart to hear such questions coming from his mouth. In retrospect I don’t think I was ready to be a mother.
“Were it not for my son, I think I’d have packed my bags and left Andy a long time ago. Unfortunately, as a freelance editor who worked from home, I was financially dependent on my husband. I did consider going back to work after our son was born, but Andy refused to employ a domestic helper or place our son in day-care.”
“My son is now five years old. He’s old enough to tell that Mummy and Daddy don’t get along, that Mummy is always sad and crying, and that Daddy is always angry and yelling. I feel like I’ve ruined his childhood. Recently, Andy told me that if I ever divorced him, he would not support me financially.
“While I regret marrying Andy, I think I regret having a baby even more. I honestly thought that having a child would bring my husband and me closer together, but instead it drove us further apart and brought out the worst in us. And now, my poor son has to suffer because if it.
“Even though my son gets to spend quality time with his dad, the two aren’t really close, and sometimes my son blames me when Andy is in a bad mood. He’ll say, ‘Mummy makes Daddy so angry’. It really hurts to hear that.
“I’ve resigned myself to the fact that things aren’t likely to improve – it’s not like I can start from scratch with my son, and if I leave Andy, it probably won’t be for another several years. I suffer from anxiety and depression but can’t tell anyone about it. I also feel worthless, helpless and alone. I think I’m a bad mother.
“I’m seeing a counsellor right now to help with those issues, but I don’t know how many sessions it’ll take to see some positive results. I wish I could go back in time and undo all my mistakes; maybe life would be different now and I’d be happier. But right now, I’ve made my bed so I guess I’ll have to lie in it.”
*Names have been changed
A version of this article first appeared in Her World.