We all have our fair share of failed relationships and I guess that’s normal to happen at some point in our lives. Instinctively, we can keep on convincing ourselves that life has got plenty of transitions and when a relationship is on the rocks, we at least try to move on and put it down to experience. However, the difficulty lies in how we struggle to cope with the negative emotions during these transitions. Say your marriage  was spiraling into a pit of darkness – would you RUN or HIDE? If running means a risk of losing your loved ones, your home, career, dear friends and investments, would you still be brave enough to turn your back on them and just run, hit the road to CHANGE? While hiding means you’re not ready to risk them all and perhaps  safer, cheaper and easier to suck it all up. That being said, when we are in this dilemma we tend to perceive Change as an uncomfortable buddy.

In my early twenties, I was on the top of my game – doing what I loved to do, working my a** off to keep my independence, nurturing friendships, traveling, to name a few. Some of you may agree that independence comes at a price…and so do I. Why move out of your parents’ home when you don’t have to worry about rent? Your laundry taken care of, that invigorating aroma of freshly brewed coffee sniffing at your bedroom door? Most of all, you’ve got your doting mother to satisfy your palate, her comforting presence and words of wisdom to console you when you need them the most? On the flip side, being independent can be an exhilarating, anonymous adventure. At an early age of 14, I was already in charge of my own life. I must say that standing on my own feet was not easy; however, it helped me nurture my decisive side and taught me to be responsible and face consequences of my own actions with brevity. Being self-reliant, indeed, gave me an unparalleled sense of satisfaction and freedom. I continued to live my life this way until I met the one man (soon to be ex-husband)…and that’s when a sudden turn of events began to take place.

I was 25 when I met my NotSo-Mr.Right in the Philippines where I was in the third year of my teaching job. He seemed to be what most women look for in a man – loving, caring, intelligent, witty, responsible and generous. After a few months of dating, he got to meet some of my friends (the weird thing was none of my friends ever liked him, I was even warned by most of them). Given the benefit  of doubt, I didn’t pay much attention to the negative comments coming from my friends. That was after a year of dating, in 2011, when we both decided to take things to a higher level so I brought him to my hometown to introduce him to my family and exactly the same year that I moved in with him. Eventually, we tied the knot in the summer of the following year. Two months after we got married, we moved to Turkey. His hometown sits in the Aegean Region – has a reputation for gorgeous beaches, friendly ports facing Greek islands, open-air markets where you can find fresh and organic produce sold at a relatively cheap price, historical ruins, etc. In other words, I had left my family, friends and career in the Philippines and that’s so sad; however, I felt that starting a new life (a married life) in a beautiful country like Turkey was worth the sacrifice.

As weeks and months passed in a blur, sure it was normal to feel homesick but the regular visit to his family’s home for dinner helped at least for a bit. Despite the fact that no one from his family could speak English apart from him, I tried to be amiable in my own way. Then there was that one particular dinner at his older brother’s place when I understood bits of their conversation – hilarious, weird, horrible stories he made up. He told his family, made them believe that I was of Japanese descent, my parents in business, and that I was 30 years old (truth? I was only 26). When we returned home after that dinner, I asked him to explain why he had to make up stories about me only to make his family approve of me? “What did you expect me to tell them? That you are Filipino? The whole world knows you Filipinos are thieves, prostitutes, very poor, lazy and uneducated,” was his reply. Those words coming straight from the man I chose to marry and spend my life with caught me off guard and a glimpse at his true character was right there.

In January 2013, I gave birth to my firstborn, a boy…the most beautiful baby boy I had ever seen. Emotions, hopes, dreams flooded my entire being when I held him in my arms for the first time and all I thought I had to do was simply shoo away the weird feeling I had toward his father…and start over, make my marriage work out. When my son turned one, I gathered  some courage to ask him how we would be able to support our family especially now that we had a new member in our family considering that he hadn’t had a job ever since we arrived in his country. He retorted, “It’s not your problem, okay?”Of course it is. I don’t know how much you have in your bank account and how much longer you can support us while being jobless,” I continued. He became angry and said “It’s none of your business. Your job is to take care of our son only and stop asking questions.” From then on I could see a nightmarish relationship coming to full view gradually.

ISOLATION. For the first few months since I arrived in his hometown in Turkey, I managed to cope with homesickness through regular communication with my family and friends thru social media platforms. Then again the moment I held my phone and started to connect with my loved ones back home in the Philippines he would sit beside me, watched everything I was doing on the social media. He would usually ask questions like “Who are you talking to?” , “What are you telling them?” , “Where is he/she from?.” And before I knew it, he had already gotten the names of my male friends and messaged them telling them to stay away from me. It was clear as a sunny day that we had trust issues. Then I reached some point when I could no longer bear that uncomfortable feeling, I explained to him that he had to understand that I needed to keep in touch with other people that mattered to me. He retorted, “Why is there a need for you to do that? You have your own family now. Am I not enough for you? You don’t need friends…you don’t need your trashy family either.” In order to avoid any further argument, I decided against me communicating with my family overseas whenever he’s around. However, he must have some serious insecurities that he found it too hard to shake off the trust issues. Every time he left the house he would always make sure that he had disconnected the cables of our Wi-Fi modem. Eventually he decided to cancel our Internet service. Knowing for a fact that our neighbors seemed to have not been exposed to foreign cultures and religions, could not speak even basic English, striking a conversation with them was truly a challenge. However, since I really wanted to create a new life there, I asked my ex-husband if I could try to learn  to speak Turkish. His answer? – “You don’t need to.” Worse, he practically discouraged me from getting close to his side of the family. According to him his brothers and sister were trashy people and so were his nephews and nieces. I should also mention that he isolated me by not doing his part to have me properly documented in Turkey. He did not want to get me a residence permit. How would you feel being threatened to be deported and separated from your own children everytime you got into some argument?

THE CONSTANT VERBAL/EMOTIONAL ABUSE. In November 2014 I gave birth to another healthy beautiful baby boy. I can’t say that I was in a healthy emotional state when he came to our family considering the stress I had had. Nevertheless, I tried my very best to shake off those negative feelings as I needed to be healthy both physically and emotionally while breastfeeding him. To counter the negative vibes, I drowned myself into the housework, maternal responsibilities and reading when I got some spare time. It’s weird because when he caught me reading Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea  and Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre he asked,”Why are you reading that kind of stuff? Do you even understand that? You are crazy.”  He also got used used to calling me Stupid and Crazy all the time. And everytime we got into some heated arguments, he would say things like “Don’t be like many Filipinos – materialistic and trashy bitches” , “You grew up without a father that’s why you’re not a normal person” , “You’re stupid that’s why you didn’t finish college,”  “I’m very smart, just follow me.”  Oftentimes I chose to simply keep my mouth shut, prevent myself from trying so hard to defend myself as it’s obvious that my efforts would only be in vain. I had to convince myself that it’s pointless to reason with someone so critical and loaded with insecurities. More importantly I would ignore the verbal abuse because I didn’t want my two very small children to watch their parents arguing, saying ugly things to each other. Sometimes when we were out for a stroll or shopping, he would constantly refrain me from smiling at or talking to anyone. He told me that I had to look serious all the time and never smile or even cast a friendly glance at anyone.

There was one vivid memory that took place in the summer of 2013. My first born was barely 6 months old then. We set out to visit his aunt in a suburb 25 kilometers away from the city. When dusk came, he suddenly got up and declared that we were leaving and since he had decided to take the train instead, he urged me to hurry and in a matter of less than ten minutes I had already settled my son in the stroller, bade farewell to his aunt then off we ran to catch the train. By the time we reached the station, he was screaming at me telling me to hurry. Considering how short my legs are compared to his, plus I was the one pushing the stroller, clearly I had to double my efforts in order to keep up with him. As I reached the flight of stairs leading on to the platform  from where he was barely two steps and while I was descending each step carefully all of a sudden he pulled the stroller. You can imagine what happened next. I lost my balance, tripped, rolled over on my bum! Not minding whether my ankles were still safe to stand on, instinctively I went to check my son in the stroller and gladly he was unscathed. Before I could process what had just happened, I could already hear him blaming me incessantly, almost screaming at me calling me an idiot for being slow, criticising me for the shoes I was wearing. I didn’t feel humiliated due to the fall but the fact that he was scolding me nonstoppingly right in the presence of more than a dozen of onlookers made me wish the ground where I was standing would open up and swallow me right that very moment. The few minutes we had to wait for our train to arrive seemed like forever, the longest and most humiliating moment of my life. As if scolding me in front of the other passengers wasn’t enough to humiliate me, he went on to practically tell them it’s all my fault. Picking up my son and holding him so tight, I sobbed…and sobbed wondering if he would ever come to me and say things like “Honey are you hurt anywhere? Are your ankles alright? F*ck the train! Are you okay?” … but nothing of the sort came out of his mouth. The scolding went on till we boarded the train…and resumed when we got home.

When my second son turned 8 months, I got a part-time job as an English teacher at a private school in the city center. I should have been glad in some way because that way I could make even just little money to provide for us. However, that’s when things turned for the worse. He had become a complete stalker. He would stay hidden behind a shop for a few minutes before the end of my shift. After my shift, I’d normally walk my way back home and most of the time he’d surprise me by suddenly showing up behind my back and start asking ridiculous questions like “Who was your student?” “He or she?” “Young and handsome?” … and he would add “Don’t smile at your students. Always look serious. Never laugh at their jokes.” Worse, when he couldn’t pick me up from work, he would call the school to ask about my class, what time I finished and whether I had already left the premises. He also hated it when I wanted to leave for work early. He’d say things such as “Oh, you wanna be early. Some man is waiting for you.” I couldn’t even spend longer than a few minutes in front of the mirror; otherwise I’d hear something like “You don’t need to wear makeup! You looking for a younger c*ck!?”...or “You have two kids already. You don’t need to look good. Only bitches do that.” He would not forget to remind me of how much he spent on my kidney operation either…and would even count all the gifts he had bought for me.

THE PHYSICAL ABUSE. In late August 2015, the stress that had been building up for more than three years took its toll snapping me back into reality. We got into a huge argument due to incomprehensible, petty reasons. Then there was that usual pattern : First he’d begin with false, ridiculous accusations; Second, verbally abuse me by calling me names; Third, he’d bombard me with emotional pains by telling me how ungrateful I was to him for bringing me to Turkey and for taking care of the hospital bills when I had my kidney operation and when I gave birth to our kids; And then he would demand that I shut up and apologize. I practically had no right to speak up. That sure was a bully…right before my very eyes. His bullying me all the time had to end…then for a split second I stood up for myself, didn’t matter how tiny I was compared to him, didn’t matter he’s stronger…but enough was enough and so I needed to fight back!

I could still remember vividly that sudden surge of adrenaline in me when all the repressed emotions I had had in years exploded, half screaming half crying while hateful words just flowed freely out of my mouth saying all the things about him which no one else had ever dared say to him. Even before I could say them all… THE FIRST SLAP landed on my cheek. I could almost hear some ringing sound in my ear due to the impact. And before I could recover my balance, ANOTHER SLAP! AND MORE…AND MORE…AND MORE… As if he wasn’t satisfied yet, he GRABBED ME BY THE HAIR so hard that I feared my scalp would separate from my skull! He SQUEZZED MY MOUTH OPEN forcing me to say sorry and take back everything I had said. And then MORE SLAPS landed on both sides of my face. This went on for almost half an hour. While this was happening, I was thankful that my eldest son (almost 4) was at our neighbor’s. However, MY YOUNGEST SON (barely 9 months old at that time) WAS SITTING ON THE COUCH RIGHT IN FRONT OF US CRYING AND SCREAMING IN HORROR as he watched his father bash my face! I begged him to stop, but he just wouldn’t. I kept on begging, … but both his huge hands kept on aiming at my face nonstoppingly. I really thought in a sec he’d twist my neck and that would be my death! And so I thought of my two very small children and I told myself I had to survive! I HAD NEVER FOUGHT FOR MUCH IN MY LIFE!!! I gathered all my strength and tried to scream for help the loudest I ever could… I tried to run for the door, but my efforts were in vain. And before I thought i had lost my voice,  loud knocks on our metal gate came. He transferred me to one of the bedrooms, warned me to be silent and then locked me in there then he composed himself and went out to answer it. I could almost feel God’s presence or the angels’ right with me when I saw red and blue flashes of lights coming into our living room window. With all my might, and owing to the adrenaline, I pushed the door open, picked up my son, opened the living room window and screamed help to the police officers who were already standing at our wide open gate.

We were taken to the nearest police station right away.

I had my testimony taken and a medical examination report on the trauma done to my body was also given.

On that same night, the police issued a one-month restraining order against him.

End of story? — NO.

* Three weeks after that incident, he came begging to allow me to come home. Did he apologize ? — YES.   Did he promise to change ? — YES. And so, did I accept him? —YES.

WHY? YES, WHY???  — What would you do in a foreign country WITH TWO VERY SMALL CHILDREN,

NO JOB,

NO FAMILY,

NO FRIENDS,

NO PHONE,

NO RESIDENCE PERMIT, and an

EXPIRED PASSPORT? NO SUPPORT SYSTEM at all???

To support my children, I could get back to work as soon as my face had healed completely, …but where would I leave the kids? That must have been the darkest period of my life…in a country where women’s liberation is still finding it’s feet.

** Two months after that nightmarish incident, I went back to teach part-time and continued to provide for us for another 6 months while he stayed at home a full-time babysitter  for our two children. As I could not speak fluent Turkish, I could only handle IELTS and speaking classes for adults, mainly university students. Everytime I received my weekly salary, I would hand him all my income as he thought I was stupid when it came to budgeting. However, I wouldn’t always tell him how much exactly I was receiving and I  tried very hard to save even just a small amount for emergency. After a few months I went to The Philippine Embassy in Ankara to have my passport renewed – that was the first step. And after a few months that followed I managed to acquire my residence permit – I needed to do these things so that I wouldn’t feel threatened being deported anymore. Soon after I applied for my residence permit, he grew suspicious and then the old him came back again. He accused me of planning to run away from him for another man…called me a materialistic bitch, a street bitch who wanted nothing but to destroy our family, make the kids grow up without a father, and that I was a brainless bitch to think that there could be another stupid man out there willing to take a wretch like me into his life in spite of the fact that I had already been married and got two kids. To say that I lived my life walking on eggshells was an understatement.  You’d know it when you can’t take it anymore, it’s suffocating you, you’re barely breathing and all you’ve got to do is get out. Get out as soon as you have the chance. I. DID.

In the evening of November 22, 2016. I packed up. I stuffed the luggage with as much winter clothes I and my two kids needed, some snacks, got my passport in my hand…along with the money I had saved enough for a taxi and bus fare to take us to The Philippine Embassy in Ankara. I fled his home. With one luggage, a backpack, and my two children with me, we headed for the bus terminal. There was no turning back. Only the mad would go back to that abusive, toxic relationship.

The morning after, I and the boys were already in Ankara and headed straight for a taxi to take us to the Philippine Embassy. I had in me my full resolve, unwavering focus to put an end to this horror along with my faith that things would turn out to be in my favor. In the period of two months I got an insurance policy, my residence permit ID, and a phone.And right now, I am fighting for full custody of my two children. As expected, he constantly sends me derogatory text messages and calls me on the phone with all his horrible accusations and calling me names. What else is new anyway?

Getting a lawyer to fight for my case was such a tough challenge…as equally tough as hiding so he won’t be able to track us down. Even though I now have a lawyer, the not knowing when this will all end and when will I be able to travel outside of Turkey with my kids is torture. However, as I have been enlightened on Turkish Civil Code, I wake up each day full of hopes and I feel confident that I’m going to win full custody of both kids. I am also hoping that the immigration department in the Philippines will be informed about the identity of this man so that he will be denied entry to the Philippine soil. Who would want to keep living their life walking on broken glass all the time?

From a woman’s point of view, women are still treated as second class citizens in many countries of the world. Even in first world countries there are many cases of women getting killed by their partners at an unacceptable rate. Men need to understand more what life is like for a woman. Men are still taking advantage and not respecting the natural nurturing and caring abilities of women. It is true that women who are in an abusive relationship find it difficult to escape. In many cases, their friends and/or family probably think that everything is alright because most domestic problems are kept behind closed doors and are not discussed or exposed outside. There is a certain amount of pride especially when kids are involved to put on a brave face to the rest of the world that everything is fine. So keeping up positive appearances is important for the kids and family…but you can only fake for so long. Eventually the pressure/stress takes its toll and something breaks. So where do you go? Especially if you have kids? You may be able to impose on family, but if you have created a life in another city or country you generally have nowhere to go. That’s why many women who are victims of domestic violence choose to stay with their partner living a life of immense fear and stress simply because they don’t have a strong support system. However, the longer they stay, the bigger chances of children growing up mentally scared because they don’t have a loving family support system.

Do you think you are in an abusive, toxic relationship? Do you think you are living with an arrogant, belligerent sociopath? If you are experiencing the signs of a toxic relationship, don’t fret. 

:Plan your escape carefully.

: Prepare the things that you’ll need to take with you – your phone, money, your passport (especially if you are in a foreign country), all the necessary documents or evidence  to prove any kind of abuse … and if you’ve got children, prepare everything necessary, including their passports or any IDs and even their medical records (especially if they are citizens of the foreign country where you are now).

:Keep an extra copy of your important contacts (a copy in your email and a physical copy as well).

:Take care of yourself and your children if you have.You all need to be physically healthy too.

:And when you are ready, RUN! Don’t think you’ll have many chances to do so. GET OUT AS SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE ABUSED. THERE IS NO TURNING BACK! AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP WILL DESTROY YOU. 

:Continue to talk with people that mattered to you most as regularly as possible because they can help you to stay strong and focused. Frankly speaking, during the first few weeks or even months to follow, you might feel weak inside especially if your crazy of an ex continues to threaten you. You know very well that he is an expert in emotional bullying. So be prepared and turn to people who can give you useful tips and advice to counter it. You should get professional help too if you can. BE STRONG AND STAY POSITIVE.  It’s easier  said than done? YES, YOU ARE STRONG…AND YOU CAN DO IT.

:Most importantly, TURN TO THE LAW. No one is above the law, right? Fight your cause with consistent, undying resolve. Grab that bull by the horns. That’s the only way for you to live a normal life. YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO BE PERPETUALLY HUNTED, TRAMPLED ON AND THREATENED, would you?

***

Extra Tip:  Is your Romeo’s mother tongue different from yours? If yes, LEARN IT. 

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