real life

'On White Ribbon Day, I want to tell you the reasons I stayed.'

I want you to know, it’s not your fault.

You’re a good person. Loyal. Perhaps young. Maybe you’ve not had a lot of experience with people, or with life.

That’s the reason you’ve stayed. Also, because he saw that in you; that’s why he chose you.

It’s not your fault.

Don’t feel ashamed. It’s a lot more common than you realise – you need to know that. I want you to know that, because I didn’t know. So, I never told my friends, or my family, until it was over. I was keeping his secrets, because I was ashamed.

I was smart, educated, accomplished, from a rock solid family, with rock solid self esteem in every other area. I should have known better. That’s what I thought. That’s why I kept quiet.

The signs were there right from the start: but I didn’t see them at the time.

He lied to me about his age. He lied about my age to others. Because he was worried about how our age gap reflected on him.

And yet, I stayed.

He told me he loved me, and then took it back to hurt me.

And yet, I stayed.

He quit his different addictions, time after time, and, time after time, he took the withdrawal out on me.

And yet, I stayed.

I stayed because I loved him. Because I was loyal. Because I thought that’s what a grown up relationship is; sacrifice, and persistence.

He threw a glass of wine in my face during an argument, and told me “It’s the least I deserved.”

I showered off the wine, sobbing. I stared at myself, bare-faced in the mirror.

“I’ll leave after Christmas,” I thought.

And yet, incredibly, I stayed.

Mia Freedman chats with the founder of Rize Up, Nicolle Edwards, about how she is helping women flee domestic violence…

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He threatened to leave a few times – I begged him to stay. I didn’t want to deal with the ‘shame’ of a ‘failed’ marriage. Things would calm down, and he stayed.

And I stayed too. We’d built a huge life together. Most of the time, it was great. Except, when it wasn’t.

So I stayed, and I had a baby with him. That baby was the best thing to have come out of our relationship. That baby saved me. And I thought things would get better after that – but they didn’t.

Only two years later, I would, finally, make the decision not to stay.

Because, you see, what I thought until I became a mother was that the good times far outweighed the bad times. What I realise now is that they outweighed the bad times in frequency, but not in significance.

Not in the way they chipped away at my soul. Not in the way they affected our son.

These days, people wonder why I haven’t re-settled with someone permanent. They tell me my standards are too high. They are wrong. My standards for myself, for what I needed and deserved, were not high enough last time.

The standard you deserve is the standard that you give.

Yes, it’s that simple.

I’m scared to write this. I know what his response would be. But today, on White Ribbon Day, I care more about other women blaming themselves, being ashamed of themselves, than I do about myself.

If you’re staying, if you’ve stayed, you’re not alone. What’s happened is not your fault, and it’s not your shame.

But, just know that if you’ve given better, you deserve better.

If you or anyone you care about is experiencing crisis, depression or suicidal thoughts, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For anyone experiencing domestic violence or abuse, please seek professional help and contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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