As my abuser and I were friends on social media prior to our first date, I was aware that he came from a religious family (I saw photos and postings on his social media page implying so). His religion was not one that I was very familiar with; all I knew was that people of his faith seemed to be pretty tight-knit.
On our second date, while we were eating dinner in his apartment, I inquired about his religion. I noticed that evening when I arrived that he was wearing a necklace that represented the religion that his family believed in. When I asked if he was practicing that religion and if it was important to him, he told me that he didn’t actually practice the religion, and that it was just his family that did. He told me that his parents had purchased the religious pendant from the country that they were from, and that they would be upset with him if he didn’t wear it. He said that he didn’t want to hear them complain about it. He also said that his family was very religious and that they went to church at least once a week, but that he didn’t go to church. He informed me that he would tell them that he was too busy with college and with working to commute to their church. I let my abuser know at that moment that I was Christian, and that although I didn’t attend church on a regular basis (or at all during that time), that practicing the religion and having good morals was important to me. He voiced that he didn’t care that I was Christian.
Although he didn’t care that I was Christian, his family sure did- especially his mother. Women from his family’s religion were held to an incredibly high standard. Their beliefs refrained them from wearing anything other than long dresses, and their hair couldn’t even show. In fact, they technically weren’t even supposed to cut or color their hair. That’s just a few things. Anyways, my abuser had warned me that his mother would be hard to win over. She was very “old-schooled” and he was honest in that she would prefer that he date someone from the same religion and ethnicity as he.
My abuser was not wrong in that his mother would be hard to win over. One evening after class, my abuser drove me to his hometown in order to be introduced to some of his cousins (we were not living together yet, and I hadn’t met any of his family at this point). On our way there, he pulled into a driveway and turned off the car. I thought that we had arrived to his cousins’ house, but he then said, “I have to get some eggs first. Let’s go.” I confusedly got out of the car and followed him to the house.
Upon knocking, a woman in her mid-to-late forties answered the door. She appeared both confused and shocked, and I could feel her dissecting my appearance with her eyes as she looked me over. I looked her over as well, noticing that her hair was covered entirely and that she was wearing a floor-length dress with long sleeves. She mustered out a “hello”. My abuser’s response?: “Hi mom.” This was the first of countless times that my abuser would put me on the spot in an uncomfortable situation in order to get a rise out of my reaction. He thrived off of making me uncomfortable and also by making me squirm.
Another time that he enjoyed seeing me squirm was when he told his parents that we had moved in together. When he purchased the house, we weren’t even engaged yet, and it was seen as unacceptable by his family’s religion to live together before marriage. Not only were we not married, but I still did not believe in or practice their religion. We both knew that they were not going to take this news lightly. When my abuser informed me that his parents were coming over to see the house and to have dinner with us for the first time after he purchased it, I assumed that they already knew that I had moved in. I was wrong. The way that he informed his parents that we had moved in together was by giving them a tour and concluding that tour with the master bedroom, where my clothes hanging in the closet were visible for them to see. Once his parents saw my clothes, his mother raised her voice and started speaking in her primary language, which is not English. I knew at that moment that my abuser hadn’t even told his parents that we were living together, and I was furious inside. Furious and anxious beyond belief. The squirming inside was unreal; he must have been so proud of himself to know that he had made me so uncomfortable.
It gets worse. A lot worse. I consider myself to be more of an introvert than an extravert, and therefore I’ve never been big on the idea of having birthday parties or other celebrations for myself. Let’s be honest, sometimes the thought of a big crowd gives me some social anxiety, even if I know everyone. This is why I had no interest in having a graduation party after nursing school. However, my abuser insisted that I have one, and he even hosted the party. He made sure to invite all of his friends and family, and he invited some of mine.
He had been acting weird all day up until the party, and even then he was acting off. It was the first time in our entire relationship that I had ever seen him appear nervous. He eventually made an announcement for everyone to gather around the living room, where he proceeded to make a speech. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the speech was actually a proposal. I was so upset that this was happening, and in front of a large group of people (IN MY HOUSE), that I apparently completely forgot to say “yes” (although in the proposal video I can be seen nodding.) In the crowd, of course, was my parents and his. I knew that my parents would not be happy that we were engaged, as we were from different cultural backgrounds and believed in different religions, but I also knew that they would be supportive as long as I was happy. They thought that I was happy- I did too. Although my parents wore smiles during the proposal, I couldn’t help but notice the look on my abuser’s mother’s face: it was the look of complete shock. After the party, I learned that my abuser had showed his dad the ring prior to the proposal, but that his mom had no idea that we would be getting engaged that day.
Within a few days after the graduation party/proposal, my abuser asked me to marry him in his family’s church. His family’s belief is that you must marry in their church, and that once married in the church, divorce is unheard of. He was asking me to join their religion. After telling my abuser countless times that I did not want to join his family’s religion, and after he admitted that he did not believe in or practice the religion, he yet again was asking me to join a religion that I didn’t believe in and so that it could convenience him and make his family happy. With my parents support, I was able to stand my ground and reaffirm that I would not be joining his family’s church, or getting married in it.
After being adament about not joining the church, my abuser reported that he had discussed the dilemma with his parents, but that they wanted to discuss the issue with both of us together. I invited my mom to come with us, and the three of us arrived at my future in-laws house. Upon sitting down at the table, my abuser’s parents proceeded to tell me that ever since my abuser had met me, he wasn’t committed to his religion or his family. They insisted that he stopped coming to church because of me, that I had changed him. I explained to them that my abuser had chosen not to go to church on his own account, and that he had informed me years prior that he did not practice the religion. His parents didn’t believe me, and instead of standing up for me or putting in some feedback, my abuser sat there watching and not saying one word. He didn’t even intervene when his mother stood up and starting yelling at me and screaming, saying that people from her country had died for their religion and that I didn’t care. Her screaming was so ridiculous that I got up and left the room before I felt that my eardrums would burst. My mother was quick behind me (she had stood up for me, by the way). When I later confronted my abuser about not standing up for me, his response was: “what did you expect? I told you I already talked to them. It was your turn. I didn’t have anything to say.”
As you can see, my abuser’s family and their differences in religious beliefs than I’s made this relationship even harder to get through. I very quickly learned to despise wedding planning, and it’s mostly because my opinion and my desires didn’t matter to my abuser. The wedding was all about him and how he wanted it to be. Most of my suggestions seemed to be ridiculous to him. I eventually suggested postponing the wedding for another year or so (in my mind I was thinking indefinitely), but my abuser did not grant me that option. He was appalled by that suggestion, and he made sure to let me know that.
In my next entry I will be sure to write about the engagement experience, which was not a warm and fuzzy experience, as I’m sure you guessed.