“The celebration at Slot Zeist, the delicious lunch at the Amstel, the boat ride through the canals of Amsterdam and the wonderful people who were present. Yes, my wedding day seemed perfect. But most of all I remember fear and doubts. When I uttered the words ‘Yes, I want’, I was I know very well that our fairy tale wedding looked completely different behind the front door.
Violence and emotional abuse do not occur directly in a relationship. sneaks inside. When I met Johan, he seemed like a kind, attentive guy. Having lived in America for ten years, I was expecting to return to the life I had known in my early thirties, but of course life was not consistent here. My group of friends went on without me and moved around and made relationships. I felt lonely in Holland and in Johan I found a man who understood me.
Johan took me on vacations to exotic places and showered me with expensive gifts. I wasn’t necessarily waiting for a Cartier watch. But if he wants to give it to me, as I thought, he must love me very much. I now know that my image of what love is distorted by my childhood. My mother abused me psychologically and my parents were poorly married. If Johan called me thirty times when I was with a friend, I took it as proof that he was crazy about me.
Yet it frightened me at times. He can go crazy if you accidentally look at another guy on the street. But feeling fear for someone you love was not strange to me, given my youth. Plus, after each tantrum, there was another sweet period. Then he regrets and cries and I receive declarations of love and gifts. Sometimes I thought that it was his childhood, about which he told sad stories, but more often I was convinced that this was love.
When Johan proposed marriage, I said yes. I was hoping I could prove that he doesn’t have to be jealous, that I deserve love. But in the months before the wedding, Johan sometimes spent the evening, without mentioning his whereabouts. Then I was waiting for the hundredth time with cold food. If I say anything about it, we got into a big fight. Then he shouted and scolded me. A few weeks before the wedding, I told my brother about those quarrels. “S, get away from him while you still can,” he said. I knew he was right. But I was already in great depths. I said, “It’s too late.” “The wedding invitations have already been designed.”
Johann’s behavior went from bad to worse. I once bought him socks. They were for sale. When he got home, he got angry because he thought I spent too much money. He shouted at me, “How do you get it?” I shivering ran to the bathroom, but wasn’t quick enough to shut the door. Yohan grabbed me tightly and wrapped my arms behind my back. “You’ll never do that, you’ll never do that again,” he shouted into my ear. The next day his fingers were in my arms.
When he apologized in tears the next day after incidents like this, promised never to do it again, and imagined a happy future together, the line between fear and love became frighteningly thin again. Too thin, we decided to have a baby. But when I got pregnant, nothing changed. We argued about anything and everything and he regularly grabbed me hard.
I was so ashamed of the situation that I didn’t dare tell anyone how things really went at home. And so is my brother, so we didn’t go back to our conversation right before the wedding. I sometimes told my father about the quarrels I had been in, but perhaps I wasn’t honest about the whole thing, to protect him. So those around me hardly realized how bad things were in our house.
The child felt all the tension and became an alert and restless child who cried a lot. Nervous, I tried to shake her to rest so she wouldn’t get on Johan’s nerves. What if he jumped out of his skin and removed his frustration not only on me, but on our child as well?
This fear was the last straw. Three years later I decided to choose the safety of my daughter. The day before I left Johan we had a big fight and he fell down the stairs drunk. The walls of the stairs were stained with blood. It was almost symbolic, an omen of what awaits me if I stay. I kept repeating in my head, “I’m not safe here.” In silence I packed my things and left with my daughter to my father.
I felt like a loser. I, who had worked and lived all over the world, and had always been independent, was now terrified in my parents’ attic, crying in shock among the baby gear. What a nightmare. But I also felt comfortable. Johan couldn’t make me any more. I saw him for the last time to exchange recent items. He quit, hardly saying anything to me. Then he left with Nordersunn. I feel sad for my daughter. You have a father who wanders about in this world but he doesn’t take care of you, and that saddens me. But I now realize that Johan’s problems also have their causes. After the divorce I went to therapy and was able to rebuild my life, but the traces this relationship left behind are permanent. My daughter has had reactive attachment disorder since this horrible start, making her emotionally difficult in life. I am now teaching parents and other professionals how to recognize this diagnosis and the best way to deal with it. I felt so stupid that I fell in love with Yohan. I was ashamed of my family. Now I know it’s not my fault, I’ve been in an abusive relationship for so long. I want to help others to break the shame.”
reactive attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorder is a mental illness. The condition develops in the first six years of life. Children with this disorder fail to relate appropriately emotionally to their parents or caregivers. The cause can be neglect (emotional or emotional denial of basic physical needs) or abuse (mental or physical), but it can also arise if the child is not given enough opportunity to form emotional bonds, for example if they regularly have caregivers others.
Esther offers courses and books to better understand and understand early childhood trauma and attachment problems.