“My children live in the Netherlands, they are adults and they have children, but they don’t need me”

Photo by Max Kessmann

Marty (69): I wanted to be different from others, and not live up to the expectations of my parents for their good marriage, so when I was 29, I chose a relationship with a guy from South America. He stood in front of my commune help desk, told a story of heroic escape and beamed powerfully. I wanted a child with him, I was ready for a permanent relationship and I wanted a family. Others said, dude, why is he with him? He had nothing to do with my family, nothing to do with Holland, he resisted everything and everyone. But I said of course. I can do it.

The need to differentiate myself with my choice of partner, to energize myself so to speak, was so strong that I ignored everyone else’s red flags. This man gave me the prospects I longed for. It was not blind love but a statement.

I am jealous of my life outside the home

I soon became pregnant. He had no job, no car, and no driver’s license, so he sat at home all day and was forced to work full time. He was jealous of my life away from home with my mates. He began to belittle me, but when he insisted on marriage, I said yes anyway. Because I thought, maybe marriage is the security he needs to stay here. On September 11th, I went to a florist and bought my own forever wedding bouquet. Meanwhile he was getting more and more frustrated and took it upon himself, calling me ugly, threatening me, but I kept trying to understand him, stubborn and forgiving at the same time. Apparently toxic combination.

One evening I went to a concert with a classmate. It worked out really well for me, someone who was kind to me, and I didn’t have to be so careful all the time. But when I got home my husband got jealous and pushed me down the stairs. I was just stopped by the staircase gate. We already had two children by that time. My third was conceived shortly after, and he demanded proof of my surrender, by getting pregnant I was going to show I really didn’t care for this fellow. I don’t understand why you let this happen. On the other hand, I love my children, they were my only joy in the house. And I kept hoping, I felt sorry for him when he started crying after every tantrum.

We regret every day

Something changed when I got a new job and with it a new life that had nothing to do with my husband, with colleagues to whom I could tell my story. For a while I seemed to be getting better, until all of a sudden I had a really bad blackout in the car on a sunny day. All I remember is suddenly standing in a phone booth and calling one of my new colleagues, if I can get by. This decision, the first I’ve made in a very long time without my husband, unleashed a new sense of freedom. Apparently I had a choice. My colleague greeted me very nicely and just listened to me. There was nothing threatening in that listening and I suddenly understood that I had to leave my husband.

But that night I made a mistake that I regret every day. Once home, I told my husband that I wanted a divorce and that same night I was leaving. I grabbed some necessities and headed to the front door. My daughter screamed: don’t go, don’t go. But I went anyway. And when I wanted to take the children, I was from 4 to 12 years old, the next day I was not allowed into the house. There was a bag of stuff on the sidewalk, but the kids stayed with it.

I don’t need

In the years since, I have hardly seen them, two of my children have not gone for twenty years now. In my mind, I fill in the missing years like a slideshow, all those ages I missed; I now have to discover them myself. It is still hard for me to talk about it, when it is said in words, the loss becomes more acute and irreversible. She overwhelms me. My children live in Holland, they are adults with children, but they don’t need me, and we’ve never been able to build a bond.

My ex-husband did not comply with the access arrangement, and of course I could have called the police, but I didn’t want to do that with the kids. I have been brought before a judge four times, all times unsuccessfully. One lawyer called me a professional bitch because of that full-time job. My letters to my children went unanswered. I had to hand out gifts I brought for their birthdays at the front door. How many times in the past twenty years have I thought I should have put them all in the car that night and drove away. I never wanted to leave them, just their father. I also often wondered, if I knew I would hardly ever see them again, would I have stayed? But it doesn’t work anymore. I was on the verge of collapsing, scared and capricious. I could not bear the insults any longer.

Conflict-free love

The colleague presented me with a completely different world. I learned from him what love without gravity is. I’ve fallen in love. This time she organized a grand wedding party and made a gorgeous wedding dress. His faith and love soften, but do not heal. They are two separate entities: happiness with him for so many years now and sadness over the troubled connection with my children. When I got to know him he said you have eyes on stalks, and it took me a long time to calm down. He is a man who makes ordinary life special. Sometimes he would stop me in the middle of a walk in the woods and give me a hug. When I introduced it to them, my parents were overjoyed. They saw him as my savior. I had rebelled against their “ordinary” middle-class existence and had chosen a life of adventure with a native South American. But it turns out I’m a woman who is perfect for conflict-free love with a very ordinary man. Painful lesson.

At the interviewee’s request, Marty’s name was changed.


For this column and podcast of the same name, Corine Koole is looking for stories about all kinds of modern relationships, people of all ages and all preferences.

Participate? Send a brief explanation by mail to: deliefdevannu@volkskrant.nl.

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