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My daughter gave me the courage to get out of an abusive relationship

Single mother Elle* shares how her daughter gave her the courage to finally free herself from an abusive relationship.

It started with a huge argument. You know, the slight raising of the voice, the slightly harder grip on the arm as you tried to walk away. It started with cursing each other, and in my young 20-something mind, I thought, “Oh, this love! Such an intense roller coaster ride.”

Then it evolved into pushing and pulling. Then it turned into being slammed against the wall, or being kicked while you were already down. The funny part was, he was always sober; never drunk, never high. Never inebriated, so I couldn’t use the “Oh he was drunk” excuse. The arguments always started with something so small like “Bakit ka late umuwi?” or “Why are you wearing shorts?”, and it would escalate into something huge, because he “hated how my face looked when I reacted.”

I told myself that it wouldn’t happen again. He couldn’t, and he shouldn’t do it again. But I was convinced it was my fault, and that I deserved every bit of the beating. It felt like a nightmare, one that I couldn’t wake up to.

Enduring Years of Abuse

I endured it for almost four years, thinking that one day it would ultimately stop. He would cry and be on his knees, begging me to forgive him. And I always felt compelled to forgive him. Who was I - so imperfect of a woman - to not forgive him and give him the chance to change his ways?

I never told my family. I hid my bruises. Thank God for concealer. I didn’t want anyone to hate or judge him, so I kept it to myself. I also felt ashamed that I let it happen.

I consider myself an intelligent woman; and I  knew I should leave. He hit me and even cheated on me. Those are obvious red flags to LEAVE. But for some reason, I couldn’t. I pretended that I was okay.

When I told him I wanted to leave, the abuse would stop, albeit temporarily for about 2 months, 3 months, when I’m lucky. And I always told myself that it’s progress.

I had tried to convince myself that a Christian will always be given more challenges. I was given this situation because God wanted me to have more faith. Christians aren’t perfect, but we are the most challenged. I told myself that, time and time again. When he wouldn’t hit me, ugly, harsh words would be said instead, and I would think, I’m lucky I didn’t get physically hurt this time.

I didn’t know why I couldn’t get out of the relationship, when it was clear that this was the wrong one for me. I believed it in my heart that this was a good man, and that no relationship is perfect. Others have hang ups, so maybe, this was ours.

Finding Out I Was Pregnant

I almost got out; but just as when I was about to, I learned that I was pregnant. I had a miscarriage before, so I thought, this was a chance for us to make it right. The nightmare miraculously stopped. I was treated like a princess. I was utterly grateful that this man turned his life around because he knew that having a daughter was now the real deal.

He finally got a real job, and stuck to it. I finally stopped paying for everything, and I could breathe easy. My family finally accepted our relationship, and I stopped making excuses and lying to everyone. A lot of people said I bloomed during my pregnancy, and everything felt right. I thought - this is finally my happy ending. The nightmare is finally over and done with. My endurance was worth it.

So I got married. I changed my last name. My Facebook feed was filled with congratulations, and my pregnancy news was finally out. I was on Cloud 9, and I thought, my life couldn’t get any better.

I thought wrong.

Three months after tying the knot, one week before I gave birth – it happened again. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, it’s been almost a year, and I’m back in that same old cycle. I was back in that nightmare. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening, as if I had astral projected myself out of the situation, like I was watching a horrible movie unravel itself in front of me. The screaming was back, the throwing things around, the harsh words.

The Abuse That Followed After Having the Baby

A week later when my daughter was born, life became "perfect". It was a beautiful sight, to see him carry her in his  arms. I wanted to cry. I told myself, okay, one last shot at this – ‘til death do us part, right? Two months later, I found myself being slammed on the bed, as my precious little one was in it as well.

I finally awoke from whatever spell I was in and I promised myself, in my head, married or not, I would leave. I may have taken the abuse before, but I was not willing to raise my daughter in this kind of situation. She deserved better.

I finally fulfilled that promise.  Three months later, I mustered the courage to pack our things, and asked my mom to pick us up.

Getting Out and Moving On

We separated physically, but he said he wanted to make things right, so I told him, one last shot. Court me again. Prove to me that you are the rightful person to be with, and that you will be a supportive father.

He did. I was lucky enough to experience yet, another changed man for the next three months; but that was it. Three months was long enough, and the “good cycle” abruptly stopped. He did the unthinkable, and reminded me yet again, of my former self – that old version of myself who deserved all the harsh words and the beating. When I found out that my daughter got hurt because of his temper, I had it. No more. This had to stop.

My daughter gave me the strength to get out of a very abusive relationship, when I never had the courage to. I did not have self worth as I let this relationship progress for 5 years. I did not love myself; but having my daughter, knowing she got hurt in the process, was a big wake up call that this person will not change in the near future, and I had to protect her. She unknowingly saved me.

I told myself I didn’t want her to witness her parents arguing day and night. I did not want her to think that that was how love or marriages were supposed to be, because at the end of the day, that wasn’t love at all. Relationships are hard, arguments will happen; but if a man decides to hit a woman, that is a different story. You may choose to work it out; but if it keeps happening, as what I have endured – leave. Do not let your religion, society, or other peoples’ beliefs hinder you from doing what’s right for you and your child. Knowing your self worth as a wife, as a partner, and most importantly as a woman, will be the best example you can set for your child.

I do not have any regrets for leaving.  I finally told my family how our relationship really was, and they, of course, got were angered and saddened. I asked them if they may remain civil to him, and they kept their word when he used to visit our daughter. I allowed him to see my daughter still, because, after all, he is her father, and I could never take that away from him.

My Life as a Single Mother

Though I am now raising my child in a broken family set up, the amount of love and support that I get from my family, especially from my mom (who is a single mother herself), is totally worth it and very inspiring. I do fear in the future, that my daughter will ask me so many questions – the real tough ones. I wouldn’t know how to answer them just yet, without her hating her father, or hating me, for not giving her the ideal family set up. But I tell myself, that when that time comes, my family will be there, and I will be strong enough to make her understand the right way, why I did what I did.

As mothers, we typically beat ourselves up for our mistakes and keep trying harder to be better. As a single mother, I beat myself up the most for not giving my daughter the Hallmark Card family. She has no idea though, that because of her, I found my worth. I found the love I needed for myself. She gave me hope. She gave me a new sense of perspective about self worth, loving yourself, and believing that you do deserve better; that there is nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and taking yourself out of a bad situation.

As for him, I actually do not know where he is or how he is doing. I still think about him sometimes, and constantly hope that one day, even though he could not be the ideal partner for me, that he changes for the better to become a good father to our daughter.

And as for me, I’m still constantly learning how to be the best mother that I can be; it’s tough, being 27, and working hard to sustain my finances, knowing I have a huge responsibility at hand. But I always hope for the best, and feed on the strength and motivation that my daughter gives me every day.She saved me, and despite the difficulties of raising my child without an actual partner, I would not have my life any other way.

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Elle* is 27-years-old and is a single mother to a 3-year-old Peppa Pig loving little girl. She met her husband, while they were students in college.