“Madam, why are you filing for divorce? Did he hit you?”
“Does he not take care of the children?”
“No, he doesn’t.”
“What?! You mean he doesn’t pay their fees or provide money for their upkeep?”
“Ha! So why are you divorcing him?”
“Because I’m sick and tired of the emotional abuse and neglect of myself and my children.”
“Emo-gini? So because he doesn’t spend time talking with you, na im you dey vex? You have your girlfriends for that nah. Abi you wan make im cuddle you every day? My dear, marriage is tolera –”
“Hey! Madam, hold it there. I didn’t come here to ask for your opinion or lecture. Is my file ready?”
I grew up in a home where Mum reached for the cane more often than Dad. Yet, for all the whupping I got from her, Dad’s quiet words had more impact. Like when I did something bad and he said, “I’m not happy with you” or “I’m disappointed.” I walked on the moon whenever they both said, “We’re proud of you. You did good. We’ve got your back.”
Words have power.
I used to have this neighbour who would quarrel with his wife for days. Anytime they fought, you’d hear his yelling. Only when you strained your ear would you hear his wife’s soft voice talking once in a while. I thought the man was a mean person, the way he always screamed at her.
Until one day, when I heard his wife quarrel with someone else. I was in shock. Her words had more effect than a double-edged sword. They cut and sliced and diced the spirit of the person she was addressing. And all this was done in a soft, gentle voice.
In that instant, I felt like crying for her husband.
The tongue is such a dangerous weapon, that it comes with several biblical warnings. One of my favorites is in James 3:18 and 26: “Let every person be quick to listen, SLOW TO SPEAK, slow to anger… If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.
Abuse is abuse.
When folks speak of terminating a relationship because of abuse, they’re often likely to mean physical abuse. But physical abuse is often preceded by verbal and emotional abuse. And sometimes, you find a perpetrator whose tool of trade is emotional and verbal abuse only.
These two go hand in hand and are as bad as, if not worse than, physical abuse. You may get well after a slap or a blow or a burn. But what hateful, demeaning words do to a human spirit is worse than death.
You’re stupid. A fool.
You mean someone liked you? Is the person blind or stupid?
You can never do anything right!
What do you know? You know nothing.
I keep you around out of pity.
You can never be good enough.
You won’t amount to anything.
I know a husband who told his wife: “I married you out of pity. I sleep with you because you’re available, just there. The day I’m tired, I’ll do something about it.”
This was way before he started hitting her.
The list goes on.
You’re in a relationship where the person is never emotionally available. But this person never misses a chance to use you.
He never talks to you because he thinks you’re not smart enough.
He never asks for your opinion because he doesn’t value it.
He never spends time with you, because he thinks you’re boring. Or not cool enough. Or not worth the effort.
Your sadness actually makes him happy.
Every once in a while, he dangles hope in front of you, like a carrot in front of a horse. Something to keep you in line, praying he’s changed.
And someone thinks you’re being hasty in separating from such a person or leaving them behind.
Separation is shameful and God hates divorce. They want you to stay and fit the stereotype. After all, he’s not beating you. Or he’s not cheating. Or even if he is, don’t worry, all men cheat. Or men are polygamous in nature.
Or some such nonsense like that.
Pray. Fast and pray, they’ll say. Fast and pray and pray naked by midnight (this one is like God’s personal phone number. The naked prayer goes straight inside his ear). Be submissive. Do plenty sexual acrobatics. Remember that if you don’t, a thousand women are ready to do. Smile and say you’re fine. Make plenty “positive” confessions. Type “amen” on every Facebook prayer posts. Use the words “it is well” as often as you can. In fact, answer each simple greeting with it is well. As long as you don’t stir the waters, everyone is fine. As long as you “know your place”, everyone is okay.
Or some other such nonsense like that
Madam, don’t wait until he hits you.
If you’ve tried every avenue of conflict resolution and this person remains the same, there’s only one thing to do.
Written by Eketi Ette