I was talking to someone I know. I can’t tell you who exactly, so I’ll just say she’s a friend. She was telling us (my mum and me) about her new job, how she’d been given a verbal warning for the equivalent of brushing her hair briefly at her desk.
She was in shock when she got back home. Her husband, she said, told her it was probably time to just pack it in. Her children told her to apologise to the directors, since there was nothing else she could say to justify her actions (not that her actions were particularly inappropriate). She took the latter option. The directors were sympathetic. She was a temp. They made her permanent.
But somewhere in between, she said, the “incident” happened:
“I came home one evening after work and X [her husband] had a go at me and the man cleaning our windows. I’d just gone in to get some money for the window cleaner – £12. But X wasn’t happy about that. He bollocked me and he bollocked the window cleaner. I was so embarrassed.”
When she and X were alone, she told him she wasn’t happy about the way he had spoken to her in front of the window cleaner. She said it was humiliating. X didn’t care. “He kept pushing me,” she said. [Readers should note that X is over 6 foot tall; my friend is not quite 5 foot]. She told him to stop, to leave her alone so she could get on with the housework. Eventually he did.
Later, while she was cooking, while her children were in the kitchen, X came up from behind her and smashed a Britvic jug over her head. “I didn’t know what happened. I thought, ‘What’s this?’ And then the blood started coming.”
Her sons pulled him off her. She ended up in A&E. X didn’t apologise. He showed no remorse. He blamed her – claimed she’d driven him to it. “He did apologise eventually,” she said. “But it took him a long, long time.” Her children told her he had been at the pub that evening – before it all happened.
She didn’t press charges. Shortly afterward, they went away on holiday together. She is still angry at him for what happened. She says it will probably happen again. “If it does, I’ll go to the police.”
I prefaced the “incident” with the work incident, because I can’t help but see a link between them. Why is it that X assaulted her shortly before she was made permanent at her job. Why, when she was issued a verbal warning, did he tell her to leave the job rather than fight for it? Did her getting a job mean he was less able to control her? And yet, he was always worrying about the finances – about the fact that they were spending more than they were earning. My friend counters that she has worked for the past decade. But then, things between them have been up and down for at least that long.
I know X. I know he drinks and that he and my friend have a volatile relationship. I know they frequently shout at one another. But this shocked me.
I remember when Ben was drinking. He was never violent (aside from some very uncharacteristic shouting now and again). But his behaviour was so erratic, the anxiety so great, that living with him became impossible. Each time he got clean, I vowed I’d leave him if he ever relapsed. But when the inevitable relapse came, I was still there.
So, even as I offered my tuppence (in the form of an unhelpful: You should have let them throw him in jail!), I knew it was her decision to make. Change, in this case, much as it was in mine, would only be triggered at the point of hopelessness.