After years of promising, not to mention a life together so abusive that my siblings and I have long since campaigned for it to end, my father is opting to undo what- according to his wedding vows- no man should have done. He is divorcing my mother.
None of us is upset by this news, nor even surprised, having heard similar pronouncements many times before, often for something as petty as what has this particular upset: she didn’t do his laundry for a week following an argument and so he has filed divorce papers citing “unreasonable behavior”. We’ve seen the solicitor’s letters.
The homeless charity Shelter states that domestic violence can be categorized in four ways: Physical, Mental/ Emotional, Sexual, and Financial. In our lifetimes, my siblings and I have watched our mother go through manifestations of every single one of these, and what was worse was that as bad as it got she has always had so much faith in her abuser, our father, and so little in herself, that she thought it was worth sticking around for.
He not only engaged in affairs but brought his mistresses home to meet us, even having some of them spend a few nights under our roof when we were all forced (out of fear of what might happen if we weren’t) to be polite. That said, we still think the time he took one to Spain just as we were moving from the last home we ever owned into rented accommodation- a situation forced by his ruined business - was worse.
When we were small, physical violence and controlling behaviour loomed large in their relationship. Slaps, punches and the occasional attack so severe that an ambulance was called and a two-week holiday taken so she could recover from the bruises away from the gaze of family and friends were all par for the course.
Even now, she still has no feeling in her left index finger and constant pain in her lower back after one particularly vile brutalisation. The reason? She didn’t know where his favourite video was. Threats, insults and near-constant public humiliations were also part of his remit, as was controlling all the family finances so that to this day our mother has never had any financial security of her own, or been paid for any of the (highly important) work she did with the company they supposedly co-owned.
He did manage to get all his debts put into her name though, which as well as allowing her to prove her devotion to him, also meant that when he yet again fucked up on a deal that was supposed to change their lives forever, it was her who ended up in court. Our father is not a stupid man. He’d never admit to any of these things, and has over the years accused all of us of mental illness for acknowledging them.
He’s taken to squandering his assets, which should be awarded to our mother in settlement but have instead purchased a second-hand Mercedes, the world’s ugliest painting, and a facelift that he supposes is going to help him find a new girlfriend at some point.
Everyone carries certain parts of their childhood around with them, and there’s no denying that it’s deeply unsettling to know you’re related to someone who’s capable of such acts. We’ve written this piece anonymously not because we hold some latent sense of shame over our childhoods but because, however unfairly, our mother does, and, frankly, we don’t want to upset her. After 42 years, we think she at least deserves that.