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My Life With A Narcissist

The terror behind closed doors

BY Joan Thatiah

May 25, 2021, 10:03 AM

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I remember the exact moment that things changed between Ken and me. It was a cold July evening in 2018. We had been married for six months. I was five months pregnant with our first child. Ken had bought a pair of shoes three days earlier and I had washed them earlier in the day. Big mistake!

He was upset that I had washed his ‘expensive’ shoes instead of wiping them with a damp cloth and he slapped me so hard that I fell and fractured my wrist. When I hit the floor, I remember a mix of confusion, shock, and then fear chasing across my chest.

For ten minutes straight, I couldn’t wrap my head around how my sweet, loving, protective husband had turned on me. I thought he was intoxicated or high on bhang even though I knew he didn’t drink.

He hit me, yelled at me about how I didn’t know the value of things because I grew up poor, went to the kitchen and served the food I’d made him, ate, and went to bed as if nothing had happened. The next morning, my dear, sweet husband returned. As soon as he saw my swollen wrist, he broke down in tears. He was sad, apologetic, and he called in sick that day so that he could take me to the hospital.
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor

When we came back home from the hospital, he told me it was my fault that he hit me. That he loved me and that had I not made him so angry, he wouldn’t have hit me. Had someone shown me a video of what was coming, I would have run and never looked back. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. My loving husband had been breaking me down, little by little for two years.

It Was A Match Made In Heaven

Ken and I were a match made in heaven. At least this is how it seemed at first. I was in my fourth year of campus when we met. I had been running around with college boys so when I met him, a grown man, I thought I had won the jackpot.

He had a job in a SACCO and a car. A Car! Girls on campus thought I was IT. I even started wearing make-up and heels to match my newfound status. On Saturdays, he would pick me up and he would drive us to Ngong Hills, one hand on the steering wheel and the other on my thing, claiming me. A message to the world that I was his woman. Oh, how I looked forward to those Saturdays.

The Signs I Didn’t See

Looking back, there were always signs that things were headed downhill but I only saw the things I wanted to see. The most obvious should have been how protective he was of me. I would be going out with my friends and he would be calling all night long to check in. Sometimes he would show up at the club at the end of the night saying he wanted to make sure that I got home safe.  I thought it was because he was missing me. My friends were jealous.

On the night of our traditional wedding ceremony, he told me that now that he’d paid a price for my head, I was all his. That sounds endearing, right? I didn’t think this meant that I couldn’t talk to or spend time with anyone else.

After the washed shoe incident, he began alienating me from my family and friends. He would sulk if a friend called or if I went to my Mum’s and spent more than a few hours. To the world, I was the loved wife of a man who provided everything but behind closed doors, I was walking on eggshells, trying my best not to upset him. Still, somehow, I did.

One evening, he took me to a company night out at his workplace and then got furious that a man, one of his bosses had been staring at me. That night, he smashed my head on the bedroom wall and gave me a black eye. The next morning, after tending to my black eye, he told me that it was my fault. That he hit me because I had the spirit of seduction. He began controlling my wardrobe. If I wore something he thought inappropriate, he would wait for me to take it off then he would cut across the back or the front with scissors such that I couldn’t mend it, then he would put it back in the wardrobe. I never asked because I knew what would follow.

Then he started cheating. He didn’t even make an effort to hide it.
There would be earrings I didn’t recognize in the bathroom when I came home from a weekend visit in the village, sandals that weren’t mine in his car on random days, and condoms in his clothes even though we didn’t use them.

When I gathered up my courage to ask, he told me I was a bad mother, that the house was unkempt and I had thus pushed him to these women. At this point, I was fully dependent on him. He insisted that I quit my marketing job when we had our daughter so that I would be home all day to look after her. Because I wasn’t earning that much and he was providing everything, I didn’t see the harm. Another big mistake.
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor

When I became incessant on asking about the cheating, he flipped the script and began accusing me of sleeping out. I would go to the market to buy fruits for our daughter and he would call my mother telling her that I was out with other men. She believed him of course. You see, outside our home, Ken was gentle and charming. He was the guy who loved his wife, got along with everyone, and had an easy smile.

Picking Up The Pieces

Rock bottom came when he slapped our two-year-old daughter because she was ‘bad-mannered just like her mother.’ That was it for me. I packed a handbag as if I was going to the supermarket, took my daughter and left. I moved from a three bedroomed apartment in a good part of town to a bedsitter across town but I have no regrets. For the first time in four years, I knew peace and freedom.

Of course, he tried to come after me. Sent his lawyers trying to get custody of my daughter but I went to the Children’s Office and fought back. When I was adamant that I was not coming back to him or handing over my daughter, he declared that he was not going to pay child support. Honestly, choosing a life where all the bills are paid and a life where I have peace, I choose peace. 

Picking up the pieces has been a long, painful process. For the first few months after I left him, if anyone made swift hand movements close to me, I would cower in reflex. I’m still rebuilding my relationship with my mother and I saw a therapist for five months early last year to help me get a grip on everything. The most important part of the story is that I am here and that I am no longer afraid. There is no big, bad man trying to get into my head or to bash my head in.

The narrator is a 29-year-old mother of one. She is rebuilding her life and her marketing career.

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