Culture, Gender & Identity, Life

I thought my husband was perfect – until he turned into a nightmare

He tried to control my every move, but I was blamed for not wanting to obey him.

“Prince Charming and Cinderella lived happily ever after.

Until the moment when the prince realized that Cinderella, despite her undeniably pretty face, wasn’t fit for the role of a princess. She spent days sweeping marble floors, washing porcelain dishes and dusting golden-framed portraits.

She wasn’t interested much in state affairs and her manners were far from perfect, so she had to stay away from the receptions attended by ambassadors and other distinguished guests.

She didn’t know how to dress with elegance, since the Fairy Godmother, who had done her make-up and lent her a ball gown to marry her off never came back again. Besides, she was so boring and faint-hearted. She would never talk back or express her opinion.

The worst part was that Cinderella didn’t even want to be a princess. After a couple of years, things turned really sour…”

This is the story I made up for myself after the divorce. Realistic enough not to mislead young minds and naïve hearts.

It all started with fairy tales.

I have always been an avid reader, so after the fairy tales, I moved on to the novels by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and other books with similar happy endings. I was so brainwashed, so when I grew up and got married myself, I decided that the “Cinderella-Prince” relationship could work both ways.

I mean, in the tale about Puss in Boots, a poor shabby guy eventually married a princess, didn’t he? So can’t a low-born, honest, hardworking young man borrow a nice suit and a high-end car to win the heart of a beautiful girl and make her happy? Don’t we live in a prejudice-free society? Didn’t we have peasants or servants as our great-great-grandfathers? How can we speak against marriages out of our own social categories?

I guess it was the voice of the Soviet legacy taken in with my mother’s milk.

When I got married for the first time, I was naïve enough to think that if the person had good morals, was religious and hardworking (at that time I didn’t see the difference between “being” and “seeming”) it didn’t matter if he hadn’t finished secondary school. I justified this by the fact that his family was struggling and he had to work — doesn’t it prove he cared about his family? His spelling skills were horrible, but he promised he would enroll in a course, so doesn’t it mean he was striving for self-improvement?

The problem is that, at that time, I didn’t know what a class-based difference was and how it could affect our mindset. I thought it was mostly about the lack of education, which, in my opinion, could be balanced with self-development and willingness to learn.

Unfortunately, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I realized that education not only equips us with knowledge but also helps train important skills and qualities,  such as punctuality, diligence, the ability to analyze and to defend your opinion, to think critically, to express your thoughts and so on. All these skills can be obtained through other ways too, but in that case, it would require an exceptionally strong will, as well as patient and persistent parents able to knock certain principles into a rebel teenager, so that he/she could apply them later.

It is not just about education.

The person I married had spent his life in a specific environment that had formed his values and his perception of the world, defined his habits, communication style, manners, his way of solving conflicts.

If the partner of such a person adheres to different moral principles and values, how is it possible to bring this marriage into accordance? In order to live in peace and harmony, a couple should have common reference points, otherwise one of the partners will have to go through a painful transformation. But most importantly, the couple should have a desire to grow together and become better humans in all aspects.

My ex-husband tried to mold me to fit his lifestyle by restraining my self-improvement, my desire to learn, and imposing his way of thinking through abuse and accusations.

He tried to force me to accept his viewpoints based on the fact that I was a woman.

To him, I was inferior, and he used a warped view of religion to justify his actions.

When I was looking to improve my linguistic skills, I was not allowed to join language courses or a library, without any explanation. In order to develop my “business sense,” I was told to bargain for every purchase, including supermarkets, although it is not customary in my country and sometimes can even be considered rude. The absurdness of these attempts reached its peak when he demanded to hang a yellow cloth on the cot to treat the baby’s jaundice, ignoring my explanations about bilirubin.  Taking into account the fact I am a daughter of two doctors, this was utterly ridiculous.

By that time, this marriage was already on its last legs. The divorce brought nothing but relief.

During all these years, I was blamed for not wanting to change.

Don’t get me wrong, change is good, so long as it is directed towards self-improvement and is fostered by the thirst to become better, to learn more and to make a difference in the world.

Now, I am married to a person who is also a foreigner, but, despite the fact that we grew in different countries and cultures, we share common values and principles, appreciate similar qualities in people, and have common objectives. Neither of us is trying to remold the other one.

My husband is happy that, despite having kids, I keep working and try to make my humble contribution to the family budget. He is proud of my achievements and I am grateful for everything he does for our family. Both of us grow and develop, even though in different fields and at different paces, but in one direction — towards becoming better humans, bringing benefits to each other and society.

When my daughter grows up and has to make her marriage decision, I would like her to stay away from all that Cinderella nonsense and to say “yes” only to the person with whom she can grow and flourish.