Warning: this section contains graphic descriptions of childhood emotional and sexual abuse; adulthood sexual aggression through verbal and emotional coercion, blackmail through threats of suicide, and sexual assault through the use of physical force; unidirectional and reciprocal abuse; depression; suicide attempts; prostitution; and language barriers between a patient and a psychiatrist and between a victim of intrusion and the local police contributing to a sexual assault.
After the relationship became sexual, I was struck with panic. I felt obligated towards her, began to feel emotionally dependent on her approval, and so didn’t feel it was right for me to just cut all contact between us without formally ending the relationship with her first. I called her to break it up over the phone, and she begged me to return to her place. Having already had sex with her, I felt obliged to break up face to face if she wouldn’t allow me to do it over the phone. I then returned to her place to try to end the relationship there. Since our relationship had now become sexual, to make a sexual advance towards her to try to get her to push me away no longer made sense. If anything, I tried to keep my distance. Whenever I tried to break up the relationship, she tearfully made an aggressive sexual advance towards me and I exhaustedly acquiesced. It was my chance to forget my problems, to pretend that her advances were an expression of her love for me and my reciprocity, after acquiescence, of my love for her, and to relieve the stress however temporarily until the trauma returned the next day. I’d always take a few days to muster the courage to try to break up the relationship again, only for the process to repeat itself again with her tearfully approaching me sexually after my attempt and me acquiescing in emotional exhaustion. This had become the new cycle in our relationship over a period of a few months until I’d become emotionally depleted, depressed, and resigned to my new fate. Though the feelings of guilt always remained, I simply decided to try to learn to live with them and numb the emotions through sex. I was too exhausted to fight anymore.
I then tried a new strategy. Knowing that she too felt guilty about the sex, that she might interpret the Muslim marriage laws as requiring a Muslim woman to marry a Muslim man, and that I didn’t profess Islam and questioned my faith, I then proposed marriage. I hoped that it would scare her away and finally set me free but thought that if it didn’t, then we’d at least be married. By that stage, I’d become so despondent that I didn’t care anymore and thought that the easiest way out of my predicament was to learn to live with her in spite of our incompatibility. I wasn’t suicidal though, but only because I’d become totally resigned to my fate with her. Considering the possible existence of God, I thought that if we were married, I’d at least not need to live with the feelings of guilt anymore.
She happily accepted and informed her brother, her aunt, and her uncle-in-law. Some of her African-American friends were now telling her that she shouldn’t marry a white man. She learned soon afterwards that the local imam refused to preside over a marriage between her and a person who didn’t profess Islam and so she began to pressure me to convert to Islam. I refused so the cycle of her tearfully begging me, me trying to break up the relationship, and us ending the standoff with sex began again, but this time over my refusal to adopt Islam until one evening during yet another attempt of mine to break it up, I was surprised to hear her finally agree. I dropped to the floor exhausted and more relieved than I’d felt since the beginning of our relationship. I closed my eyes for what seemed like a couple of minutes. When I opened my eyes with the intention of leaving before she changed her mind, she begged me again, but this time while holding a kitchen knife to her stomach with tears gushing.
I agreed to convert on that day but recanted the next. On that next day, I told her quite truthfully that I wanted to kill myself. Though I wasn’t sure about whether God existed, I absolutely refused to lie about my most fundamental beliefs even if that meant just admitting that I didn’t know what I believed. She never pressured me to convert again but still refused to let me go. She wanted a quick secret civil ceremony at her aunt’s house and, having returned from my suicidal to my resigned state but still equally depressed, I agreed.
Part of the pressure for the legal ceremony involved her refugee claim, but she wanted a “real” marriage later when her parents could attend. After the local Muslim community had learned of her marriage, her aunt began to receive anonymous threats of violence against her supposedly from a member of the Muslim community because she’d married a non-Muslim. I eventually found work in Quebec through a federal language-monitor program and she’d registered for university in the same province but in Montreal. I felt some peace until my contract ended and I then rejoined her and found work in Montreal. She considered us religiously married through the civil ceremony but I didn’t. Though I wasn’t sure if I believed in God, I still considered myself culturally influenced by the Christian faith and so still wanted a more ‘religious’ wedding. I also felt coerced into the marriage.
A new cycle had begun with her wanting sex and me resisting, acquiescing, and then feeling guilty until we had the “real” marriage with her and my family around a year later. She revealed to me that she’d had a relationship with someone else just before the “real” marriage and asked my forgiveness but still wanted the “real” marriage. Since we were civilly married and I’d become emotionally resigned to my fate already, I forgave her but cried. My sick twisted logic also told me that after the emotional hell that I’d already gone through with her, I didn’t want to go through it again with another woman.
Ironically after the “second” marriage, I now wanted to have sex but she didn’t anymore. I found it difficult since by that time, I’d already habituated myself to using sex as a coping mechanism even though I’d been coerced into it up to that point. In fact, I could even describe my sexual behaviour towards her after the marriage as compulsive.
She wanted us to keep our marriage secret out of shame because others knew about her other relationship. Refusing to do that, I separated from her. At first, she wanted me to return to her; but seeing that I wasn’t going to budge on her insistence to keep the marriage secret, she then filed for divorce but still wanted me to return to stay with her like a “brother” and see if we might be able to remarry later. I never understood what had motivated her to say that.
Being relatively new to the city, having abandoned my previous friends as was my habit since childhood, and enjoying only a weak emotional bond with my parents, I had no strong network of friends or family to turn to and so no strong emotional support. In spite of the toxic marriage I was in, I’d still learned to become resigned to it and had long abandoned all plans outside of that marriage. To make the psychological transition easier, I asked her to legally and physically separate for a year before she decided to legally divorce me, but she refused. As a result, the divorce shocked me.
I returned to alcohol, handed in my two-week resignation notice as per my employment contract and, once the contract had ended, unsuccessfully attempted suicide three times. I woke up a few days after my last and most serious attempt and a few days after that, a therapist at the hospital asked for my parent’s phone number. Without even thinking why she was asking for that, I just gave it to her. Maybe I thought that it was just for her records if anything should happen to me. The next day, I was in a room alone with two therapists and my parents who’d travelled from another city (since they’d moved to the same province too through my dad’s work). As per my habit, I feared how my parents might react to the news of what I’d done, so I simply said that I’d fallen ill. The therapists seemed surprised at my reaction. That encounter only made me feel even more ashamed and distant from my parents for many years afterwards and even more alone. My parents knew better than to believe me but said nothing. I also learned then to not trust therapists.