No woman is completely happy with her guy. Maybe yours is forgetful and can’t seem to recall your monthsary or other important details you expect him to know. Maybe he’s a workaholic who’s not always around when you want to go on a date. Maybe there are random girls who keep leaving comments on his social media posts and it pisses you off, even though you know he’s totally faithful to you. Maybe for these reasons, the thought of breaking it off has crept into your mind more than once. You’re lucky those are the only things you have to complain about. Some girls are not so lucky—like me.
I started dating Gino* 20 years ago when I was 14. Back then I had already observed that he was possessive; he often got extremely jealous of my male friends, including a common friend of ours who at one point he beat up. During one of his jealous rages, he pushed me down a flight of stairs, injuring me and causing my tailbone to protrude permanently.
Call me old-fashioned, but I stayed with Gino through all of that because the idea that your first love is your forever was instilled in me by my mother, and I began to adopt it as my own belief, too.
Six years since we started dating, I found out that I was pregnant, so Gino and I got married the following year. I did it with full knowledge of Gino’s aggressive tendencies; I thought that it was the right thing to do because we had a baby on the way. But once we were married, his jealousy just got worse.
We’d often fight because he’d get suspicious over little things I did, from the way I dressed to how I acted around friends. Some fights would involve just verbal attacks and emotional abuse; other times he would get physical. And he didn’t care whether there were people around; he would call me “liar,” “whore,” “bitch,” “stupid,” and other hurtful names even with our children, my relatives, the household help, or a hapless cab driver around.
It wasn’t just meanness I had to deal with; Gino was unfaithful, too. I had read text messages and emails sent to him by women, all with flirty or romantic tones. When I confronted him about it once, he punched me on the arm, leaving me with a big bruise.
In the third year of our marriage, Gino moved to China for work. A year after he moved, he admitted that he had had an affair with a woman whom he had met back home. While he was in China, the affair continued, and he avoided me and the kids for a whole year as it happened, even cutting off financial support that whole time. But the affair later fizzled, and he went home to ask me for another chance. I gave in for the sake of our children, and soon, I was pregnant with our third child.
Even while Gino was in China, his jealousy would rear its ugly head. He kept accusing me of cheating and would try to catch me in the act with sudden and unannounced visits back home. On Facebook, he never added me to his friend network, but he kept stalking me, looking at my pictures and saying mean things about the way I looked and the people I was with.
Two Decembers ago while Gino was home for the holidays, I discovered another suspicious message he had sent to a woman. I called him out on it, and while he promised to be a better husband, that was the last straw for me. I was done.
When Gino came home unannounced the following February to try to win me back, I was firm about turning him away. So he gave up and told me that he was going back to China and leaving the family for good. He took all his luggage with him, and I believed he was serious. I didn’t know then that my troubles were far from over.
The following month in March, I was driving home when I stopped by an ATM. As I parked the car, I saw a male co-worker smoking nearby. I rolled down the window to say hello, and he got in the backseat to chat. Suddenly, four men in motorbikes surrounded my car, and a little while later, a furious Gino arrived in a cab—he was in town that whole time and had apparently installed a GPS tracking device to my car. He took pictures of me and my co-worker, who was being held by the goons he had obviously hired, while accusing us of having an affair. He then posted these pictures on social media to humiliate and discredit me.
I began to really fear for my life, so I reported the incident to the police. I also secured a Barangay Protection Order at our Barangay Hall. By September, I filed for annulment of our marriage.
Since my basis for seeking annulment was my husband’s psychological incapacity, he and I had to go through psychological evaluation. From the psychologist’s report, I discovered that Gino has Paranoid Personality Disorder, which is characterized by “a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent.” It explained all the times he got suspicious over the littlest things, was doubtful of men I spent time with, and stalked me online and showed up unannounced at home just to catch me in the act of cheating. And that’s not all—the psychologist also reported that Gino showed symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder, which was why he repeatedly lied to me, was aggressive verbally and physically, and would go so far as to hire goons to confirm his suspicions of me.
All of our troubles seemed so much clearer once I read that report. I had put up with so much punishment over almost two decades, and now it was clear that none of it was my fault to begin with.
I pursued the annulment and paid for the expenses myself because I knew that Gino wouldn’t spare a centavo for us to legally part ways, but I didn’t care—I had to save myself and my kids and just do it.
A year later, I was getting on with my life when I got a message from a stranger on Facebook. The stranger claimed to be a former friend of Maita*, a woman Gino dated before we met who had apparently reconnected with him while he was in China. The stranger went on to reveal all sorts of details that shocked me: that Maita had started an affair with Gino even though she was also married with children of her own, that she had been trying to break Gino and me up since then but Gino wouldn’t leave me because I was pregnant with our third child, that they were together now and planned to marry soon—even though our annulment was not yet final.
I thought I was recovering pretty well by then, but seeing all those messages, I couldn’t help but cry. I cried so hard. Here I was, a victim of abuse for almost two decades, left to raise three kids on my own, and yet the people who put me through all this misery were still getting their happy ending.
But no matter how hurt and angry I felt, there was nothing left for me to do anymore. I couldn’t go after them, nor did I want to. I had gotten out of the hell that was our marriage, and that was the important thing.
If there’s one lesson I can share with women reading this right now, it’s that you shouldn’t rush marriage—especially if the only reason you’re considering it is because you’re pregnant. Especially if you’re so young, you haven’t discovered the world—haven’t even discovered yourself—yet.
It’s been a year since I filed for annulment, and Gino and Maita are now married, even as our annulment awaits decision. It’s still difficult to cope financially, and don’t even get me started on the emotional struggles I face each day. It’s not easy to raise three children singlehandedly, but I try to just be their mom, to listen to them, to comfort them, and to love them the way that I know how.
I’ve gone through many stages since my annulment: from fear of being alone and of raising the children alone, to anger at my ex-husband for everything he put me through, to regret that I even allowed myself to be in this position, and finally, to acceptance that I just have to survive these challenges, no matter what it takes.
I’ve started to look on the bright side and see that there are plenty of reasons for me to move on: there are lots of opportunities coming my way, and I’ve become closer to my family and to people I wouldn’t have connected with in the past for fear of Gino’s wrath. Most of all, the daily reminder I give myself that my kids should see me as a strong woman keeps me going each day.
And you know what? I still believe in a love that lasts forever, despite the massive romantic failure I’ve had to endure. I choose to stay positive; I choose to believe.
*Names have been changed