I have thought about writing this post for a long time but due to my love and respect for Nick, I have kept quiet and allowed events to play themselves out. However, I fear that my story, my words, are getting lost, misinterpreted and misrepresented, and I want to change that.
I met Nick 12 years ago and we went from colleagues to living together as a couple very quickly. We are and always have been very sure of each other. Even when everything around us has felt incredibly challenging and mentally draining we have found safe passage through by sticking together.
Nick has a complicated history with his family and when I first met him he was, at that time, not speaking with either of his parents. Despite the hurt he was feeling he was also desperate to rebuild their relationships and have his family again. As we spent night after night discussing everything, I made a promise to myself that I would do all that was in my power to help him with his aim. In particular he had a great desire to form a closer bond with his only brother who shares the same parents. (There are many half and step siblings in the mix). Generally, I get on well with people and I was certain that I could charm his brother and his girlfriend and the bond could start to grow.
Turns out I was wrong.
For ease of writing we will call his brother ‘Z’ and his now sister-in-law ‘O’.
When I first met Z and O I had been dating Nick for about 3 months. I met them at a family event so the whole experience was quite overwhelming. Nick’s family is huge and to meet a large number of them all at once was a daunting challenge but I girded my loins and stepped into the fray. It was clear from Z and O’s entrance into the gathering, that they were chaotic people. I mean no judgement about that but their energy was that of something akin to a tornado. They flew into the house with bags swinging, raucous energy and intense volume. I’ve never found this type of person easy to handle. I am naturally calmer and more introverted which means that I find chaos intimidating. However, there I was with my loins girded and I wasn’t going to let them go to waste. I greeted them, hugs and kisses included (I hate hugging and kissing when meeting brand new people). I then made various attempts to engage them in conversation. From the outset Z clearly had no interest in talking to me about anything. Even when I did manage to get talking to him he didn’t ask a single question about me. I decided not to take offence. Perhaps he’s nervous to meet his brother’s girlfriend or perhaps he was just having an ‘off’ day? Either way, his behaviour would not deter me. I already knew, even 3 months in, that Nick was someone I wanted to spend my life with and so I really wanted to make a good impression.
Our next meeting did not go a lot better. This time it was another family gathering, but this was the other side of Nick’s family. At this meeting I tried to speak to Z about his music (I had been told repeatedly that he was a very talented musician). My brother is also a talented musician and so I know a little about the process of making music, performing and I have quite eclectic taste in music. However, due to growing up with a musician, I’m not overly impressed by musicians. I think they’re cool and I know I couldn’t do it but it doesn’t seem that alien to me that someone could be gifted at it. As I spoke to Z about it, my lack of awe at his abilities was probably evident but I was still engaged and interested in everything he had to say. I don’t need to be fawning all over someone to still show respect for their experience. However, as is often my way, I assumed that I had somehow acted out of turn and that I would need to change my approach if I was to build a relationship with him.
A later encounter with Z and O was at a restaurant with a smaller group of Nick’s family. I decided to try again to engage Z in a topic that may help us to find common ground. Both Z and myself have had difficult and traumatic pasts leaving us both with emotional scars. Small talk wasn’t working, so I used our past experiences to help me reach him. This went about as well as you might now expect. I talked to him about my previous relationship, how I was emotionally abused and physically assaulted. His response? ‘Well, you need to get over that’. Then he walked away. It was like a punch to the gut. Maybe this person was not who he had been reported to be. Maybe this person was actually just an unpleasant person. Perhaps a friendship with him would be impossible. I remember this moment so clearly. I can see the expression on his face, where we were standing, what he was drinking and the pain I felt at having opened myself up only to have it thrown back in my face.
Over the next few years we would see each other multiple times at birthdays, Christmases and Sunday lunches. Z and O got married, followed a couple of years later by Nick and myself. Every time I saw Z he was either drunk or hungover and he treated me appallingly. At family meals we often seemed thrust together at the table but instead of making idle conversation he would out right ignore me. If I spoke to him he would turn and talk to someone else on the other side of the table. When I was pregnant he made quite disgusting comments about my weight gain (pregnancy weight). It was made known to me at one point that a list had been made, by Z and other male members of the family, of the females in the family where they ordered us from attractive to unattractive. Guess where I came. I don’t care if they don’t find me attractive but I do care that such a weird misogynistic activity took place and that my name was involved.
There is one conversation I had with Z that I will absolutely never forget and was the day when I thought to myself that I could never be in his presence again. It was in the Summer of 2016 in his mum’s garden. At the time the horrific case of Brock Turner, the person who raped a Jane Doe while she was so intoxicated that there was no way she could have consented to the intercourse. As you can imagine the media circus around the trial was a massive display of sexism, victim blaming and rapist apologisers. Z and I were discussing the case and I will never forget him saying ‘it is a woman’s fault if she is raped. She should not have drunk that much. Women are asking for it when they get blackout drunk and wear the clothes they wear.’ He also claimed that he would teach his daughter her alcohol limits so that it couldn’t happen to her. When someone is raped the only fault lies with the rapist. Sorry, I say that louder for the people in the back – WHEN SOMEONE IS RAPED THE ONLY FAULT LIES WITH THE RAPIST. I pushed back on his remarks, I fought not just my point of view but in fact the side of truth. I did not let him get away with his opinions. However he did not back down or recant his beliefs. Our potential friendship was finished that day as far as I was concerned.
Despite this interaction, I still continued to attend family events and act civilly towards him. He is the golden child of his family so to do anything but treat him with politeness would have caused a major upset that I wanted to avoid for Nick’s sake. In 2018 while pregnant with Martha I was dealing with a huge amount to trauma as the looming birth of my third child brought forth many of the worst aspects of my birth trauma with Eloise. I began recording myself talking about it and even created a Youtube channel where I could express my thoughts. I also began writing this blog as a way to process the feelings I was experiencing. It was then that we received this message from Z.
Msg 1: 23:03 – 20th June 2018
Z: You two have actually no fucking idea how hard life can actually be.fucking joke. A fucking joke! Please feel free to show this message to people .last thing we need is to hear about how hard it is . apologies long time coming.
No need to reply.i love you but fucking jesus chris. Your killing my children keeping the conservatives in power
While you live off capitalist profits????
Fuck it while my family struggle and you have the luxury to pontificate.
Knowone put any money in for my uni.what did you come from? You are both killing my children because you keep the unviable alternative wih a chance.and then complain about brexit.which has cost me a fortune.thousands..you two are going to kill my children.cheers
Msg 2: 23:05 – 20th June 2018
Z: Yes I sent that and will always love you.but I have to protect my family from the labour and conservative bullshit. Read homage to can catalonia orwell. Thats what yiur left can really do. X
After this I made it clear that I was very angry at Z. At the next family gathering, and anniversary party, I was encouraged to make things better with Z. I was told that he was so incredibly sorry for what he wrote. I wasn’t ready to let it go but agreed that things might improve in the future.
The next big family get together I remember seeing him at was in the Summer of 2020. I’m sure we saw each other in between but nothing particularly stands out. After the messages we had received from him, as there were others, we were not accepting as many invitations in 2019. In the Summer of 2020 Z tried to smooth things over while my in laws watched on. It was clear they wanted me to forgive him and for everything to be ok. During our interactions that day he compared a gorilla to a black man, claimed he had rescued a person of colour from racial tension in a local pub and that stay at home parents are beneath him. Needless to say, the day did not go well. It was after this event that Nick and I decided it would be better if I didn’t see Z anymore.
Since 2020, I haven’t seen him. Nick has attended family events on his own or we have arranged to see his family on separate days to Z. This was fine, if a little tense. There was the suggestion of Z and I attending couples counselling and pleadings to allow family gatherings again because the children must be allowed to become close. It all came to a head though when Nick began planning an 80th birthday party for his mum. He contacted all the relevant family members to see if they would be able to attend. Z and O began sending messages about how they were confused to be invited as I didn’t want to see Z. Nick explained how I wouldn’t be there but that our kids would be. Then Z and O accused us of ostracising them from family events, we have not done this once, and that we had never explained the reason for the rift. The truth is we had tried to explain multiple times both to them and any other family member who tried to claim that Z does love me and that I just need to give him another chance. Nick decided it was time to write a letter explaining everything, most of which I have detailed here. This was the response we got.
“Thankyou for your pdf..i read it after I saw you at mums birthday. O already had.
I’ve slept so much better since I read it..you’re reminded me why I was hurt.
You really did write a totally inaccurate account of our children’s birth..how hard it was and framed it and gave it to us for Christmas.
All while going online and complaining how hard life is.
It was utterly offensive.
Go back and try doing your kids without a mother in law.
Add a type 1 diabetes diagnosis and being poor as fuck to it.. and now I’m moaning. At least not on the internet to everyone.
So now I remember why I/we have had a fractured relationship with your wife.
I had moved on as I don’t live on hate.
I as you say was polite etc..
My son nearly died and you framed an inaccurate account of our children’s birth and gave It to us for Christmas..
The other way around and you’d have never spoken to us again.
I have a wonderful family,who I see regularly .
They know I’m not a terrible person.even tho I, as all of us have our faults.
We live with them.
Please live off love. not hate and anger…as our family have.
Life is too short..i/we love you all so much.
In this response he thanks Nick for the letter (pdf) and then references a naming ceremony I wrote for them in 2015 as a Christmas present and an olive branch.
I am so hurt and bruised by this man. I feel completely defeated and trapped as I know that it will never stop. The requests for me to bury the hatchet, for me to forgive him, possibly to apologise to him. It feels like the rest of my life will be having to explain, over and over how I cannot have him in my life, nor in my children’s lives. I cannot in good conscience allow my children near someone who would treat their mum (and dad) that way.
I am writing this now because it is the only way I can see to release myself from the prison of his abuse. This cannot be denied, nor can it be ignored. This person has treated me terribly for years and while I don’t have all the ‘receipts’ (as people much younger and cooler than me say), I have enough to know that I’m not wrong, I’m not crazy and I don’t deserve this.
For clarity’s sake I have included a link to the naming ceremony I wrote so that you can judge for yourself why he took such offence to it and in a later messaged claimed he would never let his children read it.