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Marni met Dan on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. They fell very quickly in love and Dan surprised her by proposing just three months after their first date. She believed that Dan was everything she was looking for in a husband and accepted his marriage proposal happily.
They were married six short months later and right after the honeymoon, Dan asked Marni to quit her teaching job. He told her she should let him earn the money – explaining that if she were more relaxed, they could start to work on having a family. He was persistent and she agreed.
It was soon after leaving her job that Dan’s behaviour started to change. He would insist that household tasks were completed a certain way and would lose his temper and fight with her when they weren’t. He became frustrated that Marni had gained some weight since the wedding, and that often resulted in name-calling and put downs. Marni’s breaking point came after they had been trying to conceive for several months and had been unsuccessful. He told her it was because she wasn’t thin or healthy enough and that if she didn’t lose twenty pounds, he would leave her.
Marni hated his behaviour, but believed in her vows. She convinced Dan to go to couples’ counselling with her, but told no one about it. She made excuses for his temper; she covered for him. She blamed herself for not being able to conceive.
As they were driving home from their first insult-ridden counselling session, Dan pulled the car over, took Marni’s shoulders and shook her violently. He screamed, “You can’t even do couples’ counselling right! You’re useless! Why did I marry such a stupid, useless woman?” Though tears began to roll down her cheeks, she remained silent. He slapped her across the face then started to drive again, but she still said nothing, which enraged him even further. He drove recklessly until he finally approached a red light.
She instinctively opened the door, rolled out of the slowly moving car, and ran. She cut through a dark park hoping he hadn’t, or couldn’t follow her. Hiding by the side of someone’s home, she pulled out her cell phone and called her sister to pick her up.
The next morning, Marni called Jewish Family and Child Service. With a social worker and a police officer, Marni packed her belongings and moved in temporarily with her sister. She joined JF&CS’ ‘When Relationships Hurt’ group and found that she was far from alone and that some other women suffered for years before seeking help. Dan never attempted to contact Marni again, though he would have had little success after a police pressed charges and a restraining order was issued against him.
Through ongoing group and individual counselling, Marni regained her independence, moved into her own apartment and began to teach again. Her self-esteem is still fragile, but she knows she has the courage and strength to overcome this experience. “If I can throw myself out of a moving car, I think I can pretty much do anything.”
*Names, photos and certain identifying features have been changed in order to protect the anonymity of our clients.