Do you understand?

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                                                                Do you understand?

There was something about him. About Christian Grey. Something that set him apart from almost everyone else I knew. He was not nice.

I know that this is a strange thing to claim about the man I married, but I will try to explain. Most of the time heseemed perfectly nice. He had a very charming smile. Underneath it all, however, he was manipulative and controlling.

I could blame my mother for my failure to see through his facade. I could say that she hadn’t taught me anything about men. I could blame my father. He hadn’t shown me how relationships were supposed to work. I could blame my own inexperience. Not having been in any kind of boy/girl relationship before was definitely part of the problem. I could have used the practise. I could have extrapolated. I hadn’t had the chance to explore my sexuality. I had not yet discovered what it was that I wanted out of a relationship. I knew little about sex and even less about love.

Unfortunately, Christian was my first. It was his fault. He took advantage of my lack of experience. He was not a good boyfriend.

Being with him was exciting at first. It was also scary, because he had a volatile temper. I never knew what he might do next, but somehow the danger was part of it. Christian had a way with words. He convinced me that I liked things I didn’t like. He made me believe that I imagined the pain I felt. Christian made it seem like the fear and the times he hurt me were normal. He placed everything he did to me in a BDSM context, which appeared to make it alright.

He was an expert at pretending to agree to compromise. It took me a long time to realise that whenever we compromised, the compromise was all mine. He got exactly what he wanted. My friends didn’t react well to how he treated me, but the unacceptable quickly became normal. It was an abusive relationship, but I didn’t know it. I was naive to the point of stupidity sometimes.

It wasn’t until after the birth of our second child that I realised any of this. We were at a restaurant. I don’t remember the name of the place, but there were a lot of different forks on the table. Christian was telling me a story about Darfur and I wasn’t listening. It wasn’t a story about Darfur, of course; it was really a story about himself. All Christian’s stories were about himself. The subject bored me intensely.

I began to look at the other couples in the restaurant. I observed their behaviour. Happy couples in healthy relationships touch each other a lot. That seems obvious. I remember thinking: Christian is always fondling me: therefore, we must be happy.

One man kissed his wife behind her ear. He was trying to be discreet. She was giggling. It was sweet. 'I know that you enjoy it when I touch you there.'

A woman of about sixty had taken off her shoes and was nudging her husband with her stockinged feet. She winked at him. He blushed. 'Hey, I love you.'

An extremely beautiful redhead was absentmindedly running her nails over the wrist of her pretty girlfriend. The girlfriend took her hand gently and pressed a kiss into her palm. 'Are you listening? Are you alright?'

Suddenly, I was noticing the wide variations in touches and all these different meanings. I love to touch you. You’re adorable. Come here. Do you want dessert? Do you want to skip dessert? How about sex tonight? I just want to hold you in my arms forever. I’m crazy about you.

Christian’s touches – especially those in public – only meant one thing. You’re mine. And I mean that literally. He touched me as if he owned me. As if I was an object that was his and it was within his rights to do whatever he pleased with this object. I was a possession.

I don’t remember what happened the rest of the night, but I probably spent the next few months attempting to rationalise my disturbed feelings. Clearly, I didn’t actually feel that way. Clearly, it wasn’t true. Clearly. I started to remember all the things I’d given up in order to be with him. My car. My independence. My privacy. My freedom. Bodily autonomy. I was shocked by how absolute these terms where.

I couldn’t think of a single thing he’d given up.

Marriage isn’t about keeping score. I know that. But there has to be a certain balance. One person can’t do all the taking while the other person does all the giving. Do you know what that’s a description of? It’s not a marriage. It’s the relationship between a parasite and its host.

I tried to picture divorcing him, but, honestly, I couldn’t picture it. Christian got what he wanted. Always. And he had decided that he wanted me. I was trapped. I had been since the moment he laid eyes on me. I knew that he would not let me go. This man was going to continue to intimidate, humiliate and terrorise me. There was no escape. None that I could see, anyway.

Do you understand now why I had to do it? Maybe you can’t. Maybe murder defies justification. But I hope that you understand why I did it. I protected myself. I protected the two of you from Christian’s poisonous form of love. And I will never regret that.

Your mother,

Ana Steele.

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