Meet Bareeq - Podcast Host, Storyteller, Empath-Warrior, Devoted Single Mom, Narcissistic Abuse Survivor, Social Justice Ally and Advocate
I met a man and thought he was the guy for me. I based this realization on superficial things like being of the same background/religion, speaking the same second language, and that he was educated and made a good living. I look back at this now and laugh. Those are not the reasons to enter into a partnership with someone. Now I know better.
Due to our customs and traditions, we got engaged a month and a half after knowing each other, and what followed was a yearlong courtship and engagement. During this engagement, we were renovating what would be our home (that he chose without including me - red flag), I was completing my masters degree in communication and thesis, and we were planning a 400-person wedding (his choice, not mine) all at the same time. There was so much noise around me I wasn't seeing the red flags, and I didn't have enough experience to differentiate what was what. Now I realize I tried to make it work so badly because deep down I believed I was unlovable and that if THIS man didn't love me then no one would ever love me so I did everything I could to make it work.
We got married and his mask finally lifted and I began to see what he tried very hard to hide during our courtship. He was emotionally and psychologically abusing me during our marriage using gaslighting and manipulation, making me out to be the problem in everything and I believed him. We got pregnant fairly quickly into the marriage and since I had just graduated, I couldn't get a job knowing I would go on maternity leave soon.
Then the isolation began and a very lonely marriage with no sense of equality. I felt like a servant where my life would only be to serve this man.
We had our son and he was born with medical complications. He had a tracheoesophageal fistula and had to enter into a life-saving surgery the very night he was born. He remained in the NICU for a month. It was a painful time with many doctors appointments and medications to manage as I was doing this primarily on my own all while battling my own depression and PPD. I was so unhappy and continually communicated what I needed which he would give me for 2 weeks and then go back to his old ways. He didn't love nor respect me. Finally when our son was 10 months old, I got the courage to call my dad and to tell him to come get me and our son, I was done.
In the next month, it hit me that divorce would mean I wouldn't see our son seven days a week and in a moment of weakness I decided to text him whatever he needed to hear to take me back. I'll never forget texting him for four hours begging to give us another chance. He not only refused, but said the only way he'd take me back is if he divorced me then see how I handle the divorce and then consider taking me back. He was using divorce as leverage and I finally woke up. I knew there was no way I could go back to this man. He would make me pay for this for the rest of my life. Then divorce proceedings began and I was not prepared. Till today, I believe he was ready for divorce because he came at me HARD. The amount of lies and manipulation he portrayed to the court and twisted the truth to feed his false narrative, they actually believed him. Apparently in family court if you keep repeating something with no proof they'll assume it's true. It was as ludicrous as it was laughable. He hired one of the best attorneys while I was left with an attorney who couldn't keep up with them.
After some time I couldn't afford the attorney and had to represent myself and I got swallowed whole. We went through an almost two-year long custody battle that drained me financially, physically, emotionally and mentally. I went to therapy as an act of desperation and it was used against me in court. As we neared the end I knew I was going to lose.
There was no justice in that court room. We had 4 different judges, there was no continuity and they did not take emotional and psychological abuse into the equation. They cared more that my ex had a bigger home than me while I was living with my family in one room. Finally the worst day of my life came, when he was awarded primary custody of our son. It broke me.
I had to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy after that because the divorce and custody dispute was so costly and I wanted a clean slate, especially because I would have to pay my ex child support. I walked away with my personal belongings and a little money to buy myself a used car, that was it.
After living a full life in 3 years (one year I was married, the second year I became a mom, and the third year I was divorced), I now basically had to start my life over. I had some dark days after that. Depression and anxiety formed and I cried so much. I lost so much weight because I never fed my hunger pains, I'd welcome it. I felt like I deserved my pain for not fighting harder for my son.
But then when the dust settled, and thanks to my supportive family and friends, I started to feel free and I began to shift. Coparenting with a narcissist has come with many many challenges but as I got stronger, it got easier. I went back to work. I started as a part-time college advisor and worked my way up to Assistant Director of Admissions. Then I got a job at Amazon and for once I was no longer living paycheck to paycheck.
I live with my family and it's been hard to establish my life as a single woman and a single mom. But I do know it taught me that:
- I am one of the strongest women I have ever met; and,
- I am capable of anything.
I not only survived being married and then divorcing a narcissist, but I also survived what can only be seen as one of a mother's worst nightmares, losing valuable and crucial time with my son. But honestly, I wouldn't have had an opportunity to focus on myself and my personal and professional growth had I had my son full-time, and so sometimes I wonder if divine intervention gave me not what I wanted, but what I needed. And despite everything and attempts of his father, my son and I have the most loving and beautiful relationship. I realized I can only control how I am with our son in the little time I get him and it has moved mountains for me. A 5-minute FaceTime call every morning, for example, could change our whole day knowing we're both OK and that we love each other so much.
I didn't get over what happened to me, but I got through it, and it was for purpose. Because if I didn't go through what I went through, I wouldn't be the woman I am today, someone I finally love and admire. Stephen Colbert once said, "I learned to love the thing I wish had not happened," and I couldn't agree with him more.
"What about your story challenges other people's expectations for what a woman should do?"
Many people stay in abusive or toxic relationships "for the kids", but I made it a point not to do that. I remember thinking "I do not want my son to have a miserable mother and I don't want him to think this is an example of a loving marriage and relationship." I also got divorced which is something that is frowned upon by the Arab/Muslim community, despite it becoming more common, and I have definitely found some members of my community distance themselves from me but also others revered me to have the strength to do what they couldn't do. My family struggled to accept my divorce and have become more open-minded as a result.
"What motivates you most?"
My son motivates me so much. He is the most compassionate intuitive little human and he inspires me to be better every day. He has saved my life twice. The first is when he gave me the courage to leave my toxic marriage. If he didn't give me a reason to live outside of myself I would have still been in that marriage trying to "fix" the unfixable, and when I was in deep moments of depressive episodes, when I would get my parenting time with him, it would literally snap me out of my depression. It would give me this feral strength to be good and happy for him until I eventually became more consistently happy and at peace. He is a great source of inspiration and strength for me.
"Tell us your "&"!"
I am a Palestinian, Muslim immigrant woman who was actually undocumented for the first four years she was in the United States and today we are proud US citizens. I'm an adrenaline junkie, explorer of cultures, podcast host, collector of vinyl records, obsessed with lions (my son's name means "baby lion" and I'm a Leo), and I LOVE to dance and sing.
Inspired by Bareeq's story? Connect with her at:
- @Bareeq.Barqawi - Instagram
- Bareeq Barqawi - Facebook
- @Bareeq.Barqawi - Clubhouse