#5 Together through thick & thin

A phrase often used to describe whatever life throws at a couple, they will stay together against the odds. 

As you read about Hilda & Jack consider the following questions

  • Does this remind you of someone you know or have known?
  • Why do you think this is familiar? 
  • How would you reach out to Hilda?

Hilda & Jack married in 1950, both in their early 20’s, born in the late 1930’s raised during very challenging war times.

A marriage that saw hardship, illness & poverty.

A marriage that despite both of them having physically demanding jobs, relied on ‘traditional’ values with Hilda also responsible for housework, comfort & homeliness.

Each night Jack would expect a hot meal to be prepared, slippers ready, his favourite radio programme on as he arrived home. His need for a hot bath after a hard day of dirty work, would be prioritised, whilst Hilda prepared a home cooked meal.

After clearing away the dishes & tending to laundry, with no hot water left, she would resort to a body wash with cold water, a flannel & a bar of soap, before bedtime. 

Intimacy was dictated solely by Jack’s desire.

This is all they knew.

How they had expected marriage to be, how everybody else’s marriage seemed.

They both worked hard & contributed financially, but as the man of the house, Jack made all the important decisions. If Hilda challenged him, she would be punished with violence.

It was their normal.  

Hilda had nowhere to turn.

She didn’t feel ‘abused’.

But as they aged Hilda’s resentment for Jack grew. She felt a growing bitterness deep inside her & the life she had lived.

Restricted. Controlled. Hampered.

Now they were nearing retirement & seeing a world where younger women had choices she never had.

The violence shifted a gear as Jack approached retirement.

A loss of purpose & role, found him immensely angry at his lack of masculinity. He didn’t have the skills to express this, nobody he could speak to, it would be seen as weak.

The anger & loss of purpose poured out with each punch he inflicted on Hilda.  

He found a huge sense of worth in showing Hilda what a powerful man he was…. is.

 Jack & Hilda are now in their 90’s. Their poverty, hard working lives & Hilda’s beatings telling on their bodies.

Hilda with multiple health conditions, all brushed off as ‘age related’. A stroke caused by restricted oxygen to the brain by frequently being strangled. Arthritis from the broken bones & bruising from the frequent beatings. Low mood & chronic fear from decades of trauma. 

Hilda rattles with the cocktail of drugs she takes to keep her alive. 

Jack uses a walking frame, he despises his frailty. 

They had carers at home for a while, but they could no longer cope & an assessment concluded they required care in a residential home.

They  resigned themselves to this.

Exhaustion had won the battle. 

Professionals meet with their niece & suggest a home where they can have rooms next to each other. After 73 years of marriage a meeting concludes it would be a ‘scandal’ to separate them.

But for Hilda, living separately would be bliss. 

Peace, choice, liberation even if her body remains restricted her mind & thoughts would be free. 

Yet she nods in agreement at the suggestion of rooms together, sees in Jack’s eyes what she must do. Frailty hasn’t prevented his control.

Hilda has become an expert at survival & knows the safest option is always compliance.



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