Like many young women, Clair Grobler thought that her identity was bound up in how men viewed her - equating her sex appeal with self-esteem.
This led Clair into several dangerous and damaging relationships. She endured physical and verbal abuse and emotional bullying at the hands of her boyfriends until, about four years ago, she came to the realisation that no man could make her feel truly happy or fulfilled.
As an attractive woman, Clair has never been short of admirers. “[The attention] made me feel good about myself and somewhat ‘loved’,” she admits. “This kind of ‘love’ is delusional though. The more men gave me attention, the better I felt about myself - like an ego boost. I partied a lot [in my twenties] and met a lot of people.”
Clair had been brought up going to church and youth group. She was confirmed at 16 and helped her mother serve in the youth leadership. However, her family took offence at how the church handled her parent’s marital problems and stopped going to church the year Clair finished school. At that time, they were also grieving the loss of Clair’s grandmother.
Clair’s first live-in relationship lasted five and a half years, which she admits was probably longer than it should have. “During all my relationships I never wanted to give up. I forced the relationship to carry on because I did not want to fail,” she sees now.
Her next live-in relationship was with a very controlling, jealous boyfriend who made her feel awful about herself, while continually accusing her of trying to cheat on him, blaming her for everything that went wrong and taking advantage of her financially.
Clair is a health and skincare therapist and this boyfriend would want to know what clients she was seeing, for how long and what treatments she was giving them. “I still did not realise that something was not right,” Clair remembers amazed. “He became so possessive. We argued a lot. I was often stressed out, and thought it was my fault. I became depressed, stopped eating and started looking sickly from all the weight loss. It was only a seven-month relationship but he had full control of me and my phone, and I just accepted it.”
The final straw was when her boyfriend became violent and punched Clair in the eye, leading to such a domestic dispute that the neighbours had to call their landlord.
It was only after he was finally out of her life that Clair realised her ex probably had a drug problem.
Even after such an awful experience, she was eager to be in a new relationship immediately. “Being single felt lonely,” Clair acknowledges. “I craved male attention.”
However, many guys did not want anything serious and those who did were often much younger than Clair. Her desperation left her vulnerable to the seductions of a scam artist.
“I was so blind and helped out someone that I really liked,” she relates painfully. “I did not even realise what he was up to. He robbed me of all my expensive jewellery and large equipment. I was too trusting and left him alone at my home when I went to work. He is still missing to this day. Previously, I had had a break in at my flat. All my money was stolen. Only much later did I realise this guy staged the robbery and pretended to know nothing about it. I was so gullible that I did not even realise he [too] had a drug problem.”
After that, Clair again picked the wrong sort of man and next fell for a high functioning alcoholic, who covered his tracks by shifting blame onto her for all their arguments.
“I once more became very depressed and thought of suicide,” she shares. “I felt worthless and that I had to fix myself, work on the relationship and work to keep this man in my life.
I realised no
me happy.“He was the sweetest person sober,” she says wryly.
The lies, fights, blame shifting and guilt tripping increased, along with Clair’s depression. This guy even told her it was her fault that they never seemed to get to church!
However, the Sunday after the relationship ended, found Clair in church with her mother.
Clair began praying and fasting to get closer to God and deal with her addiction to men.
One night – ironically, while she was out partying - she met a guy who had such an obviously strong and vibrant relationship with Jesus that Clair realised that THAT understanding of God is the relationship she really craved.
She joined this man’s church small group. “I grew in the Word [understanding of the Bible]. I grew in the Lord. I grew in myself spiritually. I grew in wisdom,” she explains.
“With wisdom, I realised no other person can make me happy. During all my prior relationships, I was under the impression that the man in my life needed to make me feel like the best thing on earth; that he always had to treat me right. And if something went wrong, it felt to me like the end of the world.”
Now Clair realised that only God could truly fulfil her and only God would be 100 percent dependable, available, loving and faithful.
So, later, when Clair got involved with her current boyfriend, she was able to keep the relationship in healthy perspective and not expect it to be perfect. All her deepest needs were being met by her all-powerful God.
“Depression is a real thing,” Clair knows from experience. “It takes over your soul and your whole life. The only way I got over depression was to put my love and trust in the Lord.”
God has brought about many changes in Clair’s life in the last few years. “He taught me to be peaceful and not to fight as much as I used to. He has taught me patience. He has taught me to really love and accept people for who they are. He has taught me respect and to be careful what I say, not gossip or judge. He has taught me to listen to Him and then act on His words by doing things like counselling courses and volunteering. He has taken me out of my comfort zone and He has taught me the correct way to handle relationships,” Clair enumerates.
To others hurt by broken relationships and expectations, Clair has a word of encouragement: “My caring Lord can be your caring Lord, if you allow Him to.”•