In order for you to get a handle on my family’s life after leaving an abusive household, I need to tell you a little about the 4 years I spent with an abusive man. Like any regular relationship, it began positively, otherwise it would never have continued past the so-called honeymoon period. It always frustrates me immensely when people question how I could possibly fall in love with a man “like that,” when a bit of sound judgment would tell them that how an abusive man first appears, is nothing like who they actually turn out to be. In the beginning, he was incredibly appealing, enticing me with charm, confidence, gentleness and attentiveness. I found these attributes extremely powerful, and even though he developed a million more unpleasant ones as the relationship progressed, he never completely lost his appeal. As peculiar (or familiar) as that might sound to some-scattered between his unpleasantries, was just the right amount of charm and good-naturedness to keep me trapped.
Right from day one, I knew the relationship with my abusive partner was different to other relationships I had been in, but initially, I couldn’t really pinpoint why. Emotions seemed incredibly intense and the relationship progressed more quickly than anything I had experienced previously. He was very keen to spend time with me and stay in contact regularly throughout the day and it wasn’t long before his belongings started to encroach on my territory. After about 4 weeks, he told me he loved me. Not long after that, he said he wanted to marry me. At 3 months he’d officially moved in and with that, came the banishment of any trace of my previous partner’s existence in the property. Some might agree that that was a reasonable expectation however, the removal of all land and seascape photographs taken on holidays I shared with my ex-partner, seemed a little extreme to me, even at that early stage. Despite all of this, I managed to misinterpreted these red flags as signs of his devotion and deep affection towards me. In hindsight, it was probably the beginning of his attempts to gain and maintain control.
My abusive ex was incredibly sensitive about my past relationships. He would become visibly upset if I was to mention any previous partner in any context. I never deliberately did this, however, at one point I was having to deal with paperwork from a house sale with an ex-partner. He became distraught at the idea that I used to own the property that we now lived in with another man. He demanded that I should have no direct contact with my ex-partner and that any correspondence had to be sent via a solicitor. This felt like an over-reaction to me, but I accepted it. Not long after, he insisted that I deleted all male contacts from my phone and asked me to deactivate any social media accounts. I agreed, as I couldn’t cope with the uproar and in the beginning, I wanted to do anything to appease him.
When I became pregnant the posessiveness became unbearable. He became constantly suspicious of my every move, questioning me, following me, checking receipts and car parking tickets. At every given opportunity he would check through my phone, not only reading my messages, but also looking through emails and internet history. Heavily pregnant, he would keep me up late, night after night, throwing angry accusations at me, calling me vile names, damaging my belongings and threatening me with violence. I would cry hysterically out of fear and frustration. His allegations were always completely unfounded, unfair and insulting. Knowing what I know now, it is likely that he was making accusations to isolate me, I would try to avoid repeats of his rage by making sure I didn’t give him any reason to suspect. It also turns out he was the cheat, in typical sociopath style, he just assumed that everybody must be at it.
Not long after my son was born, the threats of violence soon deteriorated into actual violence. Pushing, shoving, blocking me from leaving or entering rooms, squeezing my hand in an attempt to break it, pinning me to the bed, pulling me around by my hair, squeezing my throat and also head-butting me. The bouts of physical violence were few and infrequent in my relationship (not to minimise it) however, the anxiety of anticipating violence was continuous. As well as violence towards myself, my abusive partner frequently issued threats to harm himself. The times he did this often coincided with my attempts to end the relationship, or times when I wouldn’t do as he had asked.
Despite the agony I have just described, I think its important to emphasise that my abusive relationship was never black and white. Throughout the 4 years, no matter how bad the abuse became, there were still good bits-days where we just had a conventional existence and enjoyed being together as a family. We had ordinary conversations, we cuddled up on the sofa, we went out and socialised with family and friends, we laughed together, we missed each other and we exchanged I love yous. The emotional confusion was, and still is, indescribable and it is something that you can never comprehend unless you have loved an abuser.