I didn’t realise that I had been abused. I knew that my ex had been difficult, temperamental, awkward for awkward sake at times (I mean, who WANTS to visit their in laws?) but not abusive. I figured that this must be normal. All people argue, right?
He had confidence, and that is what I fell in love with. He had a spirit and demeanour that you couldn’t help but be drawn into. He was funny, people liked him, if only for a short time. He was clear about who he liked and disliked and you could not change his mind about someone he perceived as trouble. I wanted to be like him (!!) and he knew it. He knew I was a fence sitter, someone who would never kick up a fuss, someone who didn’t have the confidence to be clear if I was your friend or not.
I trusted and followed his advice about how to ‘deal’ with friends, family, co-workers, everyone and everything around me. Where we went, what we did- it was easier to let him decide because if I decided and it wasn’t ‘right’, we wouldn’t be doing it anyway. Nothing I did was ever good enough, and he let me know it. He was clear at telling me what he would have done- “you should have said this, done that…”. This is coercive control.
I lost friends. I lost co-workers. I was distanced from my family and they didn’t come to find me because they didn’t like his company. He made that very clear to them. I didn’t see it at the time- I thought he was protective and we were building our family unit- just us two against the world. He was slowly but surely isolating me from anyone that cared and didn’t want to see my personality disappear and his take over. He didn’t want them to connect with me, reach me and tell me get out. This is coercive control.
I love my job and I have worked hard to get where I am. I am unbelievably fortunate to have my job and I have always been proud that I am financially independent as this was one of the few things that kept me going when my world fell down around me last year, when he left. I followed his advice about how to cope with work issues. I used to tell him everything that happened- office gossip, conversations I’d had with my colleagues, and discussions about career progression. What I hadn’t accounted for was how the evening discussions about work had gotten shorter and shorter for me, and longer for him (despite him not working) and rather than the discussions being supportive, they became accusatory. I also wasn’t keeping my family afloat anymore- money was getting tighter as he always had some bill or another that just needed paying off. This is coercive control!
He won me over to begin with and I fell completely into it. Things moved far too fast and despite having warning bells going off in my head, I convinced myself that he loved me and he was right when he said we would be together forever so why wait? He moved into my flat, he drove my car around and within six months he was the only person I was spending time with.
We separated after he had violently attacked me for a seemingly trivial matter. He had ‘only’ been violent twice before at the beginning of our relationship so I hadn’t expected what he did, but I knew from the beginning that he had no problem with aggression and violence towards the people he ‘loved’.
We have been separated for one year and I want you to know that there is life on the other side of abuse. If he tells you that you won’t cope without him, know this is a lie. If he says nobody will ever love you again, know this is a lie. If he says you are too stupid, too fat, ugly, depressing, uneducated, please know that is all lies! None of it is true and you have so much to live for. Abusers are experts at manipulating people and they will go to any lengths to keep you in their control. They will strip you of your identity to be sure you don’t have the strength to walk away from them. Behind Closed Doors will help you find ‘you’ again.
I didn’t realise that I had been abused. I didn’t realise that my loving, caring, friendly personality has been hidden because I believed the lies he had told me. I am not a fence sitter- I am good at seeing both sides to every story. I am not someone who would never kick up a fuss- I know how to deal with conflict gracefully and with tact. I am not someone who didn’t have the confidence to be clear if I was your friend or not- I try to see the good in everyone and I will go out of my way to make sure you are OK.
Behind Closed Doors have been pivotal to me processing what he has done to me. Abuse is not normal. I did not choose this. Violence, oppression, emotional manipulation, financial control, absolutely refusal to do anything for my benefit, controlling my thoughts, feeling, emotions….none of it is normal. None of it is deserved.