Sunday, 27 April 2014

What It feels like: being in an abusive relationship


A lot of people think that if you are in an abusive relationship you are weak or stupid if you don't leave.  I know I used to think that. "why would you stay", i'd think.

I don't any more.  

When I first met S I was attracted to his confidence.  He was funny and attractive, and we fell "in love" quickly.  I found out I was pregnant 5 weeks into our relationship and that was when things started going wrong.  Two days after I found out i was pregnant S told me he wanted a paternity test.  He was verbally abusive and I miscarried within 10 days.

Abusers don't start their abuse on the first date, you don't get a goodnight slap instead of a kiss.  S started acting jealous and didn't like me seeing my friends, especially my male friends.  Over the course of 6 months he managed to distance me from all but my very best friend.  He did this by pointing out how they were unsuitable and asked too much of me.  It was constant everyday, "look what she is asking you to do.  A good person would not ask that of you", he'd say.  Thing was, he wasn't wrong all the time, my friends were asking me to lie for them and it wasn't right and I knew that so he got into my head and once there he started changing the way I thought about other things.

He didn't like me talking or even looking at other men because it was disrespectful to him.  One time when walking down the street with him I looked up long enough to read the slogan on a man's t shirt, this led to an hour and a half argument about how i was eyeing up other men while with him.  I learned to walk with my head down.

When he was in a foul mood he would drag up the past and shame me for what he considered an immoral lifestyle (this meant I was friends with men and hung out in bars with my friends after work).  He would drag me round the house pinning me against walls or the bed and shouting abuse in my face.  Sometimes he would lock the door and  say "how are you going to get out?  I'm never going to let you go, so what are you going to do?"  

Afterwards he would cry and apologise and tell me the fact i was no longer in contact with my friends was for my own good and in the end that's all he wanted for me.  I was alone, confused, frightened and ashamed.  
He was rarely physically violent to me, but one night after we had been out a works night out (his).  Things came to a head.  He felt my actions were inappropriate and I felt after talking with some people that things weren't right and i wanted to leave.  I didn't have my keys with me so he walked home with me so i could get some things and then he slapped me, right there on the street.  It was a busy Saturday night but no-one saw it or if they did no-one tried to help me.  When we got home he dragged me round the house with such force the next day i would have to go to hospital to have my hand checked.  He smashed my mobile phone and screamed abuse.

I hadn't talked to anyone about what was happening.  I tried to leave a few times but always returned because he would cry and promise things would change and I would want to believe him.  I felt ashamed that my relationship wasn't working, that perhaps I was all the things he said I was.  I little contact with any family near me and only one friend to speak to, and i didn't want to burden her with what I considered my problem.  I was scared of what people would think of me, of having no-where to go, of managing on my own.  He had robbed me of all my confidence over the course of our relationship.  I felt terrified of being on my own, because I didn't think i could cope.   

Almost 10 years on I can tell you I did leave and as a final act of malice/desperation S killed himself telling me it was because i wouldn't come back to him.

It has taken years to build my self confidence, to talk about what happened.  I still feel a deep sence of shame and catch myself walking with my head down.  I fight the demons in my head that tell me I am the worst kind of woman.  

So the answer the question "Why would you stay?" 


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