Too many women do what I did: stay in a relationship for years/decades out of fear or a sense of duty or the suspicion that telling the truth will cause more abuse from friends and family members, and a vicious backlash from the abuser. I know the feeling: I delayed for years.
This is my story.
I do not want sympathy or fluffy bunny words. I simply want to tell the truth and, in so-doing, encourage others to cut through the fog of gaslighting that is so prominent a part of most abuse and to see, with pitiless clarity, what they are being exposed to. If my post helps just one woman to get the hell out, all the better.
For years, I have been told, ‘It’s not abuse. It’s not bullying. It’s not intimidation. I am the Good Guy. The problem is you. You are imagining things…’
Not once did I get any acknowledgement that his behaviour was out of order and cruel and scary. The most I ever received was, ‘You provoked me…’ He doesn’t do ‘Sorry’ except in a glib, almost menacing, way.
I was blamed – for being silenced and wounded and isolated and excluded. I was told it was my fault.
I was punished for objecting to gaslighting and the Silent Treatment and endless punishments, of an emotional nature, often for something as trivial as buying things in a shop he disapproved of, or upsetting his plans.
I was punished by terror more often than I can say: Furious and fast driving; furious silences; getting at others in order to get his own back on me; threats; constant manipulation; being told, ‘I won’t say you’re clinically insane, but you are clearly not sane…’
I was told, ‘Well, would you mind if I had sex with other women, then?’ when I finally told him I didn’t like his fetishistic sexual habits as much as he did.
For years, I kept all of this hidden. But I cannot any longer. The fury and grief is climbing up the column of my throat. It needs to be released.
I was told I read crap books; that my taste in televisual material was appalling but that I was welcome to watch telly as long as we watched what he wanted. I was told that my instrumental ability was negligible and that I would humiliate and embarrass him if he had to watch me playing my recorder or violin.
I have been told that I am disloyal for mentioning his behaviour to others. I have been accused of lying. I have been threatened, during the divorce process, by a relative on his side. A so-called friend refused to believe my testimony.
I have been got at for finally releasing my fury and tears and deep sense of betrayal by opening up about the abuse I suffered for so many years. I have been told that there are two sides to every story; that I was misinterpreting perfectly innocent behaviour; that maybe I should see a shrink because I might well be delusional.
The grief and loss is too much. It is a pain like no other. Worse, because far less constructive, than childbirth. During those years of silent abuse behind closed doors, I felt so bloody powerless, too afraid to confide the whole thing to anyone on either side of the family, though a tiny circle of friends did eventually get told edited highlights. I often longed to pour it all out, to cry on someone’s shoulder. But my tears were seen as signs of either manipulation or, even worse, caused sexual arousal in him.
Now? I need release. Tears need to flow, having been stoppered for the better part of twenty years. I need to be released from the guilt and fear associated with sharing an honest testimony in a world where such things are often seen as highly disloyal and treacherous.
Disloyal? No. Why should I continue to protect, and feel loyalty towards, a man who has tried his hardest to break me and distort my sense of my own reality?
NOTHING I have written in this post deviates from the truth. God, I wish it were exaggeration or lying. I wish I knew nothing of such behaviour, such nastiness, such walking-on-eggshells-every-moment terror.
Those – and unbelievably there were one or two of them – who asked me if I wanted to divorce him because I had found another man were ludicrously way off base. I have not. I had not then. Three male friends were among the small group of trusted souls I confided in. But, to put it bluntly, my ex husband’s insidious abuse, and coercive techniques, in the bedroom put an end to any desire on my part early in 2014, and I have not re-opened that particular part of my life since then.
I am sick and tired of being portrayed, by some, as the bad guy, the mad guy, because I finally recognised that I was being emotionally (and the rest) abused and got the fuck out of a toxic relationship.
I am sick to death of my testimony being twisted and disbelieved by those who would rather not face the truth about my ex.
I was not, and am not, perfect. But no one deserves to be systematically abused the way I was, and so many other people are.
His behaviour and attitude was the problem, and not my divorcing him on the basis of it, or sharing the immense burden of grief with others. Until we as a society get this basic distinction clear in our minds, my story and worse, far worse, will continue to happen. Until those closed doors are flung open and the evils within released, millions of people like me will continue to live a life which consists of abuse and all surfaces littered with eggshells.
Any person, male or female, who tries to justify – or project upon the victim – abusive behaviour, rather than admitting, and apologising for, it deserves the titles of traitor, bully and liar. Such terms should NOT be thrown back at the abused person because the abuser lacks the balls, or the human decency, or the self-awareness, to reach deep inside and face the darkness within.