The truth about my marriage: Release, rage, raw grief…


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.



Telephone Torment

A year ago, life was very grim indeed. The house in which I had lived for seventeen years had been snapped up almost immediately. Both my ex-husband and I had found new places to live and had had offers accepted. It should have been straight-forward.

It wasn’t. For reasons complicated and, in the grand scheme of things, now irrelevant, delay after delay caused the process to go on until five days before Christmas – and several times I feared I would lose the lovely house which is now my home.

But that was almost a minor inconvenience when set against living with a man I had just divorced, and far from amicably; a man, to put it bluntly, who was full of rage and resentment and had multiple axes to grind.

And grind them he did, mainly via delaying tactics and very loud telephone calls to members of his family.

I had been ‘discouraged’ from using the telephone some years previously and had, by this time, developed a real anxiety about being caught talking on it. The upstairs phone was in my ex-husband’s room.

I was, at this point, spending most of my time cowering in the back room I had turned into a study. I was barely eating because going downstairs, through the Living Room (where my ex sat watching television for hours on end), became really frightening and stressful. I tended to creep around the house, and only felt safe to go downstairs when the man I had married and then later divorced was out.

The phone would ring. I knew it would never be for me. The door would be wedged shut. I would then close my door. But I could hear the gist of the conversations anyway. And here I had a dilemma which many people will, no doubt, find ridiculous: I was too scared to walk down the stairs because I did not want the man to know that I had been listening; but, I desperately wanted to leave the house and get away from the harsh words I was hearing.

Sometimes, I did manage to tiptoe down to the front door – and, at such times, I would often make my way to the friends in the village who were so supportive and kind (and who were the only people ever to see me weep during, or after, the horrors of the divorce).

But most times, I was stuck. I had no source of music I could use to drown him out, and stuffing cotton wool in my ears – which I did do – was useless: Deaf, and wearing hearing aids, my ex tended to bellow at the best of times, and fury gave his voice extra decibels.

The conversation would start with Relative A or Friend B asking why I was divorcing him. He would claim he had no idea, and add, ‘I suspect she is going mad…’

Many people, I discovered afterwards, asked him this question, in one form or another – and, as I discovered from a neighbour later, his stock answer was either the mad one or a cruel alternative (taken, I suspect, from the fact that my mother has the disease) – that I was clearly showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.

For too long I have been silenced. For too long, I have allowed another to hog the metaphorical telephone and to assert dominance in this way. Out of respect for the rest of the family (people, on his side, I genuinely loved and who are now lost to me), I have never published, nor have I finished, the book I started in which I detailed our relationship in stark and terrifying detail.

Often I delete a whole swathe of blog posts – out of intense fear, fear that the impassioned anguish in my writing voice will be misconstrued as lunacy; but, above all, terror that my post will get back to my ex or one of his cronies.

Since coming to Glastonbury, I have tried so hard to be strong, to assert my boundaries, to ensure that this kind of metaphorical torment by telephone never comes my way again. It is terribly hard because I am trained to give way in the face of another’s anger or disapproval or stronger convictions. I am not used to fighting my corner successfully. I am all too accustomed to being accused of being insane if I fight back against a controlling individual.

For the first time, I am daring to put this out in public. Not fictionalised, or changed through fear; not guarded by privacy (as it has been for over two weeks) – but on Facebook and out in the world.

The Divorce Petition set out my reasons for divorcing this man in pitiless detail. He knows them full well. I told, as I tend to, the stark and unvarnished (and, therefore, in some quarters, unwelcome) truth about a toxic pact. Denying my truth, and calling it something else, does not alter the facts.

In all honesty, Torment by Telephone, in a very different guise, was a feature of our marriage for many years prior to the divorce. It was an integral part of the strategy of mind games used to control me. To this day, I struggle to talk on a land line and rarely even phone anyone on the mobile.

Today is the ten month anniversary of my arrival in Glastonbury. I feel very sad at present. But I will say this: My boundaries are strengthening all the time, and I am telling my truth. Slowly, painfully, with many a backward look over my shoulder, but telling it nonetheless.

You see, I firmly believe that what we hide between closed doors can all too easily become the norm, our new and painful reality, a means of silencing us. But there is a huge difference between malicious rumour or gossip, and the release of sending truth which has damaged us out into the world.

It does not matter whether people reading this like me, or believe me, or think me crazy. I know that I have told the truth from the start, that my testimony has been completely consistent – and that the thick metaphorical tape used to close my mouth and keep me mute is being ripped off painful centimetre by painful centimetre.

I will not be quiet and biddable any longer.

Music-making: High expression!

How do I express myself?

Not always diplomatically, kindly or patiently. Not always flatteringly or ego-boostingly. Not always wisely, temperately or thoughtfully. Sometimes, my need to express runs away with me, and collateral damage is caused by those verbal stallions galloping away out of control. Sometimes, my expression causes howls of laughter. Other times, it can provoke tears.

What I would say about myself is this: I try, where possible, to express myself honestly and directly.

I am every bit as brutal, critical and blunt with, and about, myself as I am in my dealings with others. My journal is full of the minutiae of my faults, character defects and mistakes in life. I am no kinder to myself in this way than anyone else; probably less tolerant if truth be known!

Again: How do I express myself?

Through writing, singing, playing musical instruments, acting, dancing…

At my best, I believe my expression  – as a creative writer, a musician, an actor, a friend, a mother and so forth – is honest and true, at times transcendent, self-aware, caring, warm and very human.

Expression is enormously important to me. Truthful expression even more so.

But, in terms of healing, inspiration and happiness, nothing beats creative expression – and I think I express myself most lyrically and, perhaps, truly, when writing descriptive or atmospheric pieces, or when singing/playing a musical instrument.

Last night was a wonderful example of this. I spent a lovely evening with three close friends – Aelph, Sally and James – and we played music together for hours. What we expressed through the notes and the shapes of our various instruments, however, was far bigger than our egos, routine thoughts, worries and pre-occupations. It was as if we moved up a notch and entered the realm which holds the Mother’s heartbeat and the songs of the stars; as if we were, briefly, able to lose ourselves and become one multi-faceted instrument of strings, keys, voice, wood and metal, one vast composite that brought together all influences and transcended the lot!

Ah! The highest reaches, and profoundest joys, of human expression, methinks!

How do I express myself?

With humanity, with truth, with light (and its shadow side too!), with the absolute knowledge that I am mortal and my time finite…

Brave? Me? No…

People often tell me I am brave. But it is not something I have ever felt, not for one moment.

Today, I am, as so often before, scared. Adrenaline is pumping. Each decision with regard to writing, seeing others, talking on the phone, comes with trembling and fear and an inner certainty that I am not equal to the task.

Last night dipped into a Hell I thought I had left behind me. This morning burst into the kind of toxicity I have spent so much time and energy trying to exorcise. I slept little and felt profoundly unsafe.

I am, to be frank, too frightened to share details. My courage, along with my confidence, has wilted. All the nasty words my ex threw at me relating to my lack of performing ability (and general uselessness as a human being) have come flooding back.

I had to write, to revisit the deep wounds and rip them open once more so that healing could occur. I wanted to do the decent thing, however, and so wrote the post as fiction.

In so-doing, I was allowing myself to be silenced and intimidated once again. The purgatory that is being honest and told I am being disloyal, or lying, or crazy, has reared its repulsive head once more.

I may not be brave, but I am not a liar or a bitch. If I write about negative stuff, it is because I feel the need to do so. Often, it is part of my ‘Know Thyself’ Path and the worst of the criticism is concentrated upon my own character. Such pieces are not easy to write and often I am tempted to take an easier path and to engage only at the love-and-light level.

But that would not be true to my experience. It would not be honest. It would make me even more of a coward than I already am.

I am often blamed when other people are unwilling to examine their own motives or face up to their inner darkness. It is called projection – and, over the past five years, I have received more than my fair share of it. The bottom line is ALWAYS, ‘YOU are the problem…’

I am blamed because certain individuals in my life have been too scared to look within, to see the pit of envy and anger and spite and resentment and competitiveness that is staring everyone other than them in the face. I, lacking filters and vulnerable as a result, become the obvious receptacle for the nasties no one else wishes to own.

I am not perfect. I have never, not once, tried to pretend that I am. In fact, many people claim that I am far too hard on myself. I have a temper; I can be passive-aggressive; I am not always diplomatic or nice or kind or thoughtful; I can easily say the wrong thing (usually through nervousness) or give an impression of being stronger and more confident than is the case.

My base confidence level is extremely shallow and fragile. It takes little to knock it. I can revert to believing that I am worthless, ugly, untalented and unpleasant at the blink of an eye.

The road to recovery (as anyone who has been abused can attest) is not a straight one, nor is it an effortless ascent with no tumbles along the way. Triggers happen. Flash-backs are frequent and painful. Feeling unsafe is common. Feeling cowardly and sad happens too. Sudden loss of confidence, when specific abusive situations are inadvertently mentioned, can set us back several paces. Cracking the shell of years of mind control is painful and very, very hard to do, so used are we to seeing ourselves as the pathetic, selfish, wicked, insane waste of space we have been told for so long that we are.

Setbacks, like this one, are inevitable. All we can do is to gather up the tattered fragments of our autonomy, get back on the metaphorical horse and try to look brave, even if we are weeping and shaking inside.

Brave? Me? No…

Risky:The Road to Voicelessness

Writing this is risky. Every day, another woman finds herself being silenced. Why? Because she has attracted the attentions of an emotional abuser.

They sat in the crowded auditorium, watching local children performing in ‘Oliver!’ Madeleine’s humour was poked and then unleashed by the brilliant acting skills of Paul, who was playing Fagin.

Laughter bubbled, erupted. Rare, it was, these days – and unease was felt because Jason, to her left, was po-faced, grim.

In a moment, his right thigh had crashed into her left, the red-velveteen-covered seats rocking and creaking from the force of the collision. A glare. A hissed, ‘Be quiet. You’re embarrassing me…’ and the bubbles of laughter had subsided into scared silence.

As she blinked back tears – ‘Mustn’t cry. Mustn’t cry…’ a drought in the eyes’ ready pools – Madeleine’s thoughts returned to Scotland, two years previously. Staying with musical relatives, who had encouraged her to bring her flute for jamming purposes, they had gone, with the rest of the family, into town, having heard of street musicians in the offing.

Maddy had prevaricated for ages: Should she? No, no. Not a good idea. Leave the flute case behind. That was safest and easiest. But a little worm of rebellion had whispered in her ear – and her beloved instrument sat in a shopping bag, concealed.

Morris dancers and folk musicians brightened the dull October air and sweetened the grey road with their ancient and spritely melodies. Maddy’s feet began to tap, her hands to clench in their fight between music and terror.

The notes sparkling invisible in the air won. Out came the case. Flute assembled in a trice, Maddy turned to Jason.

‘I’m just going to join that band over there, Jase. Won’t be long…’

The rage filled his face before she had finished.

‘If you play in public and embarrass me, I will NOT be staying,’ he spat at her. ‘The kids and I will go and wait in the car…’

‘But…’ she began.

‘No,’ he said, throwing a large stone upon her exuberant hopes. ‘You don’t get your own way on this. If you insist on playing, you do it alone…’

Mind back in the narrow seat, Fagin’s song a recent memory still resounding to claps and cheers, Madeleine recalled the wounding horror of the most recent musical skirmish, this mere days previously.

For, between Scotland and the musical show, she had found a little group of Irish music-playing musicians to join and, flute exchanged for tin whistle, had been having a wonderful time rehearsing for a Ceilidh to be held in nearby Boscastle.

Hesitantly, she had asked Jason if he wanted her to reserve a seat in the pub for him, so that he wouldn’t have to stand at the bar or lurk in the doorway. He had delayed his answer with a series of, ‘Not now, I’m busy…’ and ‘Ask me some other time,’ excuses.

The night of the gig arrived. Maddy felt she needed to walk the eggshell route one more time, lest Jason accuse her later of not including him.

He whirled upon her this time, anger clear in his clenched jaw and narrowed eyes.

‘No,’ he spat. ‘I will not be coming. You are not very good on the tin whistle, even worse on the flute, and it would humiliate and embarrass me to watch you…’

Sitting there, watching children she knew being applauded by their proud parents – and quite rightly so – she swallowed and swallowed and swallowed trying, in vain, to keep the tears at bay. But, this time, she could not force them back – and a silent deluge of salty water flooded down her face, drips landing on the dress she was wearing.

Silenced. Again. A long way down the road to voicelessness.

Passion and the Water Sprite: A fairy story

Burned by the forge of passion; overwhelmed by the palette of red, orange, yellow and gold used to paint that most elusive, and oft illusory, of emotions, the girl took the cloak of magic and, under a Moon as Full as her craving for love, transformed herself into a Water Fairy.

A new environment, she sought, and an answer to a question so often asked, in tears’ lonely paroxysms, when the transitory and surface shading of hearts-and-flowers-and chocolates gave way to bitter gall and back-turning and sizzling spite.

The question which hovered between the known and the mysterious; which walked beyond the human relationship descriptors and attempted something new and strange and liberating; which looked to the West, to the Lady of the Lake, to water and emotions and depth; which understood, at a level quite apart from words, that the burning away process of the fiery furnace of lust allowed the tempered metal, dipped in cooling water and exposed to the healing gusts of air, to become something quite other.

Dressed in soft colours – gentle lilac, earthen green and cooling turquoise – the girl, in her fairy guise, slipped sweetly beneath the waves. The Moon’s gigantic sphere, distorted and wavering at this depth, gave comfort; the fronds of weed, viridescent as shining emeralds, caused a bubbling stream of child-like laughter, the natural response – away from the cardboard world of long-past-its-sell-by-date courtly gesture and speech destined to part body from clothes – of the trapped child’s spirit.

Tears fell, in this strange underwater world, as shells in shades unknown to man enchanted, and undulating creatures bared their barnacled and barbed undersides  – In warning? As a mating display? At this depth, no human could possibly tell! – and mer-people looked on in astonishment.

Feet wiggling in the sensuous liquid world, the fairy-girl fell ever more speedily through an element as familiar as gestation, yet as alien as the true heart of love. Her tears and little moans of recognition blended with the rhythmic oceanic whispering and whooshing to make a symphony of deep sound. She saw, with utter clarity, how easily she and her kind sloughed off the magical skin of childhood in order to grab the largely superficial and regimented garments of young adulthood’s love games. She saw the dullness and despair, the cramming of the spirit into the metaphorical tight-fitting glass slipper, and the worthlessness of so maiming the self in the pursuit of fool’s gold…

She saw, as the sea water caressed and calmed her, how the relentless chase after passion’s hart, through the forests of flattery and uneasy compromise and sacrifice to a god not worth worshipping, created a brittleness, a fold of hurt within, where the strong and vibrant heart of the child used to thump so wonderfully.

She saw, as seahorses lolloped past and shipwrecks creaked and wailed like the ghosts they undoubtedly held prisoner, that she had flamed and flashed and flurried in the becoming blushed redness of her age and nubility; how she had anointed her pretty mouth with the colours of intense arousal; how her every gesture had reminded the young men of the narrow passage of pleasure waiting to be wedged apart below.

The film of her younger self replayed its pitiless reels: The heat; the flaunting and flirting; the unease hidden behind the gasps of pleasure; the coolness after each fire; the ashes, so grey and sad, as phones failed to ring and texts kept their secrets.

Scorched once too often, she had fled. Told, like a dreadfully predictable mantra, that so-and-so was on fire for her, would be consumed if he could not have her, she sought solace in the cooler shades of the spectrum; looked for a bond, a connection, that went deeper than the flash-fires and their occasional collateral damage.

Fey for a time of her own choosing, her descent continued – until she saw, a little to her left, a tiny light. Beautiful, it was, a pale blue so relaxing and yet moving that the fairy-girl ached to touch it, to meld with it, to become one with its deep radiance. It was the connection without words. It was the reading of another’s skin; the tuning into a vibration unheard by anyone else; it was the intimacy which can happen without bodies touching at all; it was the passion which lies deeply hidden beneath the thrashing about and crying and slippery slap of bodies making love’s more obvious coupling.

She smiled. Reached out. Felt the blue stream of light tickling her palm and then, in a mysterious gliding motion, becoming one with her.

She realised, in that moment of close connection, that love encompasses all the colours of the spectrum (and more besides) and that humans were never bound by any law of nature which said they had to remain with the hot end of that rainbow curve. She realised that, for many people, deep love with its vibrating greens and blues and purples appeared frightening and cold, alien and mysterious…

Passion, she saw, is beautiful and greatly to be cherished; but, as with all things, it needs to be leavened by the contrasting colours of love; that all the elements play their part in this alchemy of love, and that people discard one or more in favour of the brightest and most obvious at their peril…

Smiling, she swam on, her heart expanding, its brittle shards snapping off and melting, like the icicles they had become, fathoms below her.

Storm Ophelia: Red Sky in the Morning; Shepherds’ Warning…

Ominous storm-bullion, melted and hammered onto the brooding grey of skies; a creepy pinky-gold light prises autumnal trees branches apart with deathly intent and peers, its vast eye the coming storm’s centre, down upon the stage lighting of Ophelia, drifting along the stream of death, blown flowers curling and lifting upon her still bosom.

This dead girl, immortalised by Shakespeare, has become a symbol of suicidal despair when love-thwarted. How strange, therefore, to baptise a tempest of general destruction with her name, when she confined the exit from this life to her own being and floated quietly away, upheld by water, from those she loved.

The brightened green wings of the gazebo flap in increasing wind; ornaments tied to its body tinkle and catch the glooming sun with bronzy sparks of fear. Colourful petals dash themselves to doom against the rain-darkened asphalt.

Two huge trees, a horse-chestnut and a eucalyptus, stand Guardian in the West, holding up gigantic limbs of power and inscribing the pentagram of protection in the sky.

But the forge of celestial violence, and necessary cleansing, burns ever-brighter, its heavy metallic colours swirling in a powerful flame, its mercurial blasts shaking the world as Hephaestus hammers and blows and strides his dotted gait around the Wild Magical areas of our world.

Dirty-gold art thou, Sky, and beauteous, but fret-worked with ferocity and fury!

And, suddenly, bright reddy-orange sun in the middle of the day!