“I was too ashamed of not being able to sort it out and of the way I was really living to talk about it”
We fell in love so quickly, it was magic. Mark was great company, he really appreciated me and I felt wonderful. We moved in together and things started to change. It was so slow that I didn’t notice what was going on until I was trapped.
He became very controlling, wanting to know who I was with and what I was doing all the time. He accused me of having affairs and tried to stop me seeing my friends and family. I thought he was being insecure so I tried to help him and let him know how much I loved him.
But it didn’t change anything, over the next few months he just lost it more and more. The first time he hit me I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it had happened. But he was so sorry and promised never to do it again I forgave him. Somehow this became the pattern, that he’d attack me, cry and be really upset until I said it’d be okay.
I thought it was all my fault, that he was hitting me because I wasn’t good enough or understanding enough. For 18 months I thought I could help him and that we could work it out. My friends and family could see things weren’t right but I was too ashamed of not being able to sort it out and of the way I was really living to talk about it.
Then one day, my friend caught me in a bleak moment and I just came out with it all. Over a few weeks, she helped me find the strength I needed and gave me somewhere to stay when I finally moved out.
To this day I still don’t know how this happened to me and why I stayed so long. I’ve started to move on with my life now and can finally be honest with everyone again. It will take time to feel safe again but I’m hoping I’ll get there.
“…it’s only looking back that I realised how bad things were”
When I first met Tom I fell in love immediately. He did have a tendency to get jealous and was constantly accusing me of seeing other guys, but he was so supportive with the things I was going through, I just decided to put up with it.
When I moved in to his house it was one rule for him and another for me… He was allowed to leave his wet towel on the banister to dry, but I wasn’t; if he left his things lying around it was because they were ‘needed’, but if I did, they were’ in the way’. He would frequently go through my things to look for signs I was having an affair. We had really big rows about it. He thought I was sleeping with all of my friends, and gradually I lost them all as he drove them away.
Things escalated and I had a second set of keys cut as every other day he would take them and throw me out for 24 hours – often without a coat or anything, it was becoming impossible for me to do anything. A female friend would just say that I should leave him, but I didn’t want to leave him I wanted to make it work, and financially I couldn’t afford to anyway. Never have I been treated so badly by a partner, but neither had I felt so loved and cared for so deeply, so that’s why I stayed.
There were a couple of instances when he did go for me physically, and the one occasion I did hit back but felt sick to my stomach as I felt I had then become the abuser. I never felt that he would do me serious harm, perhaps because we were a more even match physically, however he was just getting more and more controlling… yet more and more ‘out of control’.
I did eventually leave with the help of a friend and endured endless texts and calls, in time it stopped and it’s only looking back that I realised how bad things were when I was in it. I might have tried to get some support if I had realised it at the time.
‘I was terrified of my husband’
One man shares his experience of being emotionally abused by his husband soon after they married and had a child together:
“I married an abusive man. We fell in love, bought a house together, got married and had a baby – all very quickly. It was very romantic to begin with – or at least, it seemed that way.
His friends warned me of his bad temper. However, I never witnessed it, and he was never aggressive towards me until we had been together a year. Then he became verbally abusive, shouting at me in my face.
After our daughter was born, he became almost entirely intolerant of me. He refused to let me join in activities with other friends, and any baby equipment was always dismissed as a waste of money. Anything I did buy was either chosen by him, or had to be very cheap.
He gradually reduced my self-esteem by making extra work for me, refusing to help and watching me struggle, criticising me and my care of our child. If I resisted his behaviour, he would become consumed with rage and he would throw things. Once, he threw a candle in a glass pot and it smashed all over the kitchen. As time went on, the attacks became more unpredictable. I would try and leave the house, sometimes late at night, taking the baby from her cot – at which point he would threaten to burn the house down.
He began monitoring my every move. I became very scared of him and the way he was presenting so perfectly to others. To others, he was charming and normal and a ‘hero’ for working so hard for us and being such a good father.
Things continued to get worse and I temporarily separated from him – although I later felt guilty and went back to him. He was threatening suicide and saying he could not live without me. I was always making excuses for him – that he worked very hard for us, and that the baby had put a strain on our relationship. I attempted to get another job but he would dissuade me, telling me the best place was for me to be at home.
Increasingly my family were not allowed to come to our house and visit us and I made the excuse that he was stressed from his job. Eventually, after yet another aggressive episode in our local town centre where he stood up close to me, threatening me for wanting to go into a different shop to him, I decided to leave him.
‘When we first met everything was amazing. We instantly got on and we were both so supportive of each other. We would spend hours talking on the phone, meeting up, going for lunch etc. Everything was fun and exciting and I felt so lucky to have found someone who I really connected with. The first year was the best. Not a single cross word, everything was so good I couldn’t believe I could be this happy.
We spent all our time laughing and joking around and we could talk about anything and everything. I really cared about her and was so happy to have someone that I thought felt the same. I don’t know when or even how the relationship shifted and became emotionally abusive; I guess it just happened over time.
I just didn’t know it. Looking back I now see so many signs that things were bad but when I was in it I was blinded by the respect and care that I had for her. I loved her so much and just wanted the best for her.
I once made her a promise that I would there for her regardless and that she didn’t need to worry about me walking away like others in her life had. I honestly believed we would be together for life and thought we shared a mutual respect for each other. I often wondered if the promise I made to her was the reason she started becoming abusive. I wondered if it was my fault because she knew I stuck to my word and if I promised I would always be there then she knew I would never be the one to walk away.
Now I realise she knew I would do anything to help her and to make her happy and she used my caring and kind nature to her advantage.
My friends and family often warned about her behaviour towards me but I was always so quick to defend her or just brush it off.
I thought she just cared about me and enjoyed my company. If I’m honest I think she did genuinely care about me but it was because of this she became very controlling over who I was and wasn’t allowed to see and what I was allowed to do.
It started off very subtly, She would go quiet on me and start ignoring me if I went out to see other people but then she started to yell at me and refuse to see me and insult me if I met up with my friends.
Even if I planned something in advance with a friend I would be nervous to tell her because she would become nasty. Her way was to tell me how stupid I am that I’m an embarrassment to be around and that no one actually cared about me.
She made me believe she was the only one in my life that I could talk to.
For years I was denied being able to do things with other people. Even seeing my family became I problem because if I did she would get jealous and kick off. She used to tell me that seeing my family was just a way for me to stay a child and that I wasn’t standing on my own two feet as an adult if I saw or spoke to them. I don’t know how I could believe this but at the time she had a hold over me I would listen and do anything she said to please her.
I stopped seeing my family all together at one point because I couldn’t cope with how she would treat me if I did see them. She used to tell me I was a baby all time and she would make me believe I was useless and couldn’t do anything. If she knew I was spending time with my parents I would have to spend hours apologising and trying to win her back.
I learnt that by buying her stuff made her happy, I ended up in a cycle of paying for everything she wanted just to keep on her good side. I even set up a direct debit into her account.
I adapted my life around keeping on her good side for fear she would leave me. She made me believe no one else would want me and no one else cared about me. I thought she was the only person who loved me and had my best interests at heart. Little did I know she just used me for what she could get. She would tell me she hated me and that if I wanted to be together then I needed to prove myself to her. She used to give me time frames on which I had to show improvement by and if I hadn’t satisfied her enough then she would threaten to leave. She would give me lists of things I had to do. This could be anything from changing my body shape, clearing out our house to ending relationships with friends and family.
I was constantly told negative things about myself and was made to feel worthless. I was forced to write lines as a punishment. It got so bad that she somehow had control over everything I did.
She dictated what I was allowed to wear, how, when and what I ate, how I spent my money, who I could see, what I could do.
She started constantly telling me I was unless, ugly and would never find anyone to love me. On occasions she would make threats to hurt me and would try to scare me by threatening to get people to come and kill me.
I knew deep down all her actions we wrong, I loved her and wanted to be with her, I was lucky I opened up, reported it and opened up to a friend, I have been saved and I have my life back.