What’s it like to be in an abusive relationship?
As someone who has never had this experience, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to live in fear of the person I love. I don’t know what that kind of isolation feels like. I don’t know what it’s like to feel the need to defend someone even when they have done the worst things imaginable to you. I don’t know what it’s like to have your sense of self stripped away like that.
This week’s interview shed a little light on that and I found it heartbreaking.
But I also found a strength in these words that I am so happy this week’s interviewee (who wants to remain anonymous for her safety) has found. Despite everything she has gone through, she is here. She is tall, she is proud, she has survived.
When we know our worth, we are unstoppable, and this week’s interviewee certainly is one unstoppable woman.
When you first met your ex, what was the relationship like?
We got together super quickly.
I had been in a 7 year relationship previously and was due to get married, but the groom disappeared 5 days before the wedding. So, as you can imagine, I was at an all time low! My whole world was tipped upside down and I was on the verge of suicide. My family was so worried about me that my sister and nephew moved in with me. My confidence was ruined. All I had In my head was that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t attractive enough, that I wasn’t deserving of love.
So when Chris showed me attention at work, it really didn’t take long for me to enjoy the compliments or smile when he winked at me across the room. He made me feel like I was the only person in the world that mattered and I was absolutely convinced he was the reason the wedding went tits up. I’d tell myself ‘everything happens for a reason’. Very quickly, he ended up moving in with me.
At first, it felt like living a dream. We would go away for weekends, he’d send me sweet texts and buy me flowers… it seemed perfect.
When did you first notice a change and what happened?
It’s hard to put my finger on an exact moment.
He was very possessive from the start but I was, stupidly, flattered by it. I saw it as a sign that he cared…. I now know it was control. He saw me as his, he thought he owned me.
I realised very quickly into our relationship that he had a massive issue with cocaine and alcohol which would always make him very aggressive. Every night was a party for Chris.
I tried to tell myself that he’d had a bad time in life because of things that had happened in his past, such as his brother being murdered. I thought if I showed him loyalty and love and stability, I would save him.
I learned the hard way the more I tried to help, the more he pushed me away and, in turn, the more I wanted him to want me! It was a ridiculously toxic cycle.
Then the small disagreements turned into blazing arguments.
He would become personal. He’d tell me he wasn’t surprise my ex left me, that no one would want me and I should be grateful he does. He’d tell me that I should stay away from my family because I have nothing to offer them or that I wasn’t even capable of being a mother, which hurt due to my PCOS diagnosis. He’d destroy the house in a rage. When he became physically violent, the quickest lesson I learned was to not argue and to do as he said.
But it didn’t always work.
He smashed up my car, threw a chair at me, spat in my face… it was like he didn’t want me but he didn’t want anyone else to have me either.
At its worst, what was your relationship like?
There were so many ‘at its worst’ situations. I’ve had drug dealers coming through my door looking for him because he owes them money. I’ve had so many woman message me to tell me he’s cheating. They always backed up these claims with screen shots of messages or pictures of but whenever I confronted him he would tell me I was crazy or that I was obsessed with him.
Thinking about it, over all the harsh words or the times he put his hands on me, by far the worst I had to deal with was coping with a miscarriage on my own.
We didn’t even know I was pregnant so it was as shock that it was even happening. I’d been feeling odd all day and when the stomach cramps set in I knew something was wrong – they were different to my normal PCOS cramps. After trying to let them pass, I thought I was going to throw up so as I ran to the bathroom. I must have passed out because I only remember waking up covered in blood. It was horrific and, as Chris was on one of his benders, I was home alone.
Sobbing, I cleaned my self up and called the non emergency line who told me that it sounded like I’d had a miscarriage and to go to A&E if it got worse. The next day I went to the the doctors and they confirmed that I had had a miscarriage.
I called Chris from the car as he still wasn’t home. He told me that he wasn’t shocked I’d lost a baby, that I wasn’t good enough to mother a child of his anyway and that I couldn’t even carry a baby let alone raise one… then he laughed and hung up.
But as I sat there hysterically crying in the car, all I wanted was him.
I am so sorry that you had to go through that situation at all, never mind go through it on your own. Chris’ reaction is really hard to read about so I can only imagine what it felt like to be living it. Did you ever think of leaving him?
One time I talked myself into leaving. Whilst he was out, I packed up some things in bin bags. In my mind I thought it would look like I was putting the rubbish out, but he came back sooner than I anticipated and somehow he knew it was my stuff.
He threw the bags outside so that my clothes and belongings were all over the street. As I ran out of the door to collect them, he caught me by the hair and dragged me inside. He must as known what was going on because he’d already locked the back door and had the key so I was trapped in.
He shouted and screamed and tore the house apart. I was absolutely terrified.
That sounds horrific. How did you feel about yourself and life in general at this time?
I felt so alone. I couldn’t tell my family or friends, although they must have known something was going on. I was just so embarrassed. I didn’t want to see the disappointment and hurt in their eyes.
I also didn’t want them to think he was a bad person.
Eventually you left. What made you make the decision to walk away?
I found myself constantly in dangerous situations and one day thought enough was enough. If it wasn’t Chris being abusive himself, he still put me in situations that I didn’t want to be in.
The day I left him, I was at work and he was late picking me up. I called and called and called but he didn’t pick up so my sister took me home.
When I got back to my house, everything looked fine. My car was on the drive so I thought maybe he was asleep, but as I walked up the drive my landlord was shouting across the road that I shouldn’t be here. By the time I got to the door, the landlord was there.
He opened the door and I all I could see was carnage.
My house had been raided and Chris was currently in custody. I was told by the landlord that there had been four men with knifes and guns trying to get into my house so the police were called. When the police entered, they found Chris had actually been dealing drugs from the house and had various weapons in the house. It was only when I was interviewed by the police that I saw the pictures and the evidence.
Writing this now, I feel so so stupid that I didn’t open my eyes and see what was going on and how dangerous it all was. How did I not see it all?
Sometimes when we care for someone so much we edit out the things we don’t want to see or don’t want to be true. The main thing is that you did leave him. What was the hardest thing about making that choice?
I was terrified. He knew everyone I knew. He knew where I worked, the car I drove, where my family lived and I knew that he was capable of anything!
He always told me that, if I ever left him, he’d make mine and my family’s life’s hell. For a good while he was relentlessly messaging me abuse and calling me most days. He told me he’d turn up at my work or follow my car. I’d block his number so he’d change his number just so he could send me abuse.
Thankfully, I ended up starting a new life with my new partner in a different area.
I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like to have gone through what you have and to then restart your life. At what point, if at all, did you start to feel like yourself again after everything?
I’m not even sure what feeling like ‘myself’ is. I think those 5 years have changed me as a person, but I’m comfortable with the fact that I’m changing and growing everyday. I know I will never allow myself to be in that position again.
Does your experience impact you at all now? If so, how do you deal with this?
Yes, most days. I still lack confidence and I’m always looking for reassurance and validation – it’s something I’m working on. I’m very defensive and will be very quick to cut into a conversation to defend myself, even when I don’t need to be. I’m funny with people raising the voice or shouting and I still get anxious and a little panicky. Being touched I’m still not good with- I’m ok if it’s on my terms but even shaking hands or a friendly hug is uncomfortable for me.
But the main thing I do is remember how far I’ve come and make sure I’m improving every day.
What would you say to someone who is in an abusive relationship?
It’s not your fault and you are worth more than this situation. As scared as you feel, you are responsible for getting out. None of this will stop by itself. You need to make the choice to make it stop!
When you look to your future now, how do you feel?
I feel happy and excited to see where I end up!
I have so much to look forward to – holidays, starting a family, making memories, growing as a person, starting a business, getting married…. there is so much to look forward to!
If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?
Always know your worth! Trust your gut and follow your heart. Be grateful and find your happiness- don’t settle for less. We are all here for such a short time, don’t waste it!
And never forget that your mental health is just as important as your physical health.