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Healthy Relationships vs Emotionally Abusive Relationships.

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Healthy Relationships differ wildly from emotionally abusive relationships, but it’s not always easy to tell the difference when you’re in them. Here are some comparisons.

An Emotionally Abusive Relationship:

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  • Makes you feel anxious.
  • Makes you feel that you’re not good quite enough.
  • You worry that what you say or do is going to upset your partner.
  • They check up on you, reads your post, emails, text messages.
  • Accuse you of cheating or not thinking of their needs enough.
  • Keeps you stuck, not fulfilling your full potential.
  • They don’t support your desire to make yourself a more independent person.
  • Shouts at you, calls you names, insults you.
  • Controls you, where you go, what you wear, who you socialise with.
  • Demands your time and attention away from other people, children and activities.
  • Punishes you when you’re not doing as they want.
  • Gives you the silent treatment or tells you they’re not upset when their actions say they are.
  • Explodes into temper unexpectedly, makes you feel that you need to walk on eggshells to avoid it.
  • Twists what you say, only hears what they want to hear, misses the point because it suits them not hear it it, tells you that you said something entirely different.
  • Laughs at your beliefs, ridicules your religion, discounts your life experiences. Tells you you know nothing.
  • Let’s you down. Doesn’t turn up to watch the kids while you work, is consistently late. Doesn’t call ahead to let you know. Gets angry with you if you call them to hurry them up or find out where they are. Seems to think you have all the time in the world and that time revolves around them and their needs.
  • Controls the finances, spends money but scrutinises your spending. Tells you you’re too stupid or irresponsible to handle finances.

Most of all things ‘feel’ off. You feel tense, you feel worried. You can’t relax fully and on the rare occasions you do, there are repercussions. You’re caught off guard, you double check everything.

Emotionally abusive relationships are a stark contrast to healthy relationships, but the behaviour is so gradually introduced so that over time the abuse becomes normalised.

A Healthy Relationship:

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  • You feel relaxed in each other’s company.
  • You feel not only good enough but fully accepted and loved, for your good points and your flaws.
  • You don’t worry or second guess yourself or your partner, you’re free to speak your mind.
  • Your privacy is respected and never violated.
  • You have time to yourself, with your friends and your family. They are capable of being alone too, they don’t ‘need’ you to lavish all of your attention on them.
  • Supports and encourages you to improve yourself, to study or exercise, etc. Loves you for who you are and for who you might become. They are not afraid of changes in you, they are glad for you to pursue your happiness. A happy you equals a happy them and vice versa.
  • Encourages independence while still retaining a healthy balance of sharing within the relationship. Things are equal, shared and fair. When one needs support the other steps in to help.
  • Doesn’t resort to name calling during conflicts. Sticks to the subject, deals with difficult emotions maturely and responsibly.
  • Let’s you live your life the way you choose to. Doesn’t question your motives, accepts they are not the centre of your life.
  • You are both happy to spend time alone. Happy to be together but with comfortable silences. No need to fill in the gaps.
  • Doesn’t expect you to do only what they want, compromises, isn’t upset if you wish to do something different.
  • Explains how they feel without deliberately trying to hurt you. Doesn’t hide how they feel. Doesn’t give mixed messages.
  • Handles anger responsibly. Feels angry, but doesn’t always react. Doesn’t target their anger at you.
  • Hears you. You feel heard, your opinion counts even if they don’t agree. They take what you said in the manner that you meant it, if they don’t understand they ask you for clarification, not make assumptions.
  • Respects your religion, beliefs and life experiences.
  • Doesn’t let you down, turns up on time, or calls if there’s a problem. Doesn’t leave you worrying or stranded.
  • Shares the financial responsibility.

You feel loved, you feel treasured and important. You feel safe and you can relax and be yourself without worrying about what’s happening next. You can make mistakes and not be penalised for not being perfect. Healthy relationships nourish you, they feel wonderful, and everyone deserves to feel truly loved.

These are just some examples of emotional abuse within relationships. If you can think of any more behaviour to compare healthy/unhealthy relationship patterns please comment below and we will include them in our list.

***

Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships, though abusers are often men and victims are often women, we know very well that this is not always the case.

Abuse is often hard to recognise. Here at MSV we hope to help victims realise they are in abusive relationships and empower them to take safe action.

By sharing our stories we hope that others can find the strength to help themselves and get support from relevant agencies.

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice.

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

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I Thought I Had Found Love by heartbrokenopen.

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Thank You to heartbrokenopen for this emotive and honest writing. Originally submitted as a comment, we decided to feature it as a story on it’s own. Please be aware that due to the subject matter of MSV all posts may contain strong language.

I thought I had found love, I had found my soul mate, my perfect match. The man I had been waiting for, praying for and preparing for my whole life.

The man of my dreams. I thanked my creator everyday for our union. We were in bliss for so long. He was everything I had waited for and more.

Valiant, present, interested, interesting, fun, funny, handsome, hands on, open and so in tune with me. My prayers had been answered; my 4 year celibacy had not been in vain. I had found the one. He was brought to me by the gods of love through a series of synchronistic events. The meeting was magical. The timing perfect. The union was inseparable and so beautiful. The ocean was aglow with phosphorescence as the two of us literally danced on the shores, the night sky aglow with dozens upon dozens of shooting starts as we kissed beneath their splendour breathless and in love.

Everything as so perfect and dreamy, I fell so in love, like I have never before, the love I’ve always dreamed of.

We looked similar in many ways too, face shape, body type, ringlets, innocent eyes, we just flowed. The sex, oh the sex was so great and I thought it was because of the magical love we had discovered and awakened in each other. It felt spiritual.

We share intuitive binds and have linear backgrounds, our historical events match up even. But then there was the sudden withdraw. The distancing. the mood swings, the accusations started to roll in out of the blue. Then I was so confused and afraid. I reached out, I tried to please. I questioned my words, actions and deeds. What happened? What did I do wrong? Did I say something? Not say something?

I bent over backwards to restore what we were building, to hold on to this great love. The phase passed quickly, I was successful and my lover and I were once again connected. I could breath again, the pain was gone. I misunderstood him and now had a deeper understanding of him and myself. I forged ahead, we forged ahead. A few months later he secured work out of province, a good paying steady job. He loved me but had to go work. We texted and kept daily contact. He missed me. I missed him.

I left my island, my home, to go to him in a flat land province for the greater good of us all, his kid, my kids, us, our relationship. He had a great paying job, was working so hard. I was too, taking care of the family needs, the house, the food, everything a good woman could offer.

One night while climbing into bed he threw a pillow at me, called me a cunt and told me to get the fuck out of HIS house and his life. Astonished and shaken to the soul I pleaded, I wept, I retreated into a dark calamity within myself that never existed before. It had only been two months since the move. What had I done? He stone walled me. Slept on the floor in another room. I desperately went to him in the night laid next to him held him and stroked him only to be met by a stone, a shallow version of who I thought was a good man. I slunk back to my room and cried for hours. I packed up the kids through their bewildered tears and my confusion. Drove through the rockies in the dead of winter back to my island.

He contacted me, regretful, promising, mistaken, why hadn’t I held on a day or two more for the “fight” to blow over, he didn’t mean it, he loved me deeply. It felt better than the pain and rejection. I soaked it in, reach out to meet his pleas. I forgave, I was learning unconditional love, or so I thought.

He worked so hard to make right what he had wronged. He come see me monthly for an entire year, sent me money, romanced me, texted me through out the day at least hourly. He sent me money and promises faithfully. We were back to where we started, in love and bliss.

We were going places. I catered, I helped, I was the secretary, lover, saint, mediator, planner, cook, lover, mother and everything he needed me to be and I was glad to do it, inspired even.

He held me, loved me, complimented me, made sweet love to me. But then the mood switch would happen, I would plummet into desperation, pain and despair. It must be me. I must fix this. I’d plead and please and coax the man I thought he was right back out of him and I’d turn the other cheek, look the other way, forgive and forget because there was love to be had a life to be lived. We forged ahead.

He left his job and province to join me because he loved me so much he couldn’t bare the thought of me being alone any longer. We celebrated, moved to a beautiful, bigger house right on the beach. This was bliss. A dream come true. I made sure everything was perfect, I engaged, preformed, served and gave of my self, my time my energy to make it all so perfect because he had given me a gift, a dream, a promise. Two weeks later he didn’t come home. I fell. I went to another dark space that never before existed within myself. I felt dazed, confused, disoriented and afraid. I had to fix it. Right away. Make it stop. Get the pain to go away and restore the life we had. I did. Again.

Then after New years he dropped the bomb. He needed space. He wasn’t happy. He wasn’t ready. He was leaving. I cried and pleaded, I tried to understand. He moved across the street, into a bachelor suite literally 30 seconds from my door. Leaving me in a home I loved that I could not afford alone. I felt stupid for being duped again. Yet I held on. I held my breath. I held my ground. I waited. He came back around sorrowful with explanations, he was not prepared to have anew family, a different life than the one he had before he met me. He was sorry. He was not gone, just needed space and loved me, told me to hold on. I did. I still did his laundry, served him food, loved him, gave of my self and finances. He spent six months nearly unemployed. Only ever working a week or two to make rent. I fed him, bought his smokes and beer. He never went without. I cleaned his house, his laundry and waited for when he was ready to engage so I could feel loved again, whole again.

The year that followed was a yo-yo year. Hot cold, in, out, up, down. Filled with lies and deceit. He trolled craigslist, plenty of fish and online forums for women. I became obsessed with tracking his online movements. I hacked his computer and set up a fake profile to bait him. I caught him. I still loved him and took him back again and again. I knew the pattern very well by then. I saw the eye change, the walk change, felt the distance, had the warning dreams and nightmares about him but still waited with baited breath to be loved.

He used everything about me that he could. My innocence was a mocking tool. My sexuality was a weapon. My love was a bait. The gifts he had given me were weapons to use over me when we were off again. He threatened me. I still held on.

What the fuck was wrong with me?

I gave and gave some more hoping the man I thought I knew and loved would emerge again. I told myself he has a mental illness, he can’t help it and he really does love me. This can be fixed. So I held on, I righted his wrongs and gave some more.

Finally in August of this year I let go. I told him I loved him but it was obvious we wanted different things and that I didn’t want to fight but to just separate and go on with life. I did. I felt sad and depressed but empowered. The love notes started flooding in. He’d knock on my window at 3am and plead and apologise. I held my ground. He asked to talk to me. I agreed. He took me to our special beach at sunset and professed his love, opened his heart, told me he wanted to grow old with me and that he could not see his future without me in it. My heat soared. We wept. We loved once again.

My mother came to visit, they met, she was smitten also. He selflessly gave up his suite for her to stay in and stayed with me here for the three weeks. I was so happy. Surrounded by so much love.

It was the first time the whole year we’d gone steady, no blips, no hot and cold, no withdraw. I thought we reached a turning point.

Mom went home, impressed by our love and how alike we were and right we were for each other. She was so happy for us.

As soon as she was gone he withdrew. I reached out, I needed comfort, I needed my man, please baby come hold me. But that was a bad thing and I was met with emotional neglect for nearly two weeks. He gave me crumbs, just enough to keep me holding on and hoping and keep me serving and then one night I had cooked his dinner and was waiting for him to return from work. He never did. See we live in separate homes but he would come in the morning, kiss me and get a home made lunch for work and then return to a home cooked meal. Our lives were completely entwined.

He stopped texting me, wouldn’t return my texts. So I went to his pad, his work clothes were there, he’d been home and left. Where did he go? I went into the laptop I gave him and found out some bits and pieces. He was seeing a woman. He did not communicate with me for three weeks over my birthday and thanksgiving. The boys (his and mine) told me what was going on. He was seeing his friends ex, she contacted him for sympathy because her boyfriend (his friend) was cheating on her and the relationship ended. So he cheated on me to console her. I was so torn, to the soul, I was a zombie! Pain was all I knew. I don’t even know how I functioned at all.

THEN he came back, broken, sorry, more real and raw than I had ever seen him. We grieved together for 6 days. He took all the blame. I didn’t deserve any of it he said, it was all his fault, why do I love a man like him, I deserve so much more than he is giving me.

I took him back and the past month has been bliss. Then Friday night he withdrew. Gave me attitude, treated me dismissively, me not wanting to seem to needy (after all we’d spent a month in recovery together, he just needed a night alone)

I tested here and there to check in because the silence felt deafening. We had just been so intimate and close. I felt used and confused again. Saturday night I went a bought drinks for myself. He texted with a guilt trip about why I didn’t invite him. I said I thought you wanted to be alone at home. That was wrong. So I said, come over baby have a few drinks with me. Nope, I’m staying home. So I reacted! I expressed anger, why would you say that then shoot me down?

Well then came another huge discard. I was a user, a whore, a cunt. I should fuck off forever and die and get out of his life, leave him alone. So okay. I can’t take it anymore. I started selling the furniture. He flipped his lid. How dare I move on! Then he texts me some more nasty things and finally says, “I’m on a date fuck off and die you fat bitch”.

So here I am. Trying to move on. Let go for good. It’s not easy.

I stalked him tonight much to my shame but I did. He hid his vehicle in a parking lot of a local pub and whoever he is with picked him up and I am obsessing about it. What is wrong with me. Anyway I have plan. I hope to god I do it. I need it to stop. I need out. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

This is not what love should be.

***

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice.

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

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Opening Up And Finding My Voice… At Last. By @MutteringMummy

Opening Up

Opening Up And Finding My Voice… At last.

By

@MutteringMummy

What would you do if the person you loved hit you?
What would you do if the person you loved verbally abused you on a daily basis?
What would you do if the person you loved dictated who you could speak to and where you worked?
What would you do if the person you loved made you dinner and then smashed the plate over your head because you didn’t eat it quick enough?
What would you do if the person you loved dragged you through the house by the hair because they didn’t want you sitting on the back doorstep?
What would you do if the person you loved smashed your phone so you couldn’t phone for help when they locked you in the house?
What would you do if the person you loved told you it would be your fault if they had to find another partner and abused them because you had split up with them?
What would you do if the person you loved wouldn’t listen when you told them no when they initiated sex with you?

I always said that I would leave anyone who abused me. I would leave them the very first time that they did it and I would never go back. I was wrong.

It took me 2 years and a lot of heartache to get out of that relationship but I DID IT!! It took a long time for me to trust anyone else not to hurt me. I feel very lucky and honoured that I can now call the one I trusted my husband.

Thanks for reading xx

First publish here on 4th August 2013 by @MutteringMummy

***

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice. 

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form  and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

Posted in posts by you

Avocado by Anonymous

Contains some swearing. Due to the subject matter of posts on MSV, some contain strong language. This post details dialogue as it happened at the time.

Avocado

by Anonymous.

“What are you doing?”

I was holding an avocado, already halved, with the knife poised above the stone. Whack, slice, twist the stone out. Dispose of it.

“I’m taking the stone out”.

A dark and angry look over my partner’s face.

“ You’re not doing it the way I told you”.

“Okay, but this way works fine, too. See? It’s out now”.

I went to put the bits I didn’t need in the bin, and my partner stepped in front of me. “No, but this is just another example of how you don’t respect me. You don’t care what I say. You won’t take my advice, because you think I’m a fucking cunt, and you know best”.

I was shocked.

But not really, because every conversation we had was like this.

I felt like I was being backed into a corner, with the room getting smaller.

Every day there was less margin for error and everything I said could be misconstrued into some kind of slight against him.

“Well, you don’t know best. And YOU’RE the fucking cunt, not me.”

My partner pushed past me, knocking me sideways and into the washing machine. “Ow. Hey. HEY, look” There was no point in trying to tell him he was being rough, but before I could remember that, I’d started to tell him how he’d pushed past me really roughly “Oh, what now. Have I hurt you? Why don’t you call the police then, you stupid twat?”.

I let it all wash over me. That was it now, it was 8pm and the next six hours would be an assault on everything I’d ever done wrong towards him. He’d demand to sleep away from me that night, saying that I was my fault, I was too unreasonable and emotional. He’d shout, and when he woke our children up, it would be my fault again for not leaving him alone. Then the next day he’d go off to work. Ignore me all day. Stay late. When he got home, some time around 1am, he’d expect me to apologise for my awful behaviour. And I would. I always did.

Onions. I never diced or chopped onions in the correct way either. He’d tell friends a joke, about how in our first few days of living together, we’d had an almighty row about the best way to cut onions up. It wasn’t a row, because I didn’t get my side across. And onions weren’t the issue. I wasn’t doing anything to his standard. The day I moved in, I put the washing machine on the wrong setting, and with his entire family in the next room, he screamed at me, calling me a massive fuck up cunt. I’d been made to apologise to his family for his tone, it was my fault after all. Instead of being embarrassed or telling me it wasn’t my fault, they’d told me that was how he was and I’d better tread carefully.

I walked on eggshells, for years. It was never enough. Even if I sat totally still and said nothing, there was some part of me to be viciously attacked. Everything I did was wrong, and everything I did was disrespectful and everything I was, offended him. Stupid me, my fault again. Once, my partner’s sister said “Well you know he’s a bit verbally abusive, what did you expect?”.

What did I expect? I expected my partner’s family not to palm him off on me, because I was now a new outlet for his disgustingly crude screaming tirade’s. I expected them not to back off, sit back and let a out a big, 15 year waiting, sigh of relief that he had another scapegoat now and they didn’t have to ‘deal with it’.

“He’s your problem now”. No. You saw this coming. You are his family. You recognise this as abuse, him as an abuser. You could have stopped it, you could have said something, anything. When he was screaming at you, and punching doors, driving off drunk and blaming you, you could have called the Police. Instead, you sat on your hands and waited for his next partner to come along, someone weaker and more vunerable this time, someone who wouldn’t leave him like the last three.

I guess, temporarily, they all got what they wanted. His family are very angry with me. I know because they’ve told me. “He’s a broken man, you’re meant to love him despite his faults”. Actually, they’re angry because they have to deal with his ranting and paranoid behaviour now.

And. I. Do. Not. No more. Never again.

***

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature on our blog and make many small voices one LOUD voice. We will protect your anonymity at all times should you wish to remain anonymous, so please contact us for more details.

Domestice abuse damages in whatever form  and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

Posted in posts by you

Abuse doesn’t look like abuse

Abuse doesn’t look like abuse

by Velda (June 5th 2013)

There’s a very helpful article making its rounds, called Drowning Does Not Look like Drowning. I’ve never seen someone on the verge of drowning — or at least I don’t think I have! I searched for a video of what the article describes, and found this:

The video quality is a bit rough, and I can’t quite see what’s going on with the person in trouble here. The thing that startles me is how many people are so near him and don’t even notice!

Now that you’ve seen what drowning looks like, do you know what abuse looks like? From Helpguide.org. People who are being abused may:

  •     Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
  •     Go along with everything their partner says and does
  •     Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
  •     Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
  •     Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
  •     Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
  •     Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
  •     Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
  •     [my addition] Get “sick” a lot
  •     Be restricted from seeing family and friends
  •     Rarely go out in public without their partner
  •     Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car
  •     Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
  •     Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
  •     Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal

Of course that’s not to say everyone doing any of these things is being abused, but many of these are at least a good sign they are in distress of some kind and need help. Start by just being their friend — even if they seem distant. Even if you don’t know them that well. The people they know well probably haven’t noticed, or may be too close to the abuser to believe there’s an issue. You can also hook them up with some resources. Just don’t judge or blame them for getting into or being stuck in a relationship like that. Believe it or not, it’s not as easy as it looks :-p

“One of the obstacles to recognizing chronic mistreatment in relationships is that most abusive men simply don’t seem like abusers. They have many good qualities, including times of kindness, warmth, and humor, especially in the early period of a relationship. An abuser’s friends may think the world of him. He may have a successful work life and have no problems with drugs or alcohol. He may simply not fit anyone’s image of a cruel or intimidating person. So when a woman feels her relationship spinning out of control, it is unlikely to occur to her that her partner is an abuser.

The symptoms of abuse are there, and the woman usually sees them: the escalating frequency of put-downs. Early generosity turning more and more to selfishness. Verbal explosions when he is irritated or when he doesn’t get his way. Her grievances constantly turned around on her, so that everything is her own fault. His growing attitude that he knows what is good for her better than she does. And, in many relationships, a mounting sense of fear or intimidation. But the woman also sees that her partner is a human being who can be caring and affectionate at times, and she loves him. She wants to figure out why he gets so upset, so that she can help him break his pattern of ups and downs. She gets drawn into the complexities of his inner world, trying to uncover clues, moving pieces around in an attempt to solve an elaborate puzzle.” from Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

I write this because I see the signs in people I know and care about. Maybe even in you.

First published on Single Mormon Mommy on June 5th 2013

***

Verbal and Emotional abuse are forms of abuse that can cause untold damage to a person emotionally and psychologically. Domestic abuse does not just involve physical abuse, it can manifest in many forms. Often a physically abusive relationships will have been emotionally abusive for many years before anything physical happened. Emotional and verbal abuse often never turns into physical abuse.

Abuse damages in whatever form it takes and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature on our blog and make many small voices one LOUD voice. We will protect your anonymity at all times should you wish to remain anonymous, so please contact us for more details.

Many Small Voices To Make One Big Voice Speaking Out Against Domestic Abuse.

Posted in posts by you

Emotional Abuse: Not as Obvious as You’d Think

Emotional Abuse: Not as Obvious as You’d Think

by Single Mother Ahoy (March 19th 2013)

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written a series of posts about my experience with S’s birth and first few weeks of life.

Many people have commented about my ex’s behaviour. There were some clear signs that he was an abusive person, attempting to intimidate and control me. But while I was writing these posts, I also noticed some smaller, more subtle points, that many of us would not automatically think of as abusive or controlling. I thought it might be useful to collect all of these into a post, so as to illustrate the point that domestic and emotional abuse are not as obvious as one might think…

emotional abuse

  • The night before I went into labour, I was told “you’re being a dick again.” There was no further explanation of exactly what I had done that was so wrong; was it the falling asleep? The not eating dinner? The being ill? Whenever I was accused of being a dick, there was never any concrete explanation, this is what you did, this is how you avoid this happening again. There was no way to avoid it happening; it was not under my control.
  • When my contractions stopped at the hospital, the inference was that I had deliberately stopped them, to be difficult. I was an inconvenience, as was the baby being born; he’d had to get a baby sitter, and needed to get back home. He rarely left his home when he wasn’t at work, because there he is the king of his castle, sitting about in his pants and having his children (and partner) tend to his every whim. Outside of the house, he was out of his comfort zone, and in the hospital people might notice what he was doing, so he was on his best behaviour; this was difficult for him. He wanted to go home as soon as he could, so I needed to get on and give birth.
  • During the birth, I felt a lot of pressure not to make a fuss, not to make any noise, not to be the centre of attention and be a drama queen. Throughout my pregnancy I had been accused of over-reacting, attention seeking and being difficult. If I did that while I was in labour, he might up and leave and I’d have to go through this without him. Similarly with pain relief, it was made clear to me that I should go as far as I could without any drugs. I didn’t want drugs any way, but my changing my mind would not have gone down well. Afterwards he bragged to people that I had gotten to 10cm dilated without pain relief, as if this was somehow his achievement.
  • When I asked him not to rub my back while was in labour, the response “why am I not allowed to touch you?!” made it sound as if I should be allowing him to touch me wherever, and however he wanted. This was a general theme of our relationship, that didn’t stop while I was in labour, or after the birth. I was grabbed, squeezed, pushed and punched (hard) whenever he felt like it. My body was not my own, and it was not for me to say where or when he could touch it.
  • After the event, he told me that when I had a big contraction and the monitor lost S’s heartbeat, the midwife had not been in the room (other people tell me she was there). He had saved the day by pressing the button to call her, having seen that something was not right with me (the midwife pressed the call button to get assistance). He also told me my body had squeezed my baby so hard I had stopped her heartbeat (actually I just had a big contraction, and the monitor couldn’t pick up a heartbeat through the muscle of my uterus contracting) – this was playing on my insecurities about being a mother, being capable of looking after a child. I had often worried that I was simply “not built” to be a mother, and he played on this a lot.
  • Throughout my labour, he was on the phone: to his mother, his babysitter, his sister, his friends, his boss. He was on Facebook and texting people. Before he had even cut the umbilical cord, he was on the phone to his mother rather than comforting me; I was not important.
  • After the birth, he told me that when S’s head had first come out, the cord was around her neck and I had almost strangled her at that point by continuing to push. Nobody else recalls this; it was not in my notes, I do not recall the midwife asking me not to push so that she could untangle it. As far as I recall, once S’s head was out, her body was so small it just followed without any more contractions or pushing. Still, I was made to believe I had yet again almost killed my child before she was even born; I was that much of a bad mother.
  • My being kept in hospital for so long was a major inconvenience. More than once I was told he was wasting his 2 weeks’ paternity leave. On the days he didn’t visit us, it was because his house had fallen into such a state while he’d spent “every waking minute” (from -12-4) in the hospital with me, instead of doing the housework (or rather, making his kids do it). It was my fault his house was a mess; his assumption had always been that I would have the baby, come home, and spend my days in his house being a good housewife. What he’d actually been doing, is going home and sleeping with his ex.
  • When S was in NICU, it was no big deal. At least one of his other children had suffered with jaundice when they were born; yet again I was making mountains out of molehills, and attention seeking by crying.
  • He refused to ever change S’s nappy or clothes; she often cried when she was disturbed like this, and he didn’t want her to associate him with crying. Instead, he stood over me and watched my every move, tutting that I was so awkward, telling me I’d done this wrong, or I should have used that. The nappy was too loose or too tight, didn’t I have one in a size that would fit her tiny frame? I should have put a different babygro on her, didn’t I have a cardigan that would fit her? I was wrapping her all wrong in the blanket; I should wrap her in two blankets so that she didn’t get cold; I was using two blankets overnight, wasn’t I? The concept of babies overheating and dying from SIDS clearly did not occur to him, and I was too scared not to do as I was told, so S was bundled up in so many layers and blankets you could barely tell there was a baby in there – until one day a nurse came to take her temperature and told me to remove a couple of layers. Obviously, the next time he came in, I was told off for that too. He knew more than the hospital staff; he had 6 kids and they were all fine. Put another blanket on her.
  • Every time I wanted something from town, or from my house – nappies, clean clothes, baby wipes, cotton wool, toiletries – I was an inconvenience. I should have packed my hospital bag better, shouldn’t I (S was born 5 weeks early; the week before I’d gone into hospital I’d shown him, this is where I will keep my hospital bag, in case you ever need to know. He had laughed at me for having even started packing a bag yet).
  • For the last few days we were in hospital, I was so down and miserable at being stuck there. My misery and exhaustion could not compete with his though; he was having to visit me in hospital every day. “how do you think it makes me feel, having to leave you both here every day?” What he didn’t add was “… so that I can go home and sleep with my ex…” which is what I later found out he had been up to.
  • I was repeatedly told, throughout my pregnancy, and while we were trying to establish breastfeeding, that I wouldn’t be able to hack it. I had always said that I didn’t want to use formula, and intended to breastfeed for as long as I needed to. He used to tweak or bite my nipples often, and when I complained that he was hurting me, his response was “you’re far too sensitive, you’ll never be able to breastfeed.” When I started breastfeeding, he said I’d probably hack it for a couple of weeks, a month tops. I was incapable, see. Not cut out to be a mother, not a good mother, not fit to be a mother. Those words were never said at the time; they didn’t need to be, because every single part of my being a mother was undermined at every available opportunity. (incidentally, S is now 11 months old, and I am still breastfeeding her. So in your face, stupid ex.)
  • He never once organised for someone to pick his kids up from school for him. This is an often-used passive-aggressive way of asserting control and making me feel guilty. His kids and lack of childcare were used on a regular basis throughout our relationship – inference being that if I were a good girlfriend/mother of his child,  I would be in his house, looking after his kids 24/7 so that he could go out and do as he pleased, whenever he pleased. The last-minute texts in front of me to get someone to pick the kids up from school were designed to make me feel guilty, like a burden: you see, now I’m having to bother other people to do your job because you won’t just get up off your arse and come home. He usually tried to get me to make the requests on his behalf – I was, after all, the reason he wasn’t able to pick his children up from school himself, so I should organise the childcare.
  • When we finally brought S home, I was obliged to dress her in the outfit he had bought, but the fact it was so big on her we had to roll the arms and legs right up, that was my fault. It was my fault S had been born early, my fault she was jaundiced, my fault she only weighed 5lb. Later on, when people commented that 5lb was a good weight for a baby who had been born 5 weeks early, he took all the credit, explaining that it was in his genes to have big babies, and he had looked after me so well (!) throughout my pregnancy, which was why S had been born so healthy. I’m not even joking; this was actually said.
  • As we left the ward and walked S to the car, I was repeatedly told I was holding her wrong, I looked really uncomfortable holding her, she looked awkward, I was about to drop her, I wasn’t supporting her head. When we got out of the car at my house, I wasn’t allowed to carry her into the house in case I dropped her. Yet again this was telling me: you’re no good at this, you are not meant to be a mother, you are awkward with your child, you cannot be trusted to look after your child.
  • I wasn’t allowed to spend my first night at home, even though realistically there was nothing wrong with the flat, and we would have been fine. The following night, when S and I did stay at home, my sister was drafted in to stay with us. The ex did not trust me to be alone with my own child.
  • The first time S slept more than a few hours, I was told, “she would have always slept through if you had let her.” Never mind the fact she would have slept through, and probably died or been brain-damaged because of her level of jaundice; never mind the fact the doctors told me I must not let her go more than three hours without feeding. I had been deliberately stopping her from sleeping through the night. I’m sure he would have an absolute field day with our current sleeping arrangement.

I used to tell my midwife all the time: “I wish he’d just hit me, and then I’d know. Everything he did could have been taken another way; I might have been over-reacting; perhaps he’d just had a hard day. Perhaps I really was expecting too much, and not being supportive enough of his situation (a common complaint from him).

Throughout our relationship, before and during my pregnancy, he would move suddenly as if to hit me, and often came at me with a knife in the same way – but he never actually made contact. When I complained I didn’t like him doing it, I was told I was over-sensitive, couldn’t take a joke.

He knew that if he actually hit or cut me, I would know for sure that he was in the wrong, and that would give me what I needed to leave. So instead he made me permanently scared that he was going to hit me.

back shot of man
Flexing his muscles for a photo; a regular occurrence.

There were regular displays of his strength: he would hold me down, hug me a little too tight, perform pull-ups and lift weights in front of me. There were stories of having been set upon by two or three men, but having managed to fight them all off. A story of winning a fight against a couple of men who later notoriously kicked a young lad to death and went to prison. There was the time I woke in the middle of the night to find myself in a headlock because he was “dreaming he was being attacked.” And, of course, there were all the times he hit his children, or told me about having had to hit them. The fact he didn’t worry about his front door having no lock, because nobody would ever dare to come into his house. Stories of the times he’d woken up to find he was physically fighting with his wife (note: he was fighting with her, not beating the shit out of her). He told me about other times, when he’d had his wife by her neck against the wall, even when she was pregnant. I was terrified. She had deliberately antagonised him into doing it though; I would be ok if I didn’t deliberately antagonise him.

After I’d stopped seeing him, been to counselling, and felt stronger, I gave him a chance nobody thought I should give. I gave him the name and number of a lady who works for Splitz, and runs extended, long-term counselling sessions for perpetrators of domestic abuse. I told him that if he would sign up for the counselling, I would begin talking about his having regular access to S. He avoided the subject for a couple of weeks, before saying to me one day (while he was recording the conversation without my knowledge), “you make out like I hit you or something.” Because he hadn’t hit me, he’d done nothing wrong. I was doing my usual trick of over-reacting, making mountains out of molehills, lying.

Many women who are in horrible, abusive and controlling relationships will not have black eyes and bruises. They may never be physically attacked. That doesn’t mean they’re not living in hell. My ex didn’t need to hit me to keep me in my place; he had broken me mentally over a long period when I was very vulnerable. I did as I was told. What he hates about me now, is not that I have taken his daughter away from him; his actions have proved many times over just how little he cares for her. What bothers him is that he can no longer control me. I escaped, and he hates it.

First published on Single Mother Ahoy on March 19th, 2013

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