Edit: Somehow I didn’t realise how intense this post was until I saw comments/PMs/shares insinuating that it was. I guess that’s the nature of the beast. So I think I should add…
Content Warning: Intimate partner violence
It’s strangely easy to find yourself in an abusive relationship.
While mine was short and fairly mild, when I read articles about what has happened to other people I see so many parallels it’s a little frightening. Turns out it can happen to anyone and there are some signs that you should look out for in your own relationships and those you see around you to take steps to keep yourself and your friends safe.
At the time, I had some idea that something wasn’t right but I was made to feel everything bad that happened was my own fault. In hindsight, after a wake-up call and with a little time and space between us I can see that I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship for a year and then ‘friendship’ after that.
It all kicked off amazingly.
We met online and had a long distance thing before we even met. He was so funny and cool and supportive. We Skyped regularly and I’d die laughing at his rants and quick wit and we texted constantly. I was holding out for the day I could meet him.
Not too long in our dalliance, shit hit the fan in my life and he was there for me. He encouraged me to go to the police and move away from where I was in England. I eventually got transferred to a new location with my job to a nicer part of England and closer to family.
Coincidentally, my new job/home was very close to where he lived and he seemed to think I had moved for him (no matter how much I tried to say it was for a LOT of reasons, but that was a bonus).
In person he was just as I had imagined. Tall, strong, tattooed, intelligent, funny, witty, independent and ambitious.
He was also what turns out to be a cliché of an abusive partner (judging by the stories I’ve read). He didn’t have a great upbringing. He grew up on a housing estate without much at all. As I recall, his parents had a terrible relationship which broke up. His adulterous Dad left for another family and his Mum didn’t want him in her house. He found himself essentially homeless as a teenager with parents who didn’t seem to care about him or his education. He stayed with family that didn’t want him and learned how to look out for himself out of necessity as a teen.
But he got out of it. Now he was an independent man with a decent, immaculate flat, a job that paid the bills, he was learning another language, working out, traveling regularly, studying in night classes and went to football games in London as much as possible. Everyone said he was lucky to have this lifestyle but he worked hard and sacrificed a lot to be able to have all of these luxuries. I was impressed that he had come so far against the odds and had such great ambitions – applying for bigger and better jobs and saving to move to another country.
He was impressed by me too. He told me all the time how amazing he thought it was that I was so educated (apparently a degree is the best thing a person could have), I was traveling, doing my own thing, being independent, strong and also ambitious like him.
We both had big goals and we could do big things together in any country. The world was our oyster.
It did feel right. He seemed like a good influence for me when I was used to a bit of a crazy life. My old flats, friends, bar jobs and ex-bf were all pretty intense and he seemed like the guy who could show me what it’s like to be more stable. Awesome.
I don’t remember how it started.
It might have been the night he had been out drinking and told me to come over. When I arrived he was passed out on the couch with some half eaten curry next to him. I tried to wake him to put him to bed and he just lost it. He was a bit drunk and half asleep and started yelling in my face. It’s hard to describe how scary it is to try help someone and end up with a 6’3” man who benches twice your weight towering over you and calling you a whore, telling you to fuck off and god knows what else, before they end up just going to bed like you were trying to get them to do.
Not necessarily abusive, just drunk and scary. Bit of a red flag but I wrote it off as a one-time thing (although it happened once more before I realized – leave the unconscious man on the couch).
He regularly accused me of cheating, called me every version of slut/whore and even managed some pretty witty analogies of just how much of a slut I was over the year we dated.
He thought I must have hooked up with any male friend I had. The customers at my bar were definitely getting some Charlie. If I went away, I must have had a holiday fling.
Considering I was actually a pretty loyal girlfriend, he was just completely paranoid and had zero trust in anyone other than himself.
But… He was super supportive in me getting a job that would help me get experience towards my dream future career and promised me a place to live if I ever got one. I didn’t earn enough at my current job to be able to afford a flat deposit and my visa was up in less than a year so it seemed like a pretty legitimate and non-permanent option.
I was applying for jobs, finally got a great one and moved into his place.
Not a great move.
My entire relationship with him seemed to revolve around him being in a position of power and me in a vulnerable state. I had moved south in a pretty bad way and he had made sure I knew that most guys would consider me damaged goods and have dropped me once they found out. Things had started improving for me so I gave him the power of a roof over my head. I had no idea how stupid this was.
Our arguments were extreme and explosive and intense. One person would do or say something wrong, the other person would point it out, a catty comment would be made, an angry retort sent back, then bam! It’s like nothing you’ve seen. Two very angry people saying horrible things because someone did something insignificant.
But the arguments could fizzle out as fast as they started and we could be back to our happy laughing selves within an hour, pretending like nothing had happened.
Nothing was ever resolved, unless I apologized. I’m a stubborn girl but he was more stubborn, so I had to realise I was wrong, pretend I was wrong, or our argument would be swept under the rug.
Nothing was ever his fault and he never properly apologized for anything.
He used to point out all of my character flaws. Basically sit me down and tell me everything that he didn’t like about me. It was all supposedly for my own good because, how could I improve if it weren’t for him telling me I was a terrible person? He would do this regularly and tell me the same things over and over. It was all character building apparently. But it beat me down. He had nothing good to say about me as a person, ever, but was down to tell me EVERYTHING he didn’t like. He also told me regularly that he didn’t love me and he never could love someone like me.
I took this ‘character building’ as something he was into and genuinely thought worked, so I thought I’d point out some things about him that could do with some work. This made him really angry. He was apparently fully self-aware of all of his faults, he didn’t need me to point them out. Who did I think I was saying those things to him when he can’t help it and is already working on it?
My boyfriend used to love talking about how amazing and beautiful and intelligent his ex-girlfriend was. She was German from a great family with a psychology degree and working on her masters. She would be earning so much. She was beautiful, big boobs, curly blonde hair and a real head turner. All of his friends were jealous but they didn’t see past her looks to the amazing girl underneath. Then when I got (I think understandably) upset at how my boyfriend talked about his ex compared to how he talked about me, he got really angry at me. He would tell me I was self-centred and jealous and the world didn’t revolve around me.
When anything went wrong, it was my fault. Arguments were my fault. If he did something wrong, I was angry about nothing. If I did something wrong, I was the devil. If his dad made a ‘joke’ about a homophobic hate crime, he was being funny, if I said that wasn’t cool, I was speaking out of line. If he was horrible to me and made me cry, I was too emotional. If I broke his rigid routine, I was purposely ruining his life. If I ate too loudly, it was because I didn’t want him be able to concentrate on his study. If I responded to him picking a fight with me, I was causing a scene.
I was walking on eggshells constantly. It’s incredibly exhausting and it’s also near impossible to know how reasonable each party is being when you’re in the middle of it. I couldn’t really tell if he was being fair or not, or if I was genuinely that horrible a person. If I was pretty sure I hadn’t done anything wrong, I’d question it and have him tell me I had a victim complex and made everything out to be against me. I just needed to accept that he was right and I was playing the victim as usual.
Let’s be clear, I don’t think anyone that has dated me would give me a 100% on the normal and easy to argue with scale. Definitely not.
I’m only human, I can be difficult and I do have a hot temper underneath it all. I also don’t think I’d be scored a 100% on the ‘everything’s her fault’ scale either, because it takes two to tango. This relationship didn’t seem to live by the “two to tango” rule one bit. I was living on a 100% crazy bitch and 100% my fault scale and lucky to have a guy who accepted me anyway.
It did get a little physical.
One way that I know it was a questionable relationship is that he has actually told what I could and couldn’t say to the question “does he hit you?”.
He told me the answer was “no”.
I told him I’d be honest and say “technically, no.” if anyone were to ask (who was going to ask?).
No, he never hit me. He shoved me. Into walls, corners, over chairs. He held me against walls, beds. He threatened to hit me. Yes, I did receive some injuries as a result of the pushing.
But no, he never hit me.
This wasn’t an answer he wanted to hear but, let’s be honest, he wasn’t going to hit me over it so I said it anyway.
Re-reading all of this it seems like I was totally delusional to be dating a guy like this, but it doesn’t look like this from the inside.
He took me to football games, showed me the English way of life – making £1 bets on the football and watching the results come in while eating scotch eggs and drinking tea. We’d have a quiet beer at the pub, go to the beach. Have a laugh. Go to the movies, walk in the park.
I wasn’t used to having someone who seemed to properly get my super dry sense of humour but I didn’t have to explain how funny I was to him because he already knew. His sense of humour was different to most but it was right up my alley in its quirkiness.
I’m an optimist and always see the best in people, and apparently I see that despite some serious flaws that could have actually endangered myself as a girl alone in another country on the other side of the world from my family.
My poor best friend was lucky enough to get some awful messages and calls when things went really bad (love you long time! Xx) and she hated him more than anything. She was super supportive of me leaving him and moving in with her but it never seemed like it’d work as I finally had a job I liked in a different city to her.
So I stayed. Sorry.
One of the worst incidents with him was when I was trying to choose what to put on TV but he was giving me silent treatment and wouldn’t tell me what he wanted to watch. I gave in and said something mildly passive-aggressive like “well you’re not giving me anything and I don’t know what you want to watch so do what you want, I’m going to listen to my audiobook in the bedroom”. I wasn’t even angry, just frustrated and looking forward to The Luminaries (great book) but as I walked to the bedroom, he leapt up, stormed at me and cornered me in the hallway, yelling in my face.
His face was so angry, and he’d seem so huge over me and had a tendency to yell and point his finger in my face (I often asked him to lower his voice and not point at me. Maybe a bit too ballsy for a little girl, ha). He was saying something about how I had no respect for him and talked to him like shit. I was saying that’s not what I was doing, I genuinely didn’t know what he wanted to watch and I wanted to get to my book.
He pushed me and held me in the corner of the hall while he reprimanded my behavior then when he loosened his grip, I ducked past him into the bedroom so I was by the wall we shared with the neighbour’s lounge. That way I knew if he did seriously try to hurt me, I could hit on the wall and yell for her to call the police. It’s funny how you think when you fear for your safety.
He followed me and stood over me while I leaned against the wall trying to hold my ground. He kept yelling and yelling, and the fact that I had moved to the room made him especially mad because he thought I was trying to get the neighbour involved so she’d could hear our arguments and have gossip about him (all part of a conspiracy theory he had about her).
I was crying and ended up sitting in a ball on the ground while he told me he was throwing me out of the flat. I started bawling – it was like 10pm, freezing and raining outside. I was 18,000km from home, I had no car and nowhere to go.
He was saying that I deserved it and he never wanted me in his house and I could just go to the house of “one of the guys I’m fucking” and live with them. I tried to explain that I wasn’t fucking anyone and he got angry that I was “lying” to him.
He told me to go to my old live-in workplace. I told him I couldn’t go crawling back there at this time of night and there were probably no beds. That prompted some more slut talk about how I could get a bed.
He told me to go to my aunt and uncle’s place. I told him I didn’t want to bother them at this time of night and I’d be so embarrassed to have to tell them everything that had happened and I knew he didn’t want that either.
Next thing, he started gathering up everything I owned and storming out and throwing it out the door onto the concrete in the rain. He was going back and forth taking armfuls of the small amount of things that I had to my name and chucking it in the dirt while I sobbed uncontrollably on the floor like a pathetic child begging him to let me stay until at least tomorrow.
I’ve never felt so helpless and I thought I was going to throw up from fear. Fear of him hurting me and fear of him throwing me into the dark in a kind of questionable area with nowhere to go.
Then something flipped. He started apologizing. He ran outside and picked everything back up. Brought it back in. Half of it was wet so he hung it up to dry and the rest he started kind of folding into a pile.
He was like “I’m so sorry, I didn’t meant it. Stop crying. I didn’t know what I was doing but now I see what I was doing to you and I didn’t mean it, I was just angry at how you spoke to me.”
He made me a cup of tea and tried to make it ok. I accepted it because it meant a roof over my head for the night when I had literally no idea what where I was going to go.
The weirdest thing about this was later that night (maybe an hour max), a tear rolled down my cheek while we were watching tv, because I was still so upset about what had happened and he got annoyed. He was like “Oh you’re still on about that? I’ve said I’m sorry, what’s the issue?!” And when I said it was a little traumatising and I needed to gather myself he was like “Ugh, I guess you’re never going to let me live this one down are you? I’ve said I’m sorry, get over it! Always the victim.”
And that was that.
He pushed me over a chair and into a window in Ireland on my birthday weekend and I was limping for weeks. He picked fights with me in public and would get super angry when I responded. He gave me silent treatment on Valentine’s day at dinner for no reason. He pushed me into walls or chairs. He would get in my face aggressively and tell me how badly he’d hurt me if I was a man. He’d hold me down as if I was a threat to him.
And I still chose to hang out with him.
I also told no one, except my poor bestie, and even she only heard about the really big things.
Amazingly, while this stuff raised red flags, none of these things raised huge alarm bells. I ended up breaking up with him but had nowhere else to live so stayed there for a while.
Eventually I realized that I was getting in trouble for non-events, like not making his lunch for the next day quickly enough after I finished work so it wasn’t ready when he got home, which would delay cooking dinner by about 15 minutes and had a knock-on effect on his weight training/study etc.
He took this to mean I was purposely screwing with his routine to ruin his life (despite me making his lunch which he would have had to do himself anyway if I wasn’t there). So I moved out to my aunt and uncle’s (the other unknowing guardian angels in my life) and things got easier.
I STILL hung out with him now and then, just less often. We had a trip planned together and had decided to do it regardless of the fact we were broken up.
The actual alarm bells didn’t come til the 2nd to last day of our 2 month trip together. We had a proper physical fight.
Long story short.
He was an asshole, I slapped him, he pushed me so I was on my back on my bed in the corner of a hotel room and he jammed me into the corner with his hands around my neck. I didn’t know what was going to happen so I freaked out and bit his hand until it broke his skin and he let go and jumped off me.
Then he started calling ME the crazy bitch.
I remember opening the door of the hotel room (again so people would hear if he tried to murder me) while I came up with a plan to get my passport, money, phone and computer and get the fuck out of there. I was so shaken up by having someone actually put my hands around my neck like that.
Then he said what is officially ‘The Worst Thing Anyone Has Ever Said To Me’ to get a rise out of me, and by fuck it did. I went at him, but the dude is twice my size. He slammed me against the wall.
He froze and stared at me and then started apologising immediately.
He was suddenly being strangely nice. I reached up and touched my head and my hand was covered in blood, I turned around and there was blood on the wall, it was dripping down my neck and onto the floor and the bed.
Heads bleed a lot!
He freaked out, closed the door, I started having a bit of a panic attack because of all the blood. I’ve never bled that much and was thinking I was going to die or maybe need to go to the hospital. It seemed to be literally everywhere. My hair was matted down, it was on my hands and face, everything I touched turned red and it didn’t seem to be stopping.
He was just worried about himself. If someone found me in this state, they might chuck him in jail because it was my word against his and we all know what jail is like in Asia. “You can’t leave like this – covered in blood. You know it was a mistake! They’ll throw me in jail. They won’t give a fuck about me!”. Then he showed me the bite mark on his hand and the scratch on his face I managed to get in. “You did this to me! You hurt me too, I’ll tell them that. You’ll get in trouble too”. He put me in the shower to wash off the blood – the cut didn’t seem big enough to require stitches, thank god.
I was crying because I confused at how I was scared of him a second ago and now I was trying to protect him from the police. The phone rang and he answered. It was reception calling because someone had reported hearing a woman screaming in our room.
He said everything was fine.
That was enough for them.
In the end I washed off the blood, stopped the bleeding, threw my blood-soaked clothes in the bin, gathered my valuables and left what looked like a crime scene to go to reception a blubbering mess asking for a new room. They knew something had happened. They didn’t care to find out, just took me to a new hotel because they were full.
So it was blood that got the alarm bells going.
I was still nice to him. God knows why.
I didn’t tell my parents and let them be hospitable to him. God knows why.
I think I thought the easiest and fastest way to get him out of my life was to get his life in New Zealand on track as quickly as possible so I could sever the ties and be rid of him forever. As. Soon. As. Possible.
And I have… Kind of.
It’s weird the effect this type of person has on you. I have no doubt that his perfect German girlfriend left him for a similar reason as I know she left him seemingly out of the blue. He left me emotionally drained and lost. No one should feel like this, and no one should think that someone hitting (or “technically not hitting them”) is ok or excusable.
It was his birthday earlier this year and I didn’t say happy birthday to him. That was scary for me. I knew how much it would mean to him if I did and how angry he’d be if I didn’t, but I still didn’t. He scares me without doing anything.
It’s also weird writing this because I can’t help but feel at fault for a lot of what happened and I know how extremely angry this would make him because of my ‘victim complex’. I’m pretty sure he has no idea how manipulative and scary he actually is, because deep down he’s a good person who happened to have a shitty upbringing. I know all of this, but I can’t change him. I don’t think anyone can.
I’ve also been assured by my friends that even if I was a completely crazy, lippy bitch, I still wouldn’t have deserved to be pushed, strangled, or in any way physically restrained. My friend told me that when I was telling her my version of events on the hotel night (as I called her from the new room) that I was making a lot of excuses for him and the things he had been doing. And she was right.
Well that was light…
I think I partially wrote this to say, crazy shit happens to your friends behind closed doors and this is an example. Look out for your friends. Facebook is no real representation of a person’s life.
Partially to get this off my chest because thoughts of this consume me sometimes. Sometimes I think about how I don’t know what love is anymore as I was badly mistreated by 3 men with nothing good in between them. Love starts to seem like something that only naïve people believe in.
And I think I partially wrote it to say “there are things to look out for in your own relationship or your friend’s to make sure you all stay safe”. But I’m no pro, I’m just one girl with one story. I can try though…
The things I should have noticed and taken more seriously were:
- Being kept in a vulnerable position where they want or need you to rely on them
- Being isolated from your friends/made to feel guilty when you hang out with others
- Your partner has a bad relationship with their family (it could be for good reason, but it could very well have deeper meaning)
- Their friends. What the relationship dynamic is with their friends. My fellow exerted a lot of power over his friends and acquaintances and would cut someone out of his life at the drop of a hat.
- How they treat your feelings. How you feel is valid and they should not deny you that.
- Jealousy and lack of trust. Especially if it has no grounding whatsoever.
- Lying and cheating (I knew for a fact he regularly lied to my face and cheated on me at least once)
- The stories about exes or previous lovers. How they treated them. Don’t trick yourself into thinking they couldn’t do that to you.
- Everything is on their terms. Movie choice, restaurant choice, etc. You should be able to do the things you enjoy with your partner too.
- If you think you can change them. Don’t. It’s not that easy to turn around a lifetime’s worth of influences that has made them who they are, especially if it started young.
- If they are physical with you. That is not ok.
In fact, I just went on the Women’s Refuge website and found this Power and Control Wheel (designed to “help women to see that the mind games, controlling behaviours and threats form a pattern of power that is used to dominate and control them and their children”) and it reflects pretty closely what I just wrote above.
I’m ok now. I’m home in NZ. I live in a safe flat with a protective dog and his owner. I’ve started being honest about things that have happened to me in hope that it’ll stop it happening again. I have seen recently what a nice guy that respects me looks like so I know that they exist and that I don’t need to fear everyone with a penis (hurrah). Things can only get better methinks 🙂
If you or someone you know are in an abusive relationship, get out of it, support them. It might be scary to leave someone if you’re in this situation, but there are people that love you that want to be there for you. There are other people in the world who will love you for who you are and not treat you badly. Make sure safety is central in leaving as sometimes leaving can be incredibly dangerous for survivors of domestic abuse. There are systems in place to help protect you and your kids if you have any. You should never accept less than the best for yourself.
I will follow this blog post with a few reputable links for more information as this shit’s much deeper than my knowledge.
We be strong bitches.
Love love love x
Important links and details (NZ):