I am writing this blog from the heart, from experience and from a desire to help other people recognise whether they are in an abusive relationship or not. It may sound like something very easy to recognise, but it's a gradual process, it takes time to manifest and take hold of you. It is very difficult to escape, and extremely frightening and traumatic to the person being abused. It is more common than you think, and it is generally men inflicting this trauma on women.
1. "I'll never put myself in that position"
This is something I've said myself - I deemed myself far too savvy and independent to be dominated by a man like that. However it happened, and it happens to a lot of women like me. I got myself out of it many years ago, but I believe that knowledge is power, and am using this space to analyse how it happened so that it doesn't happen again - and hopefully help someone else in the process.
When choosing a placement last year I became attracted to New Pathways an agency that helps people who have been raped or sexually abused. I believe I was attracted to this field of counselling because of my life experiences, and have worked with women from all backgrounds who have been through extraordinarily difficult times. I have felt honoured to have them share their stories with me and have watched them get stronger and learn to live with their experiences. It was very rewarding. It was also a challenging time, as I experienced parallels to my own life, and learnt from them as much as they from me.
Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship.
2. "He's a good man, you don't know him like I do"
There will come a point when it stops being fun - when the "honeymoon period" ends and the relationship starts taking a nose dive. He knows he has you now so doesn't have to try so hard. His real personality starts to come through and his mask slips:
Click here for Narcissistic Abusive traits
Do you find yourself making excuses for his bad behaviour, believing that he loves you really?
Are you struggling to remember any good times, or the last time you laughed together?
Does he blame you for making him violent towards you?
Do you make constant efforts to keep him happy but fearing the next episode?
Do you feel as if you are losing your mind?
Do you recognise yourself any more?
If you recognise any of these feelings you have been through the trauma of being in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser.
3. " I'll be a better girlfriend/ wife/ partner"
If you're told you're rubbish enough times you start believing it. Being in a relationship with an abuser is like psychological warfare, with him beating you down emotionally until you're no longer the person you were. You believe all that's wrong in the relationship is down to you, so you must be the one to fix it, an insurmountable task if ever there was one. These are some of the attributes you have been facing:
Jealousy - he will start to control who you interact with and monitor your movements
Controlling behaviour - he could control the way you dress, if you wear make up or not, when you see your family if at all, going out with friends and checking your movements at work and who you talk to there.
He may want to get involved quickly, committing you to the relationship so that he can control you.
He puts unrealistic demands on you and punishes you when you can't achieve them.
He's never to blame for anything
He twists the truth (gaslights) - "Look what you made me do or "- "It's your fault I get so angry."
He cannot be criticised otherwise he will retaliate.
Inappropriate sexual demands - such as initiating sex when the partner is asleep, or demanding sex when the partner is ill or tired.
Verbal abuse engineered to bring down your confidence.
He will see you as inferior.
Erratic mood swings - likened to "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde."
He has battered previous partners.
He controls your movements with threatening behaviour.
He smashes items in the house and your belongings.
Restraining or holding you down. Pushing or shoving you.
Punching, hitting, kicking, strangling, suffocating, burning etc.
Being a "better wife" would make no impact against such behaviour!
4. “He apologized and promised it won't happen again.”
I wonder how many time you've heard that.
Where has that man gone that you fell in love with? The one who was romantic and treated you so well. You wish it was like that again and will do anything in your power to get it back. So when he promises to change you are filled with hope and will do anything to help him achieve this. But beware:
After such a long time of abuse how is it possible to have made such a radical change in attitude in such a short time?
if this isn't a genuine promise he's not going to change but he's also not going to let you go without a fight. If it takes empty promises to keep you there that's what he'll do.
Are they all words and no action? They have to recognise that they are abusive and put a plan into place to correct this which will take time, energy and commitment to achieve.
I think it can be agreed that even if he is being genuine it's a task you may need outside help with. There are safety and safeguarding issues that need to be considered to keep all parties safe. Family mediation does exactly that, and my advice would be if he gets aggressive about it, he probably wasn't genuine about it in the first place.
If he doesn't intend to change the abuse and violence will get progressively worse as time goes on.
Click here for more information on Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes
5. " He said he'll kill me if I leave"
The most dangerous time for a woman is when she is trying to leave her partner. He can feel his power over you slipping, and he will resort to threats, violence, coercion and intimidation.
"6. I don't know who I am anymore"
This should come as no surprise!
He has systematically chipped away at you until you're a shell of your former self. Please don't despair - you're in there somewhere and you have survived all the mental, psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. You're still here - just - and you live to fight another day.
He has isolated you from your support network, worn down your self-worth. You may be frightened, in a permanent state of high alert (which is exhausting), angry, shameful, and lacking any power over your own life.
This is not permanent, you can get it all back - I did! So can you.
If you think you would benefit from counselling Get in touch