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After abusive marriage. I am not a survivor, I am broken.(44 Posts)
I left my abusive husband of 6 years, 6 months ago, and for a while things were better for me, it was such a relief, but now I find myself overwhelmed by memories. I have lost sight of what was normal and what wasn't, lost sight of what was true and what wasn't. I was holding it all together, had put all my memories in a nice box in my head marked marriage, but I have started counselling and my box has opened and it is all overwhelming me. I am having a breakdown, I can't get out of bed. I just want to say what happened to me to some people who will understand, who won't ask questions or think it was my fault. I can't bear the question that I know people will ask- 'why didn't you just leave?'
He was emotionally abusive through most of our relationship, although I thought this was normal at first having grown up with parents who had a similar dynamic. I was only 18. It was only little things at first. He would make little digs, jokes that weren't funny, put himself first. He was awful when we argued, would always threaten to leave, or say that I had no right to ask anything of him since he earned all the money. I was a full time student, and also working part time. I felt I had nowhere to go, apart from back home to my bickering parents. But when he was nice he was wonderful, he made me feel amazing, and all that happened was that the worse he was on the bad days, the more I ignored those days and clung to the good ones, because I believed they were all I had.
The first time he was violent it took me totally by surprise. In hindsight it was an escalation of the abuse, but at the time I couldn't see it as abuse, it just seemed to be out of the blue. Our families were helping us decorate our new house, he refused to help because he was in a bad mood. I got angry with him, told him to get his act together and come and help. He stormed out of the house, then as I turned to go back down the hall he slammed open the door, and pushed me against the wall by my throat. I was terrified, I couldn't breathe. He told me that if I ever spoke to him like that again he would kill me. I slapped him hard across the face and he let go, but because our house was so full of people and I was in shock I suppose I just pretended nothing had happened, intending to talk to him later. But later somehow he managed to talk me round, told me he was very stressed, he cried, seemed so genuinely ashamed of himself, and it had seemed so out of the blue. He agreed to get help, and I just didn't let myself think about it. We got married 3 months later, I believed things were better, that we were happy.
Things got much much worse when I got pregnant. It was like his nice guy facade was gone altogether. He was horrible to me, ignored me, did very little around the house and was verbally abusive. The smallest request for help was met with him calling me pathetic, telling me it was me who had wanted the baby and I should just deal with it. I had a very difficult pregnancy, was severely sick and had very low blood pressure that left me exhausted. Some times his verbal abuse went on for so long I was left sobbing on the floor, begging him to stop. He would block my exit, back me against a wall so I couldn't get away. A few times I was sick from crying so much. I felt so utterly helpless, he made me believe I wouldn't cope with labour, or the baby, that if I left him he would take the house and the baby and leave me with nothing. I was so scared and so tired and I believed him. I didn't leave. He had been diagnosed with depression, and was always ready with a very convincing excuse, a promise to get help. My family were encouraging me to support him, to stick by him because he was ill, although I didn't tell them just how bad things were. When I was in labour he went to bed, and refused to get up for an hour when I woke him terrified having progressed very quickly and gone into transition.
After our daughter was born things were better for a while, and I began to feel stronger since I could focus on her. But still he called me names, refused to help with the baby, did no night feeds or settling. He made me feel I was a shit mum, told me that all our friends and family thought so too. That there was no way I would keep the baby if I left. Once I came close to leaving, and he swung his fist towards my face while I was holding our daughter, telling me that the next time I threatened to leave he wouldn't pull his punch. I knew I had to leave then, I stopped fighting back, stopped arguing with him, tried to get my head straight so I could go.
Then he told me he didn't love me anymore, and I was devastated. I suppose I should have been relieved, but I was still holding out hope that it was down to his depression, and I loved him. It was a new tactic to break me, and for a while it worked. Our daughter was teething, still breastfeeding round the clock and I was beyond tired, just barely getting through the days. He was so distant, he wouldn't speak to me apart from to make nasty comments. And he became nasty sexually, a few times not stopping when I said no (he would say he hadn't heard me, I'm not sure why I didn't shout it louder, I just let it happen), a few times pressuring me into it or holding me even though I made it clear I didn't want to. A few times he tried to have sex with me in my sleep, holding me down, although I woke up and kicked him off. He said he was asleep, but that seems pretty unlikely. I am only just letting myself know that this was rape. I don't know how to live with that.
Eventually I built myself up enough to kick him out- I planned, researched finances, read mumsnet, made some new friends. Convinced myself I wasn't as worthless as he had made me believe. I did it, and he has stayed gone, and I am much better without him. But now nobody really understands why I am struggling, they just say 'well he's gone now'. But its always running through my head, trying to disentangle his lies, realising just what he did to me. I dream about it. It is just so hard. I ask myself every day why I didn't leave and I still don't really know, it was like I was in a horrible nightmare where there is no way out whichever way you turn. I don't know what I want you to say, just that it wasn't my fault? I don't know how to get out of the horrible dark place I am in now and get over this.
I did what gettingstrong recommended about 10 years after leaving psycho EH, police were great. They explained it wouldn't be likely to go further & it didn't but it has been recorded & I knew they believed me. You are only months into this situation & although you are definitely making massive progress don't be surprised that you get seriously pissed off a lot of the time. It will lessen but will take a while. Don't let it scare you it is part of the process.
Interesting discussion about trauma. About ten years after I left that tool he caused mayhem for a few days which totally freaked me out, not sleeping, obsessively checking doors were locked. My doctor diagnosed me as having PTSD. I saw a counsellor & recovered quickly thank goodness. Don't be scared, you will have crap days, try not to panic x
Thanks gettingstrong, I was hoping I would be able to do something like that. I will email the local police tomorrow and ask how I would go about it.
OOh, I KEEP meaning to say, that the emotion/sadness/anger/feelings come out now, because you deep down know that you are FREE to have these feelings.
Let them out, listen to yourself, pay attention to everything you feel, and forgive yourself EVERYTHING. None of this was ever any of your fault.
Saying NO is the very first step we have in our recovery.
Well done for the realisation love, more will come.
Glabella, this is par for the course imo. Some people deal with the trauma while they're in the relationship, before they leave; others - most - are hit with it after they leave.
You have endured a very frightening experience. You were made powerless and your physical safety was threatened - aside from the very nasty 'bombs' that continually went off with no warning. I am usually military analogies because, imo, the trauma after an abusive relationship is akin to the trauma soldiers often feel after experiences of war.
After my hideous experience - and I wasn't even sexually abused - I read up on anything I could get my hands on. Somewhere along the line I discovered a book written by someone who specialised in trauma and had been researching trauma after warfare... she stumbled on the domestic abuse arena and was astonished to discover that the levels of trauma are very similar. That was a huge help to me. I can't remember the name of the book but I will try to find out.
Go easy on yourself. It is no wonder the trauma is coming out now - it's a sign you are healing. You were surviving while you were with him, as others have said. You didn't have time to process the trauma. Now you do.
It's horrible and it's uncomfortable but it will pass . It always does. it did for me and it will for you.
The Freedom Programme may well be a good port of call for you - I have linked you to the page you can find your local group. HOwever, I sometimes found that the stories I heard were triggering and you may not be ready to attend the group yet. I'm so glad to hear you have a counsellor and hope s/he specialises in trauma/DV. Whatever, it is so good to have someone in your corner who is qualified to support you as you go through this hard journey.
If these old cases of sexual abuse hitting the headlines tell us anything it's that there's always a point. Yes, it'll be your word against his & you'll have to think it through carefully but you have no idea if he's done this to other people in the past or if he's subjecting any current girlfriends to the same treatment. What got Stuart Hall convicted in the end was not the testimony of one victim but that several people came forward all with the same story and the police could present that as a pattern of abusive behaviour.
Ooooh, I have had an epiphany. I didn't say no to him because every time I did about anything else in our relationship including sex sometimes, it just led to a whole shitload of worsening abuse and/or he did it anyway. This is a helpful realisation. and
mcmooncup, I know exactly what you mean about noticing things in others relationships, in real life and in fiction or films I quite often find things that are often meant to be romantic a bit 'red flaggy'.
Hissy Thanks. I have been thinking about the freedom programme but I am a bit rubbish in groups, I can't imagine that sort of group setting being my sort of thing. How did you find it? I would love to do something like talking about domestic violence/campaigning etc, obviously when I am better, I have always been into womens' rights and that sort of thing (ironically!). How did you get involved in this?
I would reply to you all individually, but I am rubbish at that and always get people confused. But I do appreciate all your kind words and advice.
I have been angry today which seems to show itself as a horrible anxiety. Reading 'Why does he do that' which is like some sort of mind reading book and therefore quite tough reading. He is definitely 'the demand man' and ticks pretty much every box in terms of abuse. So many things resonate, its scary!
I am still struggling with feeling confused about some things- not the things that were definitely over the line and abusive but the more borderline things. I am not even sure whether I am remembering them right, or running several events together in my head, and it is so hard to disentangle what is normal relationship ups and downs and what is abuse. Like the times I had sex when I didn't really want to, but was persuaded eventually. I am not sure whether I just caved because I felt pressured, or scared of him although at the time he wasn't doing anything threatening I can remember, or whether I really wanted to, or whether I was so messed up I didn't know. Sorry to keep going back to the sexual things, I just find them easier to write down than to say out loud and they are the things that keep going round in my head.
I have also been thinking about maybe telling the police about what he did, I am not sure whether this is a good idea or not. I know it is very unlikely to result in anything, there is just my word against his and I was never in touch with them at the time. Would there be any point?
You are being so brave talking about it all.
Someday you'll believe and know it's not your shame, it's his. That's when you truly start to feel better.
Honestly this process is worth it. It's like your eyes are opened up to reality and you come out of a fog.
One thing I would say is that I do look around at loads of relationships and think ewwwwwwwww no thanks. I see lots of low level, sometimes overt abuse, and the women are still in the fog. I find that really upsetting, it seems such a big proportion of relationships are a bit icky. Not sure if I'm alone on that one?!?
But OP, keep talking. It will all make sense sure enough and I promise you won't feel destroyed forever.
Glabella, just wanted to send my support and echo all the things other mums have said. Things look really crap to you now but anyone looking in will only see how brave you were to get yourself and your baby out of the situation. You definitely did the right thing! Things won't get easy overnight but no matter how hard it is now it's a darn sight better than having to spend your days with him. Try to be patient & let yourself daydream about the good times to come. Just think you won't have to learn the lesson you have learned again. You will spot that type of behaviour a mile off. When you are having a bad day congratulate yourself on being so brave to make the decision to put yourself and your baby first. Well done, I really admire you.
I never post on this board; but your story is so moving and you are so very brave! You did so well to get out and protect your child: abusers set up all those cliffs and dead ends and make the way out unimaginable. You are safe now and young and the person you were before you met him is still in there. Think of all the people here holding your hand and wishing you well. Some wise person on another thread said to focus on enjoying the small things which remind you of your comfort and safety. Seems like good advice to me
Honey, it's normal to cry. Considering all that's happened. Yesn it feels like weakness to cry, why are we crying when he was such a bastard? It's all a total mess in our heads.
I thought it was the worst thing I could do, was afraid to start in case I couldn't stop.
Yes there were sessions where I howled. But you know what, I needed to. I. Needed to allow myself to have that pain/hurt and to recognise that I was entitled to cry, and that it was a kindness to allow myself to feel.
Keep posting, keep talking, and let it ALL out. You're in a safe space in therapy, you can talk to. Us if you find it helps. Remember WA are there too. I cried down the phone to them for a good 30m. Just so I could find the courage to call to book myself onto the freedom programme...
6m later I was able to give speeches on DV to over 60 doctors, and upwards of 80 army officers.
You can get through this. Just keep going the way you are going and it'll be ok, it really will.
It'll be a lot better than OK actually, but I know you can't believe that yet!
Talking to the counsellor about it is a huge step forward, well done. I know what you mean about the surreality of everything, I think perhaps it's a survival mechanism. It's hard to shake out of it, but you are getting there, step by step. It's a long road to feeling better, with steps forwards and backwards, but talking and sharing and getting support will help.
Well done from the bottom of my heart for talking to your counsellor about the rape. I get everything you are saying, and I know how very hard it is to speak of.
I am glad you are feeling a bit better today. It is a long road, but you are going in the right direction. I hope you find peace.
Sounds like you feel the counselling is helping, then?
That's very well described, the process of waking up to it and getting out. I'm still in that process - onto the getting out stage, but that in itself is harder than I thought it would be.
That traumatic bonding, where we cling to them precisely because they can be lovely when they're not being foul, must seem crazy to those who haven't been in the situation. That's why it's so valuable to talk with others who've been in similar situations and who understand, because the best-intentioned others just don't get it.
Thank you for the support, it is good to know that other people have been here and come out the other side, although I am sorry that any of you have, its bloody awful.
I am a little better today, saw my counsellor who helped me work things through a little more. I managed to tell her about the rape (ouch, still hurts to type it) which was really very hard. I cried, and I hate crying in front of people. It is slowly all sinking in, and I am coming to terms with the fact that it will probably take a while for me to be ok with everything.
It is just so hard to make it make sense in my head- the fact that I still loved him, we had good days too. The way I have described it, it all sounds awful but it was sometimes ok. I still slept with him willingly, even after he had raped me. It is really hard to get my head around the amount of control he had over me that I did that.
Trying to make sense of it and get the strength to leave was like one of those awful dreams where you are running from something but whenever you reach the exit it moves, or becomes a cliff, or you find yourself back at the start. Trying to run while the path shifts under your feet. That awful feeling of powerlessness and fear and not knowing what is real and what isn't. I still feel like that when I remember things, but I am trying to deal with them instead of shutting them away. Today I am a little better, I only cried a little and had no panic attacks.
None of what happened to you was your fault. Evil men will do evil things to anyone they can, nothing you did made him behave like that, he was just a horrible person. Hold on to the fact that you are strong enough to have seen what was happeneing, realising it wasn't right, and that you had the power to change your situation. Six months isn't a long time. Don't expect to feel 'better' and healed quickly, especially after such a long period of abuse.
I left an abusive partner over 7 years ago, am now married and expecting our first child, but I still have nightmares and days when I freak out about what happened, blame myself and even after all these years things he said to me still make me cry and want to hide.
I have never really spoken to anyone about what happened, but if counselling is making you feel awful, say so and they should change the way they approach things. It is supposed to help, not make things worse!
Good luck, be strong and look after yourself
"Eventually I built myself up enough to kick him out- I planned, researched finances, read mumsnet, made some new friends. Convinced myself I wasn't as worthless as he had made me believe. I did it, and he has stayed gone, and I am much better without him. But now nobody really understands why I am struggling, they just say 'well he's gone now'"
You are a survivor, despite what you say. You've overcome so much in such a short space of time already that I take my hat off to you. It's incredibly difficult to do what you did. Yes, you're struggling because you've been through a very traumatic experience and the counselling you are receiving is opening your eyes and forcing you to relive the hurt rather than leave it in the past. However, if you've acknowledged how bad it was you can tell your counsellor you want to start leaving that behind and working on the future... There's no obligation to keep raking up the past if it is damaging you.
What I wanted to say about 'well he's gone now' is that you don't need other people's understanding necessarily. In fact, it's very difficult for anyone to empathise when they haven't been where you are now. Support is different. If you need support ask for it specifically. Say what you actually need others to do. If you just want them to listen rather than comment, tell them that up front.
As you are seeing from everyone else who has been through this, you definitely seem to follow the change curve.
Denial - fear - anger - low/depressed - acceptance - moving on.
You are maybe at the low part.
I think the thing about it all coming to the surface about what our marriages were like, all those incidents that you filed away somewhere to survive the day, all the damage they have inflicted on us......it's got to be done. I see women who unfortunately don't go through this period of realisation and remain in denial. They then seem to be vulnerable to entering another destructive / abusive relationship.
The hardest times genuinely make us stronger, and I mean in the sense that you are authentic, real and at peace.
I'm 2 years on from leaving a 15 year abusive relationship and I'm good. Mostly I'm happy, have great things going on. It's fun but also overwhelming finding out about yourself after so long being controlled.
My dark moments are about the time I wasted and a little resentment at how damaged I am...(bad boundaries etc.)
But I snap myself out of it pretty quickly now and look at how far I've come.
You'll be right
You did leave him, in very, very difficult circumstances. And you were so young!
As other people have said, it's been a short time. It will get better, please believe that. This is normal, and you are doing really well, and you are a brave, wonderful woman.
Keep working on the counselling - it's hard, but necessary. And feel very proud of yourself.
thanks hissy for those excellent posts. I found them really helpful.
hope some of this is helping you too glabella
onwards and upwards.
Glabella my story is different to yours, yet horribly similar. When exh tried to have sex with me and I said 'no' (and he carried on anyway) he said that I was frigid . I was not allowed to spend any money (despite me earning a decent salary in a good job and despite us having £000s in the bank) and although he was not violent to me I lived in fear that one day he might kill me
But how the hell did I let all that happen? I had been a strong independent woman, so why did I not assert myself earlier, or get out earlier, or tell someone, or do something about it? For me, I'd bought into a particular 'myth' about marriage and married woman, and I was trying to live up to that ideal, even though it was completely contrary to my innate character. I tried and I tried and I tried until I'd completely lost sight of myself. So when rape occurred - I tried to believe I was being dutiful, when anger loomed - I thought it was my responsibility to calm things down.
When I did garner enough courage to leave I was called a home breaker by him and his friends/family. And my friends/family asked why I had let it get so bad.
What I needed was complete and unconditional support (which I hope you get on here). Support that says you did the best you could during your marriage, and that you that you did the best thing ever by leaving.
Many years on I am now in a lovely relationship with my kind and gentle and exciting dp (we've been together for 16 years), and this has helped to put the past hurt into perspective and to help me understand my own helplessness in the situation. You are NOT to blame.
Thank you hissy, for posting about your bedroom. I have been thinking I need to move house but also having ideas for changing the house. It is really positive to know these things helped you.
OP, I hope you are okay and find the strength to keep talking, in rl or here, to find the support you need.
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