Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
How did emotional abuse in an old relationship affect your future?(18 Posts)
This is a very long post, sorry. I just need to vent and get all this out.
I was in a relationship with a guy for 6 years (22-28), all through 4 years at University and 2 after. It was only in the very last few months that I realised that abuse was going on when I literally sat and googled 'am I being abused' and the link I clicked on said 'if you're frightened of your partner, then yes.' It was a total lightbulb moment. He used his abused-in-childhood past to get away with murder with me and I totally fell for it. His parents were Jehovah's Witnesses and very controlling, but unfortunately that's what he used on me too. I wasn't allowed to listen to any music that was from my (brilliant) teenage past because it made him jealous, and he was trying to stop me being such a 'wild slut' that he judged that I was back then. I couldn't wear clothes that made him think of what I might wear in my past. I wasn't allowed to be on good terms with any of my exes. If I got a lift home from a guy at work (in his 50's!) I had to ask him to drop me off round the corner so that my partner couldn't see. He also told me he should have got together with a virgin, someone who was 'pure'. I asked him if I could have a break from the pill as I was sick of it, he said he didn't see why he had to suffer when I took it all through my slutty past. He bought me a cat then took it away without warning because I 'could barely look after myself, never mind a cat.' Believe it or not I tried to stay feisty through all this and kept excusing his mad behaviour. Although he didn't hit me, he would stand over me shouting until I told him I was frightened. Sometimes the shouting would carry on for about 8 hours at a time. He would wake up, pretend everything was fine, have sex with me, then immediately launch into an argument afterwards. Actually writing this down, I am gobsmacked I didn't leave earlier.
The final straw for me was when he had a cannabis psychosis (he said brought about by his terrible childhood) and I had to get him sectioned - I dealt with that all okay (his family all just assumed I'd take care of him and no one came to see him in hospital apart from me and a few friends.) When he came out, he was obviously too ill to work but refused benefits. I was paying for everything, including his fags, for about a year. Whenever he got a job, he would quit without discussing it first, shouting that he was so stressed he might kill himself. When my own brother committed suicide he told me (after one week) to stop fucking crying!
Anyway, we got engaged. I pushed him into it, thinking back now I'm sure it's because I was trying to wake myself up. He bought me a hideous ring that cost £40 (I specifically said not gold, of course it was.) i was utterly miserable but pretending to friends it was great.
One night we were at a party and he was so rude, wanting to leave immediately after he finished his drink. I refused to leave and stayed out till late. When I got home, he had locked me out of the house (the house that I was paying for completely remember.) He did this frequently too, whenever I had a night out. I had to go to my mums in the middle of the night, walking because I had no money. I came back the next day after he messaged me wanting to talk. I got back and there was a baseball bat behind the door he said was for dodgy people...
So he sat down and said he wanted the engagement ringback until I 'learnt how a proper wife should behave.' Luckily this was the 'PING!' moment and I told him I'd had enough and I wanted to split. Hurrah!
I was immediately euphoric, I felt like Morgan Freeman at the end of the Shawshank Redemption. However, I feel like now - 6 years later - I am still suffering. I am extremely submissive with my (brilliant) dh, doing things like asking permission to put the heating on or changing the channel. he thinks I'm crazy! I then have terrible problems with anger and just explode, then feel very guilty. Even though I do loads around the house, I never feel good enough. I'm actually driving myself mad.
Even just writing this has made me feel better. I'm just curious to hear what you have to say about your own experiences and how you cope with feelings like this, if you have them.
First of all, well done for getting away from your ex. He sounds utterly terrifying. I have left a violent partner myself and I know what strength it must have taken. You were able to finally put yourself first and good for you. Be proud every day that you did that.
I had a violent ex but also very emotionally abusive parents, who set me up to expect to be treated like crap in relationships. I wasn't aware of this at the time of course but through extensive psychotherapy, I can see the links between Ex's behaviour and my parents behaviour. Is that something you can relate to at all?
I relate to a lot of your post in my relationship with my current DP - difficulty asking for things, explosive anger, extreme guilt and self-doubt. It's very upsetting and confusing and scary at times. I have also had the feeling of 'driving myself mad' and it's horrible.
What I would say is that its to be expected after such a traumatic relationship and that you need to allow yourself to feel whatever it is you're feeling. Very often when we feel unpleasant things, we try to deny them and ignore them and 'make them go away' - which of course just makes them even more intense and upsetting! I find it helps to ask myself:
what am I feeling? name the feeling or feelings (if you can)
what exactly is making me feel this way? - it may not be what is going on right at that moment, it may be that a memory has been triggered and you're feeling things that it was unsafe to feel at the time
then reassure myself that feeling whatever I'm feeling is OK. It's the acting on feelings that can be unhealthy, not the feelings themselves.
To be honest, I cannot recommend psychotherapy enough. Your feelings are related to very traumatic experiences and it's not just as simple as flicking a switch - you may need support to go deeper and really feel what's going on for you.
Please be kind to yourself and keep posting if it's helpful
Have you thought about speaking to your GP? Especially the 'not feeling good enough' aspect of your post. I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination but it sounds like you could do with some outside intervention.
Between now and then be kind to yourself
Lottapianos, thank you so much I feel as though things are coming to a head now and needing to be dealt with so it doesn't disrupt my marriage. I've just had my first ds 10 weeks ago, I'm on the mini pill which I'm sure is making my moods terrible (about to switch contraception soon) and, the biggie, my little brother committed suicide 1 month before I gave birth. Yes that's two brothers who've done this. Both addicts, in different ways. I feel as though these old memories are coming out in tandem with my grief.
I'm sorry to hear about your own past by the way and well done for getting out of it too.
My parents were not abusive as far as I can see but I did always feel a weight of not letting them down. They had fallen out with my big sister and none of us saw her, and my little brother was very very troublesome. My dad would often sulk and be depressed and my mum would express disappointment with her life ('I love my kids, but if I had my time again...that haunted me from childhood!) I think I got this feeling of not being good enough from them, definitely. I'd always been a victim, bullying in childhood etc, but I'm much more kick ass these days.
knowledgeispower - I don't quite know what to say to my GP as I'm sure they'll want to bung me on anti depressants or say there's not enough counselling to go round. I've had counselling in the past when my first brother died and that was amazing. I'll need to try to get some again, definitely. I'm determined to tackle this.
Scarlet I could have written a lot of your post. I too wasn't allowed to eat certain food, not allowed my own bank a/c, was a "tart" despite him sleeping with many more partners than I'd had, I couldn't wear age-appropriate clothes (e.g at 21 I was forced to wear his mum's hand-me-down Laura Ashley dresses), and he told me in all sincerity that he had pulled me from out of the gutter.
I left him four years ago and I too am still affected by it. I am now with a lovely DH who sometimes reminds me of the time we went food shopping and I asked him whether I could put a 79p bag of potatoes in the trolley. When I told him that I just couldn't understand why I put up with my ex's behaviour for so long DH said it's only when the balance of power is right in a relationship that you can truly see what's going on.
As to how to cope, well, it's hard. I'm having counselling now as I'm struggling to accept that someone actually loves me for who I am. Seems to be helping slowly but surely, I would recommend it.
Feel free to PM me if you ever need a good rant
God Snoozybird that's ringing some bells for me about someone loving me for who I am (and the potato story!) I nearly destroyed my engagement to dh by coming home to him very drunk, screaming and pushing him and accusing him of cheating on me. He really taught me about self respect that night by refusing to be bullied and suggesting we ended it if I didn't trust him, as there would be no point. It shocked me into realising how I was self-sabotaging and it calmed me right down. God it seems like I do need to go down the counselling route to get through this! It crops up every few months in my mind and I can't get over it by myself. Thanks for your support.
Scarlet, my mother said the same thing! I understand that parents aren't robots and some do regret their chikdren, but maybe your actual children don't need to hear that!
Sounds like there was lots going on in your family and you were 'the good girl' - a bloody difficult role to play. It sounds to me like your parents expected a lot of you and you still feel the weight of that now.
I'm so very sorry about both your brothers. The grief must be so intense. Congratulations on your DS but remember you're still recovering from the physical ordeal of his birth as well as the emotional trauma.
GP may push antidepressants on you, but may not. I took ADs for 6 months when I was on my knees with it all - they gave me a break from the intense feelings but didn't actually change anything permanently. Psychotherapy is what's really changing things for me. Take time to find your own way through this.
Yes absolutely re parents!
I'll just need to bite the bullet and see my GP. Even if I could request grief counselling for my brother's death, that would be a start.
Google to see if there are any domestic violence charities in your area which offer counselling. I had some and it helped - they offered 10 sessions with more if you need them later, it was a donation basis, so you paid what you could afford even if that was nothing.
I had problems leading on from being in an EA relationship and they still haven't gone away (4 years on now, just got married to a lovely, patient guy) - stuff like at the beginning I had no idea how to argue, I was terrified to bring anything up, DH was really confused by this. I remember one argument we had and I was crying my eyes out saying "Oh my god, I have to leave you now but I don't want to" because I'd almost gone so far the other way that I thought that if we ever disagreed that meant we were incompatible. That's something I worked through with the counsellor and saw that it's OK to have differing opinions as long as your moral values allow you to respect each others' opinion.
I have had to ask him to explicitly explain things in the past, like "If you are cross with me what do you want me to do?" and he's called me out on things like going and hiding and crying when I'm upset about something I think I don't have the right to be upset about rather than just talking to him. Also keeping stuff to myself because I'm worried he will be angry - he never is and he helps me work things out. I still find it really hard when we argue but truly it's totally different and we have always managed to work things out, which even in itself is a different experience.
My main problem is when I imagine that he's having the sort of thoughts that XP used to make very clear, and then start acting to alleviate those thoughts even if he is not having them. It's difficult to explain and I don't always notice when I'm doing it, but have started to ask on here most times now.
I think counselling is the way to go, Scarlet.
My first abusive relationship was with my parents and all of my significant relationships since have also been abusive to some degree. I find it very difficult to be with someone who isn't abusive because if someone isn't shouting at me, threatening me, mocking/belittling me, controlling me and telling me what to do to 'improve' myself, I'm never quite sure if it's because they're not abusive or just not interested.
So I always end it.
I'm having counsellling to, ultimately, address feelings of not being good enough, and it is really helping. I'm no where near at the end of it yet, but every week I have a little epiphany that develops throughout the week.
I'd go to your GP and see what they say.
Thanks everyone. I've just googled the local support in my area and found an email address I could try with regards to counselling.
Bertie I understand what you mean about arguing. I'm either very childish and shouty, then burst into tears, or I'm terrified to disagree. It's mad. And Folkgirl, regarding relationships, even my dh has traits that I can see I've unconsciously picked to annoy me! He is very particular about cleanliness and order in the house and although he is in no way abusive, I go overboard thinking that he's being mega critical of me when he's simply asking for things to be done in a certain (mega annoying, lol) way.
This whole thread has been really enlightening, it's helping me see things I hadn't even put down to my ex relationship. It's crazy how it's permeated everything.
Hi Scarlet, I just wanted to echo the recommendation for counselling. I've been in the shadow of an EA relationship for quite some time, I found a women's psychodrama group and it was brilliant. It sounds very "woo" but I preferre it to talking therapies. I recognise "being terrified to disagree" and it takes a long time to learn how to disgree without having to get so tense about doing it that it becomes a big drama.
Bloody well done on getting out, though
Thesecows, psychodrama sounds excellent. It would be great if we had something like that in my area. Sorry to hear that you were affected too. My ex now works somewhere in London looking after vulnerable adults; I found this out through the grapevine a few years ago. I bet he's great with them too, because he likes to hide his true self. No one around me knew what he was really like. He was 3 years younger than me too so believe it or not, all the manipulation started when he was 19 years old. It's scary. It's affected me to such an extent that if I'm in a clothes shop I'll see something I like then I'll say to myself, 'Do you really like it? Is it not a bit...you know...maybe I should get something else.' Or I'll agree to things I don't like because I believe I have to keep the peace, even though there is no war going on at home any more. Fucking madness! Sorry that I keep going on about it.
By the way I am annoying myself because I don't know if I'm using affect/effect properly throughout the thread, haha. If there are any grammar nazis reading feel free to correct me!
It's affected me to such an extent that if I'm in a clothes shop I'll see something I like then I'll say to myself, 'Do you really like it? Is it not a bit...you know...maybe I should get something else.'
Do you know, I realised recently that one of the reasons I had not bought new clothes for several years was because xH always liked things which I did not like; and commented on EVERYTHING. I feel like I don't know where to start with making up my own mind.
This is a really helpful thread, btw; I had a situation yesterday where I got very upset in a work meeting in a small room which got confrontational. I had to leave as it triggered a panic attack, which really made me think I need to do something like counselling. So, I think the effects are there.
How do you cope with the 'cleanliness and order' thing though; my xH was like this to the extent that I found it stressful. Things don't need to be done in a certain way for the world still to turn; a healthy relationship would be about compromise.
Yep you're right. I still feel the power balance about that is wonky but I'm getting better at telling him off. The other day he said to me that he just likes things neat and ordered and I said 'well you'll never have that living with me, sorry!'
Sorry to hear you had a panic attack, I hope you're much better now.
I have been thinking about this thread, because I think there are potentially two things, related to what you say: I then have terrible problems with anger and just explode, then feel very guilty. Even though I do loads around the house, I never feel good enough. I'm actually driving myself mad.
The first is if you have experienced control over a long period of time, be that growing up or in a previous relationship, I think there are certain things which trigger the feelings you had then (helplessness, shame, not feeling good enough, distress etc) and which you react to (without knowing you are doing it). I realised this in my (now separated) marriage, that certain things (like being late, the house being a mess, not feeling on top of things) would trigger stress meltdowns. With some distance from this, I realise this was partly because of the situation I grew up in.
The second thing I think though is that it was also partly a consequence of my marriage, in so far as my (separated) H had to have everything done a certain way, and working full-time with DC, and a new baby, it really was impossible to achieve. I am going to put this very carefully, but I am wondering if you have a potentially (note the use of the word potentially) toxic combination here: which is the past abusive relationship, which has left you with underlying problems of self-worth; and a current relationship which actually sets you up to fail (in so far as the standards of cleanliness and order are very high, they are not natural to you, you are doing loads around the house which never feels good enough) and this is what triggers the anger, and subsequent guilt (because you love your DH and don't want to feel like this).
I may be completely wrong, but there is enough in your posts about your marriage now, to make me think that quite possibly the situation is not just your previous abusive relationship, but also the dynamics of your current relationship. The pertinent question would be whether the anger and guilt is there in situations outside of your household. If not, then my honest recommendation is, if this persists as a problem, to consider whether you want to have couples counselling now rather than letting the situation fester or taking the whole burden of sorting it on your own shoulders. You are a partnership, and it may be that a good therapist can work with both of you to address the issues.
The long post is because what you say reminds me of myself a few years ago and we are not together any more. Our situation is not reconcilable, and that is a matter of regret. If I am completely off beam, please forgive me.
Thank you for this, definitely I can recognise some of the things you're saying. Due to the amazing support and advice I've been given on this thread I have arrangeed to get counselling from Women's Aid soon. I think once I have that I'll be able to look at things more clearly in my marriage and it will really help. This marriage is wonderful and I want to keep it going in a healthy way, so thanks again.
Good for you Scarlet. Counselling is wonderful not don't be surprised if you find it rough going and if it brings up a lot of pain. Pain is better out than in though!
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now »
Already registered? Log in with:
Please login first.