HE CHOSE, to be abusive & to control me

Dear next Mrs M,

He will be lovely. He will be charming. He will be romantic. He will be great with your family. He will woo all of your friends. He will be kind to strangers. He will be generous. He will be adventurous. He will love your pets like his own and be everything you dream of in a man. He will be the most amazing man you have ever met. Until he isn’t.

It will start off slowly. It may be ‘your fault’ that he is stressed about work. ‘Your fault’ that his friendships are becoming distant. ‘Your fault’ that his self esteem is waning. ‘Your fault’ he is broke. ‘Your fault’ that his mother feels upset. ‘Your fault’ he is sexually frustrated. So you need to try harder. You will need to give more than you have to give. Every day. You will never be enough.

You can’t say no. It will start with yelling and lectures. The sleepless days or nights of lectures, the phone calls and pages upon pages of messages and emails. Lectures upon lectures of your failings. How your successes makes him feel insecure. The endless loop of how you make him feel, how you cause all of his problems and are just not good enough.

He will stand over you, block your way out, follow you to demand a ‘conversation’ (lecture). He will turn lights on while you are sleeping, blow doors open and slam them. He will threaten to leave you alone to explain his absence for Christmases. He will demand you speak to him while you work, in every tea and lunch break. He will grab you and drag you. He will choke you and push you. He will break bones then threaten to ruin your career with a police report for what ‘you have done’. He will tell you that you are crazy, anxious, depressed, suicidal, a psychopath, and autistic. He will tell you that you just aren’t good enough.

The subtle hints of red flags in his perfect upbringing in a home of gender stereotypes of a mother who stayed home, kept the home, cooked and cleaned. While his father – the provider – worked slaving over a desk for years. Red flags when he made comments about how messy ‘you are’, how the home is not how he would like it. Red flags when he would buy expensive TVs, computers or take on contracts for expensive services, but be unable to pay for basic living expenses that you now must cover. Red flags when he couldn’t cover a cab to his work function, drinks or meals out he wants, but can place hundreds of dollars in bets. Red flags when he refused to introduce you to colleagues or friends, leaving you to stand in silence while the men talked. Red flags in his wish that your own future shared children wouldn’t end up as damaged like you. Red flags in comments about other women’s bodies and hair loss comparing them to your own. Red flags amplified in his descriptions of past partners as lesser, crazy, adulterous, and alcoholic. Then there is the dead one. Unexplained. A young woman with a collapsed lung. Alone at home with him.

So you take a stand and call it quits. He sees no point in living without you and can’t promise you he is safe. He deteriorates and amplifies his yelling, lectures, stand over, and violence. The comments made to family and friends that you are suicidal and mentally unstable. The insistent invitations to suddenly take a trip with him to remote bush land. The surprise gift he has to give you if you go.

Police are involved and he is served with an order to leave you alone. But HE is now the victim. You took his home, his possessions, and life. You must have been having affairs and are mentally unstable. He is worried for your mental health when anyone will listen he will tell them. You knew the system and played it against him. He will tell your friends and family his ‘truth’ in lectures about how you have wronged him. He will find his way around the order in any way he can. Pushing your family away as he tries. Severing every friendship he can reach. You will lose them because he is so lovely and charming, the perfect gentleman. The most amazing man. — Let him be the victim. Every bruise, scratch, every comment on on my failings. Every time it was my fault and the lectures that followed for days. Every time I slept in my car or cried alone for fear of judgement. Every time my strength grew.

I shared my story with selected friends, and with my family. Their tears and fear were palpable. Their concern for my life and urgency of needing to leave grew every day he lost his temper again. So we planned. We planned for the end. For safety, for my pets and things. We planned for midnight emergencies and where I could hide. We planned what I needed to pack urgently but secretly today and where to hide these things out of his reach. I shared plans with my closest friends and family only, maintaining a picture perfect home as much as I could manage. But I needed help.

I connected with a domestic violence service. Something as a professional in this field that I never thought I would do. I put my hand up for help. It came. The planning, endless safety planning. I shared my concerns for myself, my pets, my property and my finances. Every call now with family, friends or professionals began with ‘are you safe’. I wasn’t alone anymore to fight him and find a safe place. A loaned horse float to move the biggest family member, and a friend to drive a car loaded with valuables and my dogs. I was supported to help me move the big stuff, to set up and be safe. I had friends move mountains at the drop of a hat to pack my house in a day while he was away. To help drive a truck to a storage facility while I spoke with police.

The conversation with police was one of the hardest. I was a victim in this moment only. I held it together describing physical assaults and comments about his threats to harm himself, about his comments regarding his many diagnoses of my mental health. About what he threatened to tell family and friends. I was strong, until I fell to pieces describing the need to sleep in my car in a McDonald’s car park of a motorway service station. All because he decided I needed to find somewhere else to stay after traveling 8 hours to an Uncle’s funeral. He was angry I had spent the past week visiting the hospital to say goodbye instead of being home to make his meals. He didn’t get his coleslaw when he wanted it.

For a long time I didn’t feel strong enough to say no, to question his judgments and assertions that I was the problem. This fell away to conflicting emotions about his well-being, echos of his comments about having no reason to live weighed heavily. I asked if I should have tried harder, done more, listened in a way to understand him more. What if I had tried a little harder to be good enough? What if he was the victim?

I was safe, my animals were safe and thriving. I watched from afar as he began therapy, attending a men’s group for men who choose violence. I heard stories of his concern for my mental health, his confusion about my integrity and honesty. Then the stories about his belief I was having affairs throughout our relationship, I watched the story of the heartbroken and confused husband slowly remove my friends and family that he could reach. Only perpetuating his cycle of failing to acknowledge his abuse, his responsibility for his choices and for his emotions. He is the victim of a woman holding him accountable for his choices, a victim of his own lack of insight, a victim of a woman saying no. Let him be the victim.

I am a strong and outspoken woman. I have several Bachelor degrees, a Masters in Clinical Psychology and I am doing a PhD. I am a registered psychologist and I work as a domestic violence specialist. I ride horses fast and do target shooting for fun. I am that person my friends and family come to for help when they need strength. I am not weak, meek or mild. But this happened to me. HE CHOSE to be abusive and to control me!