“Stop thinking it’s your fault. Stop thinking your relationship is ‘normal’. It isn’t.”
She had to leave this relationship. I knew I had to help her get out.
Not long before, I agreed to her unusual request:
To drive to her home and check for the make and model of a specific car parked within the block.
“It makes sense. That’s when they will see each other,” she explains. “While I’m working at night.”
She had a theory she wanted to test out. She had finally clued on. And now she was determined to catch her partner and his lover out.
It’s not your fault
I wish I could etch it into your soul so you feel it deep inside. So you believe it.
But then I’ve only known a short time. You’ve been living your hell on earth a lot longer.
I get it.
You felt isolated. Keeping to yourself because you were embarrassed to share your situation. To avoid voicing what you know doesn’t sound quite right. If you don’t say it, it must be ok, right?
And because he likes keeping you from other people. Having you all to himself.
She told me about their relationships in snippets.
She happily shared how he spent time with his stepdaughter and was really good with her. Always convincing herself as she spoke.
She told of how much she’s learned from him. And she always empathized with his stress from the long hours he worked in his business.
He was so calm and kind. Excited and passionate. Affectionate and warm.
Despite her feeling like a single mum. Him rarely offering to stay home with his stepdaughter while she was on night shift. She taking care of 2 kids: her 6-year-old, and this man-child that was her partner.
She described how he often withheld affection from her. Belittled her. How he screamed at her. Punching walls and doors.
I had already experienced how he put her down. I hated knowing it would happen every time I was with them.
He humiliated her in front of other people. Leaving her speechless. Embarrassed. Angry whenever she spoke up at the little thing that had made him irritated or annoyed.
She found it eerie that he could be calm and affectionate one minute. And so horrific the next.
It was as if he had a split personality.
She shared the terror she felt when he physically risked both their lives. He couldn’t consider anything rational, as if he was in a 2-year-old wanting what he wanted without caring about anyone else — or the danger.
She was convinced he would have killed them both if she had not spoken up. If she had not stopped him.
He didn’t even bother to ask how she was after an abortion and left her home to deal with her grief and pain by herself.
She clung onto the good moments and rode out the bad. Not liking this emotional rollercoaster, but not willing to get off.
Stop rationalizing for him
“He’s acting better this week. Maybe it will get better.”
Sure, there are all types of normal. Normal is subjective.
But to be sworn at, to have love held back from you, to be ignored, ridiculed, humiliated, made to feel guilty, made to feel like you’re not good enough, feel like you have to ask permission to make friends…
If you feel like this in any relationship, this is not healthy.
This doesn’t have to be your normal.
Don’t accept this as your normal.
Checking up on my friend almost daily gave her a sounding board. I wasn’t there to tell her what to do or when to do it. Just to listen.
To let her talk it out.
To give her perspective.
To reassure her of her strength.
To encourage her to trust herself.
To love herself.
It really isn’t your fault
No, you didn’t force him to sleep with other women because you do shift work, have a kid, a household to run, debts and bills to pay, and don’t have as much time for him as he’d like.
No, you didn’t deserve to be yelled at, called a bitch, a witch, selfish, and a horrible person — just because of something minor.
You are not any of those things.
Don’t get sucked into believing him. Don’t question your sanity. It’s what he wants. It’s how he keeps you under his control.
He’s using you
You don’t deserve to be treated that way.
He knows it. But you don’t. He makes you feel guilty, so you think you must have done something wrong. He wants you to feel like you need to try harder.
He manipulates you. A common trait of abusive intimate partners.
He needs you more than you need him. You help him feel good about himself. When he sees you cowering in terror, he feels powerful. Manly. In control. Validated.
When he cheats on you again and again, and you continue to stay despite feeling disgusted, his ego gets a boost.
He doesn’t feel worthy. He doesn’t think he deserves to be loved. He is scarred. He is weak.
He overcompensates by treating you like crap. You are a reliable, constant fuel for his pitiful self-esteem.
He is dependant on you. Though it seems the opposite.
You are the stronger of the two of you, and he knows it. He wants to keep that knowledge from you.
He wants to keep you from having the strength and belief to leave him.
To realize you don’t need him.
“He’s insecure about who he is. He’s afraid to confront what he is. He needs to control you to feel good about himself. To feel good about his life.”
Gently, each day, I do my best to help her understand why it’s not her. Why it’s him.
He has pulled her away from herself.
She’s in so deep, she can’t see past this abusive relationship. To see how there could be light out of the darkness.
“No one realizes what he’s really like”
You wouldn’t pick him out as an abusive man, if you met him. My friend’s partner — who I considered a friend to me initially — is charming, friendly, easy-going, and smart.
He has laugh crinkles around his eyes. He’s openly affectionate with his wife, my friend. Hugging her and praising her in front of other people.
But that’s just it, isn’t it?
You deserve better
You are more than enough. You are beautiful. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be treated with respect.
No matter how you were treated in the past. No matter how your parents treated each other. Or how bad your other relationships were. You don’t have to put up with this one.
So you’re worried about your child. Losing someone important in their life. A source of stability.
“Would you want your child to grow up thinking this relationship is normal?”
“Do you trust him with your child?”
“You’re doing everything anyway, what is he really doing for your relationship?”
Your child is better off with you, a parent who is happy and healthy, than one who is stressed, strained, and exhausted. Afraid.
Staying won’t make it better. You know it. It will just get worse.
“But I don’t know what to do”
There were many reasons she wanted to get out. Only 2 seemed to make any difference.
He could only stay here because of their marriage visa. After the time was up, he could stay permanently: she had no doubt he would leave her the moment he got the visa.
He was using her to stay in the country. And he was cheating on her.
She had enough to believe it. She had seen the girl clearly. She knew the girl. The girls. They acted suspiciously around her. He continually denied it. Yet guilt was obvious in his eyes. His actions — and his inactions.
She still wanted to catch them in the act. With a hidden camera in a photo frame. That would give her closure.
I worried about how long that would take.
Finally — thankfully — she realized it was enough. Even though she still wasn’t sure how to move on.
“Your life will be so much better afterward.”
“I don’t think. I know.”
She was losing weight. Took sleeping pills to relax. She was tired of arguing and never knowing what to expect.
Rational and kind one day. Losing his shit like a crazy person the next. He clearly had mental problems. She felt like she was going mental too.
She realized she couldn’t fix them. She couldn’t fix him.
She had broken up with him many times before. This time, I hoped it would be final.
This time he had been caught out in another lie — to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation with his lover and his wife.
The anger she felt spurred her to break up with him. Only this time, her friends were around to get her the hell out of there.
During the last few months, we suggested she visit a counselor. Call a domestic abuse hotline. Check her options with legal aid. Keep a record of what’s been happening.
“You are your own person, with your own thoughts, feelings, and interests. It’s not selfish to do what you enjoy. You have a right to be treated with respect. To be happy. To be truly loved.”
She began getting back into activities she enjoyed with friends — without him. To take back a little of her life so he didn’t affect her so much. So she got perspective.
When she left, she had proof. Enough proof for immigration to order him out of the country.
The little she had done to reclaim her life, her sanity, her health, near the end gave her the strength and confidence to move on with her life.
She had moments of regret that it had come to this. She wished it didn’t have to end so badly.
She felt silly and wondered how she could have gotten it so wrong. She worried about repeating the mistake.
Yet, she still treated him with kindness, concern, and compassion.
He returned the favor with spite, anger, and vindictiveness.
She couldn’t change her nature. He couldn’t change his.
“Do you regret leaving hun?”
“Not at all. It’s so good not to be stressed around him all the time.”