Emotional Abuse - Never Saw it Coming

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-15-2013
Emotional Abuse - Never Saw it Coming
Tue, 10-15-2013 - 10:54am

Hello everyone. 

I decided to join this because a post I stumbled upon 5 days ago gave me a whole new perspective on my life and my own experience as a victim of emotional abuse. I apologize because this will be a long post, but I thank in advance to anyone who reads it. The post I read on friday was 6 years old and I have a feeling it might have just saved my life.

Let me begin: 4 years ago I met a wonderful woman on a group trip. She was shy yet witty, humble, had an air of mystery that immediatly draw me in. I wasn't looking for a relationship, but pretty soon I found myself wishing to spend every waking moment with this person. We soon started to act like best friends and I spent nearly all my free time with her: she shared many of my interests, she always listened to me, and even helped me with a problem I had without me even asking! I was smitten and I didn't even realise it. Ok, she never talked much about her private life and was unusually quiet in voicing her opinions about things, but I immediately categorized her as an introvert and just went with it.

Pretty soon we were dating, and just 13 days had passed and we had our first fight. It wasn't a quarrel: it was a full blown argument that lasted for one whole night. I was chatting as I usually do and she suddenly became very sulky and silent. As I asked what happened, she said "nothing". I insisted, and she immediately accused me of cheating on her because she felt hurt by one of my comments (I never even approached the issue of cheating that night). I tried to explain that to her, reassuring her I wasn't cheating nor even thinking about that, and she just started attacking me, in a strange and paranoid kind of way. She said she was sure I had another person, that I was a liar, and my attempt at explaining was nothing but a "pitiful excuse" to hide my cheating behaviour. Of course at this point I got ballistic and asked her where was this coming from. I was shocked into a defensive attitude, because I would never have pointed her out as an aggressive paranoid person. She was just so calm and sweet all of the time! Dumbfounded as I was, I tried to reason with her and many hours of unfair accusations and demeaning behavior later I ended up apologizing for a mistake I never made: that innocent comment that launched all of this. It was the first of many, many times.

I dismissed this episode as a freak event, and when I tried to talk about this with her the next day, she told me she was so happy she didn't feel comfortable talking about difficult things and I respected that. One month into our relationship, she told me she loved me and wanted to spend the rest of her life with me. We went on a romantic trip together, she was constantly making sure I was OK, she sent me a lot of sweet texts and e-mails with beautiful songs, and wonderful ideas for things she wanted us to do together. We were having a whirlwind-amazing-movie-style-romance: she always seemed to know what I liked, and her dedication to making me happy was absolutely endearing. 

Within 6 months I had sold my car and moved in with her. She was catering my every need with incredible devotion: she helped me find a new job closer to home, a new school in the neighborhood for my kids, she put my name in her personal account because it was more practical if all the money came from the same place, she even offered to take care of a few family issues I was going through. Pretty soon she had defined and shaped my life wonderfully while I didn't even have to think about anything. I thought she was a dream of a woman and truly felt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

Except the abuse kept happening and was getting stronger as time went by: our fights were quarterly, sometimes weekly. They lasted for two, three days in which she would alternate between being aggressive (screams, name-calling, crying and breaking things) and completely detaching herself from everything: she would lock herself in the bedroom and not leave for days. I had to do everything alone, go to work, take care of the kids and desperately try to "snap her out of it": it would only go away if I apologized for whatever pretext she used to start a fight, which I did after being made to feel completely useless and selfish and the worst person in the world. "You are the worst person in the world, I hate you and just wish you would disappear from life". Sometimes she told me this 2 hours after telling me "You are my life, my love, my everything, I will never leave you and I do anything for you, you can count on me".

Pretty soon I had no friends, no job, no hobbies, no personal interests whatsoever and devoted myself entirely to her. Knowing that this wasn't healthy, and that I didn't feel good, I tried to talk to her about this: I told her we couldn't fight in front of the kids, that she couldn't kick us out of the house every time she went into a rage, that I was feeling very anxious and oppressed because I felt that she wanted me to live through her, instead of with her and that it was making me feel very uncomfortable. She told me I was free to go when I felt like it and that maybe if I wasn't so selfish she wouldn't have to do this sort of thing. 

At the same time she told me, on occasion, "I think you should go do that hobby / be with your friends" but then she would say "Oh I will be so worried if you do that hobby without me, I'm not sure you'll be OK" or when I had social events scheduled (by myself) she would have one of her fits of rage the day before, thus preventing me completely from leaving her side in any way: be it because the fight was still enduring, or it had just passed, making her extremely affectionate and I would of course feel obligated to make up for my never-ending mistakes and prove to her I was a better person than she thought I was.

At times I would think "this is crazy, I have to get out or at least be careful about this". My family started to worry about things and trying to warn me that this was not healthy, that I should try to talk to her... That maybe she needed help. Sometimes I lied, and told them I had talked to her and we would go to therapy together. Sometimes I would just say "it's just a phase, she's just unhappy because she's having a hard time with her job, or family, or whatever". Every time I hoped it would change. I was sure she would change.

For three years I was abused and brainwashed into feeling that I couldn't have a life without her, and whenever I felt like leaving I thought about the wonderful person she was half the time, and stayed. And endured it to a point where I got shoved ("you are imposing your presence in MY house, I am entitled to push you out the door"), break up relations with people ("it's me or him, and if you really want to be with me you will call your best friend and tell him you cannot see him again") and never ever make a decision for myself ("see? you can't even think for yourself, and that's an embarrassment. no it's not your opinion, you're weak, you're WRONG") to a point where I got too anxious to even decide what we were going to eat for dinner. I never disagreed with her, and pretty soon was living the life of a victim of abuse. 

Don't think I didn't try: I tried to confront her ("you have NO right to tell me I'm wrong, you started this, you lost your right to complain, you deserve being treated like this"), to remain calm in fights ("I hate your superiority attitude, you're faking calm, you're a farse, you think you're better than me"), to explain myself using logic and rational thinking ("you are a liar, you are trying to deceive me, you betray me every time with your pitiful excuses, you stupid selfish person"), to use the kids as a way to control her fits ("I will not lower my voice, kids have to learn that life isn't always a picnic, and the sooner the better"), to talk to her when things were calm ("oh my love not now, I was thinking we could go eat your favorite food / see that movie you've been talking about / i'm just so happy right now I don't want to talk about bad things"), to try and talk her into couples therapy ("I don't trust therapists, I tried them 20 years ago and they don't do me any good"), to tell her I was going to therapy in order to set an example ("ok, my love. if you truly feel the need to talk to someone else, feel free. but I just wish you could talk to me first, I can help you better than someone who does not know you").

One day I summoned up the courage and left her. She called me 3 days later, saying she didn't even know she was like this, she would go to therapy with me "please please don't leave me" and so many other great things she would do for me. I said OK, I'll come home and talk with you. When I got home, she had downed half a bottle of bourbon and was deeply asleep. The next morning she asked me what the hell was I doing there. I explained it to her and she just kept on fighting with me, shouting and screaming and telling me what a worthless person I was. Many tearful apologies later, and I managed to end the fight but insisted on two ground rules for the future, that she agreed with: we will never fight in front of the kids again, and as soon as a fight escalates I will let you know and you will shut up. I saw her agreement as a beacon of hope, but she never complied. 

Last week I spent the whole week once again walking on eggshells, and on the third day of bullying two things happened: I realised she was starting to behave the same way with my kids, criticizing them and making them feel fearful in her presence. And I read a post on this forum that was exactly like what I went through. Something hit me hard. For the first time, I saw myself as a victim of domestic abuse. 

I felt I had done enough. This person didn't want or need me for what I am. She wanted an idealization of me that she could control in order to make herself feel validated. And she would never change. At least not with me by her side. So I stopped thinking about her, and focused on me. The damage I was inflicting on myself and my kids, who deserve so much better. I saw a movie on my head, called "The Rest Of Your Life". And I decided to change the end.

I left her 4 days ago. I'm terrified. I'm determined. I will not come back. 

Thank you for this opportunity, and for your time.

Best of luck. And be strong.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 10-15-2013 - 11:49am

I don't normally read this board but your post appeared as a headline.  Well your exGF's behavior sounds a lot like my exH's.  I really believe she has bipolar disorder because my ex does and there are a lot of similarities in how they acted.  When I first met him he was the most amazing BF, he would find out my favorite flower and send them to me, he bought me cards all the time for no reason, he was helpful when I needed things.  He kept that up for a few months and then we had our first argument, which was really about nothing.  He was planning on buying me something for my birthday and I remember that he emailed a couple of my friends about it and one of them told me he was planning on buying me a ring, which she thought might be an engagement ring, and that led to an argument, although I had done nothing wrong.  (Ironically, after our divorce, both of my friends told me that from that point they both thought there was something wrong with him because I think he was divulging too many personal details, but they couldn't remember exactly what he said).  So I thought that argument was just a little blip.  things were ok for a few more months & then when I was going on a vacation to Disney World with my kids & mother, hell started to break loose.  My exH used to take care of the kids 2 nights a week and then go to work at 11:00 so I could see my then BF at that time.  Well my 1st DH's work hours got changed so he had to go to work at 9:00 instead, cutting into our time together, so my BF acted like this was a personal vendetta against him and started to threaten to beat up my exH.  Of course he didn't say he would beat him up, it was only "if he attacks me, I will fight him."  Of course my exH had no intention of physically fighting w/ my BF because my exH was not a nut.

So this roller coaster of emotions went on and I don't know why I kept staying except for lack of self esteem and probably fear that no one else would ever want me.  The thing is that at many times, my BF who then was my 2nd DH could be very nice.  When he was out of work for a long time due to an injury, he would do all the laundry, shopping and cooking and he would drive the kids around.  When we would go out together, he could be a lot of fun.  He liked traveling and we would go to museums and have fun times.  But he could not handle the day to day stress that everyone has to deal with.  He would always threaten to get divorced when we had an argument.  He couldn't kick me out of the house since I was part owner.  I actually owned the house w/ my 1st DH but 2nd DH insisted that he could not live there unless he bought out my 1st DH's share of the house.  Of course this made it harder for me to divorce him.  I could really go on & on about this but as you said, once I just came to the realization that I didn't want to live like this forever and it was really detrimental to my kids.  At least you don't have to go to court to get divorced.  You can just leave.  I am so much happier now.  I look back and can't even imagine that I put up with this for so long.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-15-2013
Wed, 10-16-2013 - 7:14am

Hello Musiclover,

thank you for your attention and honest reply. Knowing that you went through a situation like this, and managed to rebuild yourself and your life is just inspiring. I hope that sometime in the future I will also say those words: how did I manage to stay for so long!

Dealing with abuse is just horrible. It eats you away, even if you are the strongest person in the world. Many times I thought she was bipolar. Then I read about Borderline Personality Disorder, about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Major Depression, Emotional Immaturity, but only last week did I read the words "emotionally abusive relationship" and stopped thinking about her and her problems. She's got family, she's got a couple friends, she'll manage. Maybe she'll finally work on finding out what her issues are, maybe she'll just keep ignoring them and eventually persist with the abusive behaviour. Right now, I can't worry about her. I need to focus on myself and my kids in order to find the peace of mind I was so desperately trying to achieve.

If you don't mind me asking, and to anyone else who might stumble upon this post and suffered similarly, what were your coping strategies post-breakup? Right now I try to work, and socialize and be "normal" but it's very, very hard. I'm starting counselling tomorrow. I'm hopeful that this will pass and I will manage to live a peaceful life once again.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-04-2000
Fri, 10-18-2013 - 7:26pm

The best thing you can do is NO CONTACT...when she calls, texts, e-mails etc...dont read answer or respond...if you can, block her number completely....if possible even change your number so she cannot even try to contact you (that might be hard since you have kids)...basically as tempting as it will be to answer the call or whatever you must not...cut her off .... otherwise she will sing sweet nothings of promises (empty promises) and try to woo you back...when that fails the threats start to try to frighten you back...there will even be the threat of "i might as well kill myself then since life is not worth living without you" guilt trip....if you maintain no contact she will be unable to try these manuvers on you and can try to move forward with your new ending....also heads up, the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is the leaving....depending on her personality, there is the possibility of her stalking you etc....be aware of your surroundings, have the school aware of who may and who may NOT pick your children up from school...you might even establish a rule that no one can pick up your child without the school calling to verify with you that it is ok first....if you explain there is a person who might try to get the children who could potentially harm the children the school will probably be alert and help keep your children safe while at the school...also tell your children, no matter what they are not to go with her even if she says you said it was ok...establish a pass code and tell them that unless the person knows the password they are not to go with them....if you already have a pass word then make a new one...that way if she tries to get the kids and does not know the right pass word they can alert the other adults around that they cannot go with that person that person does not have said permission etc....

Keep your heads up be aware of your surroundings at all times and if she does stalk you then get an order of protection and then report each and every violation even if the police dont seem to take it very serious...you will need to establish a pattern of risk and the only way you can do that is to report each and every violation....

Hope some of that helps...

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2003
Thu, 10-24-2013 - 7:44am

Hi Hopeful,

I  am so sorry you had to go through this but be happy that you realized what was happening and left.  You explained my x husband to a tee and I was married to him for 27 years.  I didn't see it either until he had almost destroyed me.  This board here kept me going and helped me heal.  I also went to a counselor that dealt with domestic abuse.  I'll never forget my first visit.  Within the first 10 minutes I mentioned my x's name at least 20 times.  There was no me.  I was defined by him.  I was so brain washed it was ridiculous.  After those 10 minutes my counselor looked at me and said you need to get a divorce and you need to do it now.  That was 10 years ago

You will be fine.  Concentrate on your kids and take alot of time learning about yourself.  You will be amazed what a wonderful person you are.  NO CONTACT is the most important thing right now.  To this day I try not to have any contact  with my x.  He had also brainwashed our children so the road was really rough.

Just keep on reading, learning and realize no human being deserves to be treated how she is treating you.  My x would always say you don't love me enough.  Guess what, he was right!  In his life there is never enough. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-02-2014
Wed, 04-02-2014 - 6:54pm

I also just came to the realization that ive been being vErbally abused and I'm not eVen sure if i should b afraid for my life our not according to advise on how these people have no empathy for others etc.  Ive Posted my story n 3 responses to kitty_kat19. How r u doing now and it's she still intervening n ur life? ?  Best of wishes and good job ending it! !!!