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.