Name it

Words are potent and dangerous; they can both save lives, heal, offer hope or kill and bring about despair and change our lives forever.

I have had three long term relationships to date and only one of those men told me I was beautiful.  The third one whom I married and the only one I ever truly loved used many negatives to describe me both to friends and family and to me directly and indirectly. 

I am by no means a doormat nor a shrinking violet; yet this insidious drip drip effect of putdowns disguised as a joke and teasing at my expense made me very unhappy.  I could not pinpoint the reason nor the cause.  I was confused.  On the one hand we shared everything, had a beautiful daughter and was in the ultimate committed relationship as I saw it, marriage yet I sensed an emotional unavailability, lack of support and even brutality at times.  I couldn’t reconcile the two.

This confusion and frustration led to clinical depression which I fought on and off throughout my marriage.  In the end he held it up as the final straw that breaks the camel’s back or the final nail in the coffin, the corpse of our relationship which had been rotting for some time, though I refused to face it or give up on resurrecting it. 

Things came to a head when in a fit of anger he threatened to kill me.  Whether he meant it or not I was scared enough to run out barefoot in the early hours with nothing on me.  I ran to a friend’s in the village, rang the bell but being 1am they were asleep and I didn’t want to bang on the door, so I went home.  I ran up to the spare room upstairs, closed the door and tried to call the police but he pulled out the connection downstairs.  After a few minutes he had a change of heart and shouted up that I could call them now, which I duly did.

It took them an hour to arrive and they persuaded him to stay with a friend for the night to calm things down.  No doubt he sold them the story of me as  the hysterical over-reacting crazy woman. 

In a roundabout way I am getting to the point of this story.  A couple of days later through the post box I received a leaflet on domestic violence from the police.  Now he has never been physically violent towards me and if he had I would have been the first to leave with my child.  I had witnessed it happening in my family and swore I would never put up with it myself.

Yet the questions on the cover of the leaflet caused the penny to drop, you know that light bulb OMG moment when it all makes sense.  There was a whole series of questions along the lines of does he make fun of you in public, does he put you down, does he constantly criticise you etc.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as silently I answered yes to every one of them.

Now I could put a name to it: emotional abuse. 

The man I loved was not my pillar of strength, my mentor who pointed out my faults in an attempt to better me but a control freak who was always right and had to have things his way.  Far from being the man I could turn to in a crisis and be the last man standing, he was a very weak and small man, because he needed to belittle me to feel big. 

Never in a million years would I have seen myself as a victim of emotional abuse, a form of domestic abuse, little known. 

Love is never about control, humiliation and destroying the spirit of the person you claim to care about.  If anything you would want to protect her/him from harm and hurt, never mind inflict it yourself consciously or otherwise.  Whether intentional or not it hurt like hell and was extremely damaging to my mental health and physical.  I would go as far as to say that it contributed to my cancer although I have no scientific proof.

I will never forget when he told me that he was pulling the plug because now he realises I would never change and that he had been standing by me and waiting all these years for me to change.  Quite into what, I don’t know.  When we met and fell in love, that was me and that was who he married, so I don’t really get it.  I am still me, even now, after everything.  I will always be me and being me ain’t so bad.

They say that the first step to solving your problem is to admit you have one in the first place but I think it is also vital to be able to name accurately what it is.  How can you begin to fight something if you don’t even know what you are up against?



About cho wan yau

Teacher by day poet/writer by night. Words have been my first love and will be my last. As a child I locked myself into the toilet devouring books which transported me to distant lands. Poetry shared penned from 2009-2010 in a titanic struggle to stay sane at Heartbreak Hotel. Please check it out on Any comments or feedback welcome. Why not share your story with me, because we all have one, don't we?

Posted on January 7, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Emotional abuse often carries more scars than physical abuse. For one thing, it is sometimes very difficult to identify and the abuser is usually very good at making his /her victim question himself/herself. Loss of self esteem is one of the major effects of abuse, especially emotional abuse.

    • Yep that was exactly what happened to me, before I met him I was a cheerful, optimistic, sociable, confident kinda girl and what I was reduced to at the end of the marriage was unrecognisable and not in a good way.

      I have luckily never been physically abused so I don’t feel I can compare the two, I am sure it is extrememly painful and damaging to the body and mind. I guess maybe the bruises and black eye disappear quicker but the scars of psychological and emotional abuse remain for an awful long time if they ever do disappear totally, I don’t know.

      I know that I was whole but I am not sure if I’ll ever be now; whether I’d be ‘damaged’ goods, because I find it very hard to trust. Period.

  2. You certainly can’t correct a problem without knowing what it is. What a horrible end to the relationship. Sounds like a lot if the bad fights I had with my ex. But we can still be happy after surviving such pain.

  3. This story reminds me of several that my Besty told me about her own failed marriage. In her case, she actually did hear her husband weaving all sorts of lies to the police about how she is crazy, hysterical, always over-reacting and panicking – even though he threatened to kill her and even had a knife. It’s insane how someone can do those things and get away with it and the victim still winds up afraid and wrong and blamed.
    Very sorry to hear about this and am very glad you’re in a much better place now.

    • Thanks Jade, the sad thing is I almost bought into his lies about me, hence the depression and massive drop in self esteem and lost identity. I don’t want to come across as a ‘victim’ because I had a part to play in allowing it to happen through lack of awareness and a blind devotion to the person he was/is.

  4. I did not mourn the end of my marriage. It was very abrupt, he locked us out of the house, I called the police, he ran away and I changed the locks. The house was mine because subconsciously I never trusted him enough to put his name on the mortgage. He never came back because he knew the game was up. Six years on and I am more grateful every day that I am no longer tied to him. Like you I put up with years of constant undermining, I was just lucky enough that our priest recognised what was going on eighteen months before the end and directed me to a support group and I had started reclaiming myself long before the marriage ended. I had to be extremely hard nosed to protect myself and my children during the divorce, and to this day outsiders are shocked at how ruthless I appeared on the outside. I have no regrets, to save yourself and loved ones from emotional abusers you have to have an extremely thick skin.

    I wish you well on your journey of healing and recovery

    • thank you for your well wishes i wish i had someone like your priest who cared enough to speak the truth. My lack of awareness made me very vulnerable in every way including financially.

  5. Truth saves and I’m sorry from reading your previous posts that you had shockingly little support from friends who should’ve known better. I have often felt that relative strangers like my old priest were far kinder and more supportive then those whose job it actually is

    • Yes what was upsetting was later some of them told me they were very uncomfortable with my putdowns but never said anything to me at the time. I guess it is the don’t interfere in other people’s marriage principle.

      Apart from a cvouple of friends I didn’t get much support during my recurrence either.

    • ps. after the split my sister shocked me by saying that she was really happy for me, it was the best thing that could have happened. Shocked because why the hell didn’t she say something if that was how she felt and because at the time I was heart broken and devastated beyond words.

      The only thing she ever hinted at was my ex’s liberal use of money and that this stress and constant money worries caused my recurrence. But she did choose her timing, telling me this while lying on my hospital bed the day after surgery. I was in floods of tears; it was true but there is a place and time and what was the point of telling me if you are not going to do something concrete to help? Of course I was going to defend my husband, after all I loved him despite his fault, shame he didn’t return the favour.

      My ex once asked me why I was kinder to strangers than friends or even family and that my going out of my way to be kind to them was ‘abnormal’!

      The reason is simple, when I really needed compassion apart from a couple of friends, they were the ones who found it in their hearts and humanity to reach out to a stranger in extreme pain and I don’t mean just physical. I will probably never set eyes on them ever again but I wonder if they’ll ever know that they threw me a lifeline. The very people whom I trusted and expected support failed me and let me down big time; the very people I would have taken a bullet for without hesitation.

  6. Dear Chowanyau, There is no way to fight abuse. We need to dare to accept that it has happened. Denial serves us until we can or must face reality. You were two unhappy people together. It will take time for your emotional wounds to heal, but they will, if you let them. How? I don’t know, but it happens. It did for me and it will for you. Like you, I wanted what could never be, thank goodness. A much more fulfilling life was waiting for me.

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