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?