“It’s not that simple… They’ll never truly know that unless they listen” : The experience of living in an abusive relationship

The classic story of meeting your partner… they’re usually sweet, funny memories to reminisce on. But no one imagines, and neither did this woman, that when you lay eyes upon that person, they’ll be the one to cause you pain and fear for years to come.

You see, an abusive relationship doesn’t often start with the abuser revealing their violent nature immediately.  Have you never thought: “Well, why would someone choose to involve themselves in that?”

The behaviour is a type of psychological manipulation known as love bombing and has been identified by psychologists as a key factor in the cycle of abuse.

According to Psychology Today, it can include behaviours such as showering the other person with gifts and compliments, declaring love early on, or taking steps to remain in constant contact and spend increasing amounts of time together.

Abusers use this technique to gain the dominance in the relationship, and increase their partner’s dependency on them. In theory, they mould themselves to be a perfect fit for their partner.

Abusive partners also isolate their victims. They will often cause a rift between them and their family by making accusations that their partner’s family want to split them up, or will create lies to affect the relationship.

The same is done with friendships: the abuser will invent reasons to terminate their partner’s closest relationships with friends.

I spoke with one woman, from North Manchester, who told me how her relationship became abusive. She wants to remain anonymous, and so in this article she will be referred to under a false name, Sarah.

Sarah first met her partner in a pub and then began their relationship a few days later. She told me at the beginning, he was lovely. He would compliment her, buy her gifts and pay for romantic dates.

She said he was perfect for her and their relationship moved quickly: they moved in together after about a month and a half.

He soon began to change though, slowly at first – his compliments turned sour and backhanded; he began to get annoyed at little things, like her buying the wrong items from the shops; he started to tell her things he didn’t like about her friends and family; and became annoyed when she would go out and do things; he’d search her phone and social media accounts.

After a while, she realised she was no longer going out of the house at all, unless with him or to the shops, and decided that she would arrange to do something with her friend. They had gone for lunch and when she came home she realised he had already got back from work.

He demanded to know where she had been, why she hadn’t said she was planning to go out. She told him she’d been for lunch with her friend, who he knew, and that she hadn’t thought to mention it. She tells me now that, thinking back, she can admit she didn’t want to tell him because she knew he would stop her going.

She said: “He didn’t believe me and kept pressing me to tell him the real truth. I didn’t know what more I could do or say other than what I had already so I repeated it over and over. He was facing away from me and had kicked the cabinet, knocking a photo over and smashing it.

“I was terrified, I’d never seen him so angry. I told him where I had been again and told him I was scared and he turned around… I swear his eyes were black. He hit me across the face then.”

That had been the first time he hit her. “He didn’t apologise right away because I ran off and locked myself in the bathroom.

“I was in bits. Sat on the bathroom floor heaving, crying. The type of tears a child does when they have a tantrum. I saw myself in the mirror with an angry red mark across the right side of my face.

“I went downstairs after about an hour, and what I saw broke me. He was crumpled on the floor like a child. His face lifted to me and he crawled to me, begging for forgiveness. He insisted that he loved me and he was sorry. He said if I left, he’d be nothing, he would kill himself – and the sight of him, the thought of that broke me down.

“Even with what he’d just done I loved him, and he was here swearing on all things that he’d never do it again. And he said that if I had just warned him I had been going out beforehand, he’d never have become like that. I couldn’t leave him, I thought it was my fault for not telling him.”

An abusive partner will find subtle ways to blame those they hurt, they will pick out the slightest thing the other person may have done and blame their behaviour on that.

She said for a while, he was good again, like he had been at the beginning. And then the cycle began again. But this time when he attacked her, it was more violent than the last. Her partner stayed in this cycle for the remainder of their relationship.  

Sarah said: “He didn’t show me straight away that he was going to hurt me. At the start, he was so convincing as the perfect man. He just did everything so right. And by the time he’d hurt me… I had nowhere to go, he had cut me off from everyone and everything I knew. If I left, I’d be homeless and then what would I do?

“People ask me, ‘Did you not see the signs?’ – they don’t know that at the start, the signs aren’t what you’d expect. Who sees someone who’s devoted to spending time with you, buying you things and moving you into their home as evil? The signs don’t look as dangerous when they’re painted pretty.”

Sarah told me that her abuser drank a lot, and that the abuse was worse when her partner was drunk: “When he would drink, he was angrier and didn’t have any restraint, that’s when the worst attacks were.

Credit: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

“He would kick and punch me in the face, the stomach, the back. He’d throw things at me and he’d tell me every time that it was my fault. If I’d just cleaned properly, if I’d cooked a better meal, if I hadn’t looked at him funny, he’d never have done it… that’s what he’d say every time.

“It was so confusing, because when he was good, he was so good. Which meant that I believed he did love me, and then when he’d hit me and tell me it was my fault, I would believe him because in my head, he loved me and so why else would he hit me unless I made him and deserved it.

“That’s what they do, they manipulate and they twist your mind until you can’t discern their abuse from what’s real.”

She added: “I want people to understand that it’s not as simple as they all think… and they’ll never truly know that unless they listen to our experiences.”

Feature image: Pixabay

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