He was still in his dressing gown. Red faced and blustering he stormed out of the kitchen and locked himself in the garage. He put a rope over the metal rafters. I banged on the window. Going through my mind was how I would tell the children, would the guilt be with me forever?
But why was I feeling guilty? How did he do this to me? What had I done that would make it my fault?
What I had done was decide enough was enough. I didn’t want to be with an emotional abuser anymore. I was at last at a place where I could actually make the break and leave. That was my crime. That’s what caused the threatened suicide attempt. One of many.
For a long, long time I had been with an emotional abuser.
Trapped by shame and humiliation that I had made a massive mistake in marrying him and way too proud to admit it. Better to just soldier on, pretending everything was perfect. When he was in one of his childish, manipulative sulky moods I was more effusive, more bubbly than normal. If I was louder and happier, no-one would notice his bad behaviour.
His bad behaviour varied between furtive affairs, silent treatment, undermining comments and blatant verbal attacks on one’s characteristics.
Trapped by finances and children. Coerced into buying property with insurances, I felt bound to him. The thought of the mess of extricating myself was too exhausting and just not an option with young children who, due to the exhaustive efforts of making everything appear jolly, were secure in their family set up. Arguments were always behind closed doors. I always did the social things with the children so their lives were good.
Trapped by ill health. Physically reliant on someone makes you extremely vulnerable. When you need another adult to help you with everyday tasks you are vulnerable.
Trapped by elderly parents. If you give up your preferred way of life to care for others you rely on the partner to do those jobs you haven’t got time to do.
'After the threat comes the apology, tears and promises to behave better. And you believe it. Because it’s easier to and you do actually think it will be better.'
Trapped by threats to kill themselves. This is the cruellest. When you reach a point where you actually hate the person you are trapped with, it is quite common to wish them dead. The car accident, the health incident that kills them. That way you can be free of them without any of the guilt of having to explain yourself to others. But when you have come to the end of your ability to put up with it any longer and actually say you want to leave, they employ the guilt trip to end all others, the threat of suicide.
What you can’t see when you are in the grip of a controller is how they are cowards. If they really wanted to kill themselves they would do it when you were out of the house or they would go somewhere where no-one would find them.
After the threat comes the apology, tears and promises to behave better. And you believe it. Because it’s easier to and you do actually think it will be better. And it floats along ok for a while until the cycle starts again.
That’s what it was like for so, so long for my client. But then she made the decision to separate. She had reached a point where her children were older, her finances were in order, her health had improved and she had a realisation that the first half of her life was wasted relationship wise but she was determined she was going to make the second half count.
“You better not bring any of your boyfriends to the house”. “I don’t want any of your boyfriends shagging you here”. Boyfriends? There were no boyfriends. Shagging? A word my client wouldn’t use. She had never done anything wrong. She had not had affairs, been to strip joints, all things soon forgotten when blame is turned around onto the wrong person. Her dignity made her keep silent and just leave.
Years of keeping her shame quiet and putting on a mask ensured no-one else had known what her life was truly like. According to others she had everything – loving husband, children, beautiful home, career.
So when she met a good, decent, honourable gentleman shortly after telling her abuser she was leaving, a man who she realised was the love of her life, the one she should have been with all those years, she took a leap of faith. She wasn’t going to wait around playing games. She found her true love who felt the same way and she had a chance to be free, to be herself, to be truly loved and cherished.
A happy ever after? One would hope so. But what could never have been conceived was the further abuse. Abuse from the very people she had supported over the years whilst putting her own needs at the bottom of the pile.
Suddenly, when the central cog of a family ups and leaves, the whole system shudders. Who will now sort out their problems? Who will prop them up? Who else is strong enough to organise their lives? Fear and sense of abandonment on their part turns to outrage. The fire of fury is fanned by the abuser who gets in quick to relay the story of how they are abandoned by the harlot who ran off with another man.
No mention is made of the affairs, the controlling, the wearing down of a good woman. Oh no, it was all her fault, she was too sensitive, nobody really liked her, she stayed with me all these years so I couldn’t be all that bad. And the people left behind want to take their rage of abandonment out of someone and the easiest person is the dignified, silent one who is too tired to fight any more. She just leaves, closes the door on them all, too tired to care anymore.
She is herself, she is free.
Susie Pinchin is a student Counsellor, working towards her level 4 Diploma. She is an Education Welfare Officer and volunteers for Cruse Bereavement Care.
Having completed Brief Solution Focus Therapy and practised through an Academy in London, with students of all ages, she is passionate about helping young people and vulnerable people. And combined with a passion for education Susie aims is to establish a private practice combined with work as a school counsellor.
Her loves are driving her TR6, riding motorbikes, music and the arts. If you'd like to get in touch with Susie you can do that through Twitter here