My last blog was about how I noticed my behaviour changing over time. This blog is more about how the abusers behaviour changed, which at the time seemed a bit more sudden and unexpected. However as I have been looking at this in more detail, there were many warning signs, small changes, 'out of character' moments that built up to me seeing him as a completely different person.
As in my previous blogs, I explained how the first time I saw a significant change was when I first got a job after university. As soon as I told him I got the job, I was excited naturally, his mood immediately changed. Looking back on this now, part of me knew this would happen. I got off the phone with my new employer and somehow I just knew the reaction would not be what you'd generally expect from a someone whose partner just got a new job. How did I know? Again at the time it just provoked feelings of confusion. Why isn't he happy for me? What did I do wrong? Now I realise those feelings came from the little things he'd say or do, little things that became more frequent, more damaging and a lot more threatening over the course of the relationship.
The relationship started out like any other would, spending a lot of time together, going on dates, the usual couple stuff. The usual way to start a relationship, and the usual way to build someone up in preparation to knock them down in the most devastating way imaginable. If his aim was to end up with a shell of a person, hollow inside, no soul, no individuality and no fight, then he got it. Mission accomplished.
The first time I noticed he was anything but the ultimate boyfriend, was when we were visiting his family. I had mentioned previously that I would be going back home to see a friend, as she wasn't in town for long, I reminded him of this as we were lay on his bed one afternoon. His mood switched in a split second. A bottle flew from his hand and hit the wall. I sat bolt upright and stared at the wall, in complete shock at what had just happened. This was definitely the first time I'd seen such a change, and the first real sign of his anger. We both sat in silence for a few seconds that seemed like an eternity. He eventually broke the silence, 'Sorry, I didn't mean to do that.' I couldn't move, let alone form a response. He put his hand on my arm and apologised again. I turned to him and asked him what just happened. He replied 'I don't know I'm sorry.' He pulled me close and I just lay there thinking 'this is the start of something.' I had no idea what at that time, but I knew that was a bad sign.
I ended up staying with him as the next day he had food poisoning. Hardly life threatening, but he didn't exactly try and stop me from staying and encourage me to go and see my friend. Maybe this was the first time he can remember feeling some control over me.
After that I don't remember any specific events that made me question his behaviour or future of our relationship. Although I'm sure the signs were there, especially as I didn't go out as much, or see my friends. Something subliminal must have been happening, something I wasn't quite aware of, to get me to the stage when he really did change and get angry, and I couldn't leave.
There were several times when his mood switched in a split second, moments that I will never forget. Moments that are the 'classic signs of abuse'. However I have come to realise that what are just as significant are the 'good times'. During an abusive relationship these moments are the beacon of light, something to hold on to, those little things that spark the hope inside you that says 'maybe he's not so bad', usually followed by 'maybe it's just me'. My 'good times' were things like going out for a meal, going to the cinema, going on holiday, having a BBQ in the summer. All these things were few and far between, I imagine if this was a 'normal' relationship one of us would be complaining that we didn't do enough together. These 'good times' are put in place to keep up the notion that everything is ok, so they have something to fall back on, maybe even to justify to themselves that they are a good person. It was nowhere near enough to counteract anything he would ever say or do, but these rare good times are the little rays of hope that victims of abuse hold onto. We will defend them and hide their dark secret, all the while knowing that it's wrong, but maybe that time he said he loved me he meant it?
The beginning of the 'bad times' was when I started my new job. At the start I was stronger, not much and it didn't take him long to break me, but strong enough to actually make it out on my own with my colleagues for a night out. During the time I was getting ready he was moping around the flat like someone had died, shooting me the odd glare. I was almost ready to go when he flung himself on the bed and stared at the ceiling. I could see him in the reflection in the mirror, breathing heavily, looking distraught. A complete over reaction considering I was going out for Chinese food and cocktails. He used the last few minutes before I left to pollute my mind with abusive manipulation, 'how can you leave me like this', 'how can you go when you know I'm feeling like this'. He claimed to not know why he felt the way he did, but me going out 'obviously wouldn't help'. I left and got into the taxi, with an overwhelming sense of relief to be out of there, which was met with an equal level of confusion.
I spent half of the night messaging him and talking to him on the phone. The end result was me going home early. In my mind this was a triumph for me, I'd managed to go out. However for him, it was also a triumph, a much bigger, much more overpowering triumph. Mine dwarfed in comparison. He knew he'd won.
- If anyone reading this has any similar experience, direct or indirect, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Particularly how this kind of abuse looks from the outside, can you tell what is happening? How can you tell? Have you ever told anyone to leave? I plan to continue this blog in stages of the relationship and recovery, and welcome opinions -