People who haven’t experienced emotional abuse sometimes wonder how it is possible to fall into a long term relationship with someone who is capable of behaving in such a destructive way. What you have to understand is that not only do people change over the course of time but life experiences change the dynamics of a relationship.
I was with my husband for ten years. The first four years were child-free. He is a shift worker and during that time we spent plenty of time together (including one and a half years living together in our jointly owned home) and also a significant amount of time apart (due to his shift pattern, working weekends, etc.).
He never tried to stop me from seeing my friends and family or gave me reason to feel concerned in that respect. However there were some early warning signs with regards to his temper and uncontrollable outbursts. He had split up with his ex-wife 18 months before I met him and was back living with his parents at that time. I used to stay at their house frequently and I’ll never forget the first time he exploded in a fit of anger.
It was aimed at them, his parents, not me, and I remember shutting myself away from the madness upstairs as what seemed to me like a scene of huge significance to their ongoing relationship unfolded below.
If I had ever screamed at and disrespected my own parents in that way there would have been a huge rift between us and yet, once things died down, the next day everyone acted as if nothing had happened. It felt as though I must have dreamed the entire thing.
And so we all carried on as before and I came to the conclusion that this was just someone else’s family’s version of ‘normal’.
My memory of our early arguments now eludes me – what they were about at any rate. All I remember is how I was changed by those confrontations. I’m a quiet, non-confrontational kind of person, yet the words ‘screaming banshee’ came to mind when I reflected on my own reactions back then. I even broke the locking mechanism on our newly installed front door when he upset me so much on one occasion that I slammed it violently on my way out.
Of course he never let me forget that and used it as a way of defining me as the one with ‘anger management’ issues.
After the birth of our second child things changed noticeably. Where before his temper tantrums had gone somewhat under the radar being fewer and further between, both patterns of unacceptable behaviour and angry flare ups became much more frequent at that time. He began demanding more of my time and attention at a time when I really was running on empty and he let his work and increasing obsession with competitive running and intensive gym sessions act as an excuse for leaving me to it with the kids.
At the same time he began to act possessively and get jealous if I arranged anything social that didn’t involve him. He also began to binge drink with increasing frequency and when these two factors collided I was facing the beginning stages of unbearable and cyclical abuse.