How long were you together when the physical abuse began and what did she do?
The physical abuse didn’t really start until a few years into the relationship. In retrospect, I can honestly see that it went in stages of her seeing how much she could get away with.
First, it started with constant criticism, then it turned to controlling my actions; who I could and couldn’t see, what I could do in my spare time etc… then it turned into verbal abuse and bullying and then finally it turned into regular physical violence.
But part of the reason it continued to escalate was that I would always acquiesce to everything she wanted thinking it would calm her down. But in reality, the opposite happened.
As soon as I gave into one thing something else was upset or anger her. Nothing was ever good enough and that just eventually lead to her becoming physically abusive to take her anger out.
The physical violence started with just things like slapping me, biting me, throwing things at me. But eventually, she started using weapons like broom handles, rolling pins – anything she could use to inflict maximum harm.
Then eventually she started using knives. She stabbed me in the forearm then wouldn’t let me go to the hospital until 2 days later after the wound had got much worse.
Then she sliced open my arm so badly I could literally see the muscles inside the wound. After that the violence stopped for a bit but then inevitably once things had died down a bit she knew that it was a level she could get to without risking me leaving so it started again
Can you describe a specific incident where it escalated into violence?
One time she had lodgers staying with her and one was a female German student. I was walking to her house and I happened to bump into the lodger so we walked back to the house together. For some reason it sent her into a rage that I was “talking to another woman” and she just started beating me around the head.
The problem was I pushed her away and she fell over and hurt herself. So because she was so manipulative she convinced me that I had attacked her and not the other way around. That just started a guilt spiral where I believed I deserved all the things she did to me.
What’s the worse way she beat you up?
Attacked me with a large kitchen knife that cut my arm open so badly I could see the muscles and tendons in my arm. I still have a 6-inch scar across my forearm from that.
At what point in the relationship did you see the red flags? What were those red flags?
I had only been dating her for a few months and I was at her house when this mad argument started between her and her mother. They were saying all types of vile shit to each other. Honestly I’d never heard anything like it before.
But soon I realized that was normal behaviour in her household which she just carried through into our relationship.
Did she ever try and keep you away from your family/friends?
Yes. That was one of the very first things she did. Within a few months she had isolated me from all my friends and within a year she got me to move out of my family home and stop talking to my family for the “sake of the relationship”.
Of course there were always excuses and reasons why she thought I should do what she said, but looking back it was all just a way to isolate me from anyone she thought would get in the way of controlling me. I just wish I’d seen it that way at the time and walked away. But it was my first relationship and I really wanted to make her happy so I went along with it. But sadly that was just the first step down the road towards abuse
What was the breaking point?
When she used to get verbally abusive with me. In the end I started recording the things she would say to me.
Some days she would be really nice and it would make me kind of forgive her for all the crap she put me through. But when that happened I would play back the recordings to myself to remind me.
But I think the breaking point was when I happened to be recording when our dog came into the room and I realized that I couldn’t tell if she was shouting at me or the dog – when I realized she was literally talking to me like I was a dog that was when something tripped in my brain. I know it sounds strange but when I think about it that’s the point when I realized “no this is too much”
How did you get out?
We had a friend who was much older than both of us so he was kind of like a father figure. I sat down with him and her and just told her that I can’t be in the relationship any more. I made sure he was there so she didn’t flip out and get aggressive. She put on an act around other people of course and nobody knew the extent of how she behaved so thankfully I was able to use his presence to neutralise the situation.
Then after that I just got out as quickly as possible.
How long were you in the relationship for?
Why did you stay in the relationship for so long?
There was two reasons really. The first was that she was really good at making me feel like things were my fault. So I would end up feeling like I had pushed her to get violent or abusive because that’s what she was telling me. This was a slow burn thing done over months and even years. She broke down my already fragile self esteem in order to have total control over me. Once she did that she could get away with anything.
And secondly as you say I stuck around out of loyalty. I felt like even though the relationship was broken I could fix it if I just gave in to her demands and made her happy. Because believe it or not I did love her and of course there were good times as well as bad times. I did want to be a “strong” person in the relationship and put up with her abuse in order to keep it going.
But as I realize now there is nothing that I could have done to fix the relationship or make her happy. No matter what I did she would expect more from me. As soon as she started getting violent the relationship should have been over. But sadly I didn’t realize that at the time.
Do you think the stigma around being a male victim of domestic violence made it hard for you to seek help or leave?
I didn’t have a support network to help me because I was too embarrassed and ashamed to talk about it to anyone. If anyone asked me how things were going in the relationship I would just say good even though they weren’t.
Every time I went to emergency room for stitches or with a concussion I would lie about how it happened. One time I went to work with a black eye that she gave me and told everyone I was in a car crash. Looking back there were escape routes if I’d just used them but it was the pride and shame that stopped me. I think we need to focus on making men understand that being with an abusive partner isn’t a weakness on their part and they need to get help as soon as it starts.
But I think a big part of the fact that domestic abuse is focussed on the female victim is because male victims are so reluctant to talk about it. So it’s a catch 22 situation – men won’t talk about it because it’s not something that’s spoken about in society, but it’s not spoken about in society because no men talk about it!
When you left her was there any remorse from her? Was there any acknowledgement they’d done anything wrong?
My ex is still in the stage where she denies most things which is so infuriating. She still tries to use excuses for the way she treated me. Somehow everything was “my fault” for getting her so angry.
She shows some remorse but she’s still very manipulative. Guilt tripping and gaslighting were major tricks of her to maintain control over me.
Sadly her dad died young in tragic circumstances. If I ever try to raise the issue of what she did she will say “I know, that’s why my Dad died, it was my punishment for what I did”. She is STILL trying to guilt trip me by suggesting I’m somehow responsible for her dad dying. She knows that whatever she did to me I’d never of wanted her dad to die, so I’m 100% convinced she says it to make ME downplay what she did by making up a punishment worse than the crime so to speak.
This is a classic narcissistic attempt at switching the narrative so she’s the ‘victim’.
She did it all the time. Nothing was ever her fault. The violence and the abuse was always “my fault” for making her so angry she couldn’t control herself.
Do you feel as though male abuse, of any kind, often gets overlooked because it not being considered “manly”?
Honestly, until a few months ago I never spoke to anyone about it. I have told one of my closest friends about it who was shocked. I have scars all over my arms from being attacked with knives and I lied to everyone who saw them about how I got them.
But honestly, I’m just tired of lying and denying what happened any more. If people ask I’ll tell them. In some ways, it’s easier to talk to strangers than people I know because it’s so shameful to admit what happened. Partly because I’m ashamed I let someone physically abuse me but also because I’m ashamed of how easily I allowed myself to be manipulated by someone.
I guess I don’t want people to think I’m a weak person… at the time I didn’t think I was being weak I thought I was being strong by tolerating it for the sake of the relationship.
But I’ve still not told my dad about what she did to me and I doubt I ever will. He’s quite old school so he doesn’t talk about feelings and that conversation would just be too hard.
What happened to her?
She got into another relationship pretty quickly but the same patterns started to emerge. But in the end she pushed that guy too far and he left pretty early into the relationship. Obviously of course it wasn’t her fault – she decided to blame his sister for “turning him against her” when in reality he just had enough self-esteem to realize the relationship was toxic and go.
Does she still try to contact you?
I still have to maintain some level of contact with her due to financial commitments. Thankfully those commitments are coming to an end soon so I can eventually separate from her entirely (apart from picking up our dog to take her for a walk lol)
What kind of commitments? Spousal or child support?
We were never married and have no children. However we had a small business together and the usual things like car repayments, a joint tenancy on the apartment etc. The business is in the process of being wound up but there are still obligations. and I still pay my share of joint credit agreements.
I resent doing a lot of it but obviously, there is the legal aspect that most of the agreements are in both of our names so if I don’t pay my share she could go down the legal route to get the money off me.
How are you now?
I’m angry that I wasted 10 years of my twenties and thirties on a person who wasn’t worth my time and affection. But I thought I was doing the right thing sticking with her because she had a lot of issues in her own life separate to me.
I’m not so much angry with her though… I’m angry with myself. I’m angry that I allowed myself to be manipulated for so long.
Do you feel as if this experience made you grow/learn/become someone better?
Honestly no. Before I met her I was a happy go lucky guy who people liked hanging around with. But she would always barage me with insults about how I’m useless and she’s the only person who would ever put up with me. She would always tell me that people are bad and you can’t trust anyone in the world. Now I’m bitter and angry and very cynical. It was honestly like being a member of a cult! I am still “indoctrinated” in many respects in viewing the world the way SHE wanted me to and now how I want to.
What do you wish you had known 10 years ago?
Honestly what I wish I’d have known is that it’s fine to put yourself first. I spent so many years putting her and her family first because I thought I was doing the right thing. I took physical and verbal abuse not just from her but from her mother and sisters as well.
But I stuck around because in my mind I thought that I was somehow being “chivalrous” or whatever you want to call it. But in the end it was pointless.
Nothing I ever did was good enough, and whatever sacrifices I made to make her happy would never be enough. She would always expect more whatever I did. I should have left the first time she made me feel like shit but I just took it, and as soon as that happened it was only ever going to get worse and worse because she knew she could get away with it.
I also started to realize that people like her target people that can easily manipulate. Especially people with low self-esteem. Of course, anyone who is willing to stand up for themselves tells them to get lost soon into the relationship so they look for people like us who they know they can control.