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'He sent me a spreadsheet on how much money I waste.' My seven months with a controlling man.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

This article contains references to coercive and controlling behaviour in an intimate partner relationship and may be triggering for some readers. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). 

You know when you meet a guy for the first time and instantly, before either of you have said a word, there's a spark? It’s very rare that happens. It’s only in the movies right? That’s what happened the night I met Jack. Our first date was at a bar where we talked for four hours until closing.

When I got home, I had a message from him, saying he loved meeting me and asking me to go out with him again to an art gallery. It seemed so perfect. He knew what I liked, he would organise dates that were different and personal and would put in so much effort. 

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After a month, I assumed we were a couple. I only point this out because over the next seven months he always made comments that he hadn’t decided if we were boyfriend-girlfriend yet. Despite those comments, we would go on several dates a week and I wasn’t seeing anyone else. 

Jack was different. We would talk for hours. He wasn’t like anyone I had met before — he preferred a night in over a night out, and waking up for an early morning run over a sleep in. We seemed to have a lot in common. 

I took all of these things as ‘signs’ that we must be perfect together, right? 

There were a few red flags early on that I dismissed. Like when he found out I had a mortgage and drove an SUV, he commented, "Wow you’re like a grown woman, not like most girls". It didn’t sit right with me, him putting down 'most girls' — but I knew he meant it as a compliment.

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It didn’t matter anyway because he made me feel so special. He would tell me I was beautiful every time I was lazing around on the couch in trackies or had just woken up with terrible bed hair and no make up. Over time, he started commenting every time I wore make up or did my hair. 

He would say, “You look so much better without all that stuff on your face". Looking back, I can’t believe I let a man tell me how to look and dress, but at the time I just thought, "Wow he is making me feel so confident, I love that he thinks I look so good naturally". 

When we started dating, we would see each other several times a week with pre-planned dates. But once we became more of a couple, the dates and planning stopped. I would ask what he was doing that weekend, and he would say, "I haven’t decided yet". 

If I asked to catch up he'd tell me he would let me know on the day. I would make other plans, but then every single Friday afternoon he would call me on his way home and say, “I feel like seeing you, want to come over?” 

I always wanted to see him, and he knew this, so I would go over to his house and end up spending the weekend there. I spent every weekend at his house for seven months. And he would stay at my house twice a week.

Yet the entire time he always held me at arms length and made me feel like it was a privilege to spend time with him. 

I remember once he had a quiz night at the surf life saving club where he was a member. He spoke about it all week and kept saying things like, "I have a spare ticket but I haven’t decided if I want you to come yet". I remember that Saturday hanging out at his house and him saying, "So I’ve thought about it and I really want you to come tonight to the quiz night," as though it was such an honour for him to even think of me. 

I went to this quiz night thinking it was a huge thing. Everyone had tables of eight to 12 people. I was on a table with just him and his house mate. 

I don’t know why he hyped it up so much. But this was just what he would do. It was all smoke and mirrors. He would point out when he was 'being a gentleman', like walking on the road side of a footpath, so I was ‘safer’, but then would ignore me for days because I did something minor like forgot to bring bananas to his house.

He started out like a gentleman, offering to drop me off and pick me up from 30th's and engagement parties. Or he would offer me his car, under the pretence of, "My work pays for petrol, save your money". I thought this was really kind and considerate but it was actually just a way for him to ensure I always went home to him. That I never went out too late or got too drunk or didn’t end up at his house. Because when he would go out, he would never accept my offers of a lift and would turn his phone off, then call me two days later. 

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He was very weird about money. At the start when he would take me on dates, I would always offer to pay, and he would say no. After about a month he started to make comments like, "It’s your turn to pay". And this wasn’t on expensive dates — this was going to the grocery store to buy chocolate.

Or he would buy us a drink at a bar, and then he would finish his and say, "It’s your turn, are you going to go order or I’ll take your card up and pay?" This would infuriate me to no end because I always pay my way and I didn’t need to be reminded. 

It got worse. We used to get Nando's paella every Friday after work. Paella for one. It was $11.95. He said we didn’t need two serves or the larger serving because the “for one” was plenty for us to share. And he would then remind me to transfer him half of the $11.95.

I just assumed at first he was really conservative with money. I knew he earned less than me and was also renting with two others whilst I had a mortgage, so I chalked it up to him just not having enough money. But I was honestly getting sick of the cheap meals and having to pay half every time. I was 31 at the time. He was 33. 

The fact is, his constant direction about how I spent money was controlling.

When I went out to dinner or had cocktails with friends, he would become angry, telling I was wasting my money. Once he sent me an Excel spreadsheet showing how much I would save if I stopped buying coffee. 

After about five months of dating he started telling me I should read the Barefoot Investor. I said I had started to but it seemed really basic and I already do the things mentioned in the book so it wasn’t really for me. The discussion quickly turned, and he started yelling at me for having a car loan, saying really nasty things like, “Oh that’s why you have a nice car, that explains it, you have a loan. How stupid are you, no one gets a loan. Scott Pape says loans are a waste, if you can’t afford a car, don’t get a loan. I can’t believe you have lied to me about this. You’ve been lying to me this whole time about your car loan.” 

I tried to defuse the situation with the usual apologising, but he stormed out of the house and turned off his phone. 

Two days later, I still hadn’t heard from him. I went to lunch with my family, and I was so upset by what happened I spoke to my dad about it. He said to me, "After 35 years of marriage I have never spoken to your mum like that and I would never tell her what to do with money". It really cut through. 

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Within a month, our relationship was over. 

On the last day of our relationship Jack woke up in a bad mood. These moods happened regularly and once he was in one, it would last the entire weekend. 

On this particular day I knew he was grumpy because we went for a run, and he continued to tell me I needed to get a running watch if I wanted to take this seriously, that real runners don’t listen to music or podcasts, and he couldn’t believe I was putting headphones in, and that my shirt was too baggy and would hold me down, I needed something fitted. 

He then sprinted off so we ran by ourselves. When I made it back to his place, the house was locked. I knew he was inside, but he took ten minutes to let me in to punish me for being so rude to him earlier. I took a shower, did my hair and make up and put on a dress. I was going bridesmaid dress shopping with my best friend. 

“Do I look okay?” I asked.

“You would look better if you took all that crap off your face. And why are you in heels? You’re going shopping. Why do you look so dressed up, who are you really meeting there?” he quizzed.

“Can’t you just say I look beautiful?” I asked.

“Because I would be lying. Do you want to be with a liar?” His attitude then changed as he insisted I take his car and then come back to spend the night with him. I did take his car and met my best friend at the bridal shop. She knew something was wrong. 

I kept checking my phone. I was anxious and looked stressed and upset. Not just that day, but all the time. We picked our dresses then went out to lunch. I made an excuse about feeling sick and left lunch early because I felt so bad about myself. 

But I also knew deep down I had done nothing wrong. I drove his car back to his place, I reverse parked it in the exact car bay on the street that he liked, and made sure to readjust his chair and mirror, so he wouldn’t get angry (even though he always told me to drive it). Once I was inside I showed him a photo of the very expensive dress we picked out. 

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“Look what Emma bought us girls to wear! I love it!”

“You mean look what Emma’s partner bought. It’s his money. He earns more than her. Really they should be paying 50-50."

I am not sure why he assumed that Emma had not paid for the dress. She had, but regardless, she was getting married, and she and her partner shared their money equally. Like normal people. Jack was so funny about money that he just assumed the man earned more, and he assumed my friend hadn’t paid for the dress. 

We had a horrible afternoon and night of fighting and the next morning when I left his place I never went back.

You’re probably wondering why I stayed? Why would I put up with this? 

Because when he was in a good mood, it was so much fun. We talked endlessly. We loved the same music and movies and hobbies. 

When he was in a good mood we could spend all day just holding hands and going for walks or practicing yoga outside and laughing uncontrollably at how bad we were at it. He would come up with amazing dates like an Indigenous art exhibition opening, and book us in at new bars every time one popped up. 

I was so happy. Until I wasn’t.

I look back on the seven months I spent with him, and all the horrible things he did, some of which are far worse than what I have written, and I can’t believe I put up with so much crap. And I didn’t tell anyone. 

I spoke to my best friend about it, but even she didn’t know the full extent of how he treated me. I didn’t tell anyone because I was embarrassed.

I told myself they wouldn't understand. 

It scares me to think how many people have been in the exact same position.

* Names have been changed to protect anonymity. 

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.

Instances of domestic and family violence often increase in times of disaster. The coronavirus pandemic is proving to be no exception globally, with financial abuse also likely to increase. To people experiencing domestic and financial abuse, CommBank has produced a guide about the impact of the coronavirus and domestic and family violence.

Feature Image: Getty.

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