This post deals with emotional abuse and might be triggering for some readers.
“…we just assumed you were fine with it.”
“…it didn’t really feel like our place to say anything.”
“…we assumed he was different at home.”
Immediately after my marriage ended, I heard this from too many people.
For the last few years of our marriage, we ran a hospitality business together. That meant our relationship was often on show for staff, customers and extended family to see.
I have no doubt that most of the people we worked with witnessed him criticise me, make demands, dismiss my feelings and intimidate me. But nobody said anything, because they assumed that I was fine with it.
Outwardly, I was a confident, capable and strong woman – surely if I had an issue, I would stand up to him? Ironically, their silence was playing a key role in preventing me from speaking up.
Watch: The signs of an abuser, told through his victim’s phone. Post continues below.
After years of conditioning, I’d lost my sense of what was normal and what wasn’t, and now having people watching on daily, and saying nothing, only confused me even more. I figured that if they weren’t concerned by the behaviour, then I shouldn’t have been either. I gauged others reactions to determine my own.
In the aftermath of our relationship breakdown, people close to me suddenly started pointing out that they always thought he treated me badly.
They were trying to be understanding, acknowledging why I left and trying to make me feel better. In some ways, it did make me feel better (at least less crazy) – but in other ways it enraged me.
Why didn’t anyone say anything while I was in the situation? Why was there only awkward silence and side glances whenever he would cut me down or chastise me in front of others?
Instead of driving home after a dinner party and commenting to their partner how they’d NEVER put up with the way my husband treated me, why didn’t they ask me if I was ok with it?
“Because it didn’t feel like our place. You weren’t saying anything.”
I wasn’t saying anything because I thought I couldn’t. Because I thought I just needed to smooth everything over to make everyone else feel more comfortable. Because I was scared of making him angrier.
I did try to curb it at the start. I remember having a conversation in our kitchen asking him not to speak harshly to me in front of other people, because it made others feel awkward.