It still feels a little foreign to call myself a survivor of domestic abuse. Why? Because it’s a label I’ve only attached to myself in the past three years, even though I lived it for triple that.
Here are the warning signs I never should have ignored, and how I got back on my feet.
Red flag one: Control
When I first met my now-ex-husband, it was the control that first attracted me to him. After being cheated on in previous relationships and always being low on the list of past-partners’ priorities, I naively misread his controlling ways as proof of his love and affection for me.
He was passionate and possessive in a flattering way, I convinced myself. How wrong I was. But at the age of twenty-seven, blinded by new love, I married the guy…
Red flag two: Isolation
And predictably, things got worse. My self-esteem, and friendships, all but disappeared. He made certain of that, by isolating me from friends and family. It started with him convincing me that my friends didn’t like him. He would suggest that they were jealous of us, of what we had. Both statements were completely unfounded and unreasonable, but I caved. Eventually, spending time with my girlfriends ended up in the too-hard basket. Justifying things to him was exhausting. Arguing with him was pointless. And as the wheel of abuse turned, I continued to isolate myself from those in my life who knew me well, to avoid having to speak nicely of my life. I felt like a fraud.
Listen: Rosie Batty speaks to Mia Freedman on our No Filter podcast. (Post continues…)
And here’s the sad truth. Very few people stand by you when you are in an abusive relationship. As victims, we build walls, we tell little white lies, we don’t surrender easily to the friends who really care for us. It’s a twisted mess of fear and annihilated self-worth.
Red flag three: Words as weapons
The swearing and verbal abuse grew daily. I should’ve known the first time he hurled those vitriolic words at me.
He would say, ‘You’re nothing but a f&*#*ing whinger!”, if I dared ask for his help with day-to-day tasks, or anything to do with our two children.
If his day was less than perfect, he would name and blame me as the reason our life was the way it was.
He called me a drama queen. He told me I would never succeed in business. He’d remind me, that no one else would ever put up with me if I left him. His barrage of words was endless and destructive, but I bore no physical bruises from them. Inside though, I was battered. I was lonely and convinced (by him, conveniently) that no one would believe a word I said. I was also terrified. Scared for myself, scared for my children, scared of breaking up a family.
The turning point
The fear propelled me to look inwards and do everything in my power to save my family. I needed to know if what he’d been saying all along was true. Was I really the problem? Was it truly all my fault?
I started by suggesting marriage counselling. I read ‘The 5 Love Languages’. I turned to my faith and personal development books. I deep-dived into mindset coaching, slowing flexing my dormant self-esteem muscles, summoning the old me, baby-step after baby-step, until one day, like a freight train, it hit me. IT WAS NEVER ME. IT WAS ALWAYS HIM. And the only way to protect myself and my children, and to give him a chance to be a better father, was to leave the marriage and start again, away from the daily manipulation and mind games.