As told to Anne DeGrey
I fell in love with my first husband, Pierre, following a whirlwind romance after meeting through friends in Paris. It was a holiday fling and I thought it would end abruptly when I returned to Sydney but, instead, he followed me home and we were engaged three months later.
The first three years of our marriage were fantastic, but things fell apart for two reasons – he was in a motorcycle accident and had a minor head injury. I feel that really contributed to his change of personality. The other reason is that when I became a mother, he started to be very horrible to me, constantly telling me I was fat and that I’d lost my looks.
The abuse really intensified as time went on; both verbal and physical. The verbal abuse I could handle to a certain point. It didn’t matter too much to me that he always put down my appearance – I knew I was attractive, and he was just being an arsehole.
But he soon got into the habit of slapping me over the slightest thing. He’d slap my legs, my face and my back. It was very triggering for me because my father had slapped my brother and I throughout our childhood. One day Pierre slapped my leg so hard he left a red impression of his hand on my thigh. My crime? I had slightly over-cooked the steak I was preparing for dinner. That was the final straw for me, and I saw a lawyer and moved out of the house with our young daughter.
I went back to full-time work and that’s where I met my second husband Harry. Harry and Pierre were like chalk and cheese; Harry was kind and gentle – surely he would never hit me? And he’d always tell me I’m beautiful, even when I knew I was looking very average. I felt like Harry was my “reward” for putting up with the abusive behaviour I’d endured with Pierre. We were so happy, I really thought this was my happy ever after.
But now I am facing a second divorce, and I am absolutely devastated.
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It all started when I told Harry that I’d caught up with an old male school friend, who was just a friend. It was the first time I’d seen Harry’s jealous streak, and I didn’t like it at all. He accused me of playing around behind his back, and he threated to “beat up” my friend – it was all quite ridiculous.
I laughed it off, but Harry took my phone and smashed it on the pavement. He later apologised but I was quite shaken by his behaviour. Then, once he replaced my phone, I woke up one night and found him sitting on the bed scrolling through messages on my new phone. He showed me a text from my old school friend, and he called me a “filthy slut.” I was so shocked. The text was perfectly innocent, but Harry objected to the kiss emoji. It didn’t matter how much I tried to convince him that I haven’t been cheating on him, he refused to believe me. He made me text my friend to say we can’t continue our friendship and then he watched as I deleted my friend’s details and blocked him.
Things got progressively worse. Harry became controlling in very strange ways, for example, he wouldn’t let me do grocery shopping without him because he said he can’t trust me. Trust me for…what? It was confusing but I had nothing to hide so I just let him follow me around the shops.
I’d decided to have my hair cut short for the first time in years and that was a huge mistake because Harry reacted violently to my new shoulder-length hairstyle. According to him, I was trying to attract other men but, at the same time, I was “delusional” because now I looked like a frumpy housewife.
He also refused to have sex with me because he was so sure I was sleeping around and that I was “full of germs.” It got to a point where I dreaded him coming home from work. He had become as abusive as Pierre and the irony wasn’t lost on me that I left one abusive husband only to hook up with a man who was just as nasty.
The final straw was when Harry threw a dinner plate at me – which just missed my head. My daughter witnessed this and burst into tears and that’s when I realised Harry’s emotional and verbal abuse is impacting my four-year-old. I waited until the morning, packed my things and fled to my parent’s home in the country. I felt like such a failure and Harry was devastated when I left him – he told me he was seeing a psychiatrist and hopes I will return one day. But there is no way I want another relationship. I’d prefer to be on my own than to risk starting over with a third abusive man.
Feature Image: Getty.