From the moment I met him, I looked up to him with eyes naively wide shut and gave him a fragile heart that desperately wanted to be held.
He took me shopping and bought me clothes, whisked me to exclusive restaurants and told me I was the sexiest girl he’d ever met. It felt like a dream come true.
I wore what he chose, ate what he ordered and did what he said. I thought I was being treated like a princess, I let down what miniature guard I had and gave him everything, grateful to be shown so much attention.
If he didn’t like a friend of mine, I distanced myself.
If I made plans, he said he’d already made a booking for us somewhere so I cancelled.
Soon, I was living in the palm of his hand and as soon as he had me where he wanted me, he started flicking the cold switch of control.
I so desperately wanted to make him happy I tried even harder and I was so scared of losing him I tried to keep his heart warm. He started throwing me crumbs of affection, knowing I’d be grateful for them and that became how he controlled my behaviour.
When Jason Melo, the hideous man who made his girlfriend walk naked down a freezing New York street appeared in court this week, he was utterly unrepentant when asked if he had any remorse.
“She shouldn’t have done what she did,” he said.
In his twisted, warped view of the world, which in his eyes revolves around him, he genuinely believes that she deserved his punishment for finding photos she’d sent to other men on her phone.
She was living so entirely at his mercy that she did what he told her to do because that is simply the way your life is in an emotionally abusive relationship. They say jump and you plead, “Please don’t leave me.”
From the moment I opened my eyes in the morning and crept quietly to the bathroom to put on a layer of makeup before he woke up so he’d think I was good enough for him, my every thought was focused on keeping him happy.
When he was at work, I felt his presence weighing down on me and even that was strangely reassuring. When my phone rang I jumped and swiftly reassured him I was where I was meant to be, which was at home, because he was so threated by my job he made me quit.
He said I didn’t need to earn money because he had money, so I waved goodbye to my financial independence.
Watch Christine Anu talk about leaving her abusive relationship…
One morning I accidentally ironed a crease into the arm of his shirt. I ironed them every morning and he expected them to be perfect. He picked it up off the ironing board, twisted it round in the air to examine it and scowled.
I was sat, not realising I’d missed it until I saw his eyes darken. He walked over to me, looked me square in the eye, picked up my bowl of cereal that was on the cabinet next to me and slowly poured it over my head. “That will teach you to pay more attention,”he said sternly. Tears running down my face I apologised.
When I have flashbacks to that moment my heart races and it still makes me cry. I want to reach out to my younger self, scoop her up in my arms and tell her that she is lovable.
I want to tell her that she’s beautiful inside and out, funny and precious.
I can’t believe my self-confidence was so rock-bottom that I thought that’s what I deserved. It breaks my heart now, all these years later that I apologised to him; I wish I’d told him to f*ck off.
I totally understand why that poor girl walked naked down the street for the man who had her in the palm of her hand.
To her and every woman living in that suffocating, utterly soul-destroying hell, I want to say, you do deserve better and you are lovable.
I know now because I feel it, I’m living it and life is so much more amazing than I dared to imagine. Be brave, pack a bag and gently close the door behind you. I one hundred per cent promise you that you won’t look back.
When he tells you that you’ll never find anyone like him ever again, which is what all emotionally abusive men say, he’s right.
You’ll find someone much better, and first, you’ll find yourself.