couples

'My husband abused me. My friend's response just added to the pain.'

This post deals with abuse and might be triggering for some readers. 

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.

My now ex-husband was a wonderful man – 90 per cent of the time. It was how he behaved in the other 10 per cent that made him dangerous.

This was problematic for two reasons; firstly, it took me years to accept that the 10 per cent far outweighed the 90 per cent. I was a sucker for the good times, because I loved him. 

And secondly, with things being difficult only a minor part of the time, even my closest friends and family did not know the extent of what was going on. They might witness bickering, but they never knew what happened when we were alone.

Controlling and possessive behaviours are abusive acts. Here are some of the signs of an abuser, told through a victim’s phone. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

The abuse was mostly verbal, and he was very manipulative. I knew that if I told anyone, I’d be accountable; I’d have to take action. I wasn’t ready to do that for years.

And so, I kept his secrets.

When it came time to announce our split to people, their reactions were strange; but actually, considering how brilliant I’d been at hiding the sh*tshow that was our marriage, I shouldn’t have been surprised by their surprise.

I’d had one member of my family truly get my trauma – but the others, even a decade later, still don’t understand. In fact, one of my siblings, to this day, thinks that since I chose to leave, “I made my bed and so should lie in it". 

I’ve thought a lot about this, and realise that even though everyone’s loyalty was with me, and I was somewhat believed, they hadn’t seen the abuse, and didn’t think a ‘nice, gentle’ man like my husband was capable of the behaviour I described.

They genuinely had trouble putting the two together. Eventually, of course, they generally accepted the situation out of love for me.

But the biggest challenge came from one of my closest friends. When I told her of my spilt, she asked, incredulously, “Why?”

I replied, “Because he’s a sh*t husband and a sh*t father". 

“But what about status? The status of being married?”

I didn’t even know what to say to that. I tried to explain my experience, but she remained very doubtful.

ADVERTISEMENT

She, who had spent 15 years searching for her Prince Charming, couldn’t comprehend my decision to become a single mum. But her attitude got worse.

One day, my husband lit up a cigarette in the garden of my new home. I told him he needed to respect my space – and he told me “no one would ever put up” with me, and then pushed me over as I went to pick up my son from the grass to protect him from the escalating situation.

Shaken, upset, I told my friend about what happened, that night. I thought now that I had told her about the abuse in my marriage, she would understand. She didn’t. 

I needed support, empathy, kindness. But this was her response:

 "Well, what did you do to provoke him? Maybe don't tell him off anymore."

In her warped thinking, what I should do is put my needs aside in his presence. That was her solution to this ‘minor’ problem. I realised that her approach to relationships was similar to how I’d felt all these years; because that’s what abusers do. They gaslight you, and ensure you take responsibility for their behaviour.

I was no longer that person, but obviously, my friend thought if I didn’t like the disturbance, it was my responsibility to keep the peace. It was that sort of mentality that had kept me in a terrible marriage for years.

Mia Freedman interviewed Nicole Edwards, the founder of Aussie domestic violence charity RizeUp, about how we can help victims of domestic violence. Post continues below. 

When I asked my ex-husband to stop smoking in my home – an act designed to trigger me – I wasn't 'telling him off' – I had a right to draw boundaries about his behaviour. It was not his house, after all.

The result was I never told my friend about any issues with my ex, again. I couldn’t trust her to respond in a way that didn’t victim blame, or even add another layer of anguish. If I wanted solace, or to vent, she’s now the last person I would turn to. I can’t take the risk of someone messing with my mind-space.

Now, we are simply ‘good time’ friends. It’s easier that way.

But I do hope this story is a lesson for others; if a friend ever confides in you surprising information like this, even if you've never witnessed any red flags, believe her. 

Because what she's finally revealed to you is just the tip of the iceberg; she’s endured much, much worse for longer than you realise. 

She needs your support more than you could ever know, so feel honoured that she’s turned to you, keep your judgements to yourself, and just listen.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Feature Image: Getty.

00:00 / ???