Why leaving a domestic violence relationship is the beginning, not the end.

I will always remember, quite vividly, the day I left my relationship.

I’d been working with a counsellor, trying to work out how I could support ‘Jack’ to overcome his substance abuse. I was pretty sure this was why he acted the way he did. That it was behind the things he said and the way he treated me. That if I could only help him to stop doing what he was doing, he would stop abusing me. Because he didn’t mean it. I was sure of this.

He never hit me. He threw things at me a couple of times. I laughed it off like he was some kind of crazy rock star trashing a hotel room. He wasn’t.

He grabbed me by the arm many times, to stop me trying to leave. Once, he held me with one hand while he held a knife in the other. It was straight out of a novel, a stormy night, and angry man wielding a knife, and me quietly doing as I was told until he passed out and I was safe to get away. In my car. With my puppy. To sleep on the side of the road in my little car during in the pouring rain.

I slept in my car many nights, including after a major surgery, with a vacuum pump attached to a huge abdominal wound. I was barely allowed to drive, but this was the only way I could get away from him.

He was high functioning, and everyone he worked with seemed to love him. He was a prankster, lots of fun, and great at his job. He received awards and promotions and excelled in the workplace.

I presented to his world as a good partner. I dressed nicely (because he told me what to wear) and had a good job. Jack looked like a loving partner too, for the most part.

I know that some of his friends and colleagues saw the other side. I know that they didn’t know what to do or how to react.

It’s a long story, and if I think about it there is so much I could say. But I know that if you are reading this, you have already been there. You know how long the journey is. How many times you tried to ‘fix’ him. And how much it took to finally push you to walk away.

When I think about it, it really took me a good 18 months to resolve that it was the end. Things started getting worse.

My colleagues and friends started to notice it.

Jack was cruel to my friends, and my family. He wanted nothing to do with my world.

It was my birthday and graduation party. He was already under the influence, so I drove us there and back. He didn’t speak a word to my family or friends who had travelled to be there. He text me from the bathroom to say he was over it, and when he came back, we were leaving.

Within weeks, I left him.

He had convinced me I was mad for thinking he was hiding rum in the bottle of cola in the fridge. He convinced me I didn’t know what cola tasted like. He truly, truly, convinced me. I was going mad.

After we separated, I was told by friends that bottles of wine I had given them as gifts had been opened and topped up with water. When my belongings were removed from the house, it turned out that he was hiding clear spirits in bottles in the garage. Unmarked.

Like the frog in the pot of boiling water, it reached boiling point without me knowing it.

The counsellor, fortunately, identified what was happening and supported me to get away. At night, while Jack was at work, so I could get away safely with my dogs.

He had controlled how I spoke, how I dressed, who I spoke to, and where I went, for many years. He tracked me on my phone. He looked through all my social media and emails. He belittled and degraded me over my past, and cut me off from friends and family. He would tell me if I was putting on too much weight. Rarely could I cook or clean to his standards.

Leaving the relationship, I got myself back. I could dress how I wanted, talk to my friends, and make jokes about things that I found funny. I could be loud and happy and draw attention without being criticised. And I found a man who loves all those things about me and encourages me to grow and be everything I am. Cheesy, but true. Leaving that relationship was the beginning of this next, greater, chapter.

It will also never be the end. Because I will always carry the trauma. I feel scared when I am around people who are under the influence. I close off from my husband when he drinks. I rarely drink. I hate it.

The moral to my longwinded story is that you are not alone. You have others going through the same and you have people around you willing to support you.

Including me.

JP

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