HAVE been in an on and off relationship for almost five years. To the outside world, we seem very happy. He seems very kind and spoils me rotten. Whenever he gives me his credit card, I can literally go paint the town red, shopping and live it up with friends. At his insistence, I quit my job to be a kept woman. At first, I found all of this charming and I was the envy of my friends. But as time went on, I got to realise that this is how he keeps control of me. He constantly controls my movements, wants to know where I am, what I am doing and who I am with all the time. Worse still, if I don’t do as he says, he can be quite abusive. He has never actually raised his hand on me, but he does grab me and shake me when I don’t ‘follow the rules’. He also constantly grabs my arms and pins me to the wall when he is angry. Everybody around us never sees this side of him. All they see is the sweet, kind, generous man that I wish he was all the time. Each time I leave him, people think I am crazy. He has got me to the point where I feel I am nothing without him. I don’t know what to do any more.
WE need to start by defining what abuse is. Abuse is not just about somebody raising their hand on you. Emotional abuse is just as bad, because it leaves you scarred on the inside. Here is a woman who could easily take care of herself, create a fulfilling and happy life for herself. But somehow he has reduced your self-esteem to the level where you can’t imagine a life without him. That is what emotional abuse does. He has broken your self-esteem and made you believe that you cannot function without him.
His case is worse because he appears like such a great person in public. You look like this perfectly happy couple and that gets the entire world on his side. Everybody roots for him and for you as a couple, because of the façade that he has created.
SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
¦ An emotionally abusive man will attempt to make you feel submissive to keep you trapped in a relationship.
¦ A controlling spouse will assert dominance by making you stop working, thereby taking away your financial independence, controlling the finances and giving you an allowance, making all of the household decisions and treating you like a servant.
¦ He may also limit your opportunities to see friends and family members, and prevent you from getting a job again so that you are emotionally and economically dependent on him.
¦ If your man is emotionally abusive, a sign of this abuse is that you may feel timid or apprehensive when he is around because you fear you’ll trigger his wrath.
¦ An emotionally abusive spouse may use threats of physical violence, statements that he’ll end the marriage or unpredictable, emotional outbursts to unsettle you, so you’ll be too afraid to assert yourself.
¦ If your man is emotionally abusive, he may use excuses and accusations to make you believe that his behaviour is your fault.
¦ He may claim that your ignorance, mistakes, secrecy or flirtation was the reason for a recent outburst.
He may indicate that your stupidity requires him to control all of your finances and control all of the family decisions. An abusive man may deny the severity of his hurtful actions, trivialise your reactions or blame his behaviour on stress or a bad day. The biggest and worst thing, though, that an abusive person does, is to make you feel like you are nothing without him. He will go out of his way to make you feel inadequate, make you feel as if you are lucky to have him, because nobody else would have you. That is where your rebuilding needs to happen. You need to go back to the point where you have your self confidence again. You need to rebuild your self-esteem. Ideally, you should work on getting your career back, too. Financial dependence is one thing that will keep you stuck to him.
Most importantly, though, stop making excuses for him. Stop blaming yourself or accepting blame for his abusive behaviour. This is not your fault! Have a game plan. Think about where you want to be. Start having dreams again. Have short term plans and start implementing those. Work out how you would survive without him. Downscale your lifestyle for a while, if needs be, until you are properly settled and back on your feet. Get some counselling at a women’s shelter or a therapist who will help you regain your self-esteem and allow you to believe in yourself again.
Start being in control of your finances. Open a bank account that he is unable to access or control. In all of this, be very careful and discreet. Remember that physical abuse, at this stage, when you are considering breaking free remains a real threat. Most of all, though, don’t be afraid to talk to somebody about your plight, talk to a close friend or family member, so that you are not alone in this situation. You need somebody who will allow you to open up and discuss what you are going through, without fear of being judged. I hope you will find the strength and courage to break free from your situation. And I wish you all of the best. I have no doubt you can and will land on your feet and find happiness again.