After recently reading an interesting piece by JR Thorpe titled: “9 Signs you have a controlling partner” (the link is above!), I came away from it rather gobsmacked at how many of the warning signs listed mirrored many of the same patterns in my previous failed relationships.
My initial reaction was disappointment in having allowed former partners to control me so much in the past. After deeper reflection on those failed relationships, I decided to finally forgive myself, and in so doing this act of Self Love resulted in a real breakthrough, giving me insights, and also enabling me to find Inner Strength and Self Worth.
The pattern began with my daughter’s father. I met him at my 18th birthday party. He was four years older, a “bad boy” from a rough neighbourhood. He knew how to look after (defend) himself, and always got what he wanted. I remember my parents weren’t very fond of him, thinking I could do better. That my parents were wary of him only added to his allure.
I was fiercely independent, and once I could drive and was officially an adult, I rebelled against all of my parent’s rules and requests. One of his strong traits was selfishness, he only liked doing things he wanted to do, and mostly only with his family.
My first Mother’s Day, my daughter was a month old. He didn’t want to come out to lunch with me and my mum. Instead, he took our daughter to his mother’s, returning six hours later, and two hours past her feed time (I was breastfeeding).
He’d taunt me about the weight I put on during the pregnancy and say derogatory things about how I looked. Looking back, I would say that he was the first one who I allowed to hurt my self esteem. Hatred of my body began at around 19, stemming in part from the ridicule I was subjected to about my misshapen breasts; from the stretchmarks, and from the 45kgs gained over the course of the pregnancy.
He was also violent, controlled the finances (badly at that), resulting in our utilities getting cut off for non-payment.
When I left that relationship, I decided early on I wanted someone “safer”, someone who wasn’t so outgoing. I found him in “Mr Boring”, a man who stopped socialising once we moved in together, and who didn’t really do much with me at all. He was content spending time alone, had old-fashioned beliefs, and was psychologically abusive.
From the outside our relationship looked perfect. He was always pleasant in public, but much different privately. Behind closed doors, I would cop his outrage for something I’d said “wrong”, or for something that I had done that had “embarrassed” him. He too, controlled our finances. I had to justify every cent I spent. I remember an argument about $60 I spent at a store called “Best and Less” that appeared on a bank statement. He was angry I had spent that much on socks and underwear for the children. Anyone else would acknowledge that much for a week’s worth of underwear for two children is smart shopping. Not him. I was in trouble. After that argument, I began withdrawing funds with the grocery shopping etc to buy items using cash, so as to avoid them from showing up on the bank statement.
Another vivid memory was him coming home from work one day in a foul mood and asking “What have you been up to today? Clearly not the housework, as there’s still dust on the skirting boards!” The house was immaculate, but to him, it was never clean enough; clothes weren’t laundered fast enough; dinner not served early enough. I was expected to be the maid. He never complemented me, wasn’t affectionate, rejected me in the bedroom regularly, complained about things I did, I now see he was a full blown narcissist (and probably still is).
Still, I craved affection, and decided the next one needed to be affectionate, and want to spend time with me… I got that in spades. He was uber needy, wanting to spend virtually every waking and sleeping moment with me. He wanted to know where I was when not with him; wanted to know verbatim conversations I had with friends when he wasn’t there. He wanted me to act a certain way, dress a certain way. We had to have a joint bank account. He got angry when I kept the child support paid for my children separate. He contributed to relationships being cut off with my sister’s and some friends. He did things mostly to get something back or to “look good” in front of people or for me to praise what he did to other people. I never lived up to the expectations he had of me. We argued a lot. He confused me in fights, used “gaslighting” techniques, and projected all of his own insecurities and issues on me, making everything my fault.
One fight, a few years into our relationship, he assaulted me. We got back together,and it didn’t happen again, although he maintains that my behaviour deserved it. He didn’t ever show remorse. Even our last conversation, he still could not acknowledge his part in the relationship. So I walked away. Cut all contact. Forever.
I think I stayed in all these relationships way too long because I thought it was better than being alone. I was afraid to be single. I wasn’t in a state of self-acceptance. I didn’t feel that I could survive on my own. Prior to today, the strongest I’ve even been was when I made the decision to leave a 12-year marriage.
The relationship straight after that ruined the strength I had found and began the next dark period in my existence. I fell in love with a married man, the sneaking around, hiding, guilt, being the dirty little secret took its toll. He kept promising he would leave, promised me the world, but didn’t ever deliver it. I loved him and believed every word he said. I lost all respect for him, but in myself more.
Even years later, when he was single and we tried the relationship again, I began to realize things weren’t working out, and that deep down I resented him. What I went through, the shame that that relationship caused me, hating myself, I couldn’t let it go, I blamed him.
I now see I could have honoured myself and left earlier. I don’t blame him anymore, and have taken responsibility for myself. I also see my part in abusive relationships. Allowing the bad behaviour of others. Not standing up for myself, not honouring my values, not honouring my right to be respected, keeping quiet facilitates people to continue their inappropriate behaviour.
How can I change this? How did you change this? I hear you ask. Firstly, I left the abusive relationship. I made a decision to honour myself fully. I had to work out my values, what was important to me and decide never to put up with abuse ever again. Also, never to participate in anything that wasn’t letting me be true to myself. I let go of the need to please people.
Laughing off feeling uncomfortable, was the first change I needed to make. That situation happened at work numerous times and turned into sexual Harrassment. Could I have prevented it by being clearer with what I felt was appropriate? Rather than just accept that the office culture was just like that? I am not dwelling on it. I decided to look forward, rather than brush something off, I would communicate my uncomfortable feeling. That way, I am showing others where my boundaries are. I decided if others didn’t like this, I didn’t care anymore. I needed to be true to myself.
I have made the same decisions in my relationships. Interesting though, I haven’t had any issues. I think my newfound strength has not allowed that type of abusive person in my orbit any more… lol