What happened that made you decide to leave?
His behaviour escalated. I felt I had to leave because I couldn’t believe a person would treat another human the way he did if they didn’t hate them. I suggested we separate and he went mad, crying, saying I couldn’t leave because he would be nothing without me. Then the phone rang and he picked up the answering machine and threw it, he then picked up the table and threw it. Instead of freezing like I usually do, I felt overwhelmed with fear. I grabbed my handbag and car keys and ran out of the house.
I didn’t decide to leave, my reptilian brain decided to run. Once outside, I realised there was nowhere to go. I phoned a friend who offered me somewhere to stay until I could find accommodations. I genuinely believed I had no one to turn to because I was worthless.
How did you feel about your abuser and/or your relationship in the days before you left?
Extremely fearful. I felt as if my sense of self was disappearing, like I was falling into a hole of nothingness. I was only something in relation to him. When I look back on it now, I was terrified of not existing. He put me in a place where I had no resources, was impotent, incapable, I did not exist.
I would like to say at this point I have a degree, am a self-made women who is very wealthy and well respected by everyone except my partner and his cronies. I was not married to him and did not have children with him. I write this to demonstrate how the frog in the saucepan syndrome works, I was reduced to jelly believing him rather than other people’s opinions of me.
What three emotions did you most experience in the days closest to leaving your abusive relationship? How did you deal with them?
Panic, fear, nothingness. I coped by dissociating, distracting myself, being busy, pushing my way through – shocking really thinking about it!
Before Leaving the Abusive Relationship
What planning did you do before you left? Who knew you were leaving besides you?
I opened a bank account a year before in my own name. Despite being financially very secure having been very successful commercially, he controlled all the money, not in an aggressive way, but more subversively. He conversed with the bank and the accountants, gaslighting me if I got involved. I had not really thought through leaving because my brain would not allow me to develop the thoughts because of fear. No one knew I was going, only I realised I had left when the fear and panic subsided. I completely dissociated.
What were the one or two BEST things you did before you left?
I set up a separate bank account. I am actually spending that money now, a year after I left. He can no longer exert commercial pressure on me while financial issues are resolved.
I also talked to people, not lots of people, just some people because otherwise, when you leave, it’s as if you made it all up. I spent 16 years portraying a perfect relationship because I was ashamed that I had left the father of my children to be with a highly manipulative person who only valued me if I was making him feel good or accepting responsibility for his problems. Two people knew how evil he was. They supported me when I didn’t have the strength to leave. They accepted my truth, unlike others who could not reconcile what I said because it did not stack up with his public persona; therefore I must have imagined it.
If there was anything you wish you had not done before you left, what was it?
I allowed him to cut me off from my friends that I had before my relationship with him. Again this was not obvious, just insidious. He said they had weird views politically, they were a bit odd, he was irritated when they came round, he got really distressed when I went out with them and so on. I worked out it was easier not to see them. Then I had to socialise with only his misogynistic cronies and their Stepford wives.
Life After the Abusive Relationship
How long ago did you leave? How do you feel today?
1 year. Still get days when I want the nice him back, although as time goes by I realise that’s a figment of my imagination. I am sometimes bitter about what he did and continues to do. I still try to work out who I am without his stain. I am still very sad about the number of people who have sided with him. They don’t think about why a person like me did what I did. I worry about him doing this to another woman. I try to maintain zero contact. It’s difficult as we have many joint business interests. However, I know keeping my distance is the only way to stop him from contaminating me more. It seems ridiculous, but it’s true.
I enjoy more good days than bad, but I get frustrated that his abuse forced me to abandon my whole life just to stop feeling frightened and manipulated. It’s a high price for what a lot of people take for granted.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Many people believe they stay because of children, finances, or some other excuse. The real reason you stay is that you fear the loss of yourself. The abuse corrupted you. There is no evidence after the abuse event. You feel that leaving would be total destruction. The magnitude of that fear makes it almost irreconcilable, so you stay believing there is no alternative.
Ironically my daughter says he has thrown things at me before. I don’t remember. I dissociated and froze when I felt in danger of mental destruction. The physical abuse didn’t threaten me as much. Why my reptilian brain decided that survival was only possible on that day by running I shall never know. I realise that if that hadn’t happened I would still be there today – and that’s a tragic realisation.
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