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Rob's personal story

When I first met my wife I was lacking in self –esteem, although I don’t think I even knew what that meant all those years ago. I had been out of a long term relationship for about a year but don’t think I was really ready for another one.

Sally was very intense. She had a lot of fun, liked to party. We had amazing sex and when I was with her I felt really alive. She paid me compliments all the time and it just felt good to be with her. Sure she had a ‘hot temper’ but she was just ‘passionate’ wasn’t she.

Her interests seemed to match mine. We both loved travel, planned to emigrate and enjoyed scuba diving. I was so much ‘in love’ with her that I failed to notice how unusual her family background was, with many fractured relationships over seeming trivial matters. I also did not notice how unusual it was that she asked me to marry her after only six months together.

She was very jealous of the time I spent with my friends – justifying the behaviour by saying that they were all womanisers and she couldn’t trust me when out with them. (This was true of some of my friends but by no means all of them). I told myself she just didn’t want to lose me and would try to reassure her.

There were some warning signs before we got married such as the time she yelled in my ear repeatedly when I was driving. I put it down to stress. It was only after we got married that she truly revealed what she was capable of.

After we were married about 6 months my mother forgot her birthday. I was unhappy with this too but somehow I became ‘responsible’. There was an argument (well less of an argument than her abusing me – but I called it an argument back then) which culminated in her throwing a wine glass at me. It shattered and shards lodged in my leg. I looked at my blood soaked training shoe and she was still yelling. To my shame I lashed out and kicked her. The only time I ever retaliated.

This incident was used as a source of great guilt for me over many years. She would say ‘I have shown what I am capable of’ and ‘she knows the type of man I really am’. I thought of divorcing her at this point but after a few days all was forgotten.

Visits from my family were always a source of tension. I always found she was trying to angle for an argument or a reason to berate me later. She seemed to take everything my mum and dad said to her the wrong way. I never spoke against her in front of anyone, always playing the loyal husband but I would raise my concerns in private and she would abuse me in the most disrespectful ways. She made time with my family a misery for me and them. It was always a source of conflict between us. She burned my friends but found it difficult to isolate me from my family.

We eventually had 3 children over a period of 6 years. Things deteriorated in such an insidious and gradual manner. It was the proverbial frog in the pond. The temperature changing so gradually that I did not know what had happened. I eventually ended up isolated from my family. My time was carefully controlled and I endured emotional abuse on a daily basis. She became an alcoholic and was stood down from her job for drinking on duty. I had a fractured skull from being pushed down steps. Still I told nobody.

I actually did not realise I was in an abusive relationship. I did not think at all. My existence reduced to meeting her needs and being berated daily. Her life consisted of drinking and watching soap operas. Our home stank despite the fact she wasn’t working but she would not let me employ a cleaner.

My salvation came from doing ‘the wrong thing’. Sex had become non-existent as she was normally passed out and was unpleasant anyway. It is not pleasant being sober and having sex with a drunk. I did something very out of character and met a woman on an adult dating website. We became very close friends and eventually I shared some of the things that went on at home. This woman, who had been an abuse victim herself, educated me on what was happening.

I started to understand that I was a victim of domestic violence. I started to understand what had happened to my life. Of course, to the world I am one of those horrible narcissistic male adulterers. To be honest I don’t care. I was faithful to a woman for 15 years who turned me into a pale shadow of the man I was. Who sucked the life out of me like a vampire. The biggest thing I have learned is to judge nobody for what happens in their relationships. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors.

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