I didn’t leave because he was hurting me…

I didn’t leave because he was hurting me…

After my second child (my first in my second marriage) my husband began studying for his degree, as well as working full time. This led to a level of stress with which he simply could not cope, no time for his family and a lot of resentment towards me (everything was always my fault), and the slow unravelling of the twisted web of lies that was our life together.

My husband had always had an addictive personality, but so do many people who manage without great consequence so I didn’t feel any cause for concern. However, as the pressure began to mount without a healthy outlet, he began to depend on alcohol more and more to unwind. What started as a couple of beers after work, before the kids went to bed and he could concentrate, quickly became 6-8 beers and a couple of strong mixers to keep him awake as he sat alone into the night to get his assignments done. As he became more and more dependent on alcohol it became less about study and more about escape. Drinking was his release from the stresses of life. Soon his emotional escape became a physical one, he would return from work dump his bags and off to the pub he would go.

Every day I was left alone and baffled, there I was baby up jumper(Zebby our third had arrived un planned before Lily was even two), house a bomb site, toddler picking leaves of herbs as I tried to include her in cooking a gourmet hello fresh meal, he wouldn’t bother to eat but regardless, and a broken record of a seven-year-old enquiring how much longer it would be playing in the background.

I stood every day just the same, completely at a loss as to how a man that claimed to love his family could walk into this chaos and instead of helping, instead of taking over the dinner for 10 minutes so I could get the baby down, he was angry at me that this was what his life looked like…

That’s the thing I finally Learned about narcissists, they only care about how things LOOK not how they ARE! They would rather impress a stranger than be loved by their own family, and I just wasn’t built for that. So, I broke. One cold, heavy snow day in February we were trapped in the house together and I called time on our relationship.

Shortly after this I began the search for a marriage councillor that could help us find a way through the mess we were in, with the hope that one day with enough work our relationship could be restored. I found one and booked a consultation. I was so filled with hope that we were going together even driving in the same car. I thought this is it we are going to be okay, boy was I wrong! We argued right there in front of the head of the counselling program. He kept niggling me with all those comments narcissists are so skilled at, the ones that sound good to everyone else but are designed to hurt you and make you react so you look like the crazy one. I of course took the bait and was devastated when he then refused to attend counselling together and demanded we see separate councillors until I learned to be reasonable. Needless to say, my husband quit very soon after, but I stayed with my councillor and saw her weekly for several months.

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It was during this time that I came to realise I had been abused. It seems ludicrous that I hadn’t known all along but these things start so subtly and you get into the habit of making excuses for their behaviour until in the end you don’t even realise that your hiding it from yourself. It started so small, nothing I said or did was good enough, he would comment on the smallest perceived flaw, and drag up my past as if it’s something I should be ashamed of. Slowly these things become more frequent and I was left feeling constantly wounded, ground down, emotionally beaten and torn, all the while he would swan about like God’s gift and how dare I be so ungrateful! As time went on, I stopped realising that he was violating my boundaries, that he didn’t care about my feelings or have any respect at all for the word NO!

I was left feeling unworthy and ashamed of who I am. Eventually my self esteem was shot and anxiety sparked over the tiniest of things I was a broken shell of a woman.

Narcissists often begin to subtly cross over into other forms of abuse you quickly learn that there’s no point saying no to sex, its far simpler and ultimately hurts less physically and emotionally to just do what they want, but its more than that. Narcissists often intersperse their abuse with periods of kindness, this was how my husband managed to be physically abusive without me even realising. It was when he was saying loving things and being sweet to me that he would also be holding me in a way that was painful and often bruised my arms to the point I was planning to see the doctor and have my blood checked. This is all part of how they condition you so that you become trauma bonded and feel like you need them and their abuse to be happy, so they keep you coming back for more. This went on for almost a year even after I had left my husband and we ended up getting back together for a few short months and you know what the first week was incredible but that’s all there was a week at most before things were nastier than ever culminating in him having a melt down on Christmas day that scared me and which I very much pandered to for the sake of my children but by new year’s day I had the strength I needed to leave again. This time for good.

I received streams of cruel and delusional, abusive messages for a long time afterwards to the point I was advised not to be home alone if he is picking up the kids. Then he would change tact and I’ll get messages saying he’s crying because he misses me – it’s not real – not a single word. Not the good ones or the bad ones, it’s all just part of the manipulation, that’s all there ever is.

I no longer receive these kind of messages very often but that’s because I’ve finally after 3 and a half years learned to identify when he is bating me and not give him what he wants but I still keep a file of evidence on my computer just incase. Even though I know all this and recognise what’s happening I still do what he wants more than I would like, slowly and I’m still not all the way there I am learning to archive his messages and not look at them, over analysing every word (because you can’t just block their number when you have kids together). I’m learning to set boundaries and he is learning to push them a little less. Little by little my confidence is coming back, I see friends more and do what I love, little by little I am growing strong and becoming the kind of woman sons can respect and daughter can look up to, and in all of this mess I am starting to learn how to manage not just my own trauma but how to face the on going issues it causes for my children, because that’s the thing the advice you find on online doesn’t cover how the hell do you break your trauma bonding and still co parent?

The Losing Game

Wow, you’re sexy for an older reader! Catch what I did there? I ran game on you. 

I made you feel good about yourself by undermining you. Depending what I went on to discuss you may have gone away still thinking – I AM pretty sexy for my age, and where’s the harm in that? Except it is harmful. I’m not only playing on insecurities you might have about the way your body is changing as you get older but its also the perpetuation of the cultural belief that ageing is unsexy. It’s a manipulation designed to make you more prone to bad decision making. If I was trying to sleep with you I’d have massively improved my odds by simultaneously making you feel both sexy and like a ticking time bomb the clocks about to run out on.

In 2005 an investigative journalist, frustrated with his own love life joined a community of “romantic” players to learn how to get women into bed. The resulting book ‘The Game’ rather than reading like an exposé became a best selling dating handbook, in which men were taught how to gain the upper hand.

Women’s rights have improved massively in the past 120 years. We have this newly empowered ‘we can do anything men can do and do it bleeding’ attitude. We work like men, dress like men, thanks to the Shewee we can even pee like men, and most importantly in the context of this article – if we want to, we can have sex like men, and if we really want to save time we can have sex without men, with no make up, wearing our intensely comfortable, ugly pyjamas before making a cuppa and binge watching Netflix.

Then comes this book and instead of teaching men to form partnerships, uplift and empower women, its reinforcing all the insecurities women have after years of oppression and lousy product marketing telling us we aren’t enough, it fortifies the idea that women exist for sexual gratification, it teaches men to identify physical attributes a woman could be self conscious about and exploit them to make her more susceptible to sexual advances.

I get it with my hair – wow you’re beautiful for a ginger / its not for everyone but I’ve always had a thing for a feisty read head, or possibly my favourite, you know when they lean in really close like they’re letting you on in a secret and tell you they know that red heads are freaky between the sheets and that its okay because they like it, as if its shameful to be a bit kinky or as if the colour of my hair in any way determines my sexual preferences. I also get “oh you’re so tiny I could keep you in my pocket” and I’m like was that a compliment or a threat? Because it would not be the first time I’ve been carried away from my friends by a complete stranger – which I assume comes under the chapter on isolating the target. 

The overarching problem with this technique is that it leaves everyone feeling alone. It seems shocking now but this is a book that was liked by 87% of readers on Goodreads, and has a 5/5 rating from Waterstones, and its not just damaging women its damaging men! We are living in a time where the leading cause of death in men between 35 and 49 is suicide.

It’s based on the idea that people can be beneath you, you’d be ‘dating down’ or ‘punching above your weight’. Are we not each of us just flesh and bones trying to hold a heart together? Can you truly believe that a person’s looks or job elevates them? It also works on the assumption that everybody has the same physical preferences. She’s really fit so she won’t like me – why not? you’ve never even spoken to her how could you know? It also discredits the possibility that sexual attraction for women especially, has less to do with physical appearance and more to do with chemistry, one of my exes was six feet tall, the rest wouldn’t let me wear heels, nor for the possibility that that intelligence or a sense of humour is sexy, I’ve asked on instagram and you know what’s REALLY sexy…

Kindness!

By creating a dating handbook designed to undermine a woman’s self esteem we inadvertently have a generation of men believing that being themselves isn’t good enough, its taught them the only way a woman will pay them attention is if they trick her. There may be a temporary high that comes with initial sexual success but this prolonged behaviour means we find ourselves in a society where everyone feels cheated and damaged, putting up walls that cut them off from feeling vulnerable and establishing real human connection.

I can’t tell you I have some genius way to fix it, I don’t. But what if the next time it happens you let him know that running game won’t work, then pay him a genuine compliment. Even if he’s not your type you can find one thing to say. You walk away feeling empowered and he feels noticed. Then maybe the next time he approaches someone he simply says “hey I noticed you from across the room and I’d really like to talk, can I buy you a drink?” maybe people start paying attention to the details of each other, maybe they don’t have to ‘blast last minute reservations’ and maybe at the end of it all we develop a culture where we feel valued enough for it to be safe enough to just walk home.