I’m sure before I had my daughter, who is now 7, I would describe myself as many things, usually it started by saying that I had an amazing job, lots of friends, interesting hobbies and loved a good holiday or two. If you ask me now I say I’m a Mum and that seems to be the whole story.
I had an average upbringing, nothing extraordinary, my mum was a nurse and dad was an engineer and they instilled the importance compassion and empathy for others and as a parent now, I’m grateful for the values they instilled in me.
I now see that I find helping others comes easy to me, I don’t like to see people suffer and if I can help in any way I would – no matter who you were or how well I knew you. It made me feel good.
I knew I had a good job, lots of opportunities and was happy to share my good fortune with others whenever I could. I think if you met me back then you’d see a happy, healthy woman with high energy and a positive outlook.
I met *** in January 2012, four months into our relationship and on the day of my birthday, *** booked a local hotel for the night. I remember him turning up late and when he finally arrived, he told me that he’d lost a million pounds in his business. He said that someone in the office failed to invoice correctly and now that business has gone into liquidation and that he wouldn’t get his money back. My instinct was to offer emotional support to this man who looked totally devasted. We ended up going for a drive when I realised he hadn’t made a booking for dinner and a little voice in my head said that was a bit thoughtless for my birthday.
*** kept telling me how he was not taking a salary to make sure nobody lost their jobs, he was avoiding putting the business into receivership, he kept saying it was really tough and he was just trying to do the right thing. This story went on for a few months and then he asked me for money.
I could tell he was mortified at asking me so, no questions asked, I transferred £5,000 because it was no problem for me at the time. I felt good and needed, it validated my purpose which was to help others. On reflection, I didn’t realise this was the beginning of financial abuse and during the following 9 months, I lent him a total of £62,000 (I must add that he paid me back eventually out of the business he then put into receivership but it was the start of things to come)
I was with *** for a total of 10 years. At the beginning, it wasn’t particularly a loving and physical relationship and mostly, that was instigated by me. If I mentioned anything about that it would escalate into a row. Somehow it was my fault for not being kind, available, in a good mood or making him feel special enough.
Slowly, it became the norm that I was the one making everything happen, or solve a problem, or pay a bill. I was constantly the provider and ended up paying for day to day costs and running of the house.
I also paid £25k for IVF for the child that I so desperately wanted, not to mention becoming a director of his business. I also had the mortgage, the cars, and anything that required a name and responsibility was put in my name which meant I also took on all that burden too.
During our time together, I became the fixer, giver, peacemaker. One thing I remember, which may sound insignificant was that I found it difficult to talk or have a conversation. I became tongue-tied. There was so much smoke and mirrors and *** and I never really communicated or I could express a feeling or opinion, it meant I couldn’t articulate anything concisely. I seemed confused in what was fact or what had actually happened that I couldn’t talk to anyone.
When our daughter was born I knew things were actually really bad, however, in a really odd way, even though he wasn’t great with me, he was quite good at showcasing our little girl and this gave me some respite from motherhood. I truly knew what it was to give and make a sacrifice and I was grateful for a partner (even a bad one). He was still her dad and felt dutybound to stay. I was also utterly exhausted for the first couple of years.
I gave up my successful job to become a stay at home mother and also to support *** while he pursued his career. All the while eating away at my savings and eventually, all my available credit too.
His apathy towards me was increasing, as was my personal debt. It became untenable I had no more available credit, and I could barely make the interest payments. *** career was flourishing and became a high earner himself and was putting money aside whilst I re-mortgaged the house. It was only when I felt I was in the trenches that I said I’d had enough.
That was February 2022. From that moment *** focus was to make sure I had nothing and that his daughter would live with him. This was the daughter I had 18 months of IVF and fought desperately to have, now I’m fighting desperately to keep. He put in demands, financial proposals which I didn’t agree to and then a spiral of threats and demands via a solicitor started – daily! Plus the divide and conquer tactics with our daughter.
I was so confused about what was a normal heathy relationship that I even had to question behaviour that was going on under my own roof. I literally thought I was going crazy.
I called a national help line and was directed to Atal y Fro (Now Vale Domestic Abuse Service). I called straight away and within minutes someone on the end of the line gave me the space and time to let me explain. How they understood me through my tears I’ll never know. I honestly thought I’d be dismissed but was invited to the centre where I was sitting less than an hour later.
I felt really uncomfortable explaining all the little details and thinking they must think I’m nuts discussing insignificant and petty events but they reassured me that this behaviour was not OK.
They gave me some very practical advice, like make sure you have yours and your child’s passport in your possession, keep a diary and also signposted me to helpful resources.
They also referred me to a Journey beyond abuse 8 week course. I’ve now completed that and anyone who knows me will attest to just how valuable I’ve found it.
Because the course was weekly, I could benchmark my journey and clearly see just how much stronger, confident and even go as far as to say accepting of my previous relationship. My first session I cried most of the morning and towards the end of the course I understood that all those little things that I thought were normal was in fact part of a bigger picture of coercive and controlling behaviour. What I found very interesting was how I played a part in the situation. Takers love to take from people who love to give.
I’ve learnt to put up boundaries and to protect myself. I can still be fair and giving but not to my own detriment
I have a friend who lives in Australia who had been telling me for ages to speak to Women’s Aid. I can’t tell you how many times I’d dismissed it and would say… I’m definitely someone who is not abused. I don’t look like a woman who is abused. There are women who really are in danger and I didn’t want to drain resources on my trivial situation. If it wasn’t for my concerns about the co-dependency that *** was trying to create with my daughter I wonder if I would have contacted them. I also wonder if I would have learnt anything and entered another relationship feeling that I had to keep giving to feel needed.
I wasn’t going to contact Atal y Fro because my abuse wasn’t physical.
Abuse is abuse no matter what form it takes and psychological torment is equally as harmful and affects every aspect of your life.
If you feel something is wrong, not quite right and you start to feel like you just don’t recognise yourself it’s probably not really a healthy relationship that is based on equality and trust. They are there to help and there’s absolutely no judgement, just lots of friendly helpful support – they’ve seen and heard it all.