I always felt there was something wrong with a previous relationship.
I was right – it was emotionally abusive.
Only I didn’t realise it at the time.
I thought it was me that was setting the relationship all skew whiff – I was blamed enough times to believe it.
But my friends knew something was off.
Friends are good like that. They can tell when a relationship isn’t what it should be. They can see through the charm and the boyish good looks to the character underneath when you’re caught in the spell and can’t see the wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing.
Some friends would make the odd comment here or there. I ignored most of them. Defended him. Thought they didn’t know what they were talking about. Believed they had the wrong end of the stick.
I mean, as I said to one friend, it’s perfectly normal to pay the majority of the household bills, food and rent plus flights for holidays and evenings out because he doesn’t get paid much. It’s what a good girlfriend would do when their partner is struggling to find work.
She looked at me and told me straight up it was wrong – especially when he didn’t pay rent and didn’t seem to make much effort to find work. It’s been five years; he’s using you, she said.
Don’t be ridiculous, was my response. He’s promised to pay me back for that holiday.
He didn’t though. I asked him numerous times but it was always: “I can’t pay the lump sum – it would be easier to pay smaller amounts” or “I don’t have the money at the moment – I’ve got the car insurance to pay” or “Now isn’t the right time” or “Stop nagging me”.
I’m sure he had no intention to pay me back.
My friend wasn’t the only friend that sensed the relationship wasn’t right.
Another shocked me with her comments after I told her I had broken up with him.
“He always gave me the impression that he didn’t like being told what to do by a woman, that he had to be in control,” she said perceptively. “He gave me the impression he would do anything to make sure a woman didn’t have the upper hand, even if it meant being horrible.”
It was scary how spot-on accurate she was.
Another told me of a time at a party when she witnessed him being unreasonable about when we should leave. “No one should treat their girlfriend like that,” she said. And another friend remembered things I had said from the early days of the relationship. “I could never see why you got together with him. You always seemed to be arguing. I always thought there was something weird about him.”
I never saw it for what it was but friends can tell.
Maybe if my friends and I had been more aware of the tell-tail signs and we knew how to approach and discuss it, I wouldn’t have stayed so long or borne the psychological scars.
This campaign educates and empowers young people to spot abuse in relationships and support their friends. The aim is to de-normalise the controlling behaviours that many people – myself included – believe to be normal in a relationship.
Every year, more than two million people in the UK experience domestic abuse. We can help.
I’m currently sailing around Great Britain with my new and amazing partner, fundraising for SafeLives. Your donation will help go towards raising awareness of domestic abuse and providing valuable resources such as the #FriendsCanTell campaign.
If you want to end domestic abuse, then please donate here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/markandkatrina .