I didn’t recognise the signs of relationship abuse

He told me what to wear, who to be friends with and read my messages


I was 18 when entering upon my first serious relationship. We met at school, and it developed quickly. As we lived around three hours away from each other by train, we agreed to try our relationship long distance.

At first it was good and we managed to make it work by talking on Skype a lot. Sometimes we’d talk for five hours straight.

I enjoyed the ease of being able to balance seeing my friends when I wanted and seeing him on the occasional weekend, where we went out with friends to meals and even on holidays. Yet it soon came to light that he didn’t trust what I was doing while we were apart.

disneyland

We went to the happiest place on earth

One weekend when I went to visit I had popped round to a friend’s house to spend the afternoon with her while he went to the cinema with his friends. I’d mistakenly left my Facebook account logged in on his phone because he read all my messages, and accused me of “emotional cheating” with one of my friends, who happens to be guy.

He left the cinema immediately and came round to my friend’s house to get me. So angry he was spitting, he shouted at me to apologise. We were in a public place and people were staring at us. I felt so humiliated, like a child being scolded by a parent.

In the summer of 2011, we carried on long-distance, only he had moved to Asia for work.

I spent that summer with my friends in London, going out three to four nights a week. He decided that because I wouldn’t Skype him while I was out, that I was cheating on him.

He became extremely controlling. I had to promise not to go over a maximum of two drinks while out. He threw a Kanye, demanding that I got rid of my wardrobe of ‘provocative’ clothing so he could replace them with ones he deemed suitable.

faye1

To him, my friends were “bad influences” and he wanted me to distance myself from them. He deleted male friends of his choosing on my Facebook, threatening to break up with me if I didn’t let him.

The relationship was suffocating, I couldn’t be myself. I told him this and his response was that I clearly had serious mental issues and needed professional help.

At the time, I didn’t recognise this was relationship abuse, I thought that these were normal couple problems. I began to feel very isolated and low but I couldn’t see a way out.

paris

I told people I was happy, but I wasn’t at all

As much as he tried to “forbid” me, I went with a guy friend of mine to see The Inbetweeners at the cinema, I’d been wanting to see it for ages. I was given a flurry of rules: I wasn’t allowed to let my friend pay for the tickets, I wasn’t allowed to drink and I definitely wasn’t allowed to go to the pub with him afterwards. He even begged me not to wear shorts even though it was over 20 degrees outside.

I had one beer at the cinema and afterwards we went to the pub and got drunk off jugs of sangria. I’d never felt so rebellious.

I got home I had hundreds of messages, of an increasingly presumptuous nature, asking where I was and if I was back. He said he knew that I’d been ‘cheating’ and flung all sorts of offensive names at me.

After messaging him that I was disappointed with his lack of trust, I got no reply for hours. Biting the bullet I broke up with him via Whatsapp. I finally felt free.

The next morning he replied to the messages, trying to get me back. He justified the way he’d acted towards me using the phrase “crimes of passion”. Yet I couldn’t ignore that those 12 hours I’d spent out of the relationship were happier than I’d been in it.

It may seem blindingly obvious to someone viewing an abusive relationship from the outside that the affected person should leave, but it isn’t always that simple. My advice to anyone who thinks that they may be in an abusive relationship is to check out the Disrespect Nobody website. It explains what signs to look out for, and made me realise that what was happening was not acceptable.

My abuser occasionally tries to get in contact with me and asks to speak on Skype to catch up. Yet although I do believe people can change, I just can’t forgive the way he treated me.