I usually use my blog for book reviews, but this is an important topic and I wanted to write about it, so here we are.
I was in a controlling relationship for 8 ½ years, though I didn’t realise it at the time. Some people tried to tell me, but I made excuses for him. I couldn’t see what was happening and it’s only recently – 3 ½ years after moving out – that I can see it for what it was.
There has been a lot about controlling or coercive behaviour in the News recently. One definition I found definitely sums up my experience –
- Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour
He wasn’t like it in the early stages of the relationship and we were very happy. But it all changed very gradually and all along, I believed it was okay. By the end of the relationship, I would often think I needed to write everything down to remember it all – The Book of Rules.
We had a joint bank account, but I never had a card or got any money out, I was given £20 a week pocket money. If I needed something more expensive, I had to argue my case with him. If, for example, I needed a new coat because it was damaged, he’d buy me a new coat. If, however, he decided I didn’t NEED one, I just WANTED one, then I’d have to save up for it out of my £20 a week.
He worked and I was a housewife and mother to our son. When he was on his way home from work, he’d message me his ETA and I was expected to have tea ready not long after he got in. I cooked from scratch Monday to Friday, then he’d cook one day and we’d go out to eat the other day.
I had a long list of vegetables he didn’t like, so I had to avoid them. He hated gravy, so my son and I couldn’t have it either, or he’d spend the whole meal complaining how disgusting it was we were eating gravy. I had to cook pasta his way – boil it, cover it, take it off the heat – not my way, which was just boil it on the heat until it’s cooked. Both ways work perfectly well, but if he came in and saw I was cooking pasta MY way, he’d take it off the heat to cook it HIS way and I’d get a lecture about doing it wrong.
There was a lot of control in the kitchen and around food and mealtimes. My son was only allowed to drink milk with breakfast and juice with tea, no variation. One time, my wrist gave way holding a heavy saucepan and the peas fell into the sink. He made me take all the peas out of the sink and still serve them for tea, I couldn’t throw them away.
I was told off if the cling film got messed up, I had to be careful not to use it the wrong way. I wasn’t allowed to throw away the toothpaste tube until he said it was completely empty. The rules kept coming and coming, new ones all the time. I mean, he never hit me, but he said I was stupid or never listened.
I used to enjoy watching Big Brother but he told me it was rubbish and I couldn’t watch it. Then he started on Casualty, Holby City, EastEnders, Coronation Street. I held firm on Strictly Come Dancing, but if he was there while I watched it, he would constantly heckle. We watched an episode of a TV series on DVD from 9pm to 10pm every night, unless he went to the pub. We then had to go to bed at 10pm.
If he went out to the pub, he would often join the lock-ins they had and be back at 2am. The only good thing about him going to the pub was that I could watch what I wanted to on TV, with no one complaining or judging me!
If I ever challenged him, he’d remind me it was his wages that paid the rent and I couldn’t cope without him. His favourite saying was “My way – or the highway!”
Our relationship ended in June 2019. He was staying out later at the pub and I dared to challenge him! One night, I’d had enough, he was still out at 2am and we had a relatively early morning coming up, so I knew he’d be tired and grumpy. I walked to the pub, where I could see the lock-in crowd through the window, so I knocked on the window and told him to come home. He did, but he was livid as I’d embarrassed him in front of his mates.
The next morning, he told me to ring my mum and he drove me and our son the hour or so to my Mum’s house. We had thrown a few things together – clothes, my son’s toys, etc. – and we moved into my mother’s house, where we still live. I had no bank account (He took my name off his), no photo ID, nothing. He did give me £500, so I didn’t starve. Our son and I have lived at Mum’s ever since.
He sees our son alternate weekends and he’s still controlling. After having our son for Fathers’ Day, Mothers’ Day and it’s his Christmas this year, I asked to have him with me for my birthday. He agreed, but added extra days on for Christmas, so my son went there on the 16th and doesn’t come home until the 27th December. If I complain about anything, he threatens to stop sending the money he sends for our son or he’ll threaten to go for custody.
He rings the school to see if my son has any days off, as he believes he should go to school regardless of what’s wrong with him. (My son calls him Doctor Dad, because it seems he knows everything about medicine despite being an electrician!) He complains about what I put in his pack up, what time I put our son to bed (He has an 8pm bedtime there, 10pm here – he’s nearly 11), that I don’t take him out enough – but when I suggested taking him away for a few days next year, he told me I couldn’t take him out of school. (As I don’t drive, we’d need a couple of days travelling on the train to get anywhere.) So he is still controlling, even from afar.
It has taken this long to even process everything, but I finally feel ready to write about it and maybe it’ll help someone. Perhaps you’ll look at your relationship and see similar traits in your partner. I hope not, but if you do, just beware and have a get out plan.
Someone said to me recently “Why on earth do you have such low self-esteem?” Hmmm, it’s a long story….