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Coercive controlling partner. Wanting out
I have been deliberating for a number of months about writing a post on here and I’ve gotten to the stage in my relationship that I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
Cutting a long-story short, I’ve been with my partner for 6 years now and I’ve been wanting to leave for 3. The problem is, I constantly feel trapped and fearful of my partner because she is emotionally abusive. I know she is and I know what she is doing, yet I just can’t seem to get out.
I’m naturally a very passive ‘go with the flow’ type of guy whereas she is very assertive, and I think it has created an unhealthy balance of power within the relationship that’s just festered for years. I don’t deal well with conflict, going silent in arguments and giving unhelpful “I don’t know what to say” responses. I know that’s a big issue and I want to and need to work on that, but it’s difficult when my partner sits on a hair trigger to go from 0 to 100 aggression, which is further exacerbated by her poorly managed anxiety.
There’s a lot of other things that come in such as her codependence, not having any friends or social supports and because of that I’m her only friend and have to do everything with her.. and even then I get made to feel guilty if I want to do something that doesn’t involve her. It’s gotten to the stage where she manipulates me through my fear of her anger and all the guilt she piles up on me for how she feels, for her mood swings, her body image, her self-esteem, her lack of friends.. the list goes on. It’s always my fault and I’m constantly apologizing for everything to try smooth things over- did I mention I don’t like conflict? I don’t even bother arguing any more because I’m never right and she twists my words and makes me admit I’m wrong and I’m sorry for what I’ve done to her.
It’s gotten to the stage where she’s pushing me to buy a house and I’m terrified of being stuck with that commitment over my head. I know there’s going to be a big argument later this week / this weekend.
I guess I just need some advice on how I can end this.. I've tried relationship counselling twice- failed. I’ve tried writing letters, I’ve tried literally packing a bag and leaving but her phone calls and messages manipulate me into always coming back… I’ve tried turning off my phone but the guilt always gets the better of me. I’m just trapped in a never ending cycle of control, guilt, fear and absolute misery.
Any suggestions or would be much appreciated.
Welcome to the forums, and thank you for sharing this here. We’re really sorry to hear what you’re going through.
In a healthy relationship, you should be communicated with and treated with respect, so it might be worth having a look at the 1800Respect pages on healthy relationships. If you'd like to reach out to 1800Respect to talk about coercive control, they're on 1800 737 732, or you can reach them on online chat, here. You could also speak to Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277. They also have some great advice on their pages, such as this one on communication in relationships.
It sounds like it's really having an impact on how you're feeling day to day, so please know that there’s always someone here for you to talk it through with. The Beyond Blue counsellors are available 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or online, here between 11am-midnight... It's really important to be kind to yourself through this, so there's some tips for practicing self-care here.
We’re sure our warm and kind community will spot your post soon, some of whom may be able to relate to what you’re going through. Thank you again for your courage and strength in sharing your story here.
I hear so much of myself in your words, it really took me back to that place. I was in a domestic violence relationship for over a decade, like most it started off as amazing at first, before the control and coercive behaviors crept in, and then once I had realised what I was in it felt too late. I stayed many years beyond when I was happy, because I loved him, because it was “easier”, because I was too weakened from all the fighting and just didn’t want any more conflict. But it definitely wasn’t easier. Until one day I just couldn’t take any more, couldn’t take any more of being made to question my reality, always the cause for their explosions, someone who completely disregarded my opinions, who wanted to always be with me but then constantly angry/irritable. So I packed up and I left when he was at work. I basically left everything behind, but I didn’t care because I was finally free. I had spent years saying I was unhappy and the response was “if you don’t like it leave” so I felt like there wasn’t going to be a fair discussion anyway. For so many years I had felt trapped, had been told that I’d never survive on my own that I’d grown to believe it. But I felt a 2tonne weight lifted off my shoulders when I left, that you can physically feel that relief tells me that I was right. A partner should never suck your energy, they are meant to love and support you, if they do then they are a parasite. You know what you need to do, you just need a few hours of insane courage to get it done 🙂
This is a hard situation. The dynamics sound eerily similar to my last relationship. Like you, I'm a pretty easy-going person, agreeable. I'm not assertive enough, and I tend to struggle to say 'no' to people. To keep the peace in my relationship, I tended to be a people-pleaser - primarily to keep the peace and prevent conflict.
My ex was emotionally and verbally abusive, physically on one or two occasions. Like your partner, she has no friends, and even her relationship with family is strained and mostly non-existent. While she wasn't ever formally diagnosed as such, based on what I relayed to my psychologist, they suggested she may be a covert-malignant narcissist. She used to have a twinkle in her eye when she was abusing me, she actually enjoyed it.
I was with my ex for 5 1/2 years and I left almost 9 months ago now. That 5 1/2 years was horrific looking back.
The process of leaving took a couple years. Initially I though I was the problem, that I was the reason why she was so unhappy. It was only when my psychologist pointed me in the direction of narcissism things started to make sense.
As horrible as it sounds, I went 'no contact' with my ex. The mind games and abuse escalated to a point where I was fearful of my own safety. I told her politely there's no way forwards with this relationship and I have to break up with her. I left, and stayed with my mum for the next two weeks. I had to change my mobile number, change the locks on the house, block her from everything. It felt horrible doing that to someone I still cared about. She tried every trick in the book to get me back including confronting me at work, trying to get in my house... it was very scary. It did calm down after a few months but it was an ordeal in itself.
I still experience a certain amount of guilt about going no contact like that, however I found it's the only way to avoid being 'hoovered' (guilt-tripped) into coming back. It feels brutal beyond words, but in my case, it was the only way. There was no other way out for me.
Strangely occasionally miss her, which is crazy, but that's the trauma bond in effect. I fear some people are born with the 'empathy' part of their psyche missing.
I hope this helps
I just wanted to say that you did the right thing, no contact may sound harsh to other people but it’s often the only way to deal with DV abusers. All they are interested in is twisting your words around and beating you down further so you stay, they don’t genuinely care about you. I had to leave when my partner was at work because I knew all that would happen is that I’d get talked back into it and then I’d be in the same situation but two years, five years, ten years down the line. Cloudnine, it’s something you may need to consider with your partner too.
Hello CloudNine, thanks for coming to the forums and appreciate the situation you're in.
Any relationship like this is not going to achieve anything worthwhile for your own sake, especially when emotional abuse is controlling whatever you want to do and will not create any happiness for you.
If she wants to purchase a house, it will be a commitment you have to fulfil every week and you may not have any say in how to renovate it, if this needs to be done and to be able to get out of this, only makes it much harder, but there doesn't need to be any argument, if you decide you need to leave.
If this does happen then change your sim card, block her email address and move to somewhere you feel safe.
I can't tell you what to do, but can I suggest that this relationship is not the type of love you're searching for.
You need to be strong enough to make this decision and I feel that's what you want to do, there will be another person who shows you that they love you for what you are.
Thank you for sharing what you are experiencing. I am new to the forum, but I just wanted to offer my support. It sounds like you have been thinking in great depth about your future, and I truly hope that you are safe. A partner is someone who should support you and show love to you. Take care - Ash
Dear Cloudnine, I read your post on another thread & found yours.
I'm out now.
Yes you need to leave. You know this. You can call 1800RESPECT to get some ongoing phone support to leave. They're AWESOME.
You're becoming more and more "trapped" by the recent one sided Engagement.
Buying a house? She'll "organise" this. Be careful.
By "Statistics" (wildly underestimated IME) it takes a victim an average of 17 times trying to leave an abusive partner before they leave for good. Some victims don't get the opportunity to leave.
I prob tried 17 times in a MONTH. Over 20y.
The abuse was "under cover" at the beginning or without my understanding of the patterns of abuse, much like yours. There are covert ways the abuser gets in to control every single aspect of the victim's life. I can't explain "every single aspect" of my experiences, it would take Volumes.
Having children and "my" property, it took 5 years to fight for our freedom through many different Courts. This was HELL on wheels. The psychopathic narcissist even went for Palimony. He said he would never let me divorce him. He tried his best!
I did better.
Don't be me.
You need a plan to "get your ducks in a row" to leave. If you want to discuss your plan here, PLEASE DO.
Developing your plan needs time and support. 1800RESPECT will give you support the whole way.
You have us here too, all the way, forever if you like!
Bestest wishes from the bottom of my heart
I would like to recommend a podcast. Love and abuse by Paul Colaianni. He talks a lot about toxic relationships. I like him because he very common sense, how a relationship should be, etc.
Most people need several attempts to get out...
You recognize that you have to change. Working on assertiveness, self confidence, etc. is never a waste of time.
Where is your anger? She treats you unfair. Not the aggressive, destructive, hurtful one, but the one to defend yourself? Often anger is seen as negative. It is useful in a controlled way.
Why are you afraid of her? Worst thing , she is leaving... Nothing to be afraid off. I know it is the hope that the old good times come back... sorry it will not happen.
You take the responsibility for so many things that do not belong to you.
- No friends? Maybe she behaves like that nobody wants to be her friend?
- Mood swings? If she is moody, unfriendly to you. Tell her that you do not accept that and remove yourself.
- Body image? It's her body, not yours. You didn't tell her to eat too much or make bad choices.
I know they twist everything, even reality. Look at the relationship from a 3rd person's view to see it more objective.
BTW, if she is nice, lovely, etc. which can happen at times and she hooks you again, it's because she wants something. Do not commit to that house.
Did you do that counseling alone or with her? Better do that alone. BTW, do not mention to her that she is maybe this or that (toxic, narcissistic, etc.) and hide this research from her. It will give her another excuse and/or further ammunition... because otherwise another guilt trip is waiting.... How could you talk to someone? Why you didn't talk to me? You compromised possibly my privacy..
What you experience is called trauma bond. Maybe have a look at Alan Robarge (youtube).