Mark's Domestic Abuse Story
Mark's domestic abuse story is clear and touching insight into the life of a male victim of domestic abuse, caught in snapshots of his abusive relationship which documents the link between domestic violence and mental illness. Elequent and touching, a must read.
Part 4: Caernarfon, Wales. June 2000.
The next chapter in this manual of how not to conduct your personal relationships is enlightening on two separate fronts. Firstly it reveals yet more of the depth of self loathing that my chosen partner had for herself and how it manifested itself in day to day activities in her life. It tells further of how her mind worked and in so doing what she considered to be normal requirements of her partner within a relationship. As I found out later in life when I had further girlfriends, her needs of me, most of which I interpreted through her bizarre behaviour were far outside the parameters of a regular relationship. Secondly, it demonstrates how she perceived the role of my mother to be threatening rather than supportive.
Never teach a family member or a partner to drive was some advice I'd heard not long after passing my own driving test some ten years previously. Sound words. Yet so far our life together had proven to me repeatedly that we conducted our relationship far outside the traditional boundaries of a young union.
There had only ever been one strong female character in my life, my mum. My dad had died some years previous to that fateful meeting with my future wife. My mother then rose to the challenge of being a single parent and successfully brought up two teenage boys through some very poignant moments in human development. She did this while grieving for her husband and also her own father who also passed away during the turbulent time span of my involvement with my problematic girlfriend.
"I can't believe that bitch wont put me on her insurance of her bloody car" she bellowed. "She's so selfish sat up there in her middle class ivory tower." My attempts at defending my mum's decision fell on deaf ears, particularly with regard to the practical insurance issues. However, any defence on my part was automatically interpreted as betrayal. So true to form, the coward of her making remained silent.
After having two driving lessons from a qualified instructor she had asked me to take her out in my mum's car on the occasional quiet evening to practice a few manoeuvres. At first I raised my concerns based upon the aforementioned advice that I had received regarding teaching loved ones to drive. I soon realised that her demons would see that as an unsupportive gesture. Inevitably, after the obligatory sulk, tears, deep self analysis and probing of my psyche, we took to the road.
This was a preamble to almost every decision that was made in our time together. Every question that she asked me had to be carefully considered before providing an answer. This usually meant opting for yes when reality and reason screamed no. This was applicable across the board, indeed within every aspect of our relationship. It was physically exhausting and mentally draining.
My Mum's Renault Clio sat outside her terraced house in which she lived with her
Mum. While she searched for some suitably flat soled shoes in which to drive,
I sat on the sofa adjacent to her mother who was intermittently chatting to me
while having one eye on the soaps. She was a lovely lady. A deep rasping Welsh
accent brought on through endless cigarettes and spending her entire life in the
country that was her home. She was in her mid sixties and had reached a point
in her life where, despite living with her high maintenance daughter, was actually
quite content. She had her routine. It centred around her sister, her other daughter's
children, her three sons who had flown the nest some years ago, the television,
shopping and menthol cigarettes. Incidentally, she informed me that should I ever
fancy a menthol cigarette, the nicest variety were actually ordinary Benson and
Hedges that had been placed in a packet of Superkings Menthol for a couple of
days. These eccentric ditties made her a very endearing woman. She was fully deserving
of the plateau of life satisfaction upon which she now sat. She had after all
raised a family in which an abusive husband had beaten her, hit her sons and attempted
improper sexual behaviour
Having found some satisfactory footwear, said youngest daughter came down the stairs, beckoned me and out we went to the car.
My mum and my girlfriend came from very different worlds. Although she had respect for her own mother, my girlfriend was very feminist and as she got older demanded individuality and independence within the home. The other male siblings and elder sister had demonstrated this independence and had flown the nest some years earlier. So to witness myself still living with my mum and holding no apparent plans to leave was difficult for her. She viewed my contentment at my domestic situation as a threat and saw my mum as a contender to my affections. Remarks about being in my early twenties and having the apron strings still firmly intact were often aired.
I got into the driving seat and we drove to an industrial estate approximately three miles outside the town. As we'd expected for a Thursday evening, it was deserted. The early evening summer sun cast a hazy glow across the bonnet as we turned into a cul de sac that was flanked on all sides by empty offices and parking areas. All was quiet except for the distant rumble of traffic. Hungry seagulls shrieked for the slim pickings of discarded sandwich wrappers that had once been in the hands of officious office staff some hours earlier. I parked the car at her request a few meters into the cul de sac to allow her to attempt the first manoeuvre which would be reversing around the corner.
Sat next to her in my mum's car was quite a thought provoking moment. For me this was a huge gesture of support towards her. I had gone behind my mother's back, acquired the car for a few hours and was now about to let my girlfriend drive it, albeit in a very solitary location, both without my mother's permission and valid insurance. I wanted her to appreciate this but I knew very well that any leading statements on my part would lead to another altercation over my mum.
Throughout our partnership, Mum had been a major source of discomfort for my future wife. Mum spoke to her as she would anyone else. She had no agenda or misgivings about my choice of girlfriend and happily accepted her into my life. However, my partners reality was a polar opposite. To her, my mother was a monopolising menace. I would sometimes suggest that this was impossible due to the relatively short amount of time that we as a couple spent with her. My girlfriend would then point out that all her meddling was done at arms length through significant behaviour, most of which I was not aware of. It all sounded far too calculated and premeditated. I knew my Mum was not capable of this and that these fears were all part of the larger picture that made up the damaged paranoid psyche of my future wife.
As the gulf between them widened, all the attempts made to narrow the precipice, some of which were actually instigated by my girlfriend, were generally foiled either by circumstance or deliberately. If a casual, 'accidental' meeting occurred, Mum would be her usual friendly, welcoming self but my girlfriend would be quiet, reserved and somehow politely make no effort whatsoever. Upon leaving the situation she would then dissect every single action and phrase from the encounter and choose to see negativity where there was none.
In order to establish a level playing field, there even followed an exchange of candid letters between the two with the hope of wiping the slate clean and starting again. In the eyes of myself and my Mum, the playing field was already level and there was nothing to be held accountable for. Nevertheless, Mum complied hoping that it would make my life easier. Once again though the extraordinary analytical abilities of a mind filled with self loathing, my spouse to be only allowed negativity to filter through. My mother was a silent army in a noisy war that burned viciously in my girlfriend's head. The physical reality confirmed that imagery in that Mum lived in our large family home in middle class suburbia and my future wife and her mother fought to keep above the bread line as town dwellers.
As I turned off the engine my thoughts regressed to a previous summer and the dreadful experience we had together in a car park in Anglesey. Fear started to rise within me as I realised that I was once again alone with her in a potentially volatile situation given the scenario. I didn't feel euphoric at the thought of impressing her with my knowledge and practical car driving ability. Other couples may rejoice in the ability to help and share one anothers needs in this way. I knew from sour experience that this was a one way ticket to yet another one way street beset on all sides with psychological landmines. My pulse quickened as I removed the key and handed it to her. As we both got out of our respective doors and exchanged positions I felt more like a nervous dog at a fireworks display rather than a supportive boyfriend in the role of authoritative instructor that she clearly expected.
She told me that all I needed to do was tell her where she was going wrong. She then said something that lead me to believe that this might actually not be so bad. She said that I was not to merely tell her what I thought she wanted to hear. Driving had safety issues and she had to be fully capable of executing every manoeuvre to a good and safe standard. She said that with this in mind, she would be better prepared to take some criticism and correction. What followed contradicted everything that she had just said and demolished all my hopes that we would be able to act normally as any other couple would in this situation.
She commenced reversing around the corner for the third time, and for the third successive attempt succeeded in mounting the pavement. I asked her if she would like to observe me doing it. We exchanged positions and I did it successfully first time. She then had a better attempt at it, followed by myself deliberately failing to execute the manoeuvre properly. I thought it might help her to see an experienced driver fail at something that the novice was just learning to master. Her sharp mind was not fooled. I was immediately accused of patronising her and despite my best efforts, could not convince her that I had made a genuine error. I desperately attempted to convey to her that I was only trying to help her feel better about herself and that my motives did not contain any malice. She yelled at me that she did not need me to lie to her to improve her driving skills. My defence was that it was not a lie and that I was merely coaxing a more relaxed performance from her as a result of her hopefully not feeling intimidated by my superior ability. She asked me not to second guess her and just drive honestly.
Second guessing her, however, had become second nature. It was necessary for our survival. I felt it was my role to be psychologically two steps ahead. Her life had been one trauma after another and I wanted with the best of intentions to ensure that the next few steps, the experiences that followed, be as positive and without incident as possible. In trying to pave the way with stones of contentment, it meant manipulating future possibilities to suit ourselves and in some cases telling lies to her. She had assumed a role upon myself as the white knight who had it within his power to deliver her from her life of misery and terrible circumstance. Her expectations were astronomically high. She had implanted the fear of failure within me, and that failure is measured by her own unhappiness. As she was a manic depressive, one can see that to some extent she had some administration over that unhappiness. Thus she also held some government over my ability to fail in my quest to make her a happy person. It was a no win situation for me. I would fail unless she conquered her depression.
Three point turns were next on the agenda. I knew from previous experience that she was quite confident with this and so suggested that she attempted a few more. Despite protesting she did two successfully and her mood lightened somewhat. We left the industrial estate and I drove to a disused coastal carpark. Again, it was reasonably quiet as it was approaching eight thirty. I thought that here would be a good place to practice some emergency stop procedures and test her on the highway code. The sun was very low and cast a orange comforting haze over the sea and the shadowy buildings opposite. This contrasted heavily with the tightening knot of worry and fear growing in my stomach. She leaned over to me, kissed my cheek and said she understood that I wanted her to succeed but thought that if I thought it necessary to lie in order to achieve that, then there were serious problems. I adopted my pathetic, apologetic state that I had assumed so many times before and set about leafing through the highway code for some questions to ask her.
Her ability to retain information was second to very few. She could therefore answer all highway code questions as if she had written the book herself. This relieved her mood somewhat. However, my previous attempts at conjuring some success for her through my own failure, through her reversing around a corner had lit the blue touch paper that was now smouldering malignantly. The seeds of worthlessness and failure had been sown and what was about to follow would be a very spectacular harvest.
"How come we're not doing reversing around corners anymore" she demanded. I looked up from the highway code book and replied asserting that she may build up a little confidence by demonstrating some manoeuvres that she was comfortable with. "There you go again," she simmered, "you're terrified at my reactions aren't you?" Silence from me. "AREN'T YOU??" I wimpered an apologetic yes. She continued and immediately altered the emphasis to incorporate my mother, "You and your bloody mother have got a lot to answer for. Both of you in cahoots, scheming to keep me subdued and quiet. Let's ignore the problem child until she goes away. Well it's you two that are the bloody problem, heads stuck in the sand, everything on plate." A major eruption was imminent. She had glazed over and a molten mist had descended. The furrow in her brow began at her temple and followed a deepening sweaty ravine to the bridge of her scarlet wet nose. She'd mentioned my Mum twice in the last half hour and I realized that a major assault on her was about to commence. Owing to the intensity of her anger and the speed at which it had risen, I felt a deep dread that something outside both of our frames of reference was about to happen.
The palm of her left hand repeatedly pummelled her forehead, she was incensed. Her crimson cheeks streamed with tears of undiluted hate. She was a bottomless chasm of resentment and it was that thought that ceased the rising panic within me. My emotionally terrorised mind allowed me a moment of clarity as I grasped at a reed of truth. The truth was that I could be anyone. This wasn't happening to me because I was a bad person. I was merely a vessel for her chagrin. This fleeting purity of thought that I had been granted was something that she experienced very rarely, if at all. The heavily traumatised chemically imbalanced brain that she had the misfortune of receiving instruction from was severely impaired and would not let clear balanced thoughts through. She had a neural sieve that effectively removed any pleasure and only allowed negativity through to her receptors.
"That letter that she wrote to me, it was nothing but a hollow apology" I still hadn't completely grasped what it was my Mum had to apologize for. Apparently it was not what she said but the way in which she had said it. More to the point, what had my Mum actually said? Damned if I could remember, infact it hardly seemed important now. "Sure, she said sorry and wrote a few nice things but I bet most of those were dictated by you." The deafening silence of my reply gently fanned the flames of her anger. This was of course the lesser of two evils because, had I verbally defended my mother's letter, it would be akin to splashing kerosine on the already well endowed inferno.
To attempt to explain the resentment that my girlfriend had to my mother and where its origins lie would stand alone as a novel on its own. How it had degenerated to letter writing and me bending double to try and placate both parties would fuel a psychotherapists day workshop for an entire term. With the advantage of a clear and uncluttered mind that hindsight can bring, once again logic dictates that it could have been anyone's mother on the receiving end this abuse. There was no single act perpetrated by my Mum that set my girlfriend off. It was the position of my mother within my life and the effect she had on the relationship dynamic of which one protagonist had a mental illness. The hate, mistrust and negativity was entirely one way. Any perceived negativity flowing from my mother to my future wife was born of her paranoid mind.
"She's mollicoddled you and the fact that you can't see it makes it even worse. I'm sick of the control you two have over me - I've had enough of it." She blistered onwards with her character assasination, "How dare she think a two page letter can put right three years of snubbing and looking down her middle class nose at me? The arrogant bitch." Once again, as a plethora of swirling responses swirled around my head, my mind focused on her use of the word control. How on earth could she feel as if she was the one being manipulated? It was us so called middle class, arrogant hollow shells that were the puppets. She was without doubt the puppet mistress. I had shamefully just heard myself agree with her concerning my mum's arrogance This distraught, inconsolable out of control mess was peversely utterly and completely in control over me.
I'd taken some mental and physical abuse from this woman but her next request put the fear of God into me. "Take me to your Mum's now. I want to have it out with her once and for all. I want to hear you defend me in front of her." Paralysed and panicking I floundered for something to say. No words were necessary because she hadn't finished. "Come on, drive you spineless bastard." With greasy palms and limbs with little motor function brought on by blind dread, I started the journey to my Mum's house. Pure guilt and sorrow filled me as I carried my volatile and unpredictable cargo to the house of my happy childhood. Every fibre of my being screamed at me to drive like a maniac to her house and dump her on the pavement yelling obscenities as I did so. Yet I continued. How was this happening? She was right, I was spineless. I was prepared to let her drop her warheads all over my loving family because I was terrified, mortified with fright of what the outcome would be should I not comply. She ordered me to drive faster, accusing me of yet more cowardice.
In an odd unexpected moment of lucidity she visibly calmed clasping both hands behind her neck. Conversely I felt an uncharacteristic welling of rage in my chest. There was nothing left to lose. My worst nightmare was about to happen. I could no longer hide my dreadful relationship from my family. She would probably obliterate my relationship with my loved ones and not hang around for the fallout. I felt an overwhelming urgency for the events to unravel quicker. I wanted to arrive at the naked exposed flaming core of her festering hate even faster. If this was going to happen, it would not all be on her terms. My family were going to be upset anyway so I figured I might as well let them see her in all her erupting glory.
I buried my foot to the floor and screamed at her. "Come on then you mad cow, let's let them see what I've had to put with for years." Mum's Clio raced along the road. She was taken aback at the uncertain balance of power and stared at me. Hot angry tears of self pity and rage streamed down my cheeks as I descended the gears and our speed grew. She took hold of the dashboard in both hands and asked me gently to stop. Her urgency and volume magnified as she realised that she no longer had control of the situation. "You're scaring me, stop the bloody car" she begged. We were about to go underneath a flyover and, seeing that the road ahead and behind was free of traffic, I set in motion ironically the manoeuvre that she had been practising less than an hour ago. While depressing the clutch I slammed on the brakes and the car screamed unwillingly to a messy halt leaving black rubber on the tarmac. She swore at me, opened her door and got out. "Piss off you psycho" I yelled and drove off leaving her underneath the flyover leaning on a bridge support.
A feeling of jubilation and victory washed over me. It was wonderful. I was no longer spineless. This was all too brief as I looked in the rear view mirror and saw her for what she actually was, a terribly psychologically disturbed girl. I felt pity, sorrow, helplessness and remorse. I braked again, she looked up and ran towards the car. We were both now stripped bare of any artifice. In a fleeting moment as she moved towards me, I imagined and could genuinely see a life with her in which she was a well and functioning person. We had got to rock bottom and everything from now on would be rosy. We could make each other happy. I was about to get out of the car and embrace her and finally end this cataclysmic row when I realised that her previous red mist was now an impenetrable fog. Like me, she had indeed been stripped bare and reached the bottom of her emotional well but her way back to the top was significantly different to mine. She launched herself at the car raining clenched fists down on the roof. Seeing that she was having little or no effect on the car, she calmly walked backwards and took a run at the passenger door. Her foot met the centre of the door squarely and it immediately buckled under the pressure. She repeated this five times. She then attacked the wing mirror and in the same manner and it crashed to the road.
Unexpectedly she then opened the passenger door and climbed inside sobbing. "Please just take me home", she murmured. I was unprepared for that request. I thought that I should be happy that the inevitable showdown at my Mother's house had been postponed but I had reached such a level of readiness and mental preparation that I could not hide my disappointment. However, as quickly as the adrenalin drug had taken me high, the comedown was equally as fast. As we were parked somewhat randomly, I realised that the I had to move the car so set in motion the short journey back to her mother's house. We travelled in complete silence, both exhausted from the events of the evening. I was relieved that my Mum had been spared an onslaught from her but was I obviously frightened of what came next. I felt that I had made a stand and finally demonstrated that I was not prepared to be a walkover, but what kind of relationship has to contend with what had just occurred? We arrived at her house and I hadn't even time to stop the engine before she had got out of the car and entered her house closing the door surprisingly calmly behind her.
I drove slowly and deliberately in the direction of home. Upon reaching the dual carraigeway that would take me to my village, the realisation dawned on me that I would somehow have to explain the damage to the vehicle. Reluctantly I continued along the dual carraigeway to the next town and sat in a deserted supermarket carpark. I realised that I was concocting lies to cover up her violence, I felt that I was justifying it. I was allowing it to continue. How on this earth had I got this psychologically entangled with this woman? How could I ever get out? Afterall, she had attempted suicide on the only previous occasion that I had tried to end the relationship. The answer was straight forward enough. I couldn't get out until it had ran it's course. If it ceased before it's natural conclusion, my feeling was that it may cause an event substantially more heinous than anything we had experienced thus far. I genuinely felt as though something was holding us together. A binding thread that was indeed getting thinner but would not snap until it was good and ready. One end of the thread was in my future wife's mind, twisted and contorted around her brain yet slowly unravelling to unveil a tranquil inner peace. The other end fastened inexplicably to myself. I simply was not equipped to absorb, process and then remedy her issues. I seemed to make them worse. We obviously still had a way to go, afterall, she was my future wife.
Part 5: Peterborough (coming soon)
In This Section:
Domestic Violence Stories
While the statistics quoted in this book can be misleading, there is a real need to recognise those men who are the victims in abusive relationships, and this book goes a long way to giving male victims of domestic violence a voice and the assurance that they too are deserving of help, support and understanding. Abuse, no matter who perpetrates it against whom, is wrong:
To order in the US: Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
To order in the UK: Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
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