A letter to … My partner, who abuses us

The letter you always wanted to write

It isn’t always clear when you meet people who will do you the most harm. Before you came in to my life, I had never been systematically bullied, abused or demeaned. I had led a life where I hadn’t even considered this a possibility. I was Oxbridge-educated, respected, with no thought that this might change.

One dreadful, foolish mistake changed all that. I trusted you with my life and my children’s lives. We have, as a result, been subjected to three years of attritional bullying and a series of incidents of abuse and fear of what you will do next.

We have lost our family home, despite your repeated promise that we would always have the house you bought to live in with us. That promise has, of course, been broken. It is now your house alone; you swear at me and threaten to throw us out.

I have tried to explain to you that what you do scares us, that shouting, swearing and threatening is abusive. Confronting your behaviour has, unfortunately, made it worse. You now have nothing to lose; as you said to me last week, it doesn’t matter what you do to us now because my friends hate you already. I try to talk to you, but your response is that women use fear as a weapon and that you are fed up with the “I’m so scared” argument.

Yes, it’s scary to lie in bed while you shout, swear and wave your arms in my face and scream at me about what I have done wrong.

Yes, it’s scary to see you swear at my disabled daughter, and have her cry and ask me not to follow her because it will only make things worse. Yes, it’s scary to be in a shop with you, paralysed with fear but be told I must keep walking. Yes, your unpredictability, temper and extreme need for control scare me.If I question your behaviour, you tighten the screw. You say that what I say is merely “my reality”. Can you not see that there is an objective truth? If someone is hit or raped, they are hit or raped – it isn’t just that their experience is of being hit or raped. The rapist’s “reality” does not negate the rape. When you shout, swear, bully and threaten, you shout, swear, bully and threaten. You are doing this, it is not just my subjective experience.

This sort of domestic violence can be hidden; there are no bruises to act as proof, but it damages, cruelly and by stealth. I have said to friends that, sometimes, I would rather you hit me, that you would then perhaps understand that what you do is wrong.

You try to convince me that the problem is with me, that what you do is reasonable, that my response (to be scared) is not. Have you really convinced yourself that this is my fault? That it is right to shout at me, as I drive, because I haven’t told you about a hairdresser’s appointment. That when you scream, shout, swear, throw things and break our possessions that, somehow, I made you do this?

How can you have so little empathy with, or sympathy for, others? How can you watch as those around you develop strategies to cope with your violent mood swings? How can you lie so blatantly and yet live with yourself? Is it really possible to have no conscience? I hope we have found a way out, because at the moment you are killing me.