Q:

I love him a lot but feel stupid that I do

Hi Jude, I have been in a relationship now with my boyfriend for almost four years. He has a terrible temper and snaps at any trivial problem such as no reception on his phone and will then throw things at the wall and raise his hand at me and tell me to shut up and f off if he is angry. In other instances when he is angry in general he sometimes turns it around on me and has said things to me like "you're a f-----g piece of s--t" "f--k off you stupid bitch" and if I say don't talk to me like that he will say "I can do whatever I f-----g like you piece of s--t" and he has strangled me briefly twice before, grabbed my wrists with force and raised his hands at me like he is going to hit me, but never actually has.

His temper always quickly subsides though and he is apologetic but always tries to make a joke out of it and deny that he actually hurt me or say that it was my fault cause I wound him up, or blame it on his short temper and that he had a bad day and took it out on me because I'm closest to him. He then tries to make a joke out of it and gets angry if I'm still upset about it because it's 'passed' and he tells me to get over it and stop dragging it on.

I don't know what to do... I love him a lot but feel stupid that I do. I know that none of my friend's boyfriends are like this, and I have never told any of them what he is like. They think he is a great guy and is really nice, because around everyone else he acts so sweet and kind, and usually is to me most of the time, but does frequently lose his temper and say and threaten nasty things to me almost every day. It usually only lasts a few minutes before he stops and then pretends it never happened. I don't know what to do because I don't want to leave him, but I know what he is doing isn't right. Please advise me on what I should do.


A:

Thank you for writing in and sharing what is happening for you. Please know I really do understand how difficult this must be for you. I admire you and respect you for having the courage to write in and share, well done. 

What your boyfriend is doing is abuse and is absolutely not acceptable on any level. Apologising afterwards, minimising his outbursts, denying it, making a joke of it, blaming you for it or blaming his short temper, having a bad day, taking it out on you because you are closest to him are all excuses - and unacceptable excuses. 

You are not to blame in any way, and you definitely do not deserve to be treated in this way ever. You deserve so much more than that. You deserve to be treated with kindness, and respect, and gentleness. Love is not abusive, love does not speak to you the way he does, love does not strangle you (however briefly) or raise his hands to you (even if he doesn't hit you,) love doesn't speak to you in a hurtful way.  

Unfortunately nothing will change if things are left as they are. So what does that mean? May I ask if you think your partner would be willing to accept that he has a problem, take responsibility for it and be accountable and get some help? If he is then that is the first step and we have seen many men do this and work very hard at restoring and rebuilding their relationships so that they can have a relationship of equality with their partners. There are many wonderful supports for men who are prepared to do this, there are counsellors who specialise in this area, groups that men can go to, and relationship counselling for couples but the big question is.... is he prepared to acknowledge and step up? He is the only one who can make this decision, he can't be forced to do anything, it has to come from him.

If he won't then it is a question of what are you prepared to do? You have said that you love him and don't want to leave him and I get that but please know that the more he gets away with using this behaviour, the more he will continue to use it and it will become more frequent and it has the potential to escalate. This is how it works, the more power and control a perpetrator gains over their victims the more he uses it. They learn that they can get away with it, that there are no consequences that affect them so why not?

The person who will suffer and who will be most affected is "you" and you have done nothing wrong. So..... may I suggest that you talk to a professional person like a counsellor. You have been through so much already and talking to someone will be able to help you work through it and look at what you need and how best to support you. If you would like to ring our information line on 0800 456 450 they will be able to advise you of agencies that offer this service. All you have to do is give them a call, share what is happening and they will advise you of where to from here which will start with them making an appointment for you to come in and see someone. I believe this is necessary for you, as trying to deal with this alone is not good, it's too big.

May I ask if there is anybody you trust who you could talk to and who will listen and believe you, help and support you? It's important that you are supported as what is happening to you is very hard to deal with on your own. If you won't consider leaving (and that is your choice) then may I suggest that you create a safety plan for yourself. This is a plan that if his behaviour starts to escalate so you feel threatened and scared then you have things in place that you can do immediately. Things like having a pre-arranged place to go to any time, day or night, without having to ask first, a place that you can just turn up. It's having some money put away for a taxi or having a spare set of car keys put away. It's having anything you need with you put in a safe place so that you can access it quickly and not have to worry about it at the time. It's all there, it's all arranged. This plan has been known to save women and children's lives so please consider putting one together.

The fact that your partner has strangled you briefly is of great concern and shows me the potential for this to become more serious. It could be that you consider temporarily leaving your partner until he gets some help and addresses these issues and when he can demonstrate that he has in fact changed, you can resume the relationship. Unfortunately a lot of us (myself included) don't give our partners the time to show us they've changed and show us that things will be different. We hear their "sorrys" and think that that is enough. If they want to save their relationships they will show it by doing whatever it takes. Often we go back too early and they then think they don't have to do anything because we're there.

I so need you to know you are so very precious and we don't want anything to happen to you so please think hard about what you are going to do but please whatever that choice do whatever you need to do to keep safe. Please also remember that you can call the Police on 111 at any time. This can often be a good thing as it can then prompt people into getting some help.

I will be thinking of you, please take care and if you need anything else please don't hesitate to write back in and I will help you in any way I can.

Jude

 

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