In this week’s Ask Sally Column, Stephanie from London says her boyfriend is aggressive and controlling. She asks ‘is his behaviour showing signs of abuse?’
I’ve been with my boyfriend for four months, and problems started to surface within the first two weeks. He gets angry when I go on nights out, and won’t talk to me for two days after. He’s told me that he doesn’t like the idea of me going to clubs or bars, and next time I need to ask him if he’s okay with it first. He even gave me a curfew of what time I should be home by.
He kept asking ‘where is he’, implying that I was hiding another man somewhere
I agreed to ask him before making plans. However, when it comes to asking him he immediately gets angry, and he says that if I go out it does not show him respect and violates his trust.
I started to feel anxious all the time so now I avoid making plans. He’s developed a strong desire to need to know where I am, and what I’m doing all the time. We had an argument because I took seven hours to respond to a text and he told me that I should always text back within two minutes, even if I’m busy he says I should still text back to tell him why I can’t reply.
One time he called me eight times at 11pm, telling me that he was coming to my house. Shocked, I said it was too late and I didn’t want him to come. But he said that he needed to talk face to face and was coming over whether I liked it or not. It was completely unexpected since we had been texting that day and everything seemed normal.
He demanded to see my phone, and when I refused he punched an electric box
The first thing he did when he arrived was un-zip my jacket to see what I was wearing. Then he demanded to know where I had been all day. He also kept asking ‘where is he’, implying that I was hiding another man somewhere. He demanded to see my phone, and when I refused he punched an electric box and stormed off.
I feel suppressed, and constantly on edge. He’s told me that I’m all he has, his family live in Turkey, and the only friend he has here is his roommate. I feel guilty about not wanting to spend time with him. Even though it’s only been four months he’s told me that he loves me and he wants us to move in together. But is this relationship going to turn abusive?
Stephanie, 26, London
The week that I received your email was also the same week that news reports came out about the death of Laura Davies, the 21-year-old woman who was killed by her jealous ex-boyfriend, Jordan Taylor. The court heard how just before she died, Laura had ended the relationship because of her boyfriend’s controlling behaviour. He didn’t like her going out and dictated what she could wear. Within a few weeks of them getting together, Laura changed, becoming quiet and withdrawn. Taylor stabbed her to death eight months after they met.
You are in a relationship with a controlling, jealous, unstable, violent, angry man, and every time you are alone with him, you are potentially putting your life in danger
I’m not trying to scare you, but I do want you to wake up and realise the seriousness of the situation you are in. You are in a relationship with a controlling, jealous, unstable, violent, angry man, and every time you are alone with him, you are potentially putting your life in danger. If you’re not convinced, fill in the relationship questionnaire on the government’s website, thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk.
What you don’t say in your letter is what you get out of staying in this relationship, despite problems surfacing within the first two weeks. I’m filling in the gaps here, but I’m imagining that on good days, he can be passionate and attentive, making you feel special and very wanted. He has already told you he loves you and wants to move in together. You probably have good sex. He’s also managed to make you feel responsible for his happiness, because he has ‘no-one’ other than his flatmate.
He is using anger and bullying to control you
You ask if the relationship is going to turn abusive. Stephanie, the relationship already is abusive. He is using anger and bullying to control you, and it’s working – you feel ‘constantly on edge’ and avoid making plans to go out. He is subtly undermining your self-esteem. He justifies his anger by saying you’re not showing him respect and are violating his trust, when the truth is, that is exactly what he is doing to you. He doesn’t trust you and doesn’t treat you with respect. He will use the same reasons when he takes his abuse to the next level, and directs his violence towards you. It won’t be long.
There are only two options at this point Stephanie. You end the relationship right now, and cut off all contact with your boyfriend (more on this later). Your second option is to stay in the relationship, and modify your behaviour so that you don’t make your boyfriend angry. That will mean never going out socially without him, and cutting off contact with your friends. Soon, that will also include family, after they express their worries about your relationship and the way you have changed. Before long, there will also be rules about who you can and can’t talk to at work. When you fail to follow a rule properly, it will be your fault that he’s angry. In between abusive episodes, he will tell you that no-one loves you like he does, and that you need each other. By this time, you will feel so isolated and confused that you will believe him. You will become convinced that everything would be OK, if only you could work out how not to make him angry. But what makes him angry will change all the time, and you will never be able to predict how he will react.
I would also suggest you seek some counselling to help you process what has happened
I said you have two options, but we both know that you actually only have one. You need to end this relationship swiftly and safely. First, you need to tell someone you can trust what is happening, in as much detail as you can. I would also urge you to report what has happened so far to the police, and apply for a restraining order. His behaviour already constitutes harassment (the phone calls, late night visits, damage to your property). You will be taken seriously and it could save your life.
Decide when you are going to end the relationship but only do so in a public place, where you have previously arranged for a friend to be waiting (preferably one he won’t recognise). Keep the meeting short, and do not leave with him, whatever he says. I would also urge you to consider staying with friends or family for a few weeks afterwards, and avoid being alone in public.
Do not take his calls, no matter how many times he rings or texts
Do not take his calls, no matter how many times he rings or texts, and tells you that he is heartbroken, and going to kill himself if you don’t meet with him. If you know this will be hard for you, then consider changing your mobile number. If you already have a restraining order on him, this is the point you call the police.
seek some counselling to ensure that your experience with this violent and manipulative man does not cast a shadow over your future relationships
When the dust has settled, I would also suggest you seek some counselling to help you process what has happened, and ensure that your encounter with this violent and manipulative man does not cast its shadow over your future relationships, and stop you from meeting the kind, respectful, emotionally stable, supportive man that you deserve.
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Sally Brown, is Healthista’s resident therapist and agony aunt. She loves finding out what makes people tick and will winkle out your life story if you sit next to her at a dinner party. She feels lucky to make a living from hearing those stories, and helping people make sense of their lives and reach their true potential. Registered with the British Association of Counselors and Psychotherapists, which means she has the qualifications and experience to work safely and effectively, she also writes about emotional and psychological health for the national press. Find out more at therapythatworks.co.uk.