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Danu

Bad from the start

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Danu

My DV counsellor asked me why I had become involved with H, why I had not left him when he started applying control.

I've thought about it and there are all sorts of reasons that I think are split equally between FOO and socialisation by wider society.

I had a happy childhood. I always felt loved and safe. My parents both sometimes used physical punishment; slaps and thumps with a "rod". I thought even then that they were wrong to hurt us but I made allowances for my mum especially. She was often harried, she had 6 children and the 1st 4 of us were born close together. Both my parents had good close relationships with their families but both had been hit as children. Most people I knew were hit now and then by their parents, it was the norm in rural Catholic Ireland in those days. I knew they loved me, they were very warm and expressive of their love and though money was tight it was well managed. I forgive them their failures; they were doing their best given the resources and information they had available about raising children. My dad has said since that he was wrong to have hit us back then. Their last 2 children, born after a 4 year gap, were very rarely even lightly smacked. My parents knew by then they didn't have to resort to hurting someone to discipline them.

Neither parent drank, both were religious. Our house was always spotless and we ate good home cooked food. My parents adored each other and didn't argue. Though we were a loud, boisterous family they never raised their voices to each other. My dad never made my mum feel small- I know that. He worked hard out of the home and she worked hard at home. But he was far more hands-on in the home that other men around us. He cooked and cleaned at weekends and did all home repairs. When he was laid off from his job my mum went to work in a school kitchen and he stayed at home with my little brother and they remodelled the attic into 2 more bedrooms. He went out again and opened a business fitting kitchens and after a few years when it was no longer working out, took over a flower shop. When Mum was sick he was the most supportive husband a woman could ask for. I was 17 when she was diagnosed with cancer and I took on as much as I could to make things easier for everyone. MY brother had gone to university by then and I was the eldest child at home. I had always sort of acted like the eldest, been the most helpful, always trying to ease Mum's burden.

My parents always trusted me and I was allowed quite a lot of freedom to go out when I was in my last 2 years at school. I was very sensible anyway, didn't drink at all and aften was the one left looking after drunk friends ad making sure everyone got home safely. I had boyfriends but nothing serious. I saw other girls fall deeply in love and couldn't relate; I wasn't going to get tied down to some boy from home, I was going to go away at the first opportunity and do better things. I used to get a bit pissed off when I heard too many times that I was intelligent (as opposed to hot I suppose), as if it was as rare as a cat knitting. My parents had left school without qualifications; Dad left when he was 12. But both supported my ambitions. I'd been a clever pupil, got into grammar school and did well enough in my exams to go to a good university in London. I loved the city but missed home. I worried about Mum and her sickness and the difficulties she faced from my brothers, 2 of whom were rebellious and difficult as teenagers. I didn't date anyone at university; I was terrified of these guys! All the people I met slept with their partners and I wasn't close to ready for that. I spent the summer after my 2nd year in the USA with a friend I'd made in London and her family, working in a restaurant. I travelled then on a tour bus around the country with a crowd of folk and fell for a charming and incredibly handsome man whom I couldn't believe fancied me. I had this wonderful whirlwind holiday romance, a few lovely physical experiences and felt fantastic about it all. It felt like I'd grown up.

Back at university my friends were delighted I'd enjoyed this lovely time. I was 20 and finally feeling a bit more ready to deal with London life. I met H weeks after returning from the US. He became a good friend. We lived 2 doors apart in dorms and spent long evenings talking about life and family and real things. He was funny, sweet, attentive, interested. He was an academic high flier, winning prizes for his work and one of the top students in his class of medical students. He had big ambitions. His parents were immigrants and he was one of the few people of Afro-Caribbean background at university. He told me about his brother who died when he was 20. He felt a deep need to prove himself, to succeed for both of them and to prove to society that people of his racial background could do well.

I was smitten. Again I couldn't believe that he picked me to befriend. He said he loved my feistyness, my deep connection to family and my faith (which I no longer have.)

He was dating a girl but clearly didn't really like her. He talked badly about her, made out that she was only with him as her family saw him as a prize- future doctor and all. He kept telling me that she didn't like me, was threatened by me. I was flattered. Then one night after we'd been friends for almost 3 months we talked for hours late into the night. He wanted to tell me something but couldn't. SO he wrote on a piece of paper, "do you think I fancy you?" I assured him that I didn't, that I knew we were just friends, but he told me that he did. I was a bit flustered. I liked him and really would have loved to go out with him but knew he was involved already. I told him "thanks for the interesting conversation" and left.

Soon after I had a note put under my door. It was a multiple choice questionnaire about our recent "interesting conversation" and asked me to access my reaction. It was funny and sweet and oh so nerdy, just like him. Before long he had split from his girlfriend and we started going out. Right from the start our relationship was sexual. I was deliriously happy and all my friends thought it was fantastic too.

After 4 weeks together we had our 1st row. We were out at a restaurant with a crowd for my friend's 21st birthday. He refused to tip, which was not then and still isn't so ingrained as it is in the USA and other places. I said that tipping was the right thing to do, that I'd appreciated tips when I was a waiter. He scoffed and said that was different. I called him tight. He pouted and was very offended. He kept on about my huge faux pas for ages afterwards; I mean how dare I call him such a name. I apologised and grovelled. I thought I must have gotten it wrong or he wouldn't be so offended.

I was also starting to get a better insight into the depth of his anger at the world. Whereas he'd been so light-hearted before, almost bumbling, I saw his hurt and dissatisfaction. I knew that a lot of it was justified. He'd experienced something I knew nothing of, growing up black in a frankly racist society. I tried to keep an open mind and started to educate myself about these issues a bit so I'd understand better. I felt guilty that what I'd starting calling (to myself only) his "chip on his shoulder" was a phrase often used by white people to denigrate POC's valid concerns. He was able to use my desire to be understanding and decent against me often by portraying me as being like the racists when I stood against him. I didn't see this as the horrible manipulation it was. I was trying too hard to do the right thing.

6 weeks together I told him I loved him and I did. There was such depth to him, so much more than the geeky, good looking funny guy. I knew I could love him and be the one to make him feel good again, that he'd have me in his corner always, have me as his family, that'd he'd hear and know he was loved.

Right away he started to control me. I was often in tears as he'd make me feel so confused. I knew he loved me but couldn't seem to make him understand that he hurt me. He told me I cried too easily, "emotionally labile". I am very emotional and do cry easily at sad films or when I'm very touched. But this was different. I was hurting but not sure why. No one had ever made me feel like that but instead of realising it was wrong and leaving, I read it as further evidence of the passion and love we shared, the deep feelings he aroused, the pain he felt and my need to be there for him.

He started to guide my choices for the next year after my degree. I had planned to do teacher training and eventually go home to Ireland to be close to my sick mum. He worked hard to convince me to do a PhD so I tried to get funding and failed so felt very depressed. After my exams we spent the summer in a shared room which was alternately delightful and horrible. I still didn't see how messed up this was, I was just too enmeshed. I managed to get a funded PhD place in a university 100 miles from London. I moved there and he left to work for 3 months in the USA and Canada as part of his training. That was awful. We wrote often and called each other. I was lonely and miserable away from home and friends. I was worried about my mum who was sicker than ever and really low herself. H used this time to totally mess me up about the innocent fling I'd had before I'd met him, implied I'd been a slut as it had taken him months to get so close to me but this guy had managed it in a week. He said over and over that I'd cheat on him with the guys I was studying with and I spent too much time and energy reassuring him. It was exhausting and soul destroying. He was in my head all the time and I longed for his return. His letters also contained some of the most romantic and beautiful passages. He showed concern for me and my worries, especially about Mum. Oh I forgot to say, my parents and extended family both liked him a lot. He was always so decent around them and they all made him so welcome when he came over to my home.

When he came back we carried on a long distance relationship for 4 years. He destroyed any sense of pleasure I might have had about my USA fling making me twist the story so that I was telling him I'd been virtually raped to explain away my lack of probity. It didn't occur to me that this was twisted and evil and that I should run for the hills. I had invested so much emotional energy into this that I felt I had to keep on. I never once thought of leaving him, I thought it was the love of my life and we both talked often about our great and growing love. No other man I met compared to him, they were less intelligent and interesting, they were mere shadows compared to this sun around which I revolved.

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OK, I didn't know I had all this in me so maybe I'll continue the rest later.

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maggiez

Excellent writing Danu.

Wonderful clarity, thanks for sharing.

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Thorium

yes i agree excellent writting.

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NotWhatIExpected

As the others have said, amazing writing. My heart goes out to you, and parts of your story have resonated strongly with me. Please keep writing, when you feel up to it ((((HUGS))))

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Danu

Thanks for your encouragement. I will get more down when I've time again.

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