As I often joke to a friend of mine, who has married and divorced 3 times by age 40, I only made the one mistake, but I made it in depth, over a couple of decades.
So, in reality, I’m quite clear about who I was married to; and I can say, with confidence, that he was one dubious pleasure that you have been spared.
Still, abused women often ask me: “Were you married to my husband?” because my abusive ex-husband sounds so much like their own abusive partner.
Now my husband was a physician and a cyclist, who sometimes abused alcohol, but did not have substance addictions of any kind. He was a bright, articulate Antipodean, and the child of two concentration camp survivors.
In terms of the facts, he may be very different from your own abusive partner. In terms of behaviour and temperament, I’m guessing he was quite similar.
He was controlling (although he could never be bothered to check up on me, as some abusive men do).
He was punitive and much given to sabotaging any good moments I enjoyed.
He hated women in general, and me in particular.
He seethed with a deep sense of not being good enough and put me down to make himself feel better; and he told me I would never find anyone as good as him again.
He was, as I have since found out, lousy at reading the future, and wrong in his predictions, but he was very persuasive, and much given to making dire prognostications – about my future, naturally.
He habitually used words to humiliate and hurt, but he could do quite a nice line in passive aggression also.
He flew into what appeared to be uncontrolled rages, but they were not. He was calculating enough not to overstep the limits he had set himself.
He was an obnoxious, damaging, destructive man, and when he thought he might have gone too far, he told he how much he loved me.
He told me that he loved me, but he did not act in ways that showed love, or suggested that my best interests mattered to him at all.
He was callous and complained consistently about how I hurt his feelings.
He withheld love and reproached me for being needy.
He was unappreciative of all that I did and told me endlessly how I disappointed him.
And I told myself, and the world that I loved him, that he was a good man really who had had a hard time.
He taught me that having had a hard time gave him the right to give me a hard time. (Curiously, I did not have the same right; not because having had a hard time doesn’t give anybody the right to give other people a hard time, but because my hard time never mattered. It was never as hard as his hard time etc etc.)
Does he sound familiar?
Abusive men are much more like one another than they are like anyone else.
They are not your fault.
We do them, and ourselves, no favours at all when we tolerate their bad behaviour. Like spoilt children, indulging them only allows them to become worse. But, as chronological adults, it is for them to take responsibility for their own behaviour; not us. No matter how much they may tell us that their bad behaviour is our fault, that doesn’t make it true.
We do ourselves no favour when we make excuses for them. Interestingly, we stop doing so when we realize that our partner is not so much a ‘tortured individual’ as an ill-tempered, immature – and torturing – clone.
I was never married to your husband, nor you to mine; happily for both of us. But we have both ‘been there, done that, and sported the same T-shirt’.
How wonderful that we can always make the decision not to be ‘fashion victims’ any longer.