My family didn’t believe I was a domestic abuse victim because I’m a man

My family didn’t believe I was a domestic abuse victim because I’m a man

My ex-partner was nearly perfect on paper. Unlike me, she looked after herself physically and kept an immaculate home. 

Educated, funny, smart, she was truly a beautiful woman, at least on the outside.

But the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial reminded me of the truth about her that I hadn’t known before we wed in the early 2000s – her burning inner rage. 

The trial, and the coverage around it, brought back many harrowing memories of being in an abusive marriage.

My ex-partner called me a ‘c***’ on a regular basis, threw things at me and even occasionally hit me. 

I never did any of those things to her and I don’t want to go into fine detail because it is so painful to recall. 

But the psychological abuse was the worst aspect – she constantly broke me down so she could control me. 

And it seems as though control is the key to understanding the conflict between Depp and Heard.

Like them, my ex-partner and I got married after a whirlwind romance, there were little warning signs others picked up on but we were in love.

However, I got a full-blown dose of her temper for the first time a month into our marriage. I’d never witnessed anything like it before and haven’t from anyone else since. 

I felt like I had made a mistake and that feeling never went away.

No matter how beautiful she was at surface level, I never really wanted to have sex with her again after seeing that face contorted with rage.

Actually, I ceased to find her attractive at all, although outsiders continued to do so, and my previously shallow attitude to good looks has changed.

On the inside, I was dying

With the benefit of hindsight, she preyed upon my low self-esteem, which is rooted in childhood, and made me feel like I deserved the abuse. 

I’m quite expressive about my feelings compared to most men but there had been a macho part of me that didn’t want to reveal the depth of my despair, not even to close friends, for fear I would be regarded as a ‘wimp’.

And she shut down so many of my friendships, even jealous of those I had with other men. 

I wore it well, at family events, for example but on the inside, I was dying. 

I eventually had a major psychotic episode — which I believe she triggered — and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

I have to say she was supportive on a practical level when I was in and out of secure mental illness units for a few years in the late 2000s. 

And my immediate family’s narrative was always that she stood by me. I suppose I didn’t give them much reason to believe otherwise as I struggled to survive.

My own mum asked her: ‘Why are you staying with him?’

We did have some tough circumstances to deal with, especially being childless, although we eventually and thankfully got there about nine years ago

I thought she would settle down after our child was born. But she didn’t. She got worse, additionally taking on the mantle of being an overworked, unappreciated mother. 

And she weaponised our daughter. 

In fact, when I told her one evening about seven years ago that ‘I’ve had enough’, her immediate, shrieking response was: ‘Well, don’t think you’re going to get unsupervised access to our daughter.’ 

My biggest crime was trying to change my ex

Our 16 years together nearly killed me, but to my shock and dismay, my family took her side when I got out, leaving me with a sense of being framed for a crime I didn’t commit. 

Some of those family rifts will never fully heal, such as my sister not even being willing to listen to my side of the story while maintaining a close relationship with my ex-partner. 

Or my mother still believing she has the perfect daughter-in-law, although she at least respected my decision to leave.

You may be wondering how this relates to Johnny Depp’s victory – and I don’t want it to be a landmark ruling against women. Every case should be judged on its merits.

I’d go further and say it is a reasonable assumption to make that the majority of domestic abuse is inflicted by men on women. 

And if the truth be told, part of me would probably like to put my ex-partner through the wringer the way Depp did to Heard. 

However, I would never do that even if I had hundreds of millions of pounds and hundreds of millions of fans at my disposal, like him.

He would have hurt her career and reputation even if he’d technically lost the case. But I have a daughter with my ex-partner to consider.

Thank god Depp and Heard didn’t produce a child.

I don’t hesitate to hold my hands up and say I played my part in the marriage’s failure. But my biggest crime was simply trying to change my ex-partner.

I understand that ‘winning’ an argument is the wrong way to look at things but try ‘losing’ every time. Every single time. 

I’d always prided myself on my honesty until I was with her but I eventually gave lying a shot because there was no difference in her response, whether I told her falsehoods or the truth.

Not that I did much wrong.

I tried to solve our problems on my own. But that just led her to redouble her efforts to break me down. I was out of my depth. 

I’m still haunted by what she put me through

I once went to a Waterstones to buy a book on anger management hours after one of the many times my ex-partner inflicted her rage on me. 

The guy behind the counter briefly looked at me in the eyes and then craftily gave it to me without charging, perhaps sensing from my broken expression how much pain I was in. 

Then I found an article online about five years ago with the headline: How Emotionally Abusive Women Control You: The Fear of Loss and the Need for Approval.

It made perfect sense to me. And it wasn’t written by someone like Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson. It was written by a female professor.

That’s when I really began to understand that the histrionic behaviour was just a manifestation of my ex-partner’s control freakery.

How do you get such people to control their compulsion to control? I think she wants to control everything and everybody around her because she can’t control herself.

Years after leaving her, I’m still haunted by what she put me through and still puts me through to a degree, but I’m reassured I have somewhere to lick my wounds and heal nowadays. 

Earlier this year, I finally got through on the phone to a charity for male victims of domestic abuse and got two main things out of speaking to a female counsellor for two hours. 

The first was that my story is surprisingly common. The second was that, after many years of trying, they haven’t even begun to understand why these women do it.

Not reassuring thoughts but well worth knowing

It’s the type of talking therapy that helped me come to terms with it, and it’s also, as it happens, exactly what I’d recommend to both Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.

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