Primed for Abuse by Adam H
My name is Adam, I’m 46 years old and I’m a survivor of verbal and emotional abuse, often referred to as coercive control. There is still significant stigma surrounding the topic of abuse. As a heterosexual man, being a victim/survivor of abuse I'm regularly confronted with questions like "how could a woman have abused you?" which is why I thought it important to share my story.
My real story started with my dysfunctional upbringing. My narcissistic father, my manipulative mother, my spoilt brother who never took responsibility for anything and my sister who was starved of love and sought it anywhere else she could. These people set the scene so that by the time I met my abuser I was ripe for her picking.
To the external world my father Pat appeared to be a driven and charismatic man. He was hard-working, intelligent and a pillar of the community. Yet as a Father he failed miserably. He abusive, mean and at times downright cruel. He regularly told me that I was worthless, lazy like my Mother and spoilt. His words would cut through my soul like jagged razor blades.
Everybody considered my mother Evelyn to be a devoted and nurturing Christian woman; a charade designed to hide the true dysfunction of our family. She would provoke my father and go out of her way to get him to lose control because he knew she hated that. This meant my father kept her at arm’s length and I became responsible for her. She used me as her pawn and If felt special.
My beautiful sister Claire could light up a room with her smile. She suffered tremendously at the hand of our dysfunction. I later found out she went to great lengths for attention and even let boys from the neighbourhood have their way with her at night. My younger brother was the apple of my father’s eye and could do no wrong. He knew this and acted accordingly.
I grew up with Christian teachings. However, my early instruction was far from holy. I was told not to love yourself, to be in service to others, put the needs of others above your own needs, you cannot be in a room alone with a woman and I was repeatedly shown pictures of aborted babies and were told that if you get a girl pregnant outside of wedlock that you will be as guilty and condemned to hell. These pictures haunted me for most of my life.
While at University I suffered from serious anxiety, depression and at times rage. There were days where I could barely get out of bed and I even considered committing suicide. I was at the lowest point in my life, just a year before graduating from my Bachelor’s degree, that I met her.
Stephanie made me feel like I was the most special person on earth. The attention and care were electrifying, especially at a time when I felt like I had hit rock bottom emotionally. Within a week of us dating she told me her housemates were harassing her so I agreed to let her move in. Within a month we were talking about marriage and our future together, within a year of meeting we were married. It was a whirlwind.
During this time, she told me horrible abusive stories about her family. However, when I finally meet her family, everyone was super excited to see each other. Her story did not add up. This should have been a warning flag, but I ignored it and I found myself wanting to protect her from her family.
Within 6 months of us meeting she began to call me names. She’d call me “house bi*ch”, degrade my masculinity and if I ever asked for help she’d ask me if I had gotten my period. I would ask her to stop but she turned my request against me. I was being oversensitive or taking my issues out on her. It was hard to keep up.
One day I come home from work and she had moved us to another apartment. I was upset as I lost my deposit and wasn’t consulted but decided to let it go. I was blinded by love and ignored the red flags.
Witnessing my family dynamic I did not want to have to put anyone through what I went through. Therefore I was always clear about not wanting to have children. I thought my wife shared the same views. Therefore I was extremely shocked when she told me she had stop taking her contraception and was pregnant. When expressing my shock, she accused me of not caring. When I started to get excited and involved she told me she’d abort the baby. This was a daily threat until it was too late. It felt like I was never allowed to be happy or excited about anything.
During this time we lived in a rural area, secluded from others. She would instruct me on how to care for our daughter and not allow me to use tools she didn’t approve of. She’d leave me alone with Hailey for days and forbid me to call anyone else but her. I ended up giving up on my friends and only associated with her family on limited occasions .
We moved a few years later as I couldn’t take the rural life. During this move she wanted us to buy a house we couldn’t afford. When I disagreed she started telling me, in graphic detail, how her stepsister’s boyfriend molested her at 5 years of age. She followed this by saying she had thoughts of doing the same thing to our two-year old daughter. I was very concerned tried to get her into counselling, but she refused. Instead she told me that buying the house she wanted would stop the thoughts. I ended up buying the house and doing everything she asked of me.
When our second daughter Mary arrived, our marriage seemed perfect. My wife was very loving and kind to our second daughter and showed a bit more caring towards her than Hailey. However, that bliss was short lived. She harassed me to achieve more at work. Eventually an opportunity popped up that would lead me to work remotely and I took it.
I spent three months away from her, only coming home on weekends. She called constantly for the first two months, telling me how much she missed me and how much trouble she was having with the kids. The calls would drench me in guilt. However in the last month her behaviour and demeanour changed. Upon my return I saw that she was full of energy - modelling a new haircut, new clothes and looking very perky.
Her sudden change in behaviour seemed odd. I noticed at work that she had become close to another co-worker. I asked her if there was anything going on and she accused me of being paranoid. But my gut instincts kept telling me otherwise. It didn’t take long before I discovered their affair. She suggested we seperate seeing as apparently I was at fault.
After a separation we filed for divorce. She wanted to seperate the girls and only take one of them. I offered her full custody but she wasn’t interested. In the end I took both girls to ensure they still had each other.
Since walking away from my abuser I have transformed my life. My road to recovery has been long and painful, but also rewarding. I learnt a lot along the way, especially on how to manage my anger in front of the girls. At first I was so focused on the girls that I forgot that I needed to work through my issues.
The real magic happened when I engaged in therapy. As a result I trained to become an Internal Family Therapist myself and am studying to become a Family and Marriage Counsellor. I am no longer an empath who is attracted to narcissists like a moth to a flame, but a person who understands their boundaries well and knows how to demand respect of them. I like to believe that my trauma and experience of narcissistic abuse will enable me to help others.