Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following story about psychological abuse and coercive control from a reader whom we’ll call Abigal21. Names and locations are changed.
So, it was 2013, I met up with my friend for her birthday, she had invited her ‘friend’ a guy she sort of used to see. She said, can you hang out with David because he doesn’t know anyone here and it’s awkward because I am with my boyfriend … I said okay I guess …… I wasn’t in the best state of mind as I had recently broken up with a guy who was becoming abusive (I had a habit of attracting these guys … I now realize.).
So David and I end up talking, exchange numbers and start dating. According to him he is single, he has 2 children by 2 different women, he’s in the British Army for the past 14 years and he ‘LOVES’ his kids (not quite so true I later found out) so sometimes when he gets a weekend off from the army he comes back to Birmingham (where I live) and he has to stay at his son’s house as he doesn’t have a place in Birmingham (this was a red flag, I ignored).
We met in June and by July he was all I could think about, we spent a weekend together before I had to go to USA to visit my sister, we video chatted daily and I noticed my anxiety rising if I couldn’t speak to him, he had agreed to collect me from airport on my arrival back to UK, lucky me I thought, so sweet and kind. But to due this he needed to stay at his daughter’s house (also in Birmingham). I queried this but was assured that him and his daughter’s mum have a great friendship so he has a key and they aren’t home (red flag 2).
Adapt to any situation
David picked me up as promised and spent the weekend with me, it was lovely … until an abusive text message from his ex (his son’s mum) came through on my phone, ‘don’t worry she’s just jealous’ and to be honest she did seem jealous, wishing me well, good luck etc. etc. (I now see her point by the way). One thing I never forget her writing ‘If you value you sanity you will run a mile, he is a compulsive liar and cheating is his hobby’ (cue in 3rd red flag) but she did sound like a bitter ex and I ignored … or tried to ignore. I had also introduced my Mum to David that weekend and I was nervous, I can remember him saying ‘It’s okay, your Mum will love me, I know how to adapt to any situation, I am a chameleon’ (scary now I think about it) along with his other common line ‘give me a lie detector test and I will pass, I know how to work psychology, I am trained in interrogation situations.’
At the end of August in Birmingham we have a Carnival which I go to, predominantly a Caribbean festival. David is from a small island in the Caribbean so we went together. David was struggling with money at the time so I paid for most of the weekend, in a hotel and drinks, food, etc. I thought this was okay as he was so kind and sweet on our last weekend together. After the weekend at carnival David needed to go and see his son, I remember feeling uneasy for some reason but said okay, see you later. David didn’t come back for a week. I was heartbroken, I now know that as the Military in UK pays you at the end of the month he went back to see his son and took his girlfriend shopping.
David came back to see me on the Sunday evening, I let him in as I was distraught and confused, his lying had begun and the confusion or what I call head fog had already begun for me. I have a history of being abused and tend to dissociate which I think sadly keeps me in these situations even longer, as mentally I have ‘checked out.’ So that Sunday he worked his way back in and left early Monday morning to return to base ( I later found out that his girlfriend was told he was headed straight to base).
Call from his son’s mum
By September I am driving up every other weekend to his base 4 hrs each way, and one day I get a call from his son’s mum, asking where I am, I was shocked, I said I am with my boyfriend on his base. She said well he’s my boyfriend and he has been asking to marry me, also because of you I need to get myself tested as I assume you have slept with him … again I was heartbroken. I had also recently got myself tested for any sexually transmitted diseases as David had stated that ‘as your ex cheated on you, you might need to.’ I felt dirty and of course he was right to say this, only thing is that weekend I had looked in his phone and saw a text to a girl called Nina, stating how much he missed her and loved her, how lonely he was and his bed was cold without her (I was in the bed).
I had also seen a message to a prostitute in Birmingham stating how much she charges and a withdrawal from his bank account at the same part of Birmingham, same day and same amount. I was in shock and disbelief and sadly I went back into my own head and way of low self esteem thinking ‘I’m not good enough’ ‘she’s better than me.’
I had to leave the base that night to work, the next day David was so angry at me that I had spoken to his ex, so he punished me with the silent treatment, that was a killer for me, I felt so weak and hurt, I begged him for forgiveness, he refused to talk to me. The next day he called me like it was normal, a brand new day ( I now reference this behaviour with a David day, nothing has happened, whatever disaster happened on Monday, we don’t talk about it, because today is Tuesday … A David Day).
David’s main concern was ‘Hey, that phone you ordered for me, has it arrived?’ I had stupidly taken out an extra phone line for him so he could get a phone as the poor guy had lost his.
Going to the Caribbean
Roll on November and I have decided that after another disappearing act for 1 week and driving to his son’s mum’s address and seeing his car that I am done. David comes back begging with chocolates, perfume and pleading I come to the Army Christmas ball, I said no and somehow I stuck to this, I had got stronger, started to smile again (imagine that after meeting him end of June and by November I had stopped smiling, lost my job, almost had my car towed away and lost friendships).
By December David was going to the Caribbean for 3 months on what the military call DOMCOL. Every 5 years the soldiers get a flight paid to visit their homes, David was begging me to come out, stating he would buy me a ticket to fly and making jokes about marriage …now I don’t know if it was because I was lonely, no job, no money, living with my Mum, freezing cold in December in Birmingham and missing the Caribbean (I used to live there) or all of the above, but I took that flight and off I went (did I mention the lengthy message from his sister pleading his case and saying she had never seen her brother so heartbroken?).
We got married
I arrive and all I hear is oh my god you guys are getting married, I couldn’t put my finger on David’s odd, random behaviours and still to this day I find them hard to explain, at first it was easy to say maybe PTSD from Iraq and Afghanistan but … after the army provided us with therapy and the therapist said no more after 3 sessions I think it’s a bit more than that, I have never seen a therapist give up and advise anyone to ‘run’ before but she did that to me.
So long story short, yes we got married in the Caribbean, no one was there, no dress, no cake and for the life of me no point in doing it, I can’t remember the day, I have vague memories of it, I do remember an ex of his who lived on the island messaging him asking what he was up to and he wrote back ‘Just chilling and eating KFC.’ Apparently Just got married wasn’t as important as KFC, the next day David went missing (he was with her).
So roll on 3 months and we leave the Caribbean, I am coming back to the UK married, unfortunately my Grandma passed away and I land back in UK to my sister (who has flown in from USA for the funeral) and my Mum, it never seemed like the right time to tell them, so I kept this massive secret mistake to myself.
Living on the Army base
All of a sudden I am living on an Army base, with a guy who is now apparently my husband, this guy who continuously watches porn on his phone, tells me he’s window shopping when he looks up local prostitutes and when I confront him tells me how controlling I am, how he feels stifled and hasn’t had this with any of his exes, plus now that he’s married he shouldn’t have to ask for sex, as its a wife’s duty.
I spent from February 2014 to August on that base until we had to move to his new post in UK, we had some nice times I can’t deny but they were always ruined by his constant contact with his exes, using his children as an excuse and saying I am trying to destroy his relationship with his children by not letting him spend time in their houses (which was the rules of the mothers) ‘if you want to see your kids, you will come inside the house and you don’t bring that bitch.’ I was also due surgery and became so stressed that the Army Family Officer got involved stating I looked unwell and speaking to David about things, David was nice and when the officer left he laughed and said ‘counseling hahaha what a joke, we control our relationship, not some cunt we don’t know.’
I had my surgery in September 2014, I didn’t get much time to recover as David and I had moved house, and although the surgery was on my neck, 2 days later I was unpacking boxes and driving, David didn’t care as he said it was a woman’s job. I was starting to go very down mentally, I had told my Mum I was married and she hardly spoke to me anymore, I was too ashamed to tell any of my friends so I stopped contacting them, David had become my world, I was on this army base isolated and depressed to be honest.
I hated going on base as I felt his friends were laughing at me, partly as he had his ex girlfriend’s name on the description of his life (as all the Instructors did) and she would call the office daily. I had to change my phone number, change and restrict all social media and my world was getting smaller and lonelier. My only outlet was that I was now a freelance designer so I had to take jobs back in Birmingham for weeks at a time but it was never easy, we would argue all week, he would check himself in on Facebook in Birmingham (because he knew I was anxious about his exes) then remove the check in when I called and he would say I am paranoid and snooping all the time, said he never went out that he was on base ironing, this was a common thing for him.
He says I’m crazy
During this time I had met some of David’s cousins in the UK, I remember once reading a text from his closest cousin ‘Are you ok David, she hasn’t killed you has she lol she’s crazy.’ You see David had made me out to be crazy and controlling, I even remember him crying to them once and they said its okay we can help you, you don’t have to stay with her. He had also text her some sexual things which disturbed me, of course he denied and then stated ‘You’ll be accusing me of doing something to my daughter next’ (this one shocked me, as it never crossed my mind).
We made it to Christmas, had an awful 1 week holiday in-between which he paid for and then said now you owe me, even though I was broke having been off work for surgery and the holiday was a treat for me to relax apparently (until we got there). January came around and I had started seeking help through websites … including Lovefraud … books and even joined co-dependents anonymous.
David was due to go on exercise to Canada for 7 weeks with Army, I decided as I now had money from contracting to take a massive plunge and do a trip to USA, 8 weeks with a group I didn’t know (this was the normal brave me trying to come back) I went to West coast for 3 weeks and the rest I spent with my sister in Florida, of course David stopped speaking to me, looked up prostitutes in the area (I later found a secret phone and saw this) called his exes, and emptied the bank account he had told me to use to help with my birthday trip of a flight over the grand canyon (I still did that flight by the way, mostly out of anger! haha).
I realised I needed therapy
I came back to UK by now it was July 2015, David announces he is leaving the army to make me happy (never has he discussed this with me, never did I say I wanted that, not once!). Once you announce this to the army you have 1 yr to serve, his was reduced to 10 months, the last 3 months you need to move out of the army accommodation. David was pressuring me about a baby, but by now I realised I wasn’t with a stable man, I was with what I concluded was a sociopath and although I was in this at the time, I knew I needed to get out, so whilst he called me a ‘cunt, a barren bitch, useless bitch with no kids, and said if I ever leave he will upgrade, women are like cars, if your car breaks down you get a new one, you never get a worse car’ etc. etc.
I was mentally done! In my mind I had to leave, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I tried to leave once, one day I was in Birmingham on the last day of a contract and I just couldn’t move, couldn’t stand up, couldn’t even cry, I was just numb. A friend who lived 6 hrs away told me to take a train, pack a bag and go stay with her (she was my rock in this) I made it one stop before her, I got off that train and I turned back and went home to David, that’s when I realised I needed serious help. I looked up therapists and found one who specialised in trauma, addiction, co-dependency and anxiety, we spoke, I told her my brief story and she booked me in.
We left the army house, I started therapy and got a job near to our new home, David was now out of the Army and left to his own devices, he had no plan and eventually decided to become a close protection officer, training would be in South Africa in the following February. In between that time David worked various jobs, I had stopped sexual contact with him and had made a plan to make it to February. January I had second surgery on my arm, the day of my discharge from hospital David shouted at me and said ‘see no one likes you, no one loves you, not your Mum or even your sister, where are they?’
Now I know I was wrong and I feel awful but I slapped David that day, David slapped me back, this wasn’t our first physical fight, we had had a few, once he stabbed the TV with a carving knife and cut himself and got our marriage certificate out and dropped the blood on it, another time he told me about other women and I was holding a glass, out of anger I threw the glass (I later learned about reactive abuse) the glass dropped and a shard of it hit David’s leg, he made me take him to hospital where he took pictures of his leg and sent it to his friends and cousins, saying look what she’s done now.’
Psychological abuse and coercive control
When David slapped me I was crying, I said you don’t deserve to be a close protection officer as you can’t even protect your wife, I am not sure why he did this, but then David called the police, I was crying and the operator heard me, they wanted to speak to me but I said no as I had nothing to say, panic had set in and I felt like I had committed a crime … the police arrive, I tell the officer what happened, David in the other room lies to the other officer, it becomes a domestic abuse situation and I don’t know why but the officers sat with me for an hour and described psychological abuse and coercive control, telling me I was the scapegoat, those officers really helped me that day, I will always be grateful for the time they spent convincing me I wasn’t abusive but I was being abused.
David went to South Africa for 6 weeks and I lived! I used those 6 weeks like a drug addict would use rehab, I went clean! I contacted friends, got myself into a Domestic Violence help group (which I didn’t believe I was worthy of being in as I didn’t have bruises) my case worker said she was vey concerned for me as David fit into the category of not the stalker but the type that would kill, as I had mentioned how one day he announced how many people he had killed, his stories of Iraq and Afghanistan, his random comments of killing. My case worker was very worried and pleaded with me to leave and go into a refuge, I never felt it was that bad physically, I didn’t believe it was a problem, David had threatened me with the art of war but I took it all as his random, weird crazy talk.
When David came back from South Africa, with local prostitutes in his phone and new ones from Birmingham, I had confidence, I was me again for the first time in 3 years, David said he was only ‘window shopping’ again, I said no more. So In April 2016 I ended the relationship, kept up with therapy and somehow lived with David until October 2016 when he just left one day, he went straight to his daughter’s mum’s house, came back a month later in her car (on purpose I assume) to collect another bag (but left more stuff) I changed the locks and eventually left that home December 2016.
I filed for divorce
I filed for Divorce from David July 2017, I didn’t know where he was but I tracked him down (via an ex who’s name had come up on my Netflix account that we shared as he was now back with her too) we even spoke and she said he had told her he needed money which she gave him and that he was trying to divorce me….I told her my truth and wished her luck.
I now realise David married me as you can get an army house once you marry, he thought I earned a lot of money, he wanted someone to be able to have and look the ‘part.’ David is now married again to someone new, I can only assume he is repeating his pattern. We have no contact.
My conclusion is I have experienced physical abuse / violence to an extremely high degree by an ex, and it is awful and terrifying. But I want to highlight this, David was violent maybe 3 times in 3 yrs, I am not disputing that this is wrong, but what scared me the most was the power of manipulation, coercive control and mind games he played. I lost my spirit, I lost my joy, my friends, my family for a while and I lost me. I was contemplating suicide, I wanted the invisible pain to stop and I can honestly say that after seeing he had taken out life insurance on me a week after marriage he wouldn’t have cared if I died.
I truly believe I have experienced first hand living with a sociopath and I am one of the lucky ones as I don’t have money (I did get left with a few small debts) and I don’t have children with him.
I got out and so can you
I want to advise anyone who suspects things aren’t quite right, they probably aren’t. There is help out there, mental, financial abuse is real, you don’t need to be hit, the mind is powerful.
I got out and so can you x.
There is probably so much I haven’t written here as it is near impossible to remember all the craziness in these circumstances, the mental torture, all while trying to smile at work, and keep it together. I hope this summary of 3 years of my life helps someone, just like the stories I read on here helped me.