By Bunmi Sofola
The golden advice is when you spot any sign of violence in a potential partner, you should run …. “It’s not as cut and dried as that,” confessed Gloria, a 36-year-old tax consultant who recently escaped from the controlling clutches of a partner she referred to as a ‘nasty piece of work.’
“I first met my former boyfriend Scott, a banker through friends six years ago when we were both in our early 30s. He was smart, extremely charming and I fell for him instantly.
At first he seemed the model, boyfriend; even when I noticed his wardrobe held suits, ties and sets of shoes that were too meticulously arranged for a man, I just thought he was well organised.
I never imagined how extreme such perfectionism could be. The truth emerged a few months into the relationship when we went to Ghana for a wedding. “We took his car and the next day, when we got to the venue of the wedding, he yelled at me for getting out of the car first and barked at me to ‘come back here’.
I was mildly shocked but quickly went back inside the car and he berated that I was never to walk ahead of him again—always alongside or behind him. Of course, I marched back to the hotel, disgusted and ready to pack my bags.
As I got the keys from the reception, he begged me to forgive him—he had a bad week at the office. So did I Sadly, this was to set the pattern for endless similar incidents that followed. “Over the months, his control over me grew—he made me arranged shoes and clothes as meticulously as he did his, checked my text messages to make sure I wasn’t having an affair, and threw me out of his flat one night because a male colleague called while we were having sex!
The many incidents of bullying, intimidation and brainwashing are too numerous to list, but he wanted to control every aspect of my life—right down to the clothes I wore—and flew into terrifying rages whenever I went against his will. It was a living hell having to walk on eggshells all the time and the stress changed me beyond recognition.
“I went from being a confident, independent, feisty woman to someone who made myself his slave to please him and who eventually walked meekly alongside or behind him as he originally wanted—often in flat shoes! I became nervous and I isolated myself from friends and family because they told me to leave him only for me to tell them I couldn’t.
Once in a while I contemplated leaving, but I was convinced I was head over heels in love and would never be able to survive without him, I also considered calling the police on occasion— usually after a particularly long and vicious attack—but felt he had done nothing criminally wrong—we were just having a lover’s spat!
This is in spite of his often manhandling me into a chair to lecture me, and he once threw a phone at my head, leaving a gash. And he once put his hands around my throat and almost throttled me because, he said, he wanted to demonstrate what he would do to anyone who ever threatened our relationship.
“I’ve often wondered if he felt threatened by my career and independence, which is why he set out to diminish and control me. But I was never tempted to see him as a criminal. Several times I tried to leave him, but I agreed to take him back—it was a miracle there were no pregnancies to complicate things.
As an enlightened professional, I felt it was up to me to leave of my own volition. And eventually, I did tell him that I would not put up with his nonsense any more. I put the phone down after I walked out on him and ignored the torrent of calls and voice mails demanding that we talk. By standing by my decision, my self-esteem grew back.
“I believe institutions can help by increasing the support available to women in difficult relationship to prevent them from waling’ straight into the arms of other men with the same personality traits. And there are many, many more men out there who behave like my ex. Abused women should be encouraged to recover from abusive situations by taking control of their lives and leaving destructive situations with help from friends and relatives.”