Neil* was a victim of domestic and family violence and abuse perpetrated by his wife for many years. He felt embarrassed and at times when he reached out for help, he wasn’t taken seriously because he was a man. He is grateful to God he now has a life without abuse and can focus on blessings rather than bitterness.
I went to my first domestic violence seminar. They showed a video, and I was shocked. My wife did worse things to me at home.
We went into small groups and we were supposed to share. So I tried to talk about what was happening to me. The group leader pointed her finger at me, and said, ‘If you treated your wife right, she wouldn’t have to hit you!’. It was as though, because I’m a man, my wife couldn’t really hurt me – that domestic and family violence is only perpetrated by men. That was not my experience. I felt like I didn’t exist.
Not long after that, my wife tried to stab me with a butcher’s knife. I grabbed her wrist and squeezed until she dropped the knife. She held up her hand and said, ‘I could go to a shelter, and tell them you are abusing me! You’ll never see your children again’. I thought, ‘She’s right. No one at a shelter is going to ask if she is the violent one. If I want to protect our children, I am going to have to be very careful what I do’.
When I met Andrea, it was love at first sight. I knew she had pain in her life from broken family relationships, but I was committed to loving and protecting her.
We had our first big fight packing up after the wedding and, when we unpacked our things at our new house, Andrea got angry, said she hated me and stormed out.
I was stunned. We’d only just been married. A few days later, she threw plates at me, which broke against the wall.
I soon learnt to walk on eggshells. When I was very careful, Andrea didn’t yell.
We started a family. Andrea enjoyed the attention she received while she was pregnant and she was happy taking care of the children while they were babies. Once they were no longer babies, she wanted another child. We had a large family.
As the children grew up, they also felt the brunt of their mother’s angry outbursts.
Andrea threatened to leave me repeatedly and sex was used as a bargaining chip to get what she wanted. She verbally abused me and criticised my every attempt to help around the house.
She controlled me physically, emotionally, socially and financially. She knew my old wounds and how to hurt me.
We went to counselling and I tried many things to see whether we could restore the love and happiness to our relationship. But nothing worked – not romantic notes, special dinners, picnics, weekends away, nothing.
One day she started hitting me and cursing me. She did not really hurt me physically, but I shook inwardly for days. I decided I would never let her hit me again, which was an important step in my journey. And she never did.
I was tired of walking on eggshells. I was tired of having to be vigilant to protect my children from their mother’s tirades. I was tired of being in a relationship with no love.
But when, after more than 30 years of marriage, my wife and I separated and ultimately divorced, I found I was attracted to other controlling women. I decided I needed to change, so I could get into a healthy relationship.
By God’s grace I have remarried – to a woman who does not seek to control my every move.
I had to realise that, while I have many faults, I am a worthwhile person, loved and forgiven by God, and should be treated with respect like anyone else.
I refuse to hate my ex-wife. She is the mother of my children.
I refuse to live in bitterness. I am often tempted to dwell on the past, but if I choose to live in bitterness, that pain will control the rest of my life.
Instead, I focus on my many blessings. One is that I know God promises everything works together for good to those who love him.
* Names and other identifying details have been changed, however this story is a true account by a member of the LCA.
MensLine Australia is the national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns. It offers specialist support for men who use or experience family and domestic violence.
Call 1300 789 978 or go to https://mensline.org.au