Alice* experienced two controlling relationships as a young person. She shares her story with us.
Alice met Mike* at a gig. They started chatting and she discovered Mike was in a band. They later swapped Facebook details and began talking online.
Alice tells us about how they met up a few months later: “He invited me to go and watch one of his gigs he introduced me to his mates and his ‘girlfriend’ which I thought was a bit strange because we’d only met once before.”
The two started meeting up more regularly and constantly texting each other about what they were up to: “Sometimes the messages from him were more like an interrogation – who was I with, where was I, what was I doing. But, I thought he was just doing it because he cared about me and was genuinely interested in my life.”
The relationship took a darker turn when Alice went on a long weekend trip with her family and some family friends. The texts from Mike were constant and if she didn’t reply within a few minutes, he would call: “It was unbearable, like I was been suffocated by the texts and calls.
“When I didn’t answer – he’d call other members of my family to check up on me and see where I was. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t enjoy myself and he put all the family on edge.”
A few weeks later, Mike was staying over and checked Alice’s phone without her knowledge while she was in the shower: “He’d been looking through my phone and found some text messages I’d sent to a friend ages ago. I was telling them about how I’d kissed someone at the very start of mine and Mike’s relationship. He must have read through hundreds of text to find that one.
“He went absolutely crazy and started calling me all sorts of awful names, saying he could never trust me again and calling me scum. He put his hands around my throat, pushed me against the wall and started to strangle me. I was terrified but i thought I deserved it. After all, I had cheated on him.”
After several months of having her phone checked, receiving hundreds of text messages, calls and threats of violence, Alice plucked up the courage to cut Mike out of her life: “It was so hard. To all my friends he was this cool boy in a band and they all told me they were jealous. I didn’t want to tell them why we’d broken up in case they told me I deserved it.”
Alice’s second experience of a controlling relationship was at university, where she met a James* at a friend’s party: “He seemed nice and we hit it off right away.”
James was older than Alice and had already finished university. He would pick her up from home, take her for fancy meals and buy her nice gifts: “He really treated me like a princess at the start.
“He’d insist on picking me up from nights out, usually around midnight. He’d make comments when I’d talk about the evening, saying ‘you’re too good to be doing things like this’ or ‘you need to grow up’. He’d always make horrible remarks about how stupid my friends were.”
The pickups started getting earlier and earlier until they were as early as 11pm. One night James even insisted that Alice wear a fake engagement ring when she was out to stop people talking to her: “In the end it became a battle to go out and getting picked up so early meant it was no fun as I was leaving before the night really started.
“He’d give me an ultimatum, if I didn’t go out with my friends, he promised we’d do something nice instead like go to Manchester for a meal. And it felt easier to let my friends down that it did him. He’d go all sulky if he didn’t get his own way.”
Alice says she felt James slowly isolated her from her friends. He insisted she move out from the house-share to move in with him to be in a ‘safer’ area: “He didn’t really like my friends coming over and when they did he made them feel uncomfortable so they wouldn’t stay long.
“I started to forget who I was. I’d be at university in the day and would come home to cook and clean. I stopped seeing my friends; I hardly went home to see my family and spent the majority of my time with him.
“I was miserable, even my tutors picked up on it. I told them it was nothing and that I was just overwhelmed with all the work from the course.”
The relationship came to a head a few years later when Alice got a new job. Her new work colleagues invited her out for some drinks: “I hadn’t been out for over a year and really wanted to go. I’d arranged to stay with one of the girls from work and told James.
“But when I did he refused to eat for a week, saying it was a terrible idea and that if I loved him I wouldn’t go. But, I felt rebellious. I wanted to go and enjoy and evening with my new friends.
“I had to turn my phone off before we went out, I’d realised I’d forgotten my charger and knew I would probably need my phone later that evening or the next day to get home.
“When I got home the next day James was in a rage; shouting at me for being so stupid for turning my phone off. He just kept saying ‘what if something had happened?’ That’s when I thought, how does he know my phone was turned off?”
James admitted that he’d installed a tracker app on Alice’s phone so he could see where she was: “In case there was an emergency he told me. I think that’s when the veil fell, and I realised he had too much control over my life. I felt trapped.”
A few months later, Alice left after an argument: “I left the house with an overnight bag to stay with a work colleague. I told him I’d be back tomorrow so we could talk about it. When I returned he’d changed the locks, left all my things outside and essentially made me homeless. I had to spend the next month sofa surfing until I found a place I could afford by myself.”
Alice says she didn’t even realise both of these relationships were abusive or controlling until years after: “I started speaking about what happened to me and learning more about domestic abuse. At the time it didn’t feel abusive, I just thought they both cared for me, but I now know they just wanted to control me.”
If you’ve had a similar experience with a partner or previous partner and need support, get in touch with our team today by texting 07451288150 or calling 0330 0945 559.