When a partner becomes violent

CW: Domestic violence

I have been married to a man for over ten years now. He has always been controlling and dominating because that’s how he shows he cares. He has had issues with anger over the years. Despite all this, I liked him and we have been good together. I have been on board with polyamory for a long time ( since high school) as I always knew intuitively, that people fall in and out of love.
Around a few years ago, he started getting very violent and aggressive , owing to stress at work. This was the same time he started to talk about opening up our relationship.He had already started chatting to someone, he said. I found this very tough to accept. Then a particular incident made me truly “see” how abusive he had been in so many situations in the past. I struggled for many months, wanting him to apologise, to see what he had done. Finally he saw his mistakes and started to work on his anger. To give him credit, he has too. All through this, he was in contact with this other person.
Now this other person. He told me he wanted to open up because he wanted to explore BDSM. I was fine with that, however this partner he is seeing now is just out of college, more than ten years his junior in age. Why do i feel so bad about that? I know i am supposed to understand that love just happens and has no logic, but all this is too much for me. I don’t want this other girl to get hurt like i did.

I want to share with you an anecdote from the book Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. For the purposes of the impact it will have on you and others, I want to include the whole passage:

“Many years ago, I was interviewing a woman named Sheila by telephone. She was describing the rages that my client Michael would periodically have: ‘He just goes absolutely berserk, and you never know when he’s going to go off like that. He’ll just start grabbing whatever is around and throwing it. He heaves stuff everywhere, against the walls, on the floor — it’s just a mess. And he smashes stuff, important things sometimes. Then it’s like the storm just passes; he calms down; and he leaves for a while. Later he seems kind of ashamed of himself.’

I asked Sheila two questions. The first was, when things got broken, were they Michael’s, or hers, or things that belonged to both of them? She left a considerable silence while she thought. Then said said, ‘You know what? I’m amazed that I’ve never thought of this, but he only breaks my stuff. I can’t think of one thing he’s smashed that belonged to him’. Next, I asked her who cleans up the mess. She answered that she does.

I commented, ‘See Michael’s behaviour isn’t nearly as berserk as it looks. And if he really felt so remorseful, he’d help clean up.’”

The point of this passage is to make you realise something. You need to secure your own mask before you start worrying about others. Your issue here is not polyamory by any stretch of the imagination, although it doesn’t sound like you are actually interested in that. It sounds like he’s demanded it without really caring about how you feel about it. Of course you found it tough to accept… it seems like he was pretty much cheating and then wanted permission for it. However, this isn’t really the issue at its core. Your issue is that you have an abusive partner.

I would encourage you to read “Why Does He Do That” if you can because it is an incredibly amazing book that sheds a lot of light on abusive behaviour and helps you break that cycle. I’m very much a person who does think that people can change but the big point about this that is really making me wonder if your partner has truly changed is that you are feeling so hesitant about him having a new partner. Especially because you say: “I don’t want this other girl to get hurt like I did”.

If you believe he has the capacity to hurt someone new, then he has the capacity to hurt you. I really want you to think over the reasons you have for still being in this relationship. Even if you’ve been in it for ten years, you still have the rest of your life ahead of you and you deserve to be with someone better. Many, many abusive people apologise. An apology is not a sign that someone’s behaviour has changed and my guess is that if you’re afraid of him being with someone as young as you once were… my feeling is that you have doubts that his behaviour has truly changed.

You can choose to try and intervene and talk to this girl but the biggest question she’s going to have is probably, “Well, why are you still with him then if he’s that dangerous?” Do you have an answer for that?

Please consider that question honestly, even as defensiveness comes up. This isn’t a criticism of you. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, it takes a woman an average if seven times before she leaves an abusive relationship for good because it can be very difficult and very dangerous to leave. But there are sources out there to help you. Please consider contacting a local domestic violence shelter or charity who can help you safely leave. This is exactly what these resources are for. Here is more information on that seven time statistic and how to break the cycle. There will be a time to help this girl… but you need to help yourself first.

Whatever you do, I hope you know that you are worth love without pain. You deserve a partner who treats you excellently, not someone who uses aggression or violence. I sincerely hope the best for you. Please be safe.

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