Claire* is a gorgeous, intelligent and witty girl with a degree under her belt. She has a steady job and until recently, a steady boyfriend named Barry*. In the time that they were together, this guy, who Claire genuinely thought she was in love with, lied to her, repeatedly stole from her, physically hurt her and manipulated her. Barry isolated her from her friends and family and cheated on her. So how did someone with so much going for them end up trapped in this situation?
“One of the first things I think about whenever I talk about Barry and I, is how before I met him, I always wondered how some people could stay in relationships like this. I always wondered how they could be so stupid. I never thought I’d be the type of girl who would fall for that or put up with the things he put me through. However, now I can’t explain the manipulation or how he was able to get around me. Even now, after all he’s put me through, I’d say if he walked through that door he could find a way to talk his way out of this, if I let him.
“When I first met Barry he completely swept me off my feet. He was like nobody I’d ever met before. Things moved so fast with us, I didn’t even question certain things about him, like why he didn’t seem to have any real friends around him or why he didn’t speak to his family. I always knew in the back of my head that something wasn’t right but things were so good with him that I didn’t want to question it or say anything that would ruin what we had. He’d always make you feel that if you started to question things, you were in the wrong for even suggesting there was a problem.”
The first big betrayal of Claire’s trust came when she found out that Barry had lied about having a child from a previous relationship. Claire describes the first time she met Barry’s son and how she could not understand how someone could lie about something so serious. “I can’t even describe how he was able to make something like that okay with me… I think maybe when I look back in a year’s time I’ll wonder how I could have been such a fool.”
Things then took a turn for the worst, Barry lost his job just weeks after the couple had moved into a new apartment which they now couldn’t afford, “I suppose that’s when I started to see the real Barry, when he’d get really aggressive”.
Claire speaks about a time in particular when she had just finished her college exams and Barry wanted to get a take-away to celebrate. When Barry realised they couldn’t afford it, “he flipped completely, trashed the apartment and stormed off. He didn’t come home until 3am, and it was like he was a different person. When he left he was this angry, aggressive person who terrified me. Then when he came back, it was like he’d come back from a holiday. He was so happy and he just acted like there was nothing wrong”.
How much more could Claire put up with?
Claire and Barry then moved to a smaller apartment, and things were “fine” for a while. Then they gradually went back to the way they had been before. “I was petrified to make even the tiniest mistake around him. One day if I broke a glass it would be fine and he’d laugh at me and think I was so cute and ditzy. The next day he’d freak out and tell me to leave the apartment and go and get a new one. But no matter what he did or how he acted, I always forgave him.”
Claire is fiercely independent, but everything she had once done for herself, Barry had now made it his business to do for her. “I’d come home from work and he’d have my washing done and my dinner ready. I don’t even think I was really in love with him, but he made me feel like I couldn’t live without him. He made me feel like I needed him, even though I never really did.”
Barry had isolated Claire more and more from her family and friends, all the time never fully explaining why he had no friends of his own and why he had no contact with his family. Finally, Claire discovered that he hadn’t quit his job, rather he had been fired for theft. “It had always been me wanting to break up with him or me pulling away. Then one day he called things off. I found out a few days later that he’d been cheating on me.”
“A lot of people say that there were so many times, so many incidents, where I should have had enough. But anyone who says that they would have acted differently is a liar because until you’re faced with that situation, you’ve no idea just how powerful the manipulation can be.”
Claire admits now that she kept her doubts secret because she knew in the back of her mind that what was happening wasn’t right, but telling somebody would mean accepting that. So if you or someone you know is in an abusive and destructive relationship, please tell someone. If you feel in your heart that something’s not quite right, it is probably because it is not.
*names have been changed.