I got through it – so can you.

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      Catherine O’Brien

      My ex-husband and I met at the local drama group. I soon became aware that he had problems – he was taking Ativan, an anti-depressant. He had spent some time in Singleton Hospital in Swansea, suffering from depression. He was attractive, educated and charming, and I thought I could help him. He was also, after a while, controlling, telling me what I should wear, who my friends should be, and in general how to behave. Naively, I mistook this controlling behaviour for a deep interest and care. Soon after we married in 1984, he began an affair with a fellow teacher, thirteen years younger than him. I told him that I would leave unless he gave her up, so as far as I know, he did. I suspect he had other affairs. I never did. He became more controlling, so that if I met a male fellow worker when we were out, I felt unable even to say hello to him, for fear of being accused of having an affair with him. Every evening I was obliged to dress up in high heels, short skirts which showed everything, or a split skirt, and we’d go out. If I wore something he didn’t approve of, he would tell me how awful I looked. Other things happened, which I don’t want to go into,but over the course of our marriage, he abused me psychologically in the most dreadful way, and occasionally physically. He was quite good at tripping me up by putting out his foot and twisting it under me. He rubbished my friends, telling me that they didn’t really like me. Nothing I did was any good. He constantly told me that I “didn’t live in the real world”, and that I was mad. He threw food at me. I remember one day when I locked myself in the bathroom for fear of what he might do. He kicked a hole in the door, trying to get at me. When this failed, he took clothes out of my wardrobe and told me he was ripping them up. He did this. I was horrified when his aunt asked me “Has he ever torn any of your clothes?” He had done it before, to his ex-wife Sue. On one occasion, during divorce proceedings, he took all my clothes from my wardrobe and threw them down the stairs in front of our seven year old.

      In the end I realised that I would rather die than stay with him any longer, so I took steps to divorce him. I never denied that he was a good father, but I just couldn’t stand it any longer. It was a very bitter battle, because he sued for custody of both children. This dragged things out – and we were still living in the same house. After a while the court decided that the situation was so bad for everyone that he should be required to leave, and he was told to go, which he did. He got in touch with my friends and tried to turn them against me, with some limited success. You soon find out who your friends are. After a long court battle, and a bill of over thirty six thousand pounds, I was granted custody of both children. The house had to be sold, and I was allocated enough money to buy another house for the three of us. He was allocated the rest, but because he had been so aggressive with the courts, he had to pay his share of the legal costs upfront. Mine were deferred until thechildren were eighteen.

      During the court hearings, Dad would accuse me of things I had never done, including having an affair with his close friend. I think he actually believed his own fantasies. I truly believe that he suffers from a mental condition called narcissism – you can look it up. It means the person has no empathy with anyone – they feel that they are the centre of the world and that they are right in everything they think, say and do. There is no cure, as the person has to recognise the problem. I was no angel, but I was normal.

      I escaped – although the divorce was like wading through treacle. I have a wonderful life now, with a lovely, caring man. My main feeling for my ex now is one of sadness that he’s led such an emotionally sterile life. But I’m angry that he never paid the price for his wicked treatment of me. His name is Jeff Baynham.

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