My ex was someone I’d known for quite a long time and I guess I thought they’d always been very sweet and caring. It wasn’t very long after we’d started dating that things started to feel a bit different – I remember one night being out with some friends and I wasn’t checking my phone and they’d texted me something like 50 times in about an hour. They seemed like they were really panicked and I just felt so bad and guilty for making them worry! And that was kind of how it developed, any time they couldn’t reach me or anything they’d get so upset or angry and they’d refuse to speak to me or they’d accuse me of trying to hurt them. Eventually, it just seemed easier to not go out or see friends, it just wasn’t worth hurting my partner and going through all the accusations and upset. I stopped seeing a lot of people and only really spent time with them.
I never thought any of what they were doing was wrong, just that it was upsetting. I felt like they were clingy maybe, but that’s about it. We’d been together for about six months when I decided to break it off. Not because I’d had some realisation about their behaviour, I really just blamed myself for not being able to make them happy – I was spending all my time and energy on trying to be good enough, but there would always be some way I was letting them down or making them angry. I missed my friends and I felt like I was only making things worse for my partner so I ended things. They took it pretty badly, and they threatened to hurt themselves, but I thought that would be the end of it.
When my ex started stalking me, I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. They turned up outside my work one day and were just waiting there for hours. Luckily one of my colleagues saw them and let me know. I was really freaked out. I had to leave out the back entrance and have a friend walk me home. I started getting loads of calls from unknown numbers and I was just so anxious about all of them. I didn’t want to go out to any of the cafes or places I usually hang out in case they’d be there. People were asking what was wrong and I was embarrassed to admit I was scared of seeing my ex. It’s like they were still in control of my life from a distance, but I still felt guilty and ashamed.
Recognising it as abuse was the first step. A friend had kind of figured out what was happening and convinced me to get in touch with a local LGBT support group. At first I just wanted someone to talk to and I didn’t want to get my ex in trouble. They helped me see that this wasn’t just an unhealthy relationship, it was more than that. Explained how power and control work, how isolation and making someone feel guilty and threatening self harm are all tactics used by abusers. My ex was still calling me a lot but then they showed up outside my block of flats. I got a caseworker and he really helped me figure out how to keep safe, what kinds of legal protections I could rely on and that sort of thing. It was hard to accept at first, but I needed to feel safe again. It hasn’t been easy & I’ve had to change my number, I’ve moved house, I’ve stopped hanging out in some places but I feel like I’m getting back in control of my life and having support from other LGBT has been a big part of that.