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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 24-Mar-16 11:46:08

To the outside world

Karen Lee describes years of emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband - and the devastating effect of his death, just as she had summoned the courage to ask for a divorce.

Karen Lee

To the outside world

Posted on: Thu 24-Mar-16 11:46:08


Lead photo

"I had many symptoms of PTSD – physical pain, nightmares, anxiety, sleeplessness, drinking too much, inability to concentrate and low self-confidence."

To the outside world I was a middle class, successful business woman dressed in the latest designer suits with matching bag and shoes. A trained psychologist and management specialist, I consulted throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East – but within our home, my life was very different. There, I was screamed at, insulted, threatened, and belittled by my husband. I was emotionally and psychologically abused on an almost daily basis and I felt trapped. Ashamed and embarrassed, I thought it was my responsibility to keep it concealed and to show a face to the world that would never indicate what was hidden behind our front door.

My husband held a Ph.D. in management and had a successful business career in Calgary, Alberta. We moved from Canada to England so he could take up a position at a respected university north of London. We had married after my first marriage failed. I was on my own with two young sons and no support. My new husband gave me the financial stability and, I hoped, the companionship I needed. He was an intelligent, handsome man who loved reading, music and the theatre – potentially a perfect partner – but I was wrong. While he wanted to look after us and even start a business partnership with me, he was extremely controlling. He would lose his temper over the slightest thing – in public or private. He didn't care if we were in a shopping mall, on a plane, or in the middle of the street. He would stand outside our house to scream obscenities at me, and in blind rages break chairs over the kitchen counter.

Ashamed and embarrassed, I thought it was my responsibility to keep it concealed and to show a face to the world that would never indicate what was hidden behind our front door.

I tried to reason with him, and went to therapy on my own to try to think of ways to deal with him. We even went to marital counselling sessions but nothing worked. He couldn't control his anger. Counsellors didn't seem to understand what I was going through and I felt obliged to "stick it out" to avoid telling my family I had failed again.

After living in England for two years, I found a counsellor who heard my anguish, and who said "Your husband's not going to change. Get out of the marriage."

Imagine the tragic irony that when I finally had the courage to tell my husband I wanted a divorce, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Eight months later he died in the London Clinic.

While devastated with grief from my husband's death, I also knew I needed to recover from the years of abuse I'd endured. I had many symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – physical pain, nightmares, anxiety, sleeplessness, drinking too much, inability to concentrate and low self-confidence. A therapist in London helped me to figure out why I had fallen victim to a bully and what I wanted for my own independent life. It was two steps forward and one back for about four years, but I healed with the support of friends and faith in the universe. Now I have a new life and a happy marriage.

Karen's memoir The Full Catastrophe, a true story about a woman's ability to heal and resurrect her life after the death of her abusive husband, is published by She Writes Press and is available from Amazon.

By Karen Lee

Twitter: @Gransnet

Luckylegs9 Sat 26-Mar-16 06:24:54

When you read something like this it just breaks your heart. Why should anyone have the power to wreck another life like this?. I suppose the abuse starts gradually, diminishing all the self confidence of the victim. What effect has this had on Karen's sons? I hope that she rebuilds her life, makes up for those lost years and find once more that lovely person she always was. The world can now open up to her now her husband is dead. My wonderful husband died a long time ago now and I realise his very fortunate I was to have shared my life with him. Cannot imagine having to live with an abusive partner. I wouldn't marry again because no one could ever come close to how I felt about my husband.

Grannyknot Sat 26-Mar-16 07:00:01

This blog post makes for difficult reading - because of Karen's plight with two young children, but also because it is hard to comprehend that she believed it was her responsibility to "keep it concealed". What a prison we can build for ourselves to "save face" or to avoid facing the harsh truths in our lives. And, as a mother, you make choices that affect your children too.

This couple had everything going for them, and I wish one day I would read a tale like this where the ending is that they sought help and through counselling he changed and they succeeded in rebuilding their lives. It also makes me think about the weight of responsibility that rests with the therapists, and how important it is to find the right one.

Then fate dealt a hand.

All good wishes to the author for having found happiness again.

Daisyboots Sat 26-Mar-16 20:41:11

This lady is a trained psychologist and yet she bacame a victim. But anger can be managed with the right anger management counselling. But it cannot be done until the perpetrator admits he /she has a problem. I have seen at first hand how a person can change from an angry domineering bully to a a pleasant individual. Unfortunately most people never reach the stage of admitting they have a problem and to them it is everyone else's faulth they are like they are.

Misty22 Wed 30-Mar-16 11:11:30

The saddest thing is when the abuser is your own grown-up son or daughter. You can't divorce them can you?

Newquay Wed 30-Mar-16 22:25:23

I worked with an angry man-actually he was like the girl with the curl, when he was nice, he was very, very nice but when he was naughty he was HORRID"
It was/is only a smallish office and he was/is a partner there. I have heard him say "I can do what I like" and he does.
He f***ed and blinded around the place and made everyone's life a misery.
He was/is a complete bully. He always had a "victim" in his sights. I had worked there very happily for a long time and, after a rough start when he arrived and I faced up to him immediately, we got on all right. But suddenly he started on me; it was obviously my turn. I spoke to his partners who were gutless (probably just as scared as everyone else of him!) and did nothing. So I was fortunate in that I simply retired. I know he is still victimising folks one at a time. Two women had breakdowns because of him down the years and one had a stroke.
He has been on many anger management courses and therapies down the years and has not changed.
So it concerns me to read that "anger can be managed"-not in all cases. I just thank God we're not in the States where he would have access to guns.
Just read your post Misty-my heart goes out to you

absent Thu 31-Mar-16 06:19:45

Anger can probably be managed, if the angry person really wants to manage it. I don't believe the desire to control is simply to do with anger and can be changed. The controlling partner sees his (or her) behaviour as a manifestation of love and it is, therefore, not a problem for him (or her). The method of control may be emotional, psychological or physical or a combination – sometimes all three. This is massively confusing and damaging for the partner who is abused.

I have experience that is somewhat similar to that of the blogger. I lived, for too long, with an abuser – physical, emotional and psychological – until I, a very strong, capable and successful woman, was reduced to a feeble creature who began to doubt her own sanity. He was often a very charming man and many of my women friends were impressed with his feminist principles and clear liking for women. Just not this woman, if she didn't behave the way he expected and desired – although the very things that attracted him to me in the first place, such as my professionalism, independence and ease for making friends, were the very things he attacked. I eventually found the strength to force him out of my house. Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He rang me incessantly to ask me to come and see him in the hospice. I always refused. He accused me of cruelty. Make what you want of that situation. He is dead – but I still have nightmares about him.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 31-Mar-16 07:59:59

Wonder why she stayed for "years"? "Middle class successful business woman". confused

Not that I ntend to buy the book to find out. My curiosity doesn't extend that far.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 31-Mar-16 08:00:43


Anya Thu 31-Mar-16 08:05:36

Misty is this something you are experiencing?

Anya Thu 31-Mar-16 08:10:31

Absent you have mentioned this abuse in other past posts. You have my admiration for having the courage, strength and determination to get out of that relationship. I know it's not easy as I had a close friend in the same situation, her husband was a respected surgeon, and she was the last person who you would have expected to 'take' this abuse. But it is so complicated and hard for those who haven't experienced it to understand.

You did right to refuse to return after his diagnosis. Sorry to hear about the nightmares.

Blinko Thu 31-Mar-16 10:28:13

I saw a programme on Channel 4 a while ago about psychopaths. It seems to me that some of the stories people are sharing on this thread may be connected with unwittingly being in a relationship with a psychopath. According to this Ch4 programme, where that is the case, no amount of therapy, counselling, anger management or what have you, will change them.

This is because they simply do not have the 'caring' or morality gene. They cannot relate to love or friendship. Their only motivation is their own status and they are past masters (and presumably mistresses) at manipulating any and every situation to this end.

The programme explained that psychopathy like some other conditions, is on a spectrum. Not all psychopaths are axe murderers, many are working and living alongside us in every day life. You can spot them by their ruthlessness. The case cited by Newquay seems to be a case in point.

I thought it might help those of us who aren't in this category to better understand what they might be dealing with. My heart goes out to those on this thread flowers

Nannylovesshopping Thu 31-Mar-16 10:53:42

I was adopted as a baby by an angry mother, hell on earth, as an adult, you have a choice, as a child, none.

FarNorth Thu 31-Mar-16 11:01:07

I think that women, in general, are likely to try to fit in with others' wishes and needs.
If the other, especially a partner, shows contradictory behaviour, sometimes charming, sonetimes cruel, that can give rise to feelings of self-doubt, being out of control and querying their own sanity.
It must be very hard to think or act logically, in such a situation

A friend once told me she had been very relieved to learn that her ex-husband's behaviour showed he could be a psychopath. That meant she was no longer confused by the way he acted.

Newquay Thu 31-Mar-16 16:11:30

Yes I agree Blinko. I was convinced this man was a psychopath but, as you say, not an axe murderer.
However one day I saw a notice at work saying they were taking clients to a day's shoot which we minions were supposed to be impressed with-I was horrified and said so. Why on earth would you give that man a loaded gun; what if the red mist came down? Crackers!
He was definitely bi-polar too IMHO. One day fine, the next terrible. His secretary was the same. I shared a room with her for a while and if she arrived humming tunelessly and drumming her nails on the desk I knew it was going to be a l-o-n-g day.
It's just so sad for the people who have to work with him.

Blinko Thu 31-Mar-16 16:27:51

Newquay, that must have been so difficult. Well done you for being able to work with the situation for as long as you did. In the end, though, if he was indeed psychopathic, the only way would be to get as far away as possible as soon as possible. Which is just what you did.

Blinko Thu 31-Mar-16 16:43:18

Nannylovesshopping that sounds awful. It does make you wonder why someone who was going to be angry towards a child would adopt in the first place. I do hope you are in a better place now.

FarNorth, yes I think it would help to be able to put a label on an abuser's behaviour. At least you'd know it wasn't your fault, which of course is how an abuser wants you to feel. Also, perhaps knowing where the real problem lies might lead to finding a solution.

GillT57 Thu 31-Mar-16 16:43:52

There is a misguided assumption that bullying, abuse, violence etc mainly happens to 'other' people, and to predominantly poorer, less educated people who dont have the means of escape. Stories like that of the OP and others on here firmly puts that myth to rest. Erin Pizzey, founder of a womens' refuge in Chiswick wrote a book on this subject called 'Scream quietly or the neighbours will hear'. I read it many years ago as a sociology student and it had a profound effect on me. All these middle class professional people, solicitors etc., all drinking sherry at the golf club and then knocking nine bells out of their wife when they got home.

absent Thu 31-Mar-16 19:31:21

Thanks Anya. I just wish that I had done it sooner.

Nannylovesshopping Thu 31-Mar-16 19:40:34

Thank you Blinko yes I am in a much better place now, I have 2 DS and 1 DD and 2 lovely GDS, often abused children, apparently go on to be abusers, I decided I would bring my children up to feel loved and cherished, and they still say I am great if ever so slightly batty........ Sometimes though I could still weep for that little girl

Blinko Thu 31-Mar-16 22:30:03

Nannylovesshopping, it sounds like you're a builder and a homemaker. All credit to you for being strong enough to turn the tables. flowers

Nannylovesshopping Fri 01-Apr-16 09:28:10

thank you blinko for your kindness, I am so glad prospective adopting parents, nowadays have to go through such stringent checks before they are entrusted with the life of a child, in 1950 my mother just heard of a young girl who was having an unwanted baby locally, one court appearance to make it legal and that was that. My natural mother and father then went on to marry two years later and had two sons and then a daughter, but that is another whole new thread.

Nana3 Fri 01-Apr-16 09:35:24

Nannylovesshopping flowers My very best wishes.

Nannylovesshopping Fri 01-Apr-16 09:48:31

Thankyou nana3 there is such kindness on this site.

1974cookie Sun 17-Apr-16 18:09:24

My Father died suddenly when I was 14 years old with a sister of 11, and a baby brother of just 10 months old. My Mum remarried and soon found out that my Stepfather was a very controlling, bullying, abusive, Man. He often punched my Mum, bullied us kids but Mum was completely smitten by him ( and possibly scared ).
I was so dreadfully scared of him that I left home at 15 years old.
Years later, Mum saw the light and finally divorced him but they could not afford to sell the house, so they lived separate lives in the same house.
It was not until I was 33yrs old that I finally stood up to him.
I was visiting my Mum when he opened the front door to me and instantly started shouting and yelling at me, poking me in the chest as he did so.
Well, THIS worm not only turned at last, but she went for it BIG TIME !!!!!
I honestly never knew that I could swear like that!!!
I blew a gasket.
I poked HIM in the chest and shouted "DON"T YOU DARE TALK TO ME LIKE THAT" .
I will not insert the swear words as I do not want to offend anyone.
That was my turning point. He stepped backwards and I knew that I had won the war.
All the years of anger and the pain came rushing out and I told him in no uncertain terms just what I thought of him. He threatened to call the police. I told him to do so, but he did not. He never bothered me after that. He died a few years ago.
It is only in the last couple of years that my darling Sister has confided in me that this man had abused her in other ways. It still breaks my heart.