Tamsin Caine of Smart Divorce recently interviewed a woman who is moving on from an abusive relationship. They hope that her experiences may help others in a similar position. Her name is Hayley.
Tell me a bit about your situation.
I wasn’t married but did have a son with my ex. We had not been together for long, less than 2 years. Our son was 6 months old when we split up, a year ago. I already had my own flat so I gave him some money towards the deposit and we bought a family house together but in his sole name. However, I contributed to paying the mortgage.
Were there any early signs about your ex?
I’ve thought about this and I don’t think there were. He wasn’t abusive in the first few months or I would never have agreed for him to move in. He wasn’t perfect but then if we all waited for someone perfect, we would never have a long-term relationship. Occasionally, he could be bad-tempered and selfish but I didn’t think anything much of it.
What happened as the relationship developed?
The occasions on which he was behaving badly increased in regularity. I am now convinced that he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder*. Initially, I think that he was trying to be someone that he isn’t. Then it got to a stage where he couldn’t mask it any longer. When our son was born, I took motherhood in my stride and our son was a settled baby. People want to say “oh he changed because of the baby” but that wasn’t the case. His true colours would have come out regardless but I wouldn’t have been financially dependent or frightened about being a single mum.
What form did the abuse take?
The physical abuse was mostly smashing things in the house. However, the first time he grabbed me, I ended the relationship. Mainly it was psychological abuse, name-calling, telling me all that was wrong with me and gaslighting** as it’s often referred to now. I was financially dependent on him and I felt as though I needed to make things work so that our son would grow up in a family with both parents. He would have outbursts and go to a hotel for a week and then come back and tell me I needed to change.
How did the relationship end?
It was one of those mornings where we were both busy, trying to get up and out of the house when he snapped. He was shouting and calling me names in the street. The neighbours thought that he was also being violent. They’d checked on me several times in recent weeks. I felt a lot of shame about our new neighbours hearing the domestic abuse. However, I would protect him from their offers to call the police. That morning he left again. After the weekend he came back. I sat on the floor holding our son whilst he repeatedly kicked the bed shouting at me that I needed to sort my temper out. It was like living with a madman. He then turned it around and suggested a break for a few months so that he could sort himself out.
I arranged a serviced apartment for him to live in but over the next week. He was rude to me, didn’t respond to messages and showed a complete distain to me. Previously, I had always believed that people were inherently good but I’m not sure now. He showed no signs of a family man trying to get help and sort things out so that he could be a better partner and father.
How did you manage financially when he left?
I had received an email on one of the previous occasions that he’d left detailing how our finances would be split. Of course, I assumed that this would be how we would organise things. He earns a lot of money but since we got together, that had been our money, as mine had been his. I still thought he was a good guy.
I have a flat but it isn’t in as good an area as the house. However, I want to stay in the house for my son’s education, growing up with more nature around him. That’s what we’d planned for our son when we were together and I didn’t want it to change because we’d separated.
After he left and my maternity allowance ended, I started claiming universal credit. It was financially manageable because he was still paying the mortgage, some bills and paying child support for the first few months. After three months, when I was still breast-feeding and looking for a job, he stopped paying anything other than the mortgage. He felt I’d had plenty of time to find a job, despite having a baby to look after full-time who had also stopped seeing because he said it was difficult when he visited. I felt so ashamed but had to borrow money from a friend to buy food and pay the bills. I got my first salary payment when I had £20 left in the bank. Our son has an older cousin who passes down his clothes which is the only way I’d managed to clothe my son as he grew.
How have things moved on?
I am still living in the house, although we are in Court because he started eviction proceedings on 27 December. Now I believe he timed it to make Christmas as painful as possible. However, I have a beneficial interest in the house and so hope that I will be allowed to stay. In the meantime, I have a full-time job, which pays reasonably well and means that I can make ends meet. A huge amount of money goes on nannies. They both bring their children with them to reduce the cost a bit and socialise our son. I negotiated working from home a couple of days each week. This means that I save the travelling time in childcare and am then not away from my son for so long.
How are things financially?
The child maintenance service looked at my ex’s earnings and ordered him to pay less than £30 per week because he is paid in salary and dividends. I am trying to get this re-assessed. It has already been 6 months.
I am managing to make ends meet without getting into debt, while I can stay in the house. If I have to leave here my salary will just cover childcare and rent, something which the Court do not take into account it would seem. I have borrowed a friend’s car so that I am able to get out and about at the weekends. This also reduces my commute because I live a 25 minutes walk from a train station.
At the moment, I am only buying the essentials. I cannot afford to put money away for my son’s future or into my pension. In the future I will hopefully have more money. When my son is 3, we will get some childcare contribution.
Emotionally things are a lot better than 12 months ago. I hope that they will continue to improve once I am no longer representing myself in two (was three) court cases against an abusive ex-partner.
Tamsin wants to thank her interviewee for her honesty and for being brave enough to tell her story. Hopefully it will help others in her position.
*Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is closely associated with egocentrism, a personality characteristic in which people see themselves and their interests and opinions as the only ones that really matter. People with NPD have limited interest in the feelings of others. They lack empathy and are unable to feel or appreciate feelings that are not their own.
**Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.
If you are in the process of separating or divorcing, you might find our guide useful.
Tamsin Caine is a Chartered Financial Planner at Smart Divorce. She specialises in working with separating or divorcing clients to help them to understand how to divide their finances to move forward with their lives. If you would like to speak to Tamsin or find out more about how she can help, email her at Tamsin@smartdivorce.co.ukany time or telephone 07975 922766 during office hours.