What story do they tell?
In my early days of talking about domestic abuse, people would always cite bruises as an indicator that abuse had taken place. But what if there are no visual clues?
I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship until a policeman pointed it out to me. This was 5-years after I had left the relationship and was still getting hassle from the perpetrator. Even then, I didn’t believe it was abuse, I just thought it was a ‘normal’ acrimonious separation involving a child. Because to me it was normal, so I accepted it.
Many of my clients tell me about what is going on their relationship and I occasionally have cause to suggest to them that theirs is an abusive relationship. Usually their first response is ‘but he doesn’t hit me’.
We talk about it further and I explain that words and actions can be equally as damaging as physical violence.
Over time, I help them work out what they want to do in the future; some choose to leave the relationship, others choose to stay and develop coping strategies. It is always my clients’ decision and I support her appropriately. If however, I truly believe she is in danger, then I will intervene.
Over time we work together to fix those unseen bruises, the aches and pains that no-one else knows you carry around day after day, hiding them Behind the Mask.
Stepping Behind the Mask is scary, you never know quite what you’ll uncover. But when you know the underlying cause of any symptoms, you can start to fix them.
The bruise in the photo is of my hip. I was recently knocked off my bicycle by a car. That bruise and a bent and twisted bike are the only visible signs of the accident. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have damage and pain in other areas of my body.
Next time you ponder about your relationship, think about more than what you and everyone else can see. Download my e-book that tells my story about what it’s like living Behind the Mask: “Whatever it takes: Living with Leaving and Surviving Psychological Abuse”
This might be a bit controversial but bear with me.
Throughout life we are told we need to take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, our actions, our behaviour and so on.
So why is it, when there are problems in our relationships we are quick to apportion blame to our partner and stop taking responsibility?
No matter what is going wrong in your relationship, some of the reason for the issues will lie with you – there are after all 2 people in a relationship.
“How can you say that Deb, if someone is in an abusive relationship?”
Well, whilst I’m in no way saying anyone is responsible for being the victim of abuse, and we cannot be held responsible for the behaviour or actions of another, we are responsible for our choices.
Having had 3 abusive relationships I know I did not deserve to be abused however, I take responsibility by acknowledging I CHOSE to enter into those relationships, I CHOSE to stay in those relationships, I CHOSE to ignore the warning signs before and during those relationships, I CHOSE to allow the behaviour to continue without being challenged.
Likewise, when I had a partner who cheated on me, I acknowledged responsibility too – at the time I was more preoccupied with other things going in my life and not giving him the attention he wanted. We often take our partners for-granted and when I looked back I could see where things had gone off track.
This in no way condones any of the behaviour of my ex partners but it recognises that there were two of us in the relationship, each reacting to the other in one way or another, each believing that their reaction/behaviour is correct and acceptable so continuing to behave in the same way. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.
Most of our behaviour is learned from family and those around us, we have rules we live by on a day to day basis but in our own homes there is no-one, other than our partner, to challenge our behaviour. If poor behaviour goes unchallenged it becomes normalised and accepted, regardless whether the behaviour is actually acceptable.
What behaviour are you allowing to go unchallenged in your relationship at the moment?
What behaviour are you exhibiting that you could change to make an improvement to how you perceive your relationship?
On World Theatre Day (Saturday 27th March) I reflected upon why I named my coaching practice Not A Rehearsal. Whilst I truly believe life’s Not A Rehearsal, my coaching practice is alsonamed to acknowledge my love of the theatre.
As a teenager my dream was to become a professional actor. I was offered a deferred place at RADA but turned it down when my then boyfriend proposed. I was 19-years old and we’d been together for 6 years. The prospect of being apart for 3 years whilst I studied was just too long.
I settled in my relationship and I settled in life.
I settled for getting cast in leading roles in amazing productions in the local Amateur Dramatics community; from Irene Molloy in Hello Dolly! and Katie Brown in Calamity Jane, to Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, Lady Windermere in Lady Windermere’s Fan, Alice in a semi-pro production of Vinegar Tom, and the World Premiere of an opera, The Barber of Saville Row.
I learned to sing properly and to dance, I even learned to tap dance for Stepping Out and pushed myself beyond my comfort zone time and time again to deliver performances I could only otherwise have dreamed of.
My second husband wasn’t at all supportive of my acting passion and did everything he could to belittle me, mock me and destroy my confidence. But when I left him, I returned to the only thing I knew that made me feel truly alive – the stage.
Gradually my confidence increased and one-day I dared to apply for an audition in a professional touring production of a play.
I got the part and I knew my life would change from that point onwards.
It did. It led me to my partner, to the only unconditionally loving relationship I’ve ever had.
Following my dream, pursuing my passion, achieving professional status in my early 40’s enabled me to change my life.
It’s only right that my business name should reflect my belief, my passion and my desire to help other female professionals to create the relationships they truly want rather than simply settling; after all, life’s really Not A Rehearsal.
Happy New Year!
In the words of Nina Simone “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…..and I’m feeling good”.
However you’re feeling today after last night’s festivities it’s likely that your thoughts are turning to self-care and looking after yourself in the New Year. You might even be planning on getting involved in Dry January or Veganuary.
Maybe you indulged in a little too much prosecco at midnight or the New Year’s Eve buffet totally ruined all of your plans to ‘be good’. I know that I’m a sucker for a table groaning with party food and nibbles even though I know they’re no good for me.
Last night my partner and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of prosecco, a take away curry and we’re going hiking today. Something that we both enjoy for both our physical and mental health all year around but it’s become a bit of a New Year’s Day tradition as well.
I start every New Year with a plan to sort out my diet and exercise once and for all. This year is a little different, I started early. I decided to get a grip on my diet and exercise way back in September, using the new school year as my New Year to give me a head start. It meant that by the time New Year really did arrive, I’d lost the weight and was fit enough to have a little bit of a break over the festive season. What it doesn’t mean though is that I went completely mad.
Long gone are the years of waking up with a fuzzy head and full feeling from over-indulging the night before. These days I much prefer the feeling of waking up with a clear head and looking forward to my breakfast before embracing the day ahead. But it’s taken a while to make that change.
What I’ve done, and what I do every time I want to change some facet of my life, is break it all down into small daily steps rather than trying to tackle it all at once when I am bound to give up because all seems a little bit too overwhelming.
So today, rather than focusing on what you’re going to give up, why not think about what you’re going to start doing? Think about the foods you’re going to eat rather than those you’re not going to eat. Think about the drinks you’ll enjoy rather than those you’ll miss.
My focus for January is on my own health and wellbeing which includes my mental health which is equally as important as physical health and I’ll be using my own downloads to help me do that. You can get the free downloads from my private Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/realwomenrealliferealrelationships
I wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2021 and success in Creating your Blockbuster Life and here’s a link to Nina Simone for a little inspiration.
Today is 4th October 2020. 17 years ago today I got married for the second time. We were blessed with a warm, crisp and sunny Autumn day and were surrounded by family and friends in the small country house hotel we had exclusive use of for the event.
Little did I know then what experiences that marriage would bring me. I’d been married before to a physically and sexually abusive man who had beat me up for the first time on our wedding night. I was adamant that my second marriage would be for life.
My husband had quite literally swept me off my feet, carrying me in his arms on our first date when I had my leg in plaster and we had to climb some stairs. He was tall, dark and handsome and that gesture won many smiles, comments and claps of approval as he showed all onlookers that he would look after his woman.
Less than 2 years into our marriage and I was feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It would be another 2 years before I left, a shell of the woman I used to be.
At first, I shrugged off his somewhat insensitive comments about my appearance, how he would belittle me in public or treat me with complete disrespect. I thought that I must be mishearing his outdated and misogynistic comments about women being second class citizens and belonging in the kitchen or the bedroom. And when I challenged him about it he would tell me I should be grateful that he didn’t beat me like my first husband had. What’s worse is that I actually agreed with him. Over time I had been indoctrinated to believe that he was right, I was wrong and that I couldn’t cope with day to day life without him guiding me.
When he sold our house without telling me and bought a new house, 30 miles away in the middle of nowhere, far from anyone we knew, I trusted him when he said it was only a temporary measure and if I was that unhappy we could move back. I trusted him when he told me that I was an alcoholic and needed help, standing over me as I called AA in tears, because I drank one glass of wine per night and on the nights I didn’t pour my own, he would pour me a large vodka and tonic, telling me ‘I needed one’. I believe him when he told me that I was incapable of looking after our son because I’d never had children before and didn’t know what to do. I believed him when he dissuaded me from cuddling our son because it would lead to attachment issues. And I believed him when he told me that him taking family photos or videos and leaving me just out of shot was accidental. All the while I was trying to keep a business afloat and a roof over our head because he wasn’t working.
When I left, I left our son with him and I believed that was the right thing to do. I also believed that I would be free of what I now know was psychological abuse or coercive control.
How wrong I was. That was just the start. The 12 years that have followed have been the years that I have had to pay emotionally, financially and metaphorically for having the audacity to leave him. And they have been far, far harder than the years I was married to him. Two lengthy and expensive court battles to prove that I was fit to be the resident carer of my son were the least of it. The staggering attempts at parental alienation to discredit me in front of my son, the social services and anyone else who would listen. The pursuit of my destruction, whatever it takes, to prove that everything he said and believed about me was right.
The two attempts to take my own life because I couldn’t take the abuse any more were long after I’d left him. I’d reached the end of my tether and I’d run out of energy to carry on fighting. Watching his father take metaphorical pieces out of me was damaging my son and I wasn’t prepared to put him through anymore. Thankfully, I didn’t succeed in my attempts but I was far from out of the woods and headed down some dark and dangerous paths before eventually I was fortunate to find a fantastic therapist adept at working with survivors of abuse. I met a partner who had first known me long before I met my second husband and who supported me in working through the abuse I had endured in both marriages and a subsequent financially abusive relationship.
Working through everything I’d endured gave me strength I didn’t know I had, it helped me to re-evaluate my life and redefine my relationships not just with myself but with my partner and my son who now lives with me. It gave me the courage to believe in myself and embark on a six-year psychology and counselling degree with the Open University. It opened new doors of opportunity for me as my self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem returned. It made me determined that I would do whatever I could to try and ensure no-one else, regardless of gender, ended up an abusive relationship.
That’s a huge undertaking. There will always be those who abuse others. But if sharing my experiences and learning helps just a few more people, who go on to help others by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships, then it will all have been worth it.
Change is scary, leaving your abuser is scary, the abuse never stops it just changes. It’s how you respond to those changes that matter. I still get ‘abuse’ every day, these days it’s usually sad attempts to discredit and belittle me in front of my son. I spend many days worrying about when ‘pay back’ is going to happen but these days I know I’m strong. I can take on any of the attacks that are coming because now I have a solid foundation built on trust, love and self-respect; all of the values that eluded me in my marriage.
Now I truly am FREE.
To help me share my story and give hope to millions of domestic abuse sufferers and survivors around the world please register to hear me speak at the Introbiz Global Summit alongside greats such as Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Sharon Lechter, Rob Moore, Lisa Johnson.
To learn more about my work please register for my FREE live training, 5 Days to Redefine your Relationships
Or join me in this workshop ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ on 19th November which I’m hosting with Suzanne Smart of Positive Imprint and Rachel Earing of Live 4 Energy.
I have a problem with the term ‘domestic abuse survivor’.
Bear with me on this. I’m saying this from the point of view of a survivor of domestic abuse. Most of my adult relationships have been abusive. I’ve been through physical, sexual, psychological and economical abuse so I tick the boxes.
I support all of the campaigns that help victims of domestic abuse regardless of gender, creed, colour or sexual orientation.
But I see the domestic abuse charities, the legal profession and numerous other companies vying for money and funding in the name of supporting domestic abuse victims whilst spending thousands upon thousands in advertising and marketing, aimed at helping women primarily, escape the terror they’re living with, to become a domestic abuse survivor.
What they don’t seem to grasp, at least from my experience, is that the abuse continues long after the victim has walked away from the perpetrator. Thankfully, there are a number of domestic abuse campaigners starting to change this perception.
Abuse is abuse. End of. There’s no one-upmanship amongst abuse survivors, if anything there’s gratitude from those who didn’t end up in hospital beds that they didn’t suffer as badly, but no-one keeps score.
Survivors know that when the abuse ends, the torment starts. Physical scars heal and fade but the scars you can’t see, the scars that linger in the depths of your mind and reveal themselves when you’re least expecting, those are the scars that torment abuse survivors.
But doesn’t seem to be recognised.
In the throes of rebuilding your life, protecting your children and trying to understand what a normal adult relationship should be, you are at your most vulnerable. Prey to those who recognise your vulnerability and those who naively offer help thinking they are doing you a favour. What they don’t understand is that a misjudged word or phrase, a boost up the ladder, a public declaration of your status or even just a paint colour in a room or office can send you back to a dark place in your mind, that forces you to relive painful memories as if they were actually happening again.
And when you mention it, when you react, you’re seen as being sensitive, irrational, unstable and incapable. And the very people who think they are helping you, layer on another coat of shame and lack of belief and low confidence until once again you start to believe that too and the helpers have become the unknowing perpetrators of a whole new cycle of abuse.
And the domestic abuse survivor gets stuck, not knowing who to trust, not knowing where to turn and when the legal profession and the domestic abuse industry turns them away because they’re not in immediate danger and don’t have physical injuries or scars to show the extent of their abuse, they feel lost, alone, abandoned.
This is when the abuse does the worst damage.
This is when the survivor gives up and believes that’s all they deserve. So they’re grateful for the unsuitable suitor who shows a little bit of compassion, they’re grateful for the employer who offers them a job that makes them feel a little bit worthy but pays them a pittance and treats them like dirt, and they’re grateful for every day they wake up without being attacked.
Eventually, if they’re lucky, they reach a point where they start to recognise that they really do deserve more than just settling and they start to question things around them.
But this means they have to put their head above the parapet, they have to have the audacity to suggest that yes, they deserve more, they deserve better and yes, there is more to life than this.
Gradually, they move through this phase, they reach forgiveness and acceptance and recognise that they can be anyone or anything they choose to be. They don’t have to rely on or depend upon a partner, they have a strength within them that they didn’t know they had, they have the strength to overcome any obstacle that gets in their way. They have the strength, the ability and the know how to create the life they want. Free from abuse, free from fear, fear from torment. Free from being labelled a domestic abuse survivor.
But the domestic abuse industry doesn’t grasp this. ‘Domestic Abuse Survivor’ has become a badge of honour to be worn with pride and used to justify behaviour and purpose.
Yes, I am a survivor of domestic abuse but to wear that as a badge or label that defines me just gives status to my perpetrators; as if I couldn’t have achieved a level of success without that badge, and it’s them who enabled me to win that badge.
So I’m going to stop calling myself a domestic abuse survivor. I’ll continue to share my story to help and inspire others but I’m so much more than a survivor of domestic abuse. It taught me so much more than how to define myself by a label bestowed upon me by a society that likes to label people and keep them in their boxes. The label isn’t fit for purpose anymore.
My experience of domestic abuse enabled me to have a greater understanding of human relationships. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Without the worst sorts of relationships I would never have been able to recognise a good relationship full of unconditional love. I would never have understood that abuse takes many forms, I would never have understood the power of the human mind, I would never have studied psychology.
But the best part of all, I would never have recognised how important it is to educate, coach and support people to create strong, healthy and robust relationships so that future generations can learn how to do the same from observing and learning from their parents and grandparents.
It has taken multiple generations to dilute the abuses that take place within the home, it will take multiple generations to replace that abuse by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships across all social demographics but myself and countless others like me, carry on in the belief that one day, probably long after we’ve left this world, it will all have been worth it.
How often have you met someone who seemed perfectly lovely but left you walking away thinking ‘They seemed very nice but, I’m not sure, there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on’?
And how often do you ignore that feeling?
I can think of at least four occasions where I felt like that, ignored the feeling and it cost me dear. Twice it happened to me in business and in relationships I ignored that niggling doubt because so many other people were happy to associate with the individuals involved, so I carried on and just hoped that the feeling would go away, thinking ‘it’s just me’. The feeling didn’t go away and unfortunately, years afterwards I was proven right each time. I write about the impact of ignoring my gut instinct and suppressing my authentic self in my books (available here).
I’ve learned the hard way that when you get that niggling doubt about someone, no matter how lovely they may appear, it is usually because they are not acting with integrity or they are not being their authentic selves. It could be said that they are hiding behind a mask.
Many of us wear masks in our daily life, we’re not the same person in work as we are at home and vice versa. I’m not advocating that we should all go around wearing our heart on our sleeves and spewing forth all of our innermost thoughts or secrets to everyone we meet, unless of course you choose to do that and are entirely comfortable with doing so. Most people are not and that’s perfectly fine.
The term ‘authenticity’ has been bandied around personal development and coaching circles for a long time and it is no longer as effective as it once was. Many people now believe that if someone has to tell you they are being authentic, then the likelihood is, they are not. Just as many people start a sentence with “no offence” when they’re about to say something offensive, when someone tells you they are authentic it is often because they are trying to convince themselves that it is true.
It is human nature to present ourselves slightly differently in different environments. We wouldn’t turn up at the office in the same mindset as when we’re relaxing at home on a weekend. That doesn’t mean we are being inauthentic it just shows that we are aware of the ‘rules of engagement’ in those different settings.
However, what happens if you’re not being authentic in a relationship? What happens if you’re not allowed to be your true self in a relationship? What happens when you find yourself wearing a mask more often than not?
Suppressing your authenticity, or having to suppress your authenticity, for any length of time is detrimental to your mental health. It leads to frustration, resentment and anger and in the worst instances can lead to depression and significant other mental health problems. Hiding your real self behind a mask for a prolonged period of time is also exhausting.
In the work I’ve done with survivors of domestic abuse, very often they have lived in an environment where their real authentic self has been suppressed for a significant length of time and it can take many months or years for them to rediscover their authentic self but when they do, the transformation is incredible.
They report feeling much happier and more content than they have for a long while, they have a confidence and inner strength that makes them seem taller. With further work they go on to develop strong, healthy relationships where their authentic self is not only loved and cherished but allowed to flourish.
You don’t have to be a victim of domestic abuse to suppress your authenticity. There can be many, many reasons for believing no-one wants to know your authentic self.
Whomever and whatever your authentic self truly is, embrace it, enjoy it and bring it to the fore. The right partner will love you in all your authentic quirkiness and recognise that it’s what makes you, you. This applies to all relationships, not just survivors of domestic abuse.
If you need help to rediscover your authentic self why not book a no obligation discovery call with me to see if I can help you? You can book a call here: https://www.notarehearsal.co.uk/apply
I look forward to speaking with you.
It’s National Strawberry Day in the US and as I was looking for numerous images to create a happy little meme I couldn’t help but notice the number of pictures that showed a woman seductively popping a very ripe strawberry into her perfectly painted mouth.
You don’t need me to tell you that everywhere you look are images of women oozing sex. Boobs and bums are flashed at us at every opportunity, in the traditional media, on social media, in advertising. Let’s face it, Sex Sells.
It’s always been a fascination to me that men who exude sexual energy are lauded for their masculinity whilst women exuding the same energy are belittled and objectified. I’m not about to rehash the age-old debate about us being in a patriarchal society and ‘nice’ women don’t do things like that.
Quite frankly, I’m sick of it.
But why is it that women are so scared of sexual energy? What do we think it’s going to do to us? Suddenly turn us into raging nymphomaniacs overnight so we become someone you wouldn’t want to have a long-term relationship with but happy to have as a ‘booty call’?
I personally feel it’s time to rewrite that debate and harness the feminine power within us all when we embrace our sexual energy and engage it to improve our lives, our wellbeing and society at large.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Sex (or reproduction) is one of the absolute basic physiological needs of humans.
Why, therefore, do we spend so much time as a society encouraging sexualisation on a wider scale but refuse to talk about it in ‘polite society’?
It’s about time we accepted that ALL human beings, regardless of gender, have sexual needs, desires and energy, and embracing and engaging this in a positive manner across society can only result in positive outcomes.
As long as we keep it hidden, taboo and something sleazy then it will continue to effect society in a harmful, dark and dangerous manner.
Sex is good, sexual energy is powerful. Power, used in positive ways, is something that can do as much good to society as a bowl of perfectly ripe and juicy strawberries can do to the mind and body of the individual savouring them.
Today is one of those days. I hadn’t realised that today is Winne the Pooh day until I was scrolling through social media whilst enjoying a cup of coffee this morning.
I love Winne the Pooh. When my son was new-born (he’s almost 15 now) his nursery was decorated with Winnie the Pooh and he had big 3ft plush toys of Winne, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore to welcome him home from the hospital. They became well loved ‘playmates’ until his dad decided they were dirty and too young for him and needed to be thrown out.
But that’s not the part that saddens me. You see, I didn’t choose Winne the Pooh to be my son’s theme. In fact, I wasn’t involved in choosing any of the accessories or décor for my son or his new nursery. It was all presented to me as a fait accompli and I had to accept it or be told I was ungrateful and mean.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist (and I hate to use that word as it’s so over-used these days) you will recognise what I’m talking about.
In the weeks leading up to my son’s birth I would regularly be presented with ‘gifts’ – a new pushchair and changing bag that I had no involvement in selecting or even having any input into.
And when I returned home from the hospital with my new-born son after a particularly traumatic birth, I was presented with a fully accessorised nursery adorned with Winne the Pooh decals, lampshades, curtains, mobiles to join plush toys taking up all of the room in the cot. You name it, Winne the Pooh and his friends looked down from in it or on it!
As I’ve said, I have nothing against Winne the Pooh but to have had him foisted upon me, with absolutely no input, at such a significant stage of my transition into motherhood turned me off him for a long time.
If I commented that I would have liked to have had some input into the décor for our son’s nursery I was told I was ungrateful and I hadn’t been involved because it would take the pressure off me. Excuse me? How many mums do you know who don’t want to be involved in the décor of their child’s nursery?
When I mentioned that I was planning on a different style of pushchair than the one I was presented I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about and I should be grateful that he had made the decision for me, particularly as my pregnancy brain was confusing me about what I did and didn’t want!
Winnie the Pooh – such a lovable, effable character but to someone who has been through psychological abuse such an inanimate object can take them straight back to a time of fear and darkness.
Thankfully, I have since had years of counselling, coaching and therapy and can once again enjoy Winnie the Pooh and friends for who and what he is.
Happy Winnie the Pooh Day.
Today it’s National Pharmacists Day and I’d like to say thank you to all of the Pharmacists out there who help us with minor ailments and provide their expertise to everyone who ventures into their local pharmacy, chemist or supermarket with a cough, cold, sniffle, sore throat or worse, to avoid waiting at and clogging up the GP surgery.
Sometimes we all need some help from experts to get better. If you spent the last two weeks making plans of what you’re going to do but have woken up today still wondering how on earth you’re going to execute those plans, you’re not alone.
To change my diet I enrolled in Slimming World, to increase my fitness I joined a running club. Both were full of experts who helped me to make tiny tweaks to what I was already doing to enable me to optimise my success.
In business, I work with mentors who can guide me. When my car needs fixing I take it to the mechanic. I go to the hairdresser to get my hair done and I see a therapist to keep my mental health on track. I have a life coach. And if I’ve got a cough, cold or sore throat my first port of call is my local Pharmacist.
In turn, I help lots of people to deal with things I’ve had experience in. I work with survivors of domestic abuse who want to turn their lives around and create their own Blockbuster Life. But in the main, I work with women over 40 who are reclaiming their life.
There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. To acknowledge you’re not the expert in everything is a strength, as is asking for help and support.
Who can you ask TODAY to help you to execute your plans? If you do nothing else, just identify who they are.