Dr Jekyll and Mr (or Ms) Hyde.  You hear that a lot when victims talk about abusive partners.  Me included.  That they have ‘two sides’.  The wonderful Dr Jekyll to the darker Mr Hyde, if you like.    My ex did.

When we first met he love-bombed me with full-on attention.  Declared his undying love for me.  He promised marriage, babies and a long, happy life together.  All within the first few weeks.   It must have been what my insecurities wanted to hear.  It sucked me in.

I thought I’d found what I’d been looking for.  Someone to love me, care for me and grow old with me.   I trusted him.  I let go and allowed myself to be vulnerable with him.  Then I met Mr Hyde.

It was a brief glimpse at first and it shocked me.  But it was brief enough for me to think: did I imagine him?  And brief enough for me to minimise the unacceptable behaviour I’d just witnessed.  Especially when Dr Jekyll offered profuse apologies for him.  And bought me flowers.

It’s a sort of emotional bait and switch.  The romantic, wonderful person hooks and reels you in.  Then bam, there’s a sudden switch to this moody, darker side.   But no sooner do you get a glimpse of that, it switches back and it’s all wine and roses once more.

I didn’t fall in love with a violent man.  I fell in love with a man who later became violent towards me.   There’s a difference.  It’s an important distinction to understand.

From then on it becomes a cycle of seeing one, then the other.   To and fro. But you never know which one you’ll get on any given hour or day. It throws you off balance.  You walk on eggshells, never knowing what will lead to Mr Hyde coming out.  All you know is you never want to see that side again.

So, you try everything you can not to provoke an appearance.   But no matter what you do Hyde will return.  And you’ll be blamed for any abuse he (or she) dishes out.

Your self-confidence is stripped away.  Especially as you start to see more and more of your partner’s darker side.  The gorgeous person you fell in love with becomes harder and harder to find.   You know they’re there.  But in your mind they’re just hidden deep within this imposter Hyde.

Here’s the thing.  This is why we stay with abusive partners.   We are desperate to get the wonderful Dr Jekyll back.  The side we saw when we first met.   We spend all our energy in a futile search for it.  The ‘nice side’.  The person we fell in love with.  We do everything we can to appease Hyde to let Dr Jekyll give us some special time.   It becomes like an addiction, a craving for that initial high again.

The truth is:  there aren’t two sides to abusive men (or women).   They are one and the same person.   Understanding this was key to my recovery.

I was convinced my ex had ‘two sides’.  The man I fell in love with and the damaged man that revealed himself later.   The latter was the moody and abusive side.   The one he himself needed rescuing from.  The man I fell in love with wasn’t to blame for the abuse I suffered, that darker side wasn’t the ‘real him’.  I thought: if I just loved him more.  If only I could prove to him I was worthy of him, then that would be all he needed to nourish the good side and banish his bad side forever.

But if I’d seen him as I see him now, things might have been different. The darker, damaged soul wasn’t a ‘side’ to him.  It was him.  The loving, romantic side was more a mask he’d learnt to wear to hide that fact.

Abusive people are masters of disguise.  They know exactly what to say to reel you back in, especially after they’ve hurt you.  How to convince you they have two sides.  And can even express their own shock or anger over Mr Hyde’s abhorrent behaviour.  ‘That’s not me’ they might say.  Or they might blame a troubled past. Cry in horror: ‘I don’t want to become like my (parent) and repeat what they did to me as a child’.  Anything but take responsibility for Hyde’s actions.

I’ll say it again.  There aren’t two sides to them.  They are one and the same.  They are responsible for both.

I always say: ‘Watch not what they say but what they do’.  The good ‘side’ is brilliant at saying everything you want to hear.  At pouring out love. Particularly after an abusive episode.

But forget about this ‘side’ or that ‘side’ of them.  Watch what they do.  As I’ve said in an earlier post, love is a verb not a noun.   The real person shows you who they are, no matter what they say.   That is what matters the most.

Ask yourself:

  • Do they treat me with respect?
  • Do they speak in that way to others about me?
  • Do they love me by caring about me and my wellbeing?
  • Are they proud of me, even in moments when I have success and they don’t?
  • Are they nice to me?
  • Polite to me?
  • Good to me?

When I realised the answers to these questions were all no for me, I knew I couldn’t stay.  I could have spent my life justifying the ‘bad side’ of him.  Forever hoping for that ‘good side’ to return and stay for good.

I finally understood they were one and the same.  Both sides were him all along.   If I loved him unconditionally that meant I had no right to change him.  I had to accept him as he was, both good and bad.

I finally saw him for who he was.  He was Mr Hyde, at times wearing a Dr Jekyll mask.   He was responsible for his abusive behaviour.  Just as I was for my own actions.   We all are.   But if he chose to avoid that responsibility, then our relationship was no longer a good enough for me.   I drew on every ounce of strength I had and found the courage to leave.

Are you finding it hard to reconcile the two sides of your partner?  Let me know in the comments below.

If you need further help or counselling, please refer to the following (or the equivalent in your country):

1800Respect: 0800 737 732  https://www.1800respect.org.au
Lifeline: 13 11 14  https://www.lifeline.org.au

National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk
Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service 020 3866 4107  http://paladinservice.co.uk

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233  http://www.thehotline.org

Follow me and why not try my FREE QUIZ to find out if your relationship is good enough; if you need to focus more on you, not them; and are ready to take your FIRST STEPS TO FREEDOM?

Written by Vivian McGrath

Vivian McGrath is a TV Executive Producer who makes documentaries for major US, UK and Australian broadcasters.  She is also a survivor of domestic violence.  Her book ‘Unbeatable (How I Left a Violent Man)’ – her story of surviving abuse to finding success in love and life – will be published soon.  She hopes this blog will help others to become strong, fearless and successful too.  Find out more about Vivian Here.

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14 thoughts on “Dr Jekyll is Mr Hyde. There are no two sides to abusive partners.

  1. I’ve just spent 4 hours in the police station giving an account of my last 4 years with my husband. I used the words Jekyll and Hyde continously and also excused his bad behaviour due to having a poor childhood.
    The more I read, the better I feel about the decision I’ve made. Still only on day 4 though….long long way to go.
    Thanks though, I think this blog is going to invaluable.

    1. Hi Jools. This is the most amazing comment for me to read. I am so touched, thank you. I am so sorry to hear you are going through this and such pain right now. To hear that what I am writing is helping you to stay strong is just incredible. I thank you. This Unbeatable Community is growing and we are with you every step of the way. This is why I am writing this blog. Let’s all become strong and fearless together. x

  2. I feel like my situation is tricky. I can answer yes to most of the questions you pose above. He is good to me, proud of me, respectful of me. However, he when he feels like the relationship is threatened (I’m pulling away or undecided) he becomes not so nice, disrespectful and angry. As long as we are on the same page and everything is going his way (forward) he is a dream boyfriend. But when I’ve tried to leave or have some distance he has become very unstable and verbally abusive and a complete ogre. Unfortunately I tend to focus on the negative aspects of our past and I wonder if I’m “calling in” the bad behavior. Is it nuts to think if I focus on the positives (and there are many) that it is a safe relationship? I will admit to eggshells on the bottom of my feet!

    1. No, you are not ‘calling in’ bad behaviour. He is responsible for his actions, just as you are with yours. First things first is to focus on you. Stay aligned to your core values and goals. Maintain healthy boundaries, only those that are good for you and your wellbeing and do not accept any less than that. Lead by example. Behave in a way that you are proud of and is honest and true to yourself. If we are the best person we can be, then we are better in our relationship. If each person takes responsibility for their actions and is the best they can be, then the relationship can thrive long-term. Particularly if it is a supportive and encouraging one. If you do this, he will either follow your example, or not. If only one side is behaving badly and we are not reacting to it or absolving them of responsibility for it, then it’s clear whose issue it is. Then trust your gut about how you feel. Is the relationship good enough for you? I hope that makes sense? (PS – I am creating an online video course at present called START WITH ME, which is exactly about all this. I think it might be something you’d find interesting).

    2. Oh my goodness this is just the same as me. In a fit of upset over an abusive text, I blocked him, and also on social media. The emails came thick and fast, and over the past few weeks have veered from heartbreaking apologies, to clipped anger, to full blown personal attacks that have cut me to the core. In the space of a week he was going to make efforts to seek help, which then downgraded to if he could find time, to finally an expletive riddled email telling me how heartless I am, and how happy he is without me in his life, and to never contact him again. After a few years of more or less constant texts and calls, I feel cast adrift. I too answered yes, to most of the above questions. So much so that I have been questioning whether I am the one with the issues. I have to force myself to remember the strange or upsetting incidences, of which there are many that have happened along the way. I have become so introspective, and feel so guilty, and find myself going round and round in circles, trying to find answers. All my thoughts seem to be on what can be causing him to be the way he is. I feel flawed, insecure, and extremely confused. Secretly I still hope to engage. It’s crazy. I cannot merge the two sides of the character as one person, because the good side was prevalent for the longest time. I felt adored. I’m not even sure if this man is a narcissist. But the fact that i am so muddled up and obsessed with making sense of everything …surely that should confirm to me that something is “off”? I feel like I am the bad person, and yet in spite of my faults I would NEVER say the cruel things to somebody that he has said to me. How can somebody who loves you want to say such spiteful things? Like you Debbie, this happens when I’m pulling away. As I’ve been distant and pulling away for some months now, the spite has escalated. I wish i could put into words how raw and crazy I feel at present.

  3. I left my abusive spouse again after 21 years… We recently rekindled due to my vulnerability of a vrain tumour. Thinkimg he would change and take care of me and his four children. Instead he tormented me for the past and for leaving him the last time… The other night him and his Narc mom tried assaulting and threatening me to hurt me, threw me out and verbally abused me while making me leave in the dark in the country… I cried and kept praying asking God why did i meet such a cruel family??? My two sons come pick me up saying mom. “No more.” I feel trapped. He is not even sweet or kind at all… He takes and stripps you of everything, while taking your past and hurt and using it against you. He was beaten by his father and their was lots of sexual abuse in their family and he is an addict of everything… I think him and his mother want someone to blame for their shame because they both cannot take responsibility… Thank you so much for this understanding and encouragement. God bless you. ❤

    1. I’m so sad to hear your story. But I am relieved to here you are now free of him and his toxic mother. You put it so perfectly: they need to blame you to hide their inner shame. Narcissists must project their behaviour and blame onto us so they can absolve themselves of any accountability or responsibility for it. As you can see addictive and abusive behaviour passes in a cycle down generations. He would need to do much work on himself to heal himself. But now it is time for you to heal. To focus on you and building your self-esteem. If it will help, my Start with Me: Victim to Survivor online video course will be opening up again soon. I can send you the link to join the waitlist if you wish. Stay strong and thanks for trusting me with your story x

    2. Hi Jessica, I responded earlier but for some reason now can’t see it. So I am writing again. I am so sorry to hear what you have been through, as its sounds like a horrendous time. Domestic abuse can pass down in a cycle from generation to generation. You put it perfectly: they need someone else to blame for their shame, so they can avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Unless he wants to work on himself to change, there is nothing you can do to fix him. It’s time now to heal you. Time to focus on your self-esteem and wellbeing first. Over above him or anyone else. This is the most important thing now. Only when we have a strong sense of self-worth can we set healthier boundaries and say no, if someone doesn’t treat us as worthy. Do whatever it takes. Join a free support group, get counselling (I have DV resources listed on this website). You deserve more. Stay strong x

  4. Yes I’m still struggling to break free after 6 years of abuse we do not live together now but the emotional abuse continues, for me the high was so high but I know it wasn’t real , it’s sad that people can be like that I believe the wiring is faulty in their brains as it’s not normal and I so needed to come across this now as lying on my bed in tears after another episode of emotional abuse and mind games thank you x

    1. I’m so glad you found this helpful. I agree and the hardest thing is they can’t see the impact of their behaviour. Are you able to cut all contact? I found that was the only way for me to recover.

  5. I left my husband almost 3 months ago. The answer was no to all of the above questions. We were together 11 years but the last 5 felt like an eternity. The abuse happened slowly and one day when I realized how much I hated my self, my life, I didn’t feel strong enough to leave because I truly felt that the problem was me. It got to the point where I didn’t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. I just kept remembering how I felt in the beginning of the relationship vs. how I felt now. Wanting to regain that sense of myself prior to him is what I held onto. The decision to leave was very hard but the best thing I ever did. What clinched it for me was when I imagined my future with him, I saw only darkness, as I realized he would always be both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When I imagined my future without him, I saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I followed that light. Now that I am free of him (no contact) that light keeps getting brighter and brighter and I feel very hopeful about the future, more than I even imagined I would. Meditation, Alanon, therapy and lots and lots of reading (The Power of Now, This Thing Called You for starters) have helped. Support is the key. Know that you are not alone and that this is much more common than most people realize. My hope is that others will find their light. It’s there, you just need to believe it.

    “If for company you cannot find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered kingdom, or like a lone elephant in the elephant forest, you should go your way alone. Better it is to live alone; there is no fellowship with a fool.” Buddha

    “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” Saint Augustine

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Colleen, which mirrors how I felt exactly. What you say is so beautifully put. It is the hardest thing to do, but as you follow the light it does get brighter and brighter. Al-anon and reading everything I could was a life-saver for me too. That support is so crucial as we recover and heal. I am so glad you are a fellow survivor and live a healthier life now. Stay strong and thanks again for sharing.

  6. I’m a guy who has been dealing with this issue from a woman. It took a few months for me to see it, but I started to notice it…her Hyde.

    She had mentioned stories about prior relationships where she had been a complete twit to other men…downright mean. Now, I was seeing it happen to me, and she blamed me saying that I “made her do it”…meaning her abusive remarks and actions. I always felt like I was walking on eggshells. I never knew what would set her off. She’s very used to being adored by men – lots of attention. But I’m never jealous about it, and I think that angers her.

    She has even admitted to being Dr. J and Mr. H., but is extremely slow to address any changes. Any time she brings Hyde out for a walk, she blames me saying it’s because of x, y, or z…but any such issues were always trivial and have been buried forever.

    If a woman even looks at me, she breaks into an attack stating that I’m having an affair, which I’m not.

    The recent outburst pushed me over the edge and I cut all communication to the point that I can’t even see if she’s made an attempt.

    I think your line about the person is actually Mr. Hyde with a Dr. Jeykl masks is what struck me the most. I’m sad because I want Dr. Jeykl, but know that you’re correct. I always had this one word that stuck with me about her…and who she really was. I don’t know how the word cut into my mind, but it just constantly lingered there. That word is, “fraud”.

    Great, great article. Thank you.

    1. Hi Morgan, thank you so much for your comment and support. Sadly, this does happen to men as well. Sorry to hear you are one of them. It’s a really tough thing to accept, as we hope so much for the nice person we first met to come back and stay. We still love them, we just don’t like the nasty side we’re seeing. But once we get this we can see them for who they really are and then make that choice as to whether it’s good enough or not. It doesn’t ease the pain of the break up though, I know. I hope you are okay now. The most important thing to do is to really look at why you were attracted to someone like this. Usually, it’s those of us with low self-esteem and a propensity to put others before ourselves (narcissists feed off those who have a capacity for great empathy). And heal that. Otherwise you risk repeating it in the next relationship you go into. (I am about to launch a course which shows you the exact steps to do this, if you find you are struggling at all down the track). It’s nice to have you as part of this community. Thanks again. Stay strong x

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