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):

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

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

US: 
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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5 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.

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