Megan Holgate experienced first-hand how a relationship can become abusive, without a red flag or ounce of physical violence. Emotional and financial abuse can be just as destructive.
When I previously thought of domestic abuse, I picture a battered woman, living in a violent household. I was working in a corporate role earning a six-figure salary, yet I too was a victim of domestic abuse – emotionally, financially and psychologically.
Due to my ignorance, I didn’t associate myself with this idea of being ‘a battered woman’, but still I was her; no better, regardless of our socio-economic standing.
My abuse is classified as coercive abuse, and because we don’t display bruises or black eyes, it’s not given the equivalent recognition as domestic violence, yet its scars can be more lethal as the psychological damage sometimes never heals.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
This is how it happened to me
My husband, a chief financial officer of one of the wold’s largest investment banks, was good looking, clever, and charming, was never violent and didn’t yell as he didn’t need to; his weapon was his acerbic language – which wielded more damage than a knife or fist could ever inflict. His goal? To decimate every ounce of confidence I possessed.
Our whirlwind relationship was filled with love-bombing. From four-dozen roses after our first date, to beautiful restaurants and jewellery, I had never been indulged like this. But it was not the material objects that enticed me, it was the adoration that I felt from him.
I had never felt more loved, more beautiful, as if I could achieve anything with his support. I left Sydney to follow him to London, where a proposal in a French chateau was the icing on the cake. I felt I was living a dream life.
The devaluation stage
London was followed by Hong Kong, where I was thriving in my role with one of the world’s leading financial information vendors. My husband’s salary increased five-fold, yet we continued to save my entire salary as we had in London. We had one joint account, yet he kept most of the money in accounts I had no visibility of.
I could not make expensive purchases without his permission; he was the boss with finances, actually everything – yet I couldn’t see I was controlled. I trusted him implicitly. That was the biggest mistake I ever made, giving my financial power away.
Slowly, my husband began to criticise me. I was slim, dressed extremely well, mostly in Armani, yet my husband found fault in everything I wore, my hair, my weight, everything I said or did, which I now know is emotional and psychological abuse. I couldn’t understand how or why my husband had changed so much, then I fell pregnant. I was acutely unwell suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum and was hospitalised a couple of times, while he travelled as frequently as he could.
The final discard
My husband’s criticisms escalated. The outspoken, gregarious person I had always been was now a silent, stressed-out mess who had shut down. It wasn’t a simple one-off remark, it was constant, to make me feel less than. In public we could have won the medal for the perfect couple, it was always behind doors.
He was thrilled to be a father when I gave birth to our beautiful daughter. He gave me an exquisite five carat Ceylonese sapphire and diamond ring – much like Princess Diana’s but like Diana, all I wanted was to have my husband’s love.
8 weeks later I was discarded, swiftly and brutally
When our daughter was eight weeks old, he informed me that he was confused about his sexuality and that ‘he wasn’t attracted to me anymore.’ The truth was he was gay and engaging in a wild affair, a fact that I found out a year later.
That same day sitting on the plane to Sydney cradling my baby daughter, sobbing, I realised I had lost my husband, my marriage, my home, career, my friends, and oh yes, our home in London – which we bought with my money from my investments that I would I never see again.
I was left in limbo for six months, praying we might reconcile, while he moved money – my hard-earned money – into Swiss bank accounts that I would never uncover.
I emerged from the divorce with our small investment property in Sydney. Many thought I was lucky, but they didn’t know the vast sums we both earned in the years together were now safely in my husband’s Swiss bank account.
I was shattered, a shell of my former self, left to raise our child, with my ex living overseas for much of our daughter’s life. But I needed to do this to co-parent our beautiful daughter, as that was our agreed priority.
Following our divorce my career stalled, as I needed to downgrade my role to be a mother; my daughter deserved at least one parent present. My confidence took many years to recover; I accepted corporate roles that were beneath me and dated men who were ill-suited until I finally fully understood this pattern and regained my confidence. Regaining my confidence – transformed my career, my personal life which is why created my business and help others.
Megan Holgate is a Sydney-based divorce and narcissist recovery coach and author. She works with clients to mitigate their financial and emotional loss, and how to co-parent with a narcissist ex-partner. You can find her online here.