My fiancé seemed perfect... all he wanted was to control me

Wednesday March 18 2020

Abusive relationships should not be tolerated. ILLUSTRATION | FREYA LOWRY CLARK

When Anna, an actress, fell in love with an older and more successful actor, he seemed like the perfect man.

They quickly became engaged — but then he began to change. It took time for her to realise that her fairy tale romance had become an abusive relationship. She shares her story.


"People think that emotional abuse isn't as bad as physical abuse, but, I can tell you, it leaves scars.

My relationship with Thom felt like a fairy tale, the kind you only ever see in films. We met just before my 30th birthday, when I was freaking out about where I was in life: still single, no kids, and no home of my own.

I was working in a play at the time, and one of the other actresses told me that he was coming to see us perform that night.

She'd known him for 14 years, and had worked with him on a previous job. I'd just broken up with someone else, thought he was quite cute, and she hinted he may be good for a rebound.

We swapped numbers straight away. It turned out he'd already followed me on Twitter after seeing me in a show - I later discovered this was his first move with anyone he was attracted to.


A few days later, we ended up meeting for coffee, and he was lovely. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is so amazing."

And then the texting began, which, looking back, should have been a huge red flag. I'd receive 50-100 messages a day, long ones.

At one point he said to me, "I send you really long messages and I only get one sentence back." I was pretty busy with my play and other things, and I think anyone would have struggled to keep up with the volume.

He used to say that after our second lunch he'd realised he was in love with me.

He came to see me perform, took me out for dinner and took a massive interest in my life, my childhood, and my family. I thought he was so different from the guys I'd been out with before.

Two weeks after we met, it was my birthday. I invited him to my party but he said he wouldn't come; that I should spend time with my friends. He seemed so respectful of my personal space.


In the brief time I'd known him he'd been ticking off the qualities I'd always wanted in a person I was dating.

He was being kind and thoughtful without any prompting — doing the things I'd always done for my ex-boyfriends but which had never been reciprocated.

On reflection, this was him drawing me in, creating a world that I would never want to leave.

Like the first time you take drugs and you get a high, then once you're addicted you're always chasing that first high but it's never the same. He was like that.

By the end, I felt like an addict, hoping that our relationship would return to how it was at the beginning, when it was so fun and too good to be true.

Two days after my birthday, I stayed over at his house, and we slept together for the first time. There had been a couple of opportunities before then, but he hadn't pressured me — which also made me think he was great.


He asked me to be his girlfriend the morning after. I said yes. The same day he gave me a whole talk about how now I was with him, the press were going to be interested in me, and how people were going to say bad things about him to me because of who he was.

He seemed like he was trying to be open and honest, so I agreed.

Sitting in the park the next day, before I had to go to work, he said how much he wished I was going back to his house that night.

I said I felt the same way, and that's when he asked me to move in with him. Three weeks after we first met. I said yes.

The arguments began about two months into our relationship. Everything had been so perfect up to then, it was completely unexpected.

But suddenly it seemed as though if I was in a good mood, or things were good between us, he would instigate a fight — two or three times a week. It was really horrible and draining, and to begin with I was in shock.


Despite this, three months after we first met, he got down on one knee and proposed. I was overwhelmed with excitement.

We talked about our future and children and everything just felt natural and wonderful and right. It was at this moment however when I had made a promise to marry him and was living in his home that our perfect world began to disintegrate.

On the night of our engagement party, he didn't make an effort with my friends at all.

Afterwards, when everyone had gone home and we were opening our cards, I said, "Thanks for being so cool about Robbie being there" — Robbie was a friend I'd had a brief fling with in the past.

Thom had had a glass of champagne on the day we got engaged, but otherwise this was the first time he'd really drunk alcohol around me.

He was steaming drunk, and he just flipped. He picked up a book he'd bought about jealousy and threw it across the room in my direction.


He threw a marble ornament off the balcony and started screaming and swearing at me. He called me a slut, and told me to take my ring off and get out of his house.

I should have left, but I didn't feel like I could. I didn't want to believe that this was really him — it was the alcohol or something else.

It didn't make sense to leave when we had just been celebrating our decision to marry — to be with one another forever.

I wasn't ready to leave him at that point but I began to be scared of him. It started to affect me physically, and I stopped eating.

I told one friend what had happened, but I was too embarrassed to tell anyone else. This man was my fiancé and I didn't want anyone to think badly of him.

However, his drinking escalated, and the arguments, his need for control and the abuse continued. He used everything he'd so carefully found out about my family against me.

He said that my brother was a drug addict, my dad abandoned me, and my mum wasn't a good mum. He said things he would later say he never remembered saying.


I'd tell myself that all couples argue, it's never going to be perfect. But then not all boyfriends call you a slut and tell you to get out of their house.

If I had a friend over, I'd be really nervous about when he was coming home.

If he was trying to isolate me from my friends, he was beginning to have some success. And for some reason, I began to feel I didn't want my family at my wedding. I still don't know how he got me to feel this way.

To this day, in Thom's mind, I didn't leave him because he was abusing me, I abandoned him.

A few weeks later, I heard from a friend that Thom had sent an abusive email to an ex-girlfriend. I called him and asked him about it.

He told me, "I said she was a C-Word because she needed to be told." I asked whether he was going to tell me he'd had contact with her, and he said no because he didn't think I'd find out.

I asked if he would apologise and he said he had nothing to apologise for.


Seeing him abusing someone else made me realise that what he was doing to me was wrong. That's when I said, "You've lost me. I'm done. I can't do this anymore. You need help."

I think it was the only time I stood up for myself and truly lashed out at him.

I knew I had to leave before he came home, because if I came into contact with him face-to-face he would convince me to stay. He'd tell me that we could work it out.

Ultimately, I feel sad for him. I can't imagine what it must be like inside his head, living his life.

But regardless, that is never an excuse to treat anyone the way he treated me, the women before me and I'm sure, women to come.

All names have been changed, Illustrations by Freya Lowy Clark, As told to Natasha Lipmand wonderful and right. This feature was first published on