Style Sex & Relationships

Thursday 22 August 2019

Dear Mary: Am I right to keep going back to my aggressive, abusive partner?

Photo posed
Photo posed

Mary O’Conor

I have been with my partner for a few years now. At the start everything was good. But over the past couple of years things have got bad.

My friends and family don't know about this. They think he is the perfect partner because we have nice holidays, we go out to good restaurants and I have nice clothes.

He can be very aggressive, but not violent, and shout at me. He says nasty things to me and calls me names - horrible names. He will then just ignore me and then text to say he is sorry, and I always forgive him.

But it has happened again and it has just crossed the line this time. Now he is begging for forgiveness, saying I'm the love of his life and the best thing to happen to him.

I do love him.

Should I forgive him? But how can I believe he won't do it again?

It's dragging me down all the time. I don't know if I stay because I'm afraid of being on my own, but I always go back to him.

A I wish you could see some of the emails and letters I have received whenever the subject of verbal or physical abuse by a partner comes up. These letters vary in the degree of abuse being experienced but abuse is not acceptable at any level.

Many of the women speak of the ensuing silence when they are subjected to days and even weeks of total silence, as if to suggest that what happened was all their fault and they are now being punished.

You ask if you can believe that he won't do it again. None of the women writing to me experienced a situation where their partner changed. In fact they continued to get worse. You seem to have experienced some sort of watershed which forced you to write to me and I'm happy that you did, so see this letter as your first step in seeking help.

Secondly, you need to take one person - either a very close friend or family member - into your confidence and tell them the true situation. You need to have this backup if things get worse.

I have quoted these lines once before, from a reader who left an abusive relationship and was very happy that she did. I feel that they are so eloquent that they bear repeating: "I realise that men have issues too, but do their issues really absolve them from taking responsibility for the fact that you, once again, are slammed up against the wall and called the most appalling names because you didn't have lamb chops for tea? Your legs are like jelly and the fear is palpable as you beg and beg them to stop"

Your situation is not at all as bad as this lady's was, but I'm giving you a glimpse of what it might become.

Please act now before it is too late. A very good place to start would be and they have a 24 hour National Freephone Helpline at 1800 341 900

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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