An abusive husband talks about how he lost control

SINGAPORE - What goes on in the mind of an abuser? Adam admits to pushing, slapping and threatening his wife in the past.

We're not using his real name to protect the identity of his child.

The professional, in his late 30s, agreed to share what it was like through his counsellor.

Adam says he got married about five years ago, and they have a young daughter. But a year ago, his wife, a working professional, applied for a personal protection order (PPO) against him after he turned violent during an argument.

He says it was a wake-up call.

"I used to be hot-tempered. If someone cut into my lane on the road, I would sound my horn. If someone got in my way at work, I would get aggressive. This was my way of doing things."

But he'd bottle up his feelings with his wife.

"Whenever she criticised my parenting style, I would feel hurt and threatened. But I would never tell her this. I thought it was not manly to talk about emotions."

But about a year ago, he snapped. He pushed and slapped her. He doesn't even remember what it was about - it was that trivial.

"But I felt I had lost control, and I wanted to assert myself, to regain power over the situation.

"I felt that I couldn't take it. I know hitting someone is wrong. But at that moment, I justified to myself that it was alright because she had done something wrong by criticising me.

"She didn't like being hit of course, and once, she said she wanted to leave me. I was devastated and threatened to kill myself or her."

Adam's threat? "If you dare to leave me, you'll see what will happen."

Ultimately, it was an empty threat, he says.

"I didn't actually mean to hurt anyone. It was just a last resort, a way to frighten her into staying with me. If I killed myself, she would have to live with the guilt, right? Looking back, I really let my emotions get the better of me."

The PPO came as a shock.

"I had to appear in court and go for counselling. At one point, my wife also threatened to move out of the house and take our kid along with her. How could something like this happen to my family? It made me very embarrassed and angry at first.

"But later, I was afraid. I feared my family would be torn apart because of my hot temper. My wife and daughter meant a lot to me, so I went for counselling.

"I told the counsellor I was willing to do anything to save my family."

Through the sessions, he learnt to take responsibility for his actions.

"I learnt that I can feel angry, but I can always choose whether to hit someone or not. I also learnt to watch out for the warning signs.

"Just before my rage breaks out, for example, my heartbeat would quicken and I would feel blood rushing to my head. So whenever this happens at home, I'd ask for a time-out. I'd leave the room and return when I'd cooled down.

"Counselling also gave me a chance to learn how to express my emotions. I realised that talking about my feelings doesn't make me any less of a man".

He says he and his wife now have a more communicative and open relationship.

"I try to communicate my emotions more, so that negative feelings don't bottle up inside of me. "Sometimes, I even feel comfortable discussing issues that used to upset me."

He says he's still working on his temper, but he is grateful that he has a chance to save his marriage and family.


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