Q. My mother and I are at breaking point over my father’s angry outbursts. He is never violent but he shouts insults at us, has extreme mood swings which can last for days, and there is constant undermining. His behaviour has been building over the years but, recently, it has become worse. We need to leave, but don’t have the financial support necessary. I am in my early 20s and work part-time. What can we do? Name supplied
A. I take issue when you say this is not violent. What you say fits the description of coercive and controlling behaviour, which is recognised in the UK as domestic abuse. It is possible that there is an underlying trigger, since some illnesses result in aggression. It’s worth raising this, but the wellbeing of you and your mother is also a health issue, so please do not make excuses to delay action.
You and your mother might have differing perceptions, but I wonder whether this chimes with either of you: ‘He is unwilling to listen to why you are unhappy and will often minimise what’s happened. If he’s not willing to do any work towards the relationship that would be really concerning, as would being too scared to talk about it in the first place.’
These words are from an interview with the chief executive of Women’s Aid. Please contact their helpline when it is safe for you to do so, that is, when your father is out. Calls are free, but you might find it easier to get through between 7pm and 7am. Have a pen handy so you can jot down details of local services or refuges. What you describe is undermining and frightening; please hold onto the fact that your safety and happiness are important. You are not alone, and we live in a society that will support you.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.