|When Susan sent me a message with a link to “that blog post” upset and angry at how she was going to protect her children from the man who was supposed to scare monsters from under the bed as oppose to behave like one I automatically wanted to help. I wanted to reach out and give her a hug and tell her that everything was going to be okay and that I understood the desire to protect your babies and she had my full support, whatever she needed. Then she asked me to share my story… I wasn’t sure I could do it and I’m still not sure whether the whole experience has been cathartic or somewhat damaging, but what I do know is that something has to be done because the hurt, pain and grief caused by the man in question is out of control and he has affected so many lives that it has to stop somewhere and Susan can’t fight it all on her own, she has tried and now it is time for all of us to stand up and be counted as opposed to hide in the shadows as we have done for so many years out of shame and embarrassment.
I spent many, many years feeling so terrible guilty and ashamed of the fact that I was unknowingly soley responsible for her unhappiness and that because of me two children might lose their father if she ever found out about me. I blamed myself and went through a period of severe depression and had such low self-esteem that even when I finally managed to get away from Andrew, I was so low and so susceptible to the manipulation and abuse that I merely went from one con man to another, even without direct contact he ruined a large portion of my life and I simply cannot say strongly enough just how damaging he is. It started back in 1999 and continued on and off for a period of 13 years… I was 17, I was halfway through a hairdressing apprenticeship and I was a reasonably well-adjusted person, I was at that point working 6 days a week in order to try and purchase the business I was working in and I had no real interest in finding a relationship. A friend had decided I needed a life and put a profile on an online dating site and I’m yet to decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing but, there was one response before I found out what she had done and made her take it down. He had introduced himself as Andrew, but his friends called him Andy, he was 27 and a commercial lawyer. It lasted about 3 months before I grew tired of “Houdini” as I had not so affectionately dubbed him and stopped answering his calls. He was either so full on he was suffocating or he was completely absent and I felt at the time I was far too busy to deal with a man of his age that didn’t have his shit together or know what he wanted.
I bought the salon in the December of 1999 and was happy just working, but in the January of 2000 I answered a call right on closing time, I remember hesitating whether to answer the phone or not and really wish now I hadn’t… I’m sure this is where my habit of call-screening originated! He asked for a few minutes of my time, I agreed and he went on to apologise for his behaviour, explaining to me that he had trouble with relationships in general due to his upbringing and that if I would allow him the chance he would like to tell me about it in further detail and that he knew that he had made mistakes but he wanted to learn and if I would help him that he promised to be completely open with me as he thought honesty was the best policy. We arranged to meet for a cup of coffee on the following Tuesday morning as it was the first day I had off that he was available as well.
From that coffee date we chatted on and off, but it wasn’t until the May that he told me that he wanted to call me his girlfriend and that he didn’t want to be pushy, but he wanted an exclusive relationship. I remember being somewhat offended by the suggestion that he assumed I was the type to sleep around or have multiple guys on the go and he went on to say that he was “somewhat concerned that I would even think that way, unless I was up to something.” I told him that he was already on shaky ground and unless he wanted to call me his ex-girlfriend he would be wise to back off. He did, I accepted the title of girlfriend and he ‘apparently’ appreciated the fact that I was a little feisty and from here on in he would often refer to me as his “little firecracker” whenever I called him out on his bullshit. Which I did quite a lot, he had a terrible air of arrogance even back then and it wasn’t unusual for me to tell him to pull his head in. Back then he would laugh about it and said he “liked the challenge” I provided him as not many people would talk back to him, as a lawyer he had a lot of respect. I quite promptly told him I didn’t care if he was the Queen of England, if he was acting like a dick I wouldn’t put up with it.
Somewhere in that first year he managed to put out my fire and slowly, but surely I ended up tolerating more and more and turning a blind eye to things that had previously annoyed and upset me. Things that should have had alarm bells ringing I would find my own logical explanation for prior to even asking him to justify his behaviour and I began to feel sorry for him. By this time he was working for Westpac and said he had been given the opportunity to take on the manager’s position, he discussed the role with me in great detail and I agreed that it would be great for him and that if it was something that he wanted to do then he should definitely go for it. By the November of 2000 he was managing Tassie, SA and NSW and would often take trips to Sydney for a week or more at a time and in a way I suppose I made it very easy for him as I was still working 6 days a week and I didn’t have a lot of spare time to think or put anything together, when I bought the salon I hadn’t realised just how bad the financials actually were and it was taking a lot of my time and effort to build it back up. He would often ask how it was going and (stupidly) I would tell him how well I had done and how far back in the black I had managed to drag things. He would often tell me that I should start using it to refinance and make things bigger and better and he would always push to become a business partner, but it was only just paying for itself and I had only just started taking a decent wage, it had become my baby and even though he said I was selfish for not wanting to, it was mine and I had invested so much of myself into that I wasn’t ready to share, but in his opinion he had invested so much into me that he accused me of hiding things from him.
By the end of 2000 I had started to notice his drinking getting way out of control, I’m not sure if it was because we hadn’t been able to spend so much time together or he was just not as good at hiding it anymore, but he would write himself off constantly and would even turn up at my house intoxicated enough that he definitely shouldn’t have been driving. He began to show an incredibly aggressive side that was more pronounced the more he drank and it was nothing for a bottle of whiskey to disappear in one night! I was (and still am) a non-drinker and I was always getting yelled at for being so boring and accused of all manner of things, the most ridiculous was that I wouldn’t drink around him because I had obviously poisoned his drinks, he would go off at the most petty little things even down to if I wore a different colour lipstick because I must have been seeing or trying to impress someone else because I knew he liked the “plum one” I used to wear… he was never physically abusive, but he made up for it verbally and these ‘episodes’ were becoming more frequent and he was way less guarded as to the things he would say and do… I never witnessed him smoking marijuana, but there is only so many times you can blame red eyes on “I got shampoo in my eye in the shower” before even the stupidest person is gonna tell you to keep your eyes shut and even though I have never experimented with it, it has its own very distinct aroma shall we say and I knew what it was, I questioned him once on why else would you reek so heavily of it and even taste like it? His response was that he had given a work mate a lift home and he had a joint in the car but he thought it was a rolled cigarette and it was probably just cigarette smoke I could taste, he had just put one out… I was a smoker myself, I knew the difference. He would often forget those times, I’m not sure if he really did forget or he just chose to pretend he did. He would after our relationship ended often say I was mentally unstable and tell people that I was a pathological liar.
I don’t really know why I tolerated it the way that I did, I began having anxiety attacks myself and I would always end up fearful every time he had a drink because I sort of knew what to expect and he was beginning to treat me as though I was nothing more than his personal punching bag, a door mat. He was always so nice to everyone else and they thought he was such a great guy but I knew a much darker side, nobody would have believed me if I had said anything anyway so I kept my mouth shut. The relationship was in its own way starting to fall apart, I was only half the person I was when we first got together and I spent more and more time at work, I think because it was the only place I felt normal, I could just be myself and my days were filled with clients that just wanted to chatter away, they wanted nothing from me. I had begun to put on a little bit of weight at this point but I didn’t care, I was downright miserable and each day was becoming the same.
He would speak when he felt like it, criticise me for any and all number of things and when he would cancel plans because he had a work dinner or a work function and I asked if I could go too he would reply with statements like “I don’t think you’re ready to be a bank manager’s wife just yet” and laugh like I had just asked him to bump his butt against the moon. I would ask why he never took me out anymore, I felt as though he was embarrassed by the fact that I had gained an extra dress size and he replied with “a bank manager would normally choose a woman of similar intelligence, with you I made an exception, but I don’t want to broadcast the fact.” Then came the night he told me I was getting too fat and my whole World fell apart. I should have just told him to shove it and left right then, but I was so low on myself that I blamed my own appearance for why he had lost interest in me! I actually went out of my way to watch everything that went into my mouth, I wore more makeup that I ever had before and I became a doll in a way, I spoke and behaved how he told me too and I began to crave his acceptance. If only I could go back in time and kick my own behind, tell myself just how pathetic I had become, but at the time I truly believed it when he told me that he was doing it for my own good and that I would thank him one day.
By 2002 he had (apparently) become the only person keeping Westpac going and he was spending more and more time away, he was allegedly buying houses because he got excellent deals through the bank and was constantly pushing me to allow him to grow my business for me. I had always hated credit cards so I refused outright, I still had enough sense left to know that it was a bad idea, especially seeing how hard I had had to work in the beginning just to keep things afloat. I did however allow him to come in as a somewhat silent partner, I’m still forever thankful that I never signed anything, but he would often waltz in to the salon with a “hello ladies” like it was all his and all my clients regardless of age would swoon as he walked past, he had charmed the pants off all of them and became a somewhat regular face, he was beginning to behave like I worked for him he went ahead and did some renovations and he changed a lot, I was still (thankfully) in charge of the daily running of the business and he never got his hands on any of those details, he spent a lot of money that I didn’t really have to spend though. He had also mentioned doing up an old store room out the back to offer extra services such as massage etc, I had a diploma in relaxation and remedial massage and he thought that would be a brilliant idea. I much preferred hairdressing, but I entertained the idea that it would potentially boost profits and I could bring in a third hairdresser to help out.
In the September he had gotten weird again and by the November things had gotten out of control, he was always away, his attitude had gone back to the nasty, spiteful person I hated and I couldn’t do anything right. He returned from a “business trip” to Sydney just before Christmas and informed me that he was starting his own property management business. At this stage he apparently had approx. 12 properties throughout Launceston and these would be the foundation of the business whilst he worked on getting more business managing other people’s properties. Then came the interesting part, I was to put my salon up as collateral for all his start-up costs and if I “proved myself worthy” he would send me back to school to get my real estate license and I would run his business because he was too busy with Westpac to give it his full attention. I didn’t care much for property so I had never really paid much attention to any of it, but he had essentially gone from bank manager to property tycoon overnight and I was happy being a lowly hairdresser, I didn’t want a new career.
When I confessed to him that I didn’t want to run his business and that I was actually really happy where I was, plus I didn’t think my little country salon would get him the $360,000 he was after anyway he lost it… by the time he was finished with me I was in tears and apologising for being so selfish… he proposed, I accepted and now apparently everything was “ours” not his and mine… thinking about it now I don’t even like to admit just how stupid I was, who in their right mind accepts a marriage proposal from someone who not 2 minutes before asking was quite politely calling you all the names under the sun and telling you exactly what type of piece of shit human being you really were?! In reality though, I felt like I owed it to him to say yes and that he was doing it for my benefit… I had honestly reached a point where I believed it when he told me he was doing me the favour of being with him and I should think myself lucky. I know, ridiculous right. Now I realise that he didn’t really plan to propose, it just worked to his advantage in providing a link that proved his devotion so that I would cough up the paperwork for the salon.
At this point he had begun to really ramp up his business plans, he showed me houses that he owned and he took me into some of them. He would walk up to the door, open it up and proceed to show me the process for doing a house inspection, explained all the things I would need to know if I had to do it on my own and was bragging about how much he had paid for this one or that one and said how he always had tenants because he was such a great landlord so we would never be short of business or money, he even had people on waiting lists to live in his houses! The scariest part of this story is not the obvious BS that was spewing out of his mouth, but the fact that he didn’t own any of them… I had been involved in god knows how many break and enters and had been an accomplice to invading someone’s privacy and I didn’t even know it! I sometimes think if I ever found out the poor people whose house I had been in I would love to apologise, I felt sick enough when I found out that it wasn’t legit, let alone how awful the person who lived there must have felt. Yet another thing to add to the list of things to berate myself for in the years following our breakup…
Come the June/July of 2003 I was starting to ask questions about when we were going to set a wedding date, we had been engaged for nearly 18 months and every time I brought it up he would deflect it by telling me he was too busy at work to talk about it and if I knew anything about him at all I would realise just how stressful his life had become and he couldn’t believe that I didn’t have better/more important things to think about. He had stopped hiding his drinking again and we were back to him getting drunk and either throwing up and passing out or having one of his tantrums, it was taking its toll on me and it was starting to show… I had gone from reasonably well-adjusted to thinking I must have been losing the plot and I had become somewhat obsessed with making sure I fit his image of the perfect woman, only he kept changing what that was! I didn’t know which way was up, I was barely functioning and I was starting to tire of what my life had become. He came ‘home’ (who knows where home actually was for him at the point!) after yet another trip to Sydney with a bottle of whiskey that he had apparently been given by another lawyer because he had helped him win a case and at the ¾ empty point I lost it… he hadn’t been back in my company for longer than half an hour before he began drinking and with each glass he got more and more critical, I could feel myself spiralling into the awful place I always went when he started to put me down and try to convince me I was worthless and I didn’t want to go there, I hated the anxiety attacks and I hated the after effects of them, they made me feel really sick for days as the adrenalin wore off and I snapped… I threw his ring at him so hard I left a mark right in the middle of his forehead, I said a lot of things that I wish I hadn’t said, not because I didn’t mean them but because I was annoyed that I had stooped so low to talk trash like he always did to me… I told him that it was over, there was no more and he could shove his “future” right up his a***, sideways for all I cared because I wanted nothing to do with a drunk and to forget that he ever knew me.
By the time I left I was shaking so badly I could barely walk, putting one foot in front of the other took so much concentration I wasn’t really sure how far I would make it before I had to give up. Standing up to someone who had so much control over you is never easy, but to stand up to someone you love (yes I hate to admit that I thought that was love, but in my defence I was 19/20 and had no real idea on anything) that takes courage. I managed to get just around the corner before the anxiety hit and I had to pull over and wait for it to pass. He never bothered to follow me. He did however call me and asked to talk. I met him in a coffee shop because I refused to be anywhere alone with him and he told me about how he had had this really bad case he was working on and that the bank was blaming him for things not going right and he just had to let off steam and he was so sorry…. The more he talked the more I hated what was coming out of his mouth, I hated his words and I hated him… I was putting pieces together while he was talking and right in the middle of his spiel on how he knew it was so hard on me when he was away so often I made the ridiculous statement “geez anybody would think you were already bloody married!” … the colour drained out of his face and I thought he was getting sick or something and for a split second I was concerned, that was until he said in a voice so quiet I almost misheard it “how did you know?”… well that was me done, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t do anything… I stood up threw my cup of coffee at him (dramatic I know, but he was really lucky in that moment he didn’t get the cup as well as the contents) and I walked away. I refused to answer his calls and after so many messages of apology he nearly blew up my poor old Nokia 3310 I changed my number. It was August 10th, a date I will never forget.
It was to be 6 years before I saw him again and as I mentioned before I had gone from one con man to another, I had gotten married during the time since I had left him and had 1 child. It was a hellish 5 years, my (ex) husband was a very violent, abusive man and by the time my daughter was 3 months old and my husband had run off with another one of his women, apparently in Melbourne for a week of training (now where have I heard that before) I got a message from Andrew on FaceBook. He was apparently divorced now and loving life and he just wanted to send me a message to see if I would allow him the chance to apologise for how he had behaved way back when. He assured me that he wanted nothing from me, just the chance to make amends and that he hoped that I could give him that. I sat there with my new mum really need a haircut ponytail and briefly noted the spew stain on my tshirt and laughed at the audacity, but if he knew the trainwreck that was hiding behind my pre-baby profile picture best of luck to him. So I sent him back a message saying that I wasn’t interested in his apology and if there was anything he felt he needed to say he could do so by return message. He sent me his phone number with the plea to allow him to speak directly to me, it was impersonal online and that I could put my number on private and I would never have to hear from him again. I didn’t bother calling.
A week later when my husband had returned home, he had one of his meltdowns (apparently I had ironed the wrong colour shirt for work that day) and I hit the deck (for the last time as it turned out), he left for work and my phone rang, I answered. I still don’t know how the hell he got my number but he immediately knew something was up… I was trying to settle my daughter, clean up the mess from the mug of coffee that had not that long ago gone flying past my head and hit the wall instead and determined not to cry… he picked up on my weird behaviour and continued to push until I finally broke down. He was apparently in Launceston, due to appear in court the next day and he was at my house within 30 minutes, I still don’t know how he knew where I lived and I hadn’t even invited him, he just showed up. My daughter was sleeping and I still regret letting him in, but I was still somewhat dazed and he knew what he was doing… he immediately showed genuine concern and gave me a hug… I ended up a bawling mess in front of the one person I disliked almost as much as my husband and found myself giving him a blow by blow account of the last 6 years of my life in between huge ridiculous sobs… I still to this day do not know why he bothered, if he was after what I’m fairly certain he was after he had knocked on the wrong door. I was desperate to get out and he knew it, I was scared and I had already confessed that I was sure that if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to and I was frightened what would happen to my daughter.
He told me to have all my stuff packed up by Monday (it was Friday at this point) that he would get this work case out of the way (he was working for Statewide by now) and he would be back for me, he would take me to his house and I would stay with him until he could help me get out of the relationship, but at least we would be safe. I still can’t believe I agreed to it especially knowing what I did, but in front of me was the Andrew I met 9 years before and I craved the nice guy I had before the shit storm had taken over my entire life… I wanted to go back to 18 when life was so easy… so it was settled I was going to Hobart.
On the Sunday my husband was in another one of his revolting moods so I put my daughter in the pram and we went for a walk… I took the longest possible route I could think of and halfway along the waterfront I heard someone call my name. I turned to see one of my clients (I had moved from one side of the river to the other after getting married and had bought my salon with me, but only worked here for 6 years) and she was motioning for me to stop and wait, so I did… she was getting out of a car and she waved me to come up towards her, as I did someone got out of the car beside her and she introduced her eldest son as someone she really wanted me to meet. He lifted his glasses up and went to shake my hand and in a split second my whole world changed. I wasn’t going to Hobart and I most definitely wasn’t staying where I was. Turns out that day I met the one person who would make up for nearly a decade of my life, I just didn’t know it, but I did know that when you feel that kind of connection to someone and you just know everything is going to be okay even though you don’t know how that you just have to trust it… when I went home my husband had gone to the pub so I called Andrew to let him know that I had changed my mind. He didn’t ask why and he sounded distracted saying that he would get back to me later, he was really busy.
He called me back a couple of hours later and said that he was still in Launceston and that his case was taking longer than it should, but he really wanted to talk to me about what was going on so could I meet him for breakfast the next day, I agreed, thinking that he had been good enough to try and help me so the least I could do was give him an explanation. He sent a message at 7am to say that he was running late so to come to his hotel room and he would order room service so we could have coffee and eat while he was getting himself organised. I had already dropped my daughter off with my mother and in the car ready to leave so I went with it. When I arrived he opened the door and I knew that nothing had changed, the alcohol fumes were so strong I was nearly drunk just standing in the doorway and he was visibly erratic, he invited me in and showed me where the kettle was, apparently if I wanted coffee I was making my own. He started talking immediately saying that he couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be with him, I explained that I never said I did, he had offered to help me and I had accepted I definitely wasn’t asking for a relationship… he went on to say how much he loved me and how he always had and then shoved a whole heap of papers at me and said that all of it was mine if I stayed with him, he was giving it all to me… I sort of looked at it but I didn’t know what he was on about and he went on to say that he had spent all night writing up documents and that 2 million dollars of his assets were all mine, he didn’t care for them, he just wanted me… they had a proper looking letterhead and I was still none-the-wiser to what he was really like remember… but I explained to him as tactfully as I could what happened the day before and that I couldn’t really explain to him why, but I just couldn’t go… and he turned on me asking whether it was because he wasn’t worth enough money, was the other guy worth 3 mill and on and on and on he went… I have no idea whose house he was going to give me, but I didn’t want any of it and I certainly didn’t want a relationship with him, I hadn’t even gotten out of the situation I was already in let alone thought about starting a new one!
I walked out of the hotel room and slammed the door behind me, nothing had changed and I had dodged a bullet. I was thankful only for the fact that by his turning up I had been able to admit what was going on in my life and once I made it real then I could fight it… I left my husband that night and it was to be 3 years before I began another relationship, with the same guy that I had met that fateful Sunday afternoon. Once my ex-husband found out that I had started a new relationship he decided that he wanted to make my life somewhat difficult and he came after the house which stupidly had remained in joint names as I was a single mother at the time and couldn’t get a loan to keep it in my name so I paid for it and he remained on the title until such time as I could work full-time and take it on, under the guise of making sure his daughter had somewhere to live. I was a week away from getting kicked out, I had nowhere to go and I was trying to get hold of Andrew as he had told me once that when he and Susan split up there was a loophole he had found that meant that he could remain in part ownership so out of sheer desperation I tried to track him down, he had disappeared off FaceBook so I messaged the one person I assumed would know where he was… and so here I am telling my story to the World in an attempt to help save 3 little boys and back up a friend I think very highly of and whose strength I admire yet have never actually met.