This is such an important thread, thank you so much to everyone for sharing their stories.
My abuse was mostly psychological - not by my exBPDbf but by my now ex-husband. I am still confused about it, and that's something that people don't tell you - it can be so confusing and it's not always easy for people to work out whether they are being abused or treated badly or not. Even now, after divorcing him successfully on the grounds of abusive behaviour, I still don't really know if he was abusive or not.
The only thing I know for SURE that he did in a premeditated, systematic way, was to digitally stalk me. I'm not even convinced that constitutes abuse anyway, as the police said "yes it's wrong and illegal, but the courts may judge it appropriate for a husband to know all his wife's passwords". My solicitor said otherwise, as did the psychologist who treated me when it all got too much and I thought I was going insane.
In short, he would periodically break into my computer and install spyware so he could gather my email and social media passwords, and then he would download those accounts to his own devices without my knowledge so he could monitor everything I did. He would then do creepy stuff with the information, such as mail me things I'd mentioned in conversations to other people, use words and phrases I had used, and also claim we'd had conversations together where I'd told him things I knew I hadn't. He'd say "how else would I know if you hadn't told me?". Or he'd say "no you didn't tell me, I just know you so well". He did this for approximately two years before I found out. After I upped my security, he'd covertly watch me to see what passwords I entered on my phone, so that he could read things on there when I was asleep or in the shower.
It utterly messed with my mind. When I say my ex was abusive, people ALWAYS ask "did he hit you?", like that's the most important sign or like anything else isn't REALLY abuse. And I never know what to say. I say "not really. He was physical sometimes, but it wasn't really about that".
Like my confusion around the stalking, I also have confusion around the physical abuse. Since before I was pregnant with our first child, he would sometimes shove me if he felt I was in his way. He was a big guy - over 6ft and a former Rugby captain. Him shoving me resulted in me ending up at the other side of the room. It was horrible and I hated it and asked him to stop. I would say "don't push me!", and he would say "well then don't stand where I want to be". How hard would it have been for him to say "excuse me" if I was in his way?. At the beginning it was occasional, but by the end it was far more regular. A shove here and there if I was in his way was quite commonplace, not always a hard push, but enough to move me against my will. If I said to him "don't push me", he'd say "I didn't push you, I was moving you out of the way". Eventually he did the same to the children, and used the same excuse. Once, he hit our son quite hard round the head, and said "I didn't hit him, I just tapped him".
It's a common abuse tactic. Relabel the behaviour. Minimise it. But my confusion is - did he REALLY think he was just moving me out of the way? If he didn't mean to push me, he just wasn't aware of his size and strength, does that make it abuse or an accident? Can I say he was physically abusive? I still don't know. I remember one day he punched me so hard in the thigh he gave me a dead leg, but did he REALLY punch me? He told me it was playful because he laughed when he did it. He also repeatedly and painfully penetrated me to the point of injury while I said no over and over again, but afterwards said "it was a genuine misunderstanding, for which I am deeply ashamed". Was THAT an accident? He seemed so sure that it was, and becomes so angry and hurt if I suggest he was abusive.
So when people ask me "was he physically abusive", I still don't know. Yes he pushed me, punched me and sexually assaulted me, but he says it was all accidental. He also broke or threw away many of my possessions, but always said it was accidental. He said he was just clumsy. Was THAT the truth? The only thing I KNOW wasn't accidental was his stalking. And the police suggested that it wouldn't be seen as an offence anyway.
It took me two years to figure it all out and gain the courage to leave, and I'm still uncertain about it all. I can't be the only one. That was the bit that no one told me. I thought "if I was abused, I'd know about it". But he did so many things on the list and I'm still unsure. There were so many good times - far more times when he was gentle and considerate and loving. A push, a punch, an assault, an incident of stalking - it should be clear cut, but I still wonder if it was abuse or just an accident. The guilt that consumes me when I think I might have wrongly accused him is overwhelming and sickening. No one ever tells you that something which ought to be so clear and obvious, often isn't so at all.