#16 A fly in the ointment

A common phrase used historically to describe an irritation that ruins the pleasure in something or had a detrimental affect.

Many people who are affected by abuse, harm or control feel this. They struggle to articulate the displeasure they gradually feel that creeps up over time, often described as walking on egg shells, they become experts at navigating the complexities of keeping the peace & staying safe.

As you read Fiona’s story consider the following.

How has Fiona modified her behaviour & identity to keep herself safe?

What do you think the consequences would be if Fiona suddenly left Martin?

How might these be mitigated? 

What might the future look like for Fiona as she & Martin age? 

Fiona is a retired GP, now an active member of her local parish council & church. Her husband, Martin is a local councilor.

Throughout their marriage there was an undercurrent of professional competition. Fiona had worked hard in the 1970’s at medical school & had a real passion for women’s health. She became a partner in a small village GP practice, soon after becoming a mother to their 3 children.

Martin found her status gawling, in his mind he was far more capable & intellectual than his wife, yet her career was thriving. Despite his failed businesses, he demanded they hired a nanny as he felt raising children wasn’t a father’s role. Always keen to make the next big sale, that would mean Fiona could give up her career & stay at home.

Something Fiona never aspired to.

She adored her job. She was trusted by the many women who needed an empathetic medical professional to guide them through sexual health, contraception, abortions, miscarriages, cancer scares & anything in between. Often sharing their fears about their children, their relationships. Fiona knew of the privilege her role held, and valued it deeply.

They lived in a tight knit community, often socialising with colleagues & patients. Fiona always respectful of patient confidentiality, she would observe interactions thoughtfully, often appearing to daydream & miss out on conversations.

Martin would accuse her of being distant & embarrassing him, making him feel belittled.

How dare she! Martin would rage.

Coming home after another event Fiona would be accused of embarrassing him, fuelled by brandy, he would punish her.

On these occasions, Fiona would regularly be locked out of the house for hours, in the dark, cold, British weather. Keeping quiet not to worry the children asleep in their beds.

Other times, he would force her to undertake domestic tasks, removing her dignity in a variety of ways. These tactics alway to show her she was beneath him & knew her place.

The following day, Martin would be full of remorse explaining how emasculated he felt by Fiona’s success, her status as a doctor, begging her forgiveness never accepting his responsibility.

He would say he couldn’t live without her, needed her & apology flowers would always follow.

The children grew up sensing an atmosphere but never knowing the depth of deprivaty, their father would inflict on their mother.

Martin found his authority, once Fiona retired. He enjoyed his new found status as a local councilor, with his retired GP wife by his side. Supporting him, quietly & compliantly, always.

The outbursts of aggression & control subsided, as Fiona gradually faded away.

Devoted to Martins needs.


Standing in his shadow kept her safe.


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