Fairy-tales are dark and frightening places

The most unexpected people believe in fairy-tales.  Often the firmest believers are otherwise intelligent and successful women who very often have been fortunate enough not to have had to deal with the shit that life dishes out.

People like me believe in fairy-tales. 

People like me watch horrific events unfold in the news.  People like me listen to podcasts of interviews with women about their life after the death of a partner.   People like me read an editorial in the Sunday papers about a victim of domestic abuse who was murdered by her husband.  People like me naïvely believe that these things won’t ever happen to us.

We like to believe that Prince Charming will whisk us away on his white horse.  We believe that there is someone out there for all of us, who is our “other half”, and who will somehow complete us.  We are incomplete without our Prince. 

We want to be happy.  We want to be fulfilled.  We are human, that is only natural.  We want to believe in the fairy-tale romance. 


I read an interview with Sandra Horley this week.  Sandra Horley is the CEO of Refuge, the largest single provider of emergency domestic abuse services in the UK.  Each week, two women are killed by partners or former partners; another three will take their own lives because of domestic abuse.  Refuge is massively important.

Sandra Horley has just republished her book Power and Control, which tells six different stories about domestic abuse. The abusers include a singer, a solicitor, an academic and a builder.  The abusers are from all walks of life. 

What resonated most for me was Sandra Horley’s comment that almost every domestic abuse victim that she met had said the same thing.  With reference to their abusers they said “If he was sitting in this room now, you wouldn’t believe that he could do this”.   These men were loving and charismatic, but most of all, they were charming. 

These abusers had been the Prince who had swept their victim of their feet and whisked them away. 

These Prince’s were the fairy-tale. 


I have never been physically abused.  No one has ever hit me, or burned me, or locked me in a room, or threatened me with violence.  Some of the domestic violence stories are horrific, unimaginably horrific, and almost never-ending. 

But domestic abuse isn’t just physical.  Domestic abuse can be emotional abuse.  Controlling and coercive behaviour is now defined under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 as causing someone to fear that violence will be used against them, or generating serious distress that has an effect on their usual day-to-day activities. 

This is certainly a grey area.  Emotional abuse is very real, but how do you prove it?

The Relate website lists a variety of behaviours that could constitute emotional abuse:

  • Intimidation and threats. This could include shouting, acting aggressively or just generally making you feel scared.
  • Criticism. This could be things like name calling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments.
  • Undermining. This might include things like dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you’re being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events. 
  • Being made to feel guilty. This can range from emotional blackmail such as emotional blackmail to giving the silent treatment as a way of manipulation.
  • Economic abuse, such as withholding money, not involving you in finances or even preventing you from getting a job.
  • Telling you what you can and can’t do. This might include telling you when you can go out, or how to dress, or do your hair. 

My relationship with my ex ticks all but one of these behaviours.

He never hit me, but he used to shout.  He used to stand over me and bang his fist down on the table.  He used to drive erratically, accelerating rapidly and then slamming on the brakes to make a point.  His criticism was subtle, never public, but chronic and consistent. 

I complied with his requests that I peroxide my hair regularly, keep my nails short and natural, not wear lipstick.

There were no-go topics of conversation.  If conversation strayed into these areas he would cry and I would feel guilty.   

The strange thing is, that over two years on, I still wonder whether I am partly responsible for our relationship.  I didn’t really stand up to him in they way that I should have done.  I didn’t have the energy to argue.  I didn’t want to upset him so I went out of my way not to.  I berate myself for my cowardly behaviour. 

I hear about my ex’s new partner and I don’t know whether to worry that she will go through the same, or whether to put what I believe was emotional abuse down to the unique compliance and control dynamics of our relationship.  I am the more naturally compliant one.  He is the more naturally controlling. 


I don’t know what the message is really, other than to beware of Prince Charming.   His façade will drop.

I only need to consult my book of fairy tales by Angela Carter to be reminded that fairy-tales are dark, frightening places, full of wolves and monsters and people who want you to get lost in the wood. 

PS.  This is not a collaborative post.  Any of you who read regularly know that I don’t really do sponsored or collaborative posts.  This is something that I feel really strongly about and feel compelled to write. 

Twin Mummy and Daddy


  1. June 30, 2017 / 9:40 pm

    Thank you for having the courage to address this challenging topic. There is too much “gray area” when it comes to relationships that we need to expose. Just because people feel physically safe, doesn’t mean that they are being treated well.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Lexie recently posted…10 Things That Make Me HappyMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 1, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      Thanks for commenting Lexie. Pen x

  2. July 1, 2017 / 4:00 am

    Cinderella – this archetypal story of unjust oppression has been re-interpreted in various films and literature, and has even been used in psychological terminology. Though the ending remains the same in the less “sanitized” versions of the lore, the existence of the glass slippers has very much been an unexplained error in oral transmission; in the earlier versions, the slippers were made of squirrel fur. When the prince was seeking his elusive love he was, according to the Brothers Grimm, almost tricked by the two stepsisters, both of whom cut off parts of their foot in order to fit into the slipper; it was only through the heavenly doves that the Prince realized that the sisters were bleeding from their self-inflicted amputations.
    Lisa @ NatureImmerse recently posted…INFOGRAPHIC – How To Use Bow & ArrowMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 1, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      Thank you for leaving such a brilliant and informative comment. I never really knew the true version of Cinderella. I need to read more of the Brothers Grimm. Pen x

  3. July 1, 2017 / 7:01 pm

    Those stats are terrifying. I knew that it was a major problem but not that it was that bad. #thatfridaylinky
    jeremy@thirstydaddy recently posted…Beaten For HelpingMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 1, 2017 / 8:22 pm

      Hi Jeremy,

      thanks for your comment. Pen x

  4. July 2, 2017 / 4:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing something so important and those stats are shocking Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please
    Nige recently posted…My Sunday PhotoMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 2, 2017 / 9:51 pm

      Thanks Nige. Yes, the stats are shocking. They rarely get reported. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      July 2, 2017 / 9:51 pm

      I agree. Thanks Ann. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      July 3, 2017 / 10:14 pm

      I concur…obviously. Pen x

  5. July 3, 2017 / 5:29 pm

    What a powerful read. It’s true that you should be aware of Prince Charming sometimes and usually those friends you love dearly will have sussed them out I believe. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time and display the badge.

    • thesingleswan
      July 3, 2017 / 10:13 pm

      Thank you Helena. You are right, some friends and family do suss them out, but it can be really difficult for them to say anything. Thanks for hosting #KCACOLS. Pen x

  6. July 6, 2017 / 7:18 pm

    Oh I certainly have fallen for a few dark Princes in my time…thankfully I kissed enough frogs to find Prince Charming.

    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub with this poignant and important post.

    • thesingleswan
      July 6, 2017 / 9:55 pm

      I am glad to hear it. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  7. July 6, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    I know of a few people who are with their dark prince. It’s very difficult as we all know what is going on it you can’t force that person to leave them. Some people stray from one dark prince to an even worse one and then we are all left thinking the initial one was a saint in comparison.

    I know a lot of these men’s behaviours can be explained. Something happened in their past, drug or alcohol abuse. But that doesn’t make it right. If only everyone was willing to seek professional help for their flaws then maybe we would all be in a happier fairytale.

    Cassie recently posted…Manners, the forgotten art of – how NOT to thank someone for a gift.My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 6, 2017 / 9:55 pm

      Hi Cassie,

      thanks for your comment. There are an extraordinary number of dark Princes out there. Your comment has resonance. I am really scared of falling into the arms of another dark Prince…

      Pen x

  8. July 11, 2017 / 9:40 pm

    It’s terrifying to think how many prince charmings are out there who appear perfect but are actually abusers whether physical or emotional as you describe. It’s definitely a topic that needs to be talked about more. #CoolMumClub x
    Cheryl @ Tea or Wine recently posted…Alexa – The New Girl in Our HouseMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 12, 2017 / 9:12 pm

      Thank you Cheryl. pen x

    • thesingleswan
      July 14, 2017 / 8:50 pm

      I am absolutely better off now. I feel stronger now, but I don’t know that I will ever feel strong. thanks for your comment. pen x

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