My abusive relationship, if I had to try to sum it up in one word would be confusing. For the most part, I was not aware that it was abusive until I finally talked to someone else.
Writing it Down
Right now, I’m going through phases of anger, denial, paranoia, acceptance. Mostly, I just want to forget about it and move on. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely possible because as I have learned it will always pop up when you least expect it.
If you aren’t equipped to deal with it then you may just drown in whatever situation you end up in.
These situations can occur anytime, anywhere. From trusting new people, going forward in a new relationship, experiencing triggers of similar events or just in your own head.
It can be overwhelming and scary. So one of the biggest things that has helped me deal with these situations is to write everything down; what happened, what I felt, what I’m feeling now and how this is affecting me.
Every time I enter one of these lulls I think, I’m fine, I don’t really need to dig this up again. Then a situation hits me and I’m reminded that I’m not as fine as I think I am.
Psychological manipulation was a huge part of what happened to me and is generally a major element in all abusive relationships. After all, why else do you stay?
Writing things down is not only therapeutic, but helps you to make sense of what actually happened without interference of anyone else.
To help remember things, this will be a record of some of the things that I experienced.
A New Relationship
In the beginning, everything was normal, more or less. Well, that’s what I thought at the time, but as I look back on it all the signs were there.
I ignored them initially because I was in a vulnerable place, having just suffered a recent family loss and had broken up with my ex. Feeling utterly alone and honestly, quite bored I went looking for someone to fill the void.
The result was a very exciting, adventurous, intelligent guy. I think I would almost refer to myself as addicted to relationships as I always wanted to be with someone.
That someone, introduced me to a lot of thrilling possibilities both inside and outside the bedroom. Things I’d always wanted to try, but as a naturally shy person needed a bit of pushing to do them.
So for the first 6 months I was off having a relatively great time. All was well, adventures were had and anything less than great was swept under the rug.
I’m definitely not saying that this first period was all happy, looking back there were a ton of things I didn’t want to do even then but was still forced into doing it.
But, because of the stimulation of a new relationship I was able to ignore them more readily.
The Beginning of Abuse
I’m not exactly going to go into detail on what I did, but try to focus more on the feelings and the reasons behind them. Because, in all honesty the activities that happened to you don’t matter as much as how you felt about them.
Were you uncomfortable, scared or worried? Did you say or think, ‘no I don’t really want to do that’? Did they berate, guilt or coerce you into doing it anyway? If the answer is yes, then you start to have a problem.
He didn’t respect me at all. It was whatever he wanted, when he wanted it. Sometimes disguised as what was ‘best’ for me. After that period, the euphoria wore off and we began to run into the real problems.
I didn’t exactly know what was going on, but my gut feeling was telling me to leave. Over and over. I didn’t listen to it because I couldn’t. Any thought of leaving was drowned out by the manipulation that followed.
I believe that he got used to the treatment, the entitlement that I provided him and once he thought that I might be unhappy with that unfair arrangement, he started digging in his heels.
The treatment got progressively worse and worse. Suddenly there were threats made. If I didn’t do this, it would get worse. If I did it on my own without his prompting, it wouldn’t get worse.
If I did it, there would be less trouble.
Trapped in the Cycle of Abuse
During the next 6 months I was stuck in a deteriorating cycle of; I’m happy right? No, this is not how I should be treated. Maybe if we do this or that it won’t be this bad anymore.
Rinse and repeat. I can’t count how many times I said I wanted to break up, or take a break. His possessiveness only increased. No matter how hard I tried, he just wouldn’t let me leave.
I’d like to go into that mentality in another post, but briefly, for those who haven’t personally experienced this, breaking this cycle is one of the hardest things you can ever do and can be almost impossible.
Any steps along this path are signs of strength. It’s your will, your subconscious giving you the strength to fight back. If something doesn’t feel right it’s probably because it isn’t.
I was enduring all sorts of abuse; emotional, verbal, physical, psychological and sexual, which I’ll go into another time.
I didn’t know what was going on anymore. I knew I didn’t like it. The fighting just got worse. Now, some may experience partners who shout and get violent.
But the quiet partner can be even more damaging. He always said that the person who is yelling, is the person losing the argument.
More often than not, that person was me yelling. He would sit there calmly deflecting my points, stripping my self-esteem, stating that I was overreacting and turning all the blame onto myself, or just not even bother to listen.
Mentally I was disarmed and exhausted. Eventually, smaller and smaller things set me off and I felt my emotions go out of control. All the while he would be there, aggravatingly in control.
Why? The short answer is, he has a very limited capacity for empathy, and in my case he is a narcissist. In this way, he believed that everything he said was correct and was unable to see it from a different point of view.
My outbursts only strengthened his argument that I was going crazy. And so, indefinitely I was stuck in a loop where an incident happened, I’d want to leave and he’d convince me that it was all in my head, that I’d just need to try harder.
I ended up bargaining for my basic human rights.
From an outside perspective, my friends and family could tell something wasn’t right. I was irritable, unpleasant, depressed and basically a pain in the ass to be around.
He subtly planted doubt and created unnecessary conflict between me and my support network, at the same time encouraging me and my relationships with them.
I was isolated from everyone.
This tactic, which was used in many ways encouraged cognitive dissonance (discussed in another post), or having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, furthered my perceived mental instability.
One time, when I was reaching my limit I broke up with him at my house. Mom later told me that I looked relieved.
Obviously, not the reaction you’d expect as an outsider to a relationship break up. Unfortunately, it was only 20mins later that he convinced me that I was wrong once more.
The First Way Out
Suddenly, there was an opportunity. In furthering my studies, I was offered a place at a university far enough away from home that we’d have to break up. It would be a year and a half of separation.
Unfortunately, this separation was not as blissful as it might sound. I was physically away from his control, but if anything the mental control only increased.
Once the excitement of moving to a new place by myself wore off, I was suddenly hit with a myriad of unexplainable emotions which I now believe were symptoms of PTSD.
I was cut off from everyone and only left my room for meals. He was my only source of support, but also my curse. I was still stuck clinging to him emotionally because I had no one else.
The counselors I saw were neither equipped to deal with what was happening, nor did I tell them because I didn’t know.
In fact, one of the first things I said to them was, I’m still friends with my ex and we have problems but it’s all fine – now what’s wrong with me?
Of course, they didn’t think there was anything wrong with me either, which further affirmed that I was going crazy.
One day, I was seriously contemplating ending it. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I didn’t know what was wrong or what I had even been through and I even thought I was developing a personality disorder.
Something definitely stopped me then. I was able to promise myself that if I wasn’t ready to go through with the act, then I would find a way to live. Not exist, but to really live.
Easier said than done of course, and I still had a few obstacles in my path. I had tried to hide that I was returning home for the holidays, but he got it out of me and was mad.
Trapped again, I was forced several times to see him as ‘friends’ in which I was subjected to more of the same. It was his attempt to relive the glory of his perceived entitlement over me as his possession, an attempt to reel me back in.
Through a different series of events I found this game. I was able to connect with people that made me feel like my old self again. I laughed for real.
And I finally realized, with the help of the physical space, that I was done. I grasped onto an instant of hope and used it to leave for good, blocking him.
And I had never felt more relieved in my life. In total, it took me two years to escape that initial hook of 6 months. However, I wasn’t done at all.
Once you leave, it’s not suddenly all happiness and rainbows. It takes real effort and inner strength to be able to build yourself back up.
I quickly fell back into my relationship addiction, although healthier, it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do. Despite that, it actually provided me with two important outcomes to my healing.
One, was the realization of what had happened and the second was spiritual, which I will explore separately as it’s not everyone’s preference.
When my mind was ready to handle it and the subject of my prior experiences was brought up, all the suppressed memories flooded back. I was so overwhelmed. At this point I started to tell my friends what had really happened.
Then followed a heavy period of denial, realization, anger and depression. Unfortunately, completely normal. It felt like the cobwebs which had ensnared my mind were finally being lifted, and my true self which had been hiding, was able to see the light of day.
I was able to slowly come to terms with the phrases; domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault, rape. It’s still hard. Though, I wasn’t quite out of the woods yet.
Lo and behold, I get an email out of the blue wanting to meet up. I realized that your phone keeps blocked voicemails, and he’d contacted me a couple times. The first time I spiralled into a panic attack. The next time I was ready.
As always, I like being prepared. I clearly sent a ‘do not contact me’ and gathered all the evidence available to me in case of emergency. For several reasons, I decided that unless it escalated that I would not go to court.
I’ve been seeing an appropriate psychologist and read a lot on it. Now I write this in an effort to both understand it myself and for others. The aftermath of an abusive relationship is painful. There’s just no way around it.
Unfortunately, digging up all the pain and the memories is integral to healing. And I refuse to shove it under the rug anymore, no matter how much I want to. I was putting off writing because I felt like I didn’t need to anymore, which clued me into, that I did.
The main message I want to end with is that every step forward, no matter how small is still a step. Every pain, every hurt, ever memory just means that you are one step closer to truly being free.
You aren’t alone.