That’s all the text said but I deleted it immediately. It was from a guy friend of mine and I was afraid what my boyfriend at the time would say if he saw it.
Something inside me clicked when I deleted that text. I thought to myself “Why the hell should I be afraid?”
Almost in daze, I began to think about other aspects of my relationship that felt suffocating and toxic: the way I questioned every decision and opinion, how everything I did was deemed “wrong,” how often I was told I was being a “bitch.” I began to realize I was in an emotional abusive relationship and needed to get out.
Sadly, that’s when things got worse.
Emotional abuse, as terrible as it is, often gets overlooked or dismissed. You can’t see the scars it leaves, so it’s hard to prove it’s really happening. Even to yourself.
Emotional abuse is like being trapped in your own mind. You question every thought, feeling and action, until one day, you don’t have a voice. Not that you need one, since nothing you say is important or matters anyway. If you tell your partner you don’t like something they’ve done, you get responses like “Oh, whatever.” or “It’s not that big a deal, chill out.” Or “Stop being so controlling.” You eventually feel invisible and unimportant, but you also feel like everything is your fault. Your friends HATE your boyfriend and ask why you haven’t left him yet. But they don’t understand. You think you love him, because he’s worn you down enough to think you need him. It doesn’t help that sometimes he can be so sweet and amazing. Only when you do something “wrong” does he get upset and say hurtful things. Except, guess what? You’re ALWAYS doing or saying something “wrong.”
At least that’s how it was for me. It started so slowly and subtly I didn’t even realize what was happening. He began by calling me a bitch. It was always “God, you’re such a bitch.” “Quit being a bitch.” “Why are you being such a bitch?”
So I stopped being myself because I was a bitch, right?
I stopped hanging out with them and only saw him because I didn’t want him to feel like I wasn’t making time for him. How bitchy, right?
I stopped talking to any and every guy because why do I need male friends when I have him? I’m not a cheating bitch, right?
I became his perfect girl. And my own worst nightmare.
I hated myself and when he was yelling at me, I hated myself even more. The yelling, which began to happen more and more frequently, was the worst part. “Shut up!” are two words that broke my heart each time, but his yelling and cursing got me to shut up and sit there whimpering like a dog while he told me what I had done wrong.
The next day he would send me a typed out paragraph about how sorry he was and how he wanted me to be his forever. TO BE HIS. Not to be in his life or be his girlfriend but TO BE HIS forever. I was HIS property. I didn’t notice that, though. Of course not. He was apologizing and I forgave him EVERY time.
About six months into the relationship, I received that text from my guy friend. By then I was hooked. I loved my boyfriend and there was no other guy out there for me. But the day I deleted that text, I told him that I was leaving and it was ridiculous that I deleted another boy’s text that only said “hey.” I said, “You can no longer control me!” Yes, I sounded like a Lifetime movie, but I felt empowered.
Until he told me that I only deleted the text because I knew my guy friend would hit on me and I would let him. Maybe even wanted him to. He yelled at me and told me I would never leave him because he was the best thing that had ever happened to me and I was lucky to have him. Then he told me he’d kill himself if I left him. I crumbled under the weight of his cruel words, terrified that he’d really hurt himself and it’d be all my fault. I sat there and whimpered apologies and let him watch me delete that guy’s number from my phone. I knew what was happening, that this situation was completely wrong, but I was too weak to leave.
If you’re a woman reading this thinking, “Oh no, I would have left a long time ago,” you’re falling into the same trap I did. I thought I knew better. I have a supportive family and kick ass friends and things like this don’t happen to girls like me. But I lost more and more of myself as the months went on. We kept breaking up and getting back together, with him saying he couldn’t – wouldn’t – live without me, and me sitting quietly, whimpering apologies every time. I prayed he’d get tired of me, but then who would he have to control?
After a year of this, one night changed it all for me. We were home alone and got into a bad fight and once again we were yelling until I gave up and sat there crying and whimpering like a helpless dog. He lost it. He was screaming, no words, just noise. I was backed up into a corner and he grabbed me and shook me to “calm me down.” You don’t need to grab someone hard enough to leave marks on them to calm them down.
I ran from his house and he called me later that night. “We need to break up,” he said and I could tell he was scared too. I agreed and hung up. I cried for weeks and worried about him constantly. I was too scared to block his number in case he called me for help after hurting himself. I wrote to his family about the suicide threats but never heard back from them. It was so hard not to get back with him, but my friends and family begged me not to. For once I listened. I knew I was free but I still feel the aftershocks from that ordeal.
I jumped into another relationship not long afterward, and though it ended after several months, the new guy was sweet and did random acts of kindness for me. I never knew how to react. I didn’t feel like I deserved his love. I would ask him for permission to do things I didn’t need permission to do, and I got a little scared every time he did or said something I disagreed with. When I spoke up, he was very kind about it, but he knew I was afraid. I said sorry way too often because part of me still thinks everything is my fault and that I’m always doing something wrong with every kind of relationship.
I always talk a big game about staying single but I knew every time I was lying because I hated being alone. Something about this last break up has changed my mind. I’m single but it’s nice. I can enjoy things by myself and don’t have to deal with someone all the time. I’m not done with relationships because I love being in one, but I’m just taking a break because I owe myself some much needed me time! I cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store for me!
I speak out against any kind of abuse, but especially emotional abuse because I never want anyone to go through what I did. If you think you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, or your partner threatens or attempts suicide, there are several ways to get help or advice through the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It’s confidential and free. Please reach out to them or to someone you trust. You deserve to be in a healthy, loving and SAFE relationship.