EMOTIONAL ABUSE & WHAT I LEARNED
Today's post took me a long time to write. I tried so many times, the words just felt jumbled and narcissistic and I kept thinking, "No one will care, everyone will think I'm over exaggerating." When I realised that those thoughts were the exact reason why I actually should be writing this, was when it started to flow a little better.
I was recently introduced to Prepair NZ, an organisation that teaches young women about healthy relationships, mental and emotional abuse, and self love. If I'm honest, a number of emotions went through me when I started reading through what they do, what their goal is, and stories from women - I felt affronted with what I had been trying very hard to downplay. It felt like it slapped me in the face that I was purposely making it seem less bad than it was, that I was making excuses for another person; a person that did not extend any thought or care towards me.
For a period of time, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I was unsure for a long time about whether this even was abuse, whether I was over reacting - because in my head, it did not fit into the cookie cutter mould of what I thought was emotional abuse.
There was no:
- yelling or screaming
- no name calling
- no explicit forcing me to do things I didn't want to do
I had, what I thought was an "intense" relationship. It was very fiery and my naive mind associated that with passion. The relationship itself was fraught with pain, lies, anxiety, and manipulation, and when it abruptly ended (by him), I was so entranced with this relationship seeming "normal" that it felt like the most painful experience I'd ever had.
For a long time, I felt pain and nothing else. As I begun to repair the damage both in myself, and in my life that the relationship had caused, it was only then that I realised the shell I was in.
It took one friend to tell me later, "I didn't even know who you were with him and it was really scary", and I knew that I had been ignoring the bad. I took myself off to counseling and bit by bit, I unfurled the things that I had bottled up because I felt like I had no other choice.
It is not normal to:
- regularly feel like a burden in your relationship
- feel like you have a lack of intelligence, and only if you were smarter then maybe you'd be more interesting to your partner
- be told your interests and hobbies are unimportant, and they don't add value to the world or life
- be on edge at all times, for the fear that you will upset someone or do something they don't like
- regularly get silent treatment from your partner as punishment
- carry and do all the emotional labour in the relationship
- feel obligated to do things sexually or brush off worrying sexual instances because someone tells you to
I didn't know this. I cried all the time, most nights I would get up and go into the bathroom to cry where he wouldn't hear. If he took too long to respond to my message, I had panic attacks thinking that this was the day he would leave me. Every time I ate food that wasn't healthy, I felt an urge to vomit it up because if he found out, he would be mad with me. I didn't tell anyone when he took advantage of me sexually without permission, because I was scared that he would leave me.
It's weird because you feel like you are a confident woman, who has good self respect and self esteem, and then you realise that someone has done this to you and you feel like a shell of who you thought you were. How could I let myself be treated this way? If I knew a friend was dealing with this, theres no way I would have stood for it - yet, I accepted this because I didn't know how to stop it.
I do wish, every day, that this hadn't happened to me, and that I had never met him at all. A lot of people tell me "But it's worth it after all the good that happened afterwards", and I do agree to an extent - but I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone in the world. What this did do, is make me aware of what I am worth and what I will in NO WAY put up with ever again. I wanted to share this, because I hope that someone out there that may be going through this now, reads and sees that it's not their fault, and it isn't normal.
EMOTIONAL LABOUR IS NOT ONE PERSONS RESPONSIBILITY
To feel like you are the only one that cares, the only one that remembers birthdays/anniversaries, the only one that puts emotional effort into your relationship or has actual discussions regarding both of you - you are shouldering all the emotional labour. Healthy relationships have a balance and this is so important, I can't stress this enough. Be upfront and clear that you expect the same amount of work and emotional effort, and this is absolutely what you deserve.
WANTING AFFECTION OR SECURITY FROM YOUR PARTNER IS 100% NORMAL
I used to feel so guilty when I asked for a cuddle or any type of affection that wasn't sexual. I was made to feel like I was smothering him, that I was being demanding and this was unfair to him.
It felt like shit. There is nothing more insulting than the person you love, rejecting you.
Shut this shit down. Shut it down.
You are allowed to want/expect a certain level of affection and love, and you are completely normal for doing so. Never feel bad or guilty for wanting connection! Emotional and physical connections are crucial to human beings, it's important for mental health, for brain function, for creating bonds between humans - there is so much science behind this.
You are not demanding for wanting to kiss your partner.
ITS REALLY HARD TO UNDERSTAND
This was a big one. I couldn't understand a lot - why I didn't notice it earlier, why I stayed so long, why he did it to me, why he didn't see anything wrong with it. It's fucking hard because a lot of the time, it's slow. A little passive aggression here, a little manipulation there - and before you realise, you've been worn down into a tiny version of yourself.
The basic facts are, you don't have to understand why.
I will never know the real answers, Why doesn't matter, you just need to know that it wasn't your fault - no matter what they say.
WHEN PEOPLE SHOW YOU WHO THEY ARE, BELIEVE THEM.
I was such an idiot, none of my friends liked him, none of my workmates liked him, my parents didn't like him - but I ignored that. He repeatedly showed me what type of person he was by acting this way in front of me to others, and I just blanked it.
Pay attention to what people close to you say, and its hard to look past your own opinion - but they wouldn't tell you for no reason.
My life is a million times better now. I was able to meet someone that I'm pretty damn certain that I'll spend my life with, and because of this I was able to realise the magnitude of how good I have it.
To have a partner that treats you like a blessing and not a burden, and to have happiness and not anxiety as your base emotion - I could never ask for anything better.