It was summer. I had plenty of free time and wanted to spend it with someone I cared about. I’d been single for a year. He was a handsome gentleman with similar interests and values. We had engaging conversations and many moments of laughter. I felt special and cared for.
But I cried myself to sleep most nights. I didn’t tell my friends about all of the moments I felt stupid, unworthy, selfish, beat down, and unlovable. I didn’t want them to know how much money I had lent him or the fact that I was expected to pay for both of us during nearly all of our dates.
But he was down on his luck. He was a hard worker. He just needed that big break, right?
Somehow we always seemed to be in the midst of a fight, and I was always the one begging for forgiveness even when I felt like I did nothing wrong. He called me stupid. I knew he thought I was intelligent. I just did a dumb thing that angered him. I mean, I didn’t know it would trigger that response, but I vowed to be better next time. Except I was never better next time. Little things seemed to set him off so easily and frequently. One moment he was happy as a clam, and the next we were on the brink of breaking up. It was always my fault, though. I should have known better. At least, that’s what I told myself.
I was emotionally crippled. Why was I so scared to lose him when I always felt so miserable inside?
Because he made me feel like I was the problem.
But I wasn’t the problem. He was.
As much as I hate to admit it, I was emotionally abused by a person I believed cared for me. And maybe part of him did, but another part of him was too selfish to realize that his behavior was destructive, not only to me and our relationship but to himself. I wanted to save him from the chemical imbalances and bad habits that afflicted him, but I was only lying to myself and I got hurt in the process.
Enabling bad behavior under the guise of compassion is not helpful to anyone. If you’re like me, you’re a fixer. You enjoy helping those around you because you care about them. But sometimes that mindset attracts broken people who are subconsciously set on imparting their misery onto you. A man cannot save you, and you cannot save a man.
If you’re feeling manipulated, coerced, demeaned, constantly blamed, resented for being successful, and/or physically harmed, you may be in an abusive relationship.
Emotional abusers may…
• Attempt to control various aspects of your life or silence you
• Isolate you from friends and family members
• Accuse you of being unfaithful
• Withhold affection or communication as a punishment
• Display unstable or erratic behavior, such as mood swings and losing control to rage
• Intimidate you or people around you
• Assert physical control or force
• Threaten to hurt you, themselves, or others
• Threaten to leave you
• Frequently demean you, especially with name calling
• Take no responsibility for their own actions and never apologize
• Divert blame towards you, other people, or external factors for their circumstances/behavior
• Make you feel like you’re crazy, problematic, unintelligent, and/or actively seeking conflict
Although anyone can make a mistake and display one of these negative behaviors or traits from time to time, abuse is different because it is frequent. You know you’re in the midst of an abusive relationship when you read the points above and get a sinking feeling in your stomach as a little voice in your head says, “That’s me. That’s what I’m going through. That’s what he does.” Even if you attempt to make excuses or refuse to admit it, you’ll know deep inside that it’s true.
Before, I didn’t believe emotional abuse was a real thing. I didn’t think women would actually allow themselves to be so mistreated by a man. I would never put myself in such a situation, let alone want to stay. I thought myself stronger than that. But I was wrong. As women, we have tremendous compassion, patience, and tolerance for the people we care about. We often put their needs and interests ahead of our own.
But you shouldn’t gift your love, attention, and trust to someone who hasn’t earned them.
You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are strong. You are intelligent. You are capable. You possess unique qualities that the right man will cherish. A man who truly loves you will come alongside you as a partner in life. He will lift you up, support you, and encourage you.
Maybe you don’t feel that way right now. Maybe you feel like you’ll never find someone better. Maybe you’re thinking, “If only this changed… If only I were better… If only he got the help he needs…”
Please listen to me when I say you deserve so much better.
You don’t deserve to feel beaten down, broken, and lesser. You don’t deserve to feel like you’re the problem when you know in your heart and mind that you’ve done the best you can. You don’t deserve to feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells just to keep the person you care for appeased. Maybe that person will change in the future, but they need to find the self-awareness, desire, and willingness to do so on their own.
I urge you to leave any relationship you suspect to be emotionally abusive. Talk to your friends and family members. They truly love you and have your best interest at heart. Find a counselor, pastor, mentor, or other life advisor to help you see the red flags you’ve been ignoring. It’s important that you seek help in getting out of an abusive relationship safely, especially if you feel threatened in any way.
I wish I had recognized the warning signs sooner. From all accounts, that man is still the same person he was when I left a few months ago. I now understand that things wouldn’t have changed if I had stayed. He refused to recognize his abusive and self-destructive tendencies. And I will always hold the emotional scars from it. But please allow me to use my story to help you if you are experiencing anything similar to what I did. Ultimately, when you take time to heal and value yourself as you deserve, the right people will come into your life. They certainly have for me.