On Valentine’s Day 2008, and clearly long overdue, I left an abusive relationship. Hearts and Flowers and Barry White on the radio – they put things in sharp focus. For three years I was paralyzed with doubt. This is a cunning of him. Gradually, like a frog being boiled – before you know it, you are soup.
When he’s good, he’s a magician: He holds your hand in public, and lets you share his sweets at the movies. When it’s bad: constant criticism, frowning, explosive anger, intimidation, isolation – it’s so cruel, lonely and confusing, you begin to doubt reality. “Probably he is Me?” You think. You say sorry. Do more.
Read 11 signs that you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship
It took me time to see how scared I was, to realize how my sense of self had disappeared. The shame was terrible. I lost my high-flying job due to ‘stress’. Even worse, I lost my confidence. I was financially dependent, completely confused. Couples therapy has turned into two parts for one. I’m not sure which was more shocking: the shouting by the therapist, or the huge rows that followed when we got home.
“Why didn’t you leave?” It is an ignorant question. There is a pattern to abuse: how it starts, how it escalates, and how it messes with your mind. My ex-boyfriend never hit me (threatening that, yes), but the abuse isn’t just physical violence. According to Refuge, it is, “the repeated, indiscriminate, and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner…if you are forced to change your behavior because you are afraid…you are being abused.”
Read The Trauma Connection: Why We Stay In Abusive Relationships
In the UK, the police receive a call against domestic violence every minute; Every three days a woman is killed. Perhaps you work with one of these women, or say hello at the school gate; Maybe she is your girlfriend.
My friend’s worst hit was with her newborn in her arms. Thrown down the stairs, her head bounced off the patio doors, and her nose exploded from the force of his boots. Now she’s helping other survivors (she’s helped me more than she knows), and she’s happily engaged to a good man. Her ex-husband still threatens to use his son’s access to harass her. Record everything with a lawyer. She has regained her strength.
There’s going to be an important red flag early so unlike the guy you think you’re dating, it won’t count
Here’s what I’ve learned since I left:
Constant anxiety is not because you are neurotic, it is called fear – listen to it.
Telling yourself that “all men are bastards” will keep you with the bastard you live with – “all” men are definitely not bastards, and most of them are decent, and some are really special.
Minimizing his scandalous behavior with: “All relationships have their ups and downs” will keep you in the bad relationship you are in.
Magic is integral, look out for the red flags – they come in very strong; the use of words such as “always” and “forever”; Call all the time Attends without warning keeps you so busy with romantic surprises that you don’t see your friends; bombards you with gifts; buy a new phone for you (to check where you are, or even to track your GPS); Pick out your clothes. We’re conditioned to see this as romantic, but it’s control.
There’s going to be an early significant red flag, so unlike the nice guy you thought you were dating, it won’t count. my king? He sent me a barrage of abusive texts late at night in fluent Spanish (I don’t speak Spanish). By the time I woke up the next morning, his apology was already in my inbox. Anyone telling you to “break up with love” and “work on your limits” or to Stop playing the victim Not your friend. I was a victim. I’m all for limits, but it’s useless for a bulldozer.
Read the only reason most people stay in an abusive relationship
Many people, including professionals, will collude with his excuses. But he doesn’t because he’s drunk, stressed, insecure, a horrible ex cheater, or mentally ill, or because his mother dropped him on the head when he was a baby. He does this because he feels he has the right to do so. This is because he has certain beliefs about women that our culture fully supports. He’s a misogynist – simple. Millions of men are nervous, heartbroken, insecure, crazy, and addicted, some of them even have really horrible girlfriends, who don’t abuse people or hate women.
Your real friends won’t tell you until it gets really bad; They will listen to you and complain endlessly, agonize and cry. They will watch in dismay as you calm it down, or worse, engage. If you’re so lucky, someone might eventually say, “You look like a battered wife” (right?) and pull you out of your paralysis.
All those fears you have that you are unloved, stupid, useless, ugly, fat, unemployed, and overly sensitive are just not true. They are the consequences of living with a misogynist Wazuk who will resort to violence only when his other tactics begin to fail. Many men never use their fists; They don’t need to.
You’re not alone. According to a survey, 33% of women do – it has nothing to do with your background, socioeconomic group, or religion: it’s because you’re a woman. Being a woman is not a crime, unlike domestic violence. Remember that leaving is the most dangerous time; Likely to raise the ante. Get support. Many men are very persuasive after you are gone; Be prepared for promises and threats, for the friends he’s recruited to tell you that “they’ve never seen anyone, he really loves you.” You need a plan.
It’s called a “breakup” because it’s broken. The beautiful, liberating, wonderful day will come when you get it out of your system; One morning you will wake up feeling happy and free.
Read Recovery from abusive relationships: How long does it take?
I still don’t know what love is, but I know it’s not warm, fuzzy feelings – it’s actions, it’s what you do. I still love men, I love male company, and I have some great friends. I still want to be loved and loved. There have been new relationships since I left, but guys scare me a little. He will be a special man who will take heed – who will be patient as I flutter in the big blue place, and in a panic. I hope to meet him. But I’m not half, I’m looking for everything I have. I don’t need to take care. But to lean back a bit, we all need that. The way I see it, any man worth my time is already a feminist; He might not think of it that way, but he is. Decent men respect women, and they’ve got this masculine thing going against the whole masculinity. I draw my heart from my favorite Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve been a female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be by my side.”
Originally appeared on Guardian