Our year began happy – in love. We sent each other cute voice notes, he lovingly complimented my pictures and upon request, gave his opinion on which to post for Instagram. This month we’re over, finished. In a repeated pattern, I’m not quite sure why. I walked away after a spontaneous silent treatment, given without cause. Confusion spell bounds us repeatedly; like many who suffer emotional abuse in relationships, the realisation hits when the music stops and the curtains close.
What is emotional abuse?
By definition, emotional abuse is hard to summarise. Abuse itself is a strong term people naturally steer themselves away from. Very Well Mind suggest “it chips away at the victim’s self-esteem and they begin to doubt their perceptions and reality.” For further clarification, the digital publication lists a number of signs to spot emotional abuse in relationships. These include accusations of being “too emotional” or “too crazy”, “withholding affection” as punishment and “denying that an event took place”.
I never quite knew where I stood. Everything blossomed rapidly fast and made me believe our chemistry fate. At our second meeting, he said he could easily fall in love with me. After our third meeting, we both uttered the three words. I met his close friends and stayed round his apartment. Early on, trust synced our communication. Easily leaving me alone at his place while I left my phone unlocked closeby.
We had hiccups – me being a light drinker, living up to his quantity and making a complete fool of myself, sitting outside his apartment door in the morning wondering how we separated. Him working overseas and struggling to make time to meet. Warning signs glimmered and I chose to ignore my better judgement. Then out of the blue, I found myself blocked. One minute we spoke about the future and the next I’d encountered ‘ghosting’.
The endless back and forth
Time passed by and without the ability to forget our unfathomable chemistry – and arrogance to not accept rejection, I found a way to contact him. He denied it all, he hadn’t blocked me. It was me who’d disappeared, me who left him wounded. By the time we met in person, he had unblocked me and created a story relating to his phone. I knew it didn’t add up, but I kept falling and making excuses because in person I’d never felt happier than seeing him.
Often, he changed his mind and made it seem he hadn’t. Meeting at 5pm changed to “I told you I’m working till 9ish, you can’t keep putting yourself between me and my job”. With endless charisma, I persisted our dating and adored listening to his underlying love, memorising my words and treating me with the manners of a 50’s Hollywood movie star playing a romantic lead. What equally kept me hooked, beyond our similarities, connection, humour and ease; we both understood pain.
His story a melodrama of family rejection, loved ones gone too soon, siblings with addiction and a divorced wife who cheated with his best friend. Additionally, health scares – one time I came close to permanently losing him and the thought left me in such sorrow, I decided we had to belong together. He loved playing the victim – when he dished out the silent treatment with no explanation,I ran to him apologising. When he said I kept screaming at him and endlessly phoning him, I blamed my memory for not remembering. The sweet side of him was caring and available for help at 2am.
Emotional abuse in relationships – not straightforward
He called me crazy in an upbeat tone, joking that’s how I’m saved in his phone. He switched tales constantly; admittance followed by denial and no recollection. The thing with emotional abuse in relationships, it’s not simple to notice. Every act is subtle and blurred amongst good. Friends and family told me to stop being stupid and gain a dose of self-respect. My self-lies ignited a stronger strength.
A Cosmopolitan article on the signs of emotional abuse in relationships, spoke clearly to me. Survivors discussing their experiences, summarise what is known as “gaslighting”. Net Doctor reports this as “psychological abuse whereby a manipulator makes a victim doubt their sanity.” If someone with a higher level of intelligence, success and number of friends questions you over your behaviour, you need incredibly strong esteem to not succumb to questioning yourself. Something I didn’t have.
In high school, I became use to friends breaking my trust and making it seem normal when confronted. Having my secrets revealed to others about who I like; my group not waiting for me and going off somewhere at lunch, name calling and rumours circulating. Teenage girl stuff most have dealt with to some degree. A best friend didn’t speak to me for an entire day, once finding out I forgot to bring something she’d left at my house by accident.
Being with him made me insecure, needy and unlikable to my character prior knowing him. Sharing his deep emotions in spite of hiding sections of his life; pointing out women he knew who he wanted to sleep with and flirting beyond acceptable in a relationship although ignoring me. Our great moments are beyond spectacular and our worst are shameful.
Emotional abuse in relationships – any relationship, is difficult to grasp as people are unaware of what counts. When does bullying or simple bad behaviour turn abusive? I hate putting myself out as a victim. My upbringing is based on the idea of no excuses – you always have ability to change a situation. So, in admitting my favourite person spun mind games in the midst of what I assumed love, I’m declaring myself as prey and falling to what I was taught to not be.
Yet in typing these words, I’ve concluded you’re only a victim if you hide and deny. I don’t believe strength published this post, rather a willingness to openly look at a situation, see it from a new perspective and in turn, continue with a fresh approach. A piece of me will never fully deny our good.
Have you ever felt emotionally or mentally abused in a relationship? Post: Building Self-Respect: Realising I Had None