100 Steps Forward and 2 Back: Surviving an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
I’m not going to lie, these last three months have been hard. Coming home from New Zealand was like coming home to a new planet, and my last month there was the worst period of my life yet.
The truth is, I don’t know how to write about this. I was at my lowest after it came out that one of our flatmates was being abused. I had already lost my job and was feeling really down about my career. My boyfriend at the time was also depressed, and I was trying so hard to help him that I became depressed too. I literally wished I could die. Then he broke up with me out of the blue the day we were meant to message about the new place we would be moving to.
I felt sick for days.
I remember gathering everything that I built and listing it on Facebook Marketplace. I sat alone surrounded by everything I owned hoping people would show up for my yard sale- not very many people did. I carried around homemade pepper spray out of fear because the abusive flatmate was still living there.
Meanwhile, he didn’t comfort me while I sobbed in the other room (we had to live together for a bit after the breakup). Instead he called my friends to ask what he should do about my crying, and when I asked him if he ever loved me he said he didn’t even know what love was (he’d been saying ‘I love you’ for about a year).
Granted, I didn’t take it well. I punched a window, I ripped things up. I found myself literally shaking with rage. It was during a time when I was angry where he told me that I should feel lucky that I was letting him sleep in ‘his’ bed, use ‘his’ furniture, and to stay there at all. Never mind that I’d sold everything I owned to move there to be with him, never mind that I didn’t have savings because I was trying to make the place we were living a home, never mind that I paid for rent, car insurance, and other things.
I once playfully asked If he liked the moles on my face (which I obviously like or I would have gotten them removed) and he laughed and said “Do you like the hair on my ball sack?”.
Once he suggested we have a Harry Potter marathon and then laughed at me when I got excited (I love Harry Potter and he knew that).
He told me he’d be interested in what people really thought of me now that we were broken up.
The last time I saw him it was pitch-black at 3am in the park and he said the only thing he learned from our relationship was how to cook better. He left me there, crying in the dark. Because my eyesight is bad at night, I called begging him to walk me back to the light.
When he came to visit me in America he told me “this doesn’t necessarily mean anything” while telling me how romantic everyone thought he was for coming. He stayed with my mom during this, he met my family.
He kept secrets from me and didn’t tell me until I was already in New Zealand. He literally fell on the ground in public during one of our fights.
Even when we broke up, he kept trying to tell me that if only I was better or if only I could change my personality it could’ve worked. He never stood up for me.
When I made him breakfast he’d complain that it wasn’t toasted enough, when I made fruit bowls he’d complain about the stems in the grapes. I didn’t try enough different styles with my hair, nothing was ever enough.
He casually scrolled through pictures of us once- of memories I remember us both being happy in- and told me he couldn’t remember being happy. It’s taken me a long time to trust my memory again.
He’d stop saying ‘I love you’ when we got in fights.
I learned how to drive on the other side of the road for him and we bought a car because he wanted one (I was worried about the price because I have student loans). He told his friends I forced him to buy me a car. He told me he resented me for ‘driving him around’ (he couldn't legally drive).
That’s not even scratching the surface of the relationship.
Since leaving, I’ve had nightmares for months. I think about the house we lived in and how close I was to dying in it. I feel so much more hopeful about life now, but there is still so much hurt. I’ve lost many friends and I lost the life I built there, but the worst thing was losing a part of myself I’ll never get back.
When our flatmate told us that her boyfriend was abusing her, he looked her in the eyes and said “Listen to me- I believe you.” He later told me that he thought the guy was a “nice guy” and that he was “innocent until proven guilty”. When she explained it to me, it was apparent that she didn’t think she’d be believed and she was visibly scared.
I feel the same. Posting happy pictures was my way of lying to myself about how bad things really were, but it’s insured that a lot of people won’t believe what I have to say. In fact, I was doing everything I could to distract myself- buying things I didn’t need, drinking wine more than I usually would, and not listening to the red flags. I didn't even speak about a lot of these things because I didn't want him to look bad and I made excuses for him in my own mind.
I wouldn’t put up with any of this now. I know my worth now, and I didn’t deserve any of that. And if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship like this, do yourself a favor and stop making excuses for that person. You don’t deserve that treatment, and you deserve someone who doesn’t make you question the relationship or yourself every day.
You may feel like you’re at rock bottom looking up, but that’s actually the best place to start. Every day I work towards the life I want. It seems like I’ve taken 100 steps forwards, but there are days when I take a couple back. I know now to trust the process and to remember: Good things are coming and good things are already here.
“The extreme loss, heartbreak, or crumbling allows the ego to loosen its grip and admit it doesn’t have all the answers, which leaves space for the light of the divine self to come flooding in.” -Rebecca Campbell