I was in my teens the first time I thought I was in love. He was the football star at my school. He was good-looking and smart, and I couldn’t believe he was interested in me. I fell for him hard.
At first, it was a dream relationship. He treated me like I was special. He made me feel cherished. His attention was flattering. Before long, we were in a serious relationship.
I vaguely remember the first time I made him angry. I’m pretty sure it was over something stupid, and yet his words truly stung me. They were loud, heated, and hateful. They stuck to my soul. I remember the harder I cried, the madder he got. I felt awful.
After some time had passed, he apologized. “Come on, babe… It’s nothing. Let’s just move on. I’m sorry you made me mad.”
So we made up, and things would be good again. Until they weren’t. The arguments got louder, the words angrier. He was more directly demeaning of me, and it happened more frequently. He began to use blame and shame, making me believe I was the one at fault. Each argument left me a little more wounded.
It was classic gaslighting, and he was masterful at it. I began to believe his words, doubt my perceptions, and question my sanity.
Then he became jealous of my time. He tried to isolate me from my friends. He wanted to control who we saw and when. If I didn’t answer his phone call on the first ring, he demanded to know why. Inevitably, it would lead to an outburst.
We were on a dangerous and unhealthy path.
You might be wondering why I stayed. Honestly, I don’t know. I wish I hadn’t. I guess I began to believe that I wouldn’t be anything without this relationship. My worth was being shaped by his words.
Looking back, I can now call it what it is: emotional abuse. After enduring two years of this cycle, and after a long and hard fight, I remember thinking I couldn’t do this even one more time. So I ended the relationship. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I thought I loved him, but I knew this wasn’t a healthy love. If I wanted to find a healthy relationship, then I needed to end this one.
Perhaps this story rings true for you. One moment he is the most loving, amazing guy. But in the next moment, he is angry and scary.
Please hear me… This. Is. Not. Okay.
You are worth being treasured, protected, and loved. I know it’s scary to leave. I know you may have deep ties to him through a pregnancy, children, a home. But you are worth so much more. And you can change this situation for the better.
According to counselors, there are four essential steps you can take to get yourself into a safe and healthy situation:
- Accept that the abuse is not your responsibility. Stop trying to reason with him. Yes, you may want to help him, but it’s unlikely that this pattern of behavior will be broken without the help of professional counseling.
- Set personal boundaries. Make an oath that you won’t respond to his emotional abuse. Do not engage in his arguments. Limit your exposure to him as much as possible.
- End the relationship. Make it clear to him that it is over. Do not allow his emotional manipulation of you to continue or believe his promises that “things will change.” Seek out counseling for yourself and work through the process of healing from this toxic relationship with a professional counselor’s guidance.
- Allow yourself to heal.
At Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, we have resources for those who are in abusive situations. You are not alone, and we are here to help.