[This post talks about abusive relationships in a lot of detail and it could be upsetting so please take care]
Tonight on the bus home I saw a woman with a sad expression on her face. She reminded me of my former self when I was in an abusive relationship and would cry on buses, street corners and in parks.
Until now, I haven't blogged in any detail about my experience of being in abusive relationship. The main reason for this is because I'm scared of the person who abused me reading this and contacting me to tell me I am 'making it up', 'telling lies' or 'twisting the truth'. For some reason, it still feels unbearable to be told I am wrong and to hear that I am to blame for the things I went through. Furthermore, I'm still frightened of this person seeing me in the street or finding out where I live in case he interrupts the happiness I have now.
However, I want to share my experience of being in an abusive relationship with you because I feel I owe it to those of you who feel trapped and think that abuse is your fault. It' s not your fault. It's never someone's fault that they are being abused.
Throughout the time I was in this abusive relationship, I was repeatedly sworn at, insulted, intimidated, name called and put down. There were times when I was threatened physically and felt unsafe. Every time I expressed my unhappiness about how I was being treated, I would hear a 'reason' for I was treated this way. Typically these excuses would go like this:
'I called you a b**** because you behaved like one'.
'You made me so angry that I had no choice but to smash my phone.'
'I wouldn't have threatened to *** you if you had shut up and stopped crying.'
'You should have stopped being so pathetic then.'
Furthermore, each time I tried to stand up for myself I was told that abuse was 'normal'. He told me things like:
'You're living in a fairy land if you think this is abuse'
'This is just what happens in relationships, but you're so inexperienced that you don't know.'
'You are scared of arguments. Real couples have arguments. You're such a fussy little girl that you think everything needs to be perfect all the time'.
'You're so idealistic that you will never find anyone you're satisfied with'.
'Get real. Grow up.'
Not only was my personality endlessly insulted, but my confidence was chipped away at. Over time I started to believe that I was being treated badly because I was unlovable. He told me things like:
'You're so sensitive about everything that you're impossible to love.'
'You are incapable of ever having a happy relationship because you're so emotional.'
'You are more f***** up than you will ever know.'
'You're completely unbearable because you're so emotional.'
It was only after I left the abusive relationship that I truly understood the level of suffering I had endured, and it was later still that I realised its impact on my confidence and self-esteem. Many people's first reactions to hearing about abusive relationships is: why don't people leave sooner than they do?
The reasons why I stayed in an abusive relationship for so long are:
my extreme vulnerability as a student in her late teens/early twenties
the severity of my mental health problems
lacking the mental health support I needed
not understanding enough about abuse
the very serious mental health problems I was experiencing
having nobody who told me straight up that this was wrong
being frightened of what would happen if I left
thinking things would change if I 'worked harder'
not trusting my judgement of what abuse was
feeling like I couldn't cope with the emotions associated with leaving
I confused forgiving and understanding abuse with staying. Instead of making a pact of misguided 'loyalty' to stay, I wish that I had given myself the permission to leave. I don't blame myself for what I went through. If you have left an abusive relationship, or are in one right now, I hope you don't blame yourself. It is never your fault. Let me say it again: it is never your fault.
I am now in a happy, loving and caring relationship with someone who has only ever treated me with respect, care, love and kindness. My boyfriend finds it upsetting to think of me going through the abuse I went through and to be honest so do I.
Seeing the woman with the sad expression on the bus today made me extend compassion out to my younger self. It was not my fault I was in an abusive relationship- and if you're in one, please know it's not your fault either.