Note: All names have been changed for the safety of the author.
“You’re worth so much more!” “How could you stay?” “I thought you were brought up better than that.”
I’m sure I haven’t officially heard everything, but it’s felt pretty damn close.
For two years of my life, I was in an emotionally and pseudo-physically abusive relationship. I say pseudo-physical because he never actually hit me, but when we argued, when he was mad, or when I made a clumsy mistake, he would always bring his hand back like he was going to hit me. I flinched every time he did that because he was so unpredictable.
I say emotional because when Matt was happy, I was happy. When Matt was sad, I was sad. When I was upset by something, and Matt wasn’t upset by it, I was “crazy” and it was all my fault. He was constantly manipulating me and my emotions. And he would yell at me… so much.
The beginning was great, but after the six-month mark, every day was plagued with fighting or cheating. Six months in, I found out that he had been talking to numerous girls on Tinder. But I stayed when he begged and pleaded for a second chance.
Then we started to fight more and more. Each fight was unnecessarily explosive because he would never acknowledge that something he had done had hurt my feelings. He also would “gaslight” me and lie about the way things were said or done to make me believe that I was the one who was wrong. It got to a point where I was too scared to break up with him and too scared to speak out. I distinctly recall times when he described how he would kill me, and I was scared that he would act on what he said. One year in, I found out that he was texting and calling girls he had met online. I was scared, so I stayed.
Each time I stayed, I thought I could fix things. I thought I was thinking rationally when I thought that if I just tried hard enough, if I just did more or if I did nice things, then we could have a normal relationship and that he would change and treat me with respect. It never happened.
He tried to buy my forgiveness after we fought or after he stood me up for a date. When I didn’t feel like I was getting the attention I needed, I bought him food. I thought that it would force him to have a meal with me, and it gave me at least thirty minutes of attention before he went off to TV or play video games. But after two years, he finally broke up with me. That was the nicest thing he had done for me.
[Related: 5 Women on What It’s Like to Be Raped by a Boyfriend]
This article is for those individuals who are in relationships that they’re not ready to admit are abusive. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation to mine, I’m begging you to think things through. It felt like deep down I knew being with Matt was wrong, and that I deserved so much more, but I was stuck.
For those of you reading this who knows someone going through a similar situation, please don’t judge them or think “they are stupid for staying, why don’t they just leave.” It’s not that easy.
When my friends and family would ask me why I was still with him, all I could say was “I love him” because there was legitimately no reason for me to be with him, but I was stuck. In my mind, no one understood this dysfunctional relationship I was in, the fear I was living with, and my frantic need to fix things.
If you’re reading this and you can relate to me, then I want to tell you that your feelings are valid. I want to tell you that sometimes you can’t always fix things. I couldn’t gather the strength I needed to walk out, but I was fortunate that I was freed. But I know you are strong and when you’re ready, I know you’ll be able to break free.
With love and support,
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, head to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website. The organization has resources for both victims and friends/family. If you’d like to call the hotline, the phone number is 1-800-799-7233.
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Photo: Andrik Langfield