Recognising An Emotionally Abusive Relationship Took Time But It Was Worth It

emotionally abusive relationship
| Mind & Body > Mental Health

It can take so long to recognise you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship. It’s not you. It’s them, says Diane.

I never thought I would let myself be in an abusive relationship, until with a jolt I realised I’d already been in one.

It was 2005. I was 19, at university and living away from home for the first time. I had never had what I would call a “proper” relationship before. Sure, I’d dated several people but had never been in a committed relationship.

In the January I started speaking to a particular guy online. These were the days before Facebook and Twitter – before Myspace, even. This was the era of Faceparty. We started chatting online about our shared love of music, and how we both loved similar bands. We spoke to each other daily, for hours on end, until a chance encounter in a club started a chain of events which ended up with us dating.

The controlling of my finances.

For the first six months things were great; then things gradually changed. He worked part-time in a low paid job. Despite hating it and having previous experience in a better paid role, he did nothing to change his circumstances. He had little money, even though he was still living at home. He started to expect me to pay for everything. I don’t just mean food or cinema tickets for dates. I mean clothes, CDs, DVDs, guitar strings… everything.

The gaslighting.

His behaviour towards me also began to change. He started to put me down for the clothes I wore. If we were in a shop he’d tell me what kind of clothes he thought I should be wearing.

He started to compare me to his ex-girlfriend on several occasions, then brushed it off when I (understandably) got upset.

The lies.

He lied constantly, even about the smallest things. It was almost like he didn’t know where the truth ended and his lies began.

The pressurised sex.

I found our sex life incredibly concerning, too. He wanted me to dress up all the time. I gave it a go, but when I discovered I wasn’t comfortable with it he guilt tripped me into doing it anyway instead of listening to my concerns. Our sex life was all about his wants. Anything I wanted was never considered.

The abusive treatment of other women.

At the time we were dating, it became evident that his best friend was physically abusing his girlfriend. When this came out into the open and she broke away from the relationship, my boyfriend began to paint her as a liar and tried to turn everyone who knew her against her.

I knew I wasn’t happy in the relationship but I had never realised what emotional abuse was. In fact, here in the UK, emotional domestic abuse has only been legislated under the Serious Crime Act since 2015. The sex education I had during my school years certainly didn’t address this. After a year and a half, I ended the relationship. My now-ex didn’t even ask why, and soon started dating his sister’s sixteen year old friend (he was in his early twenties at the time).

Fast forward to 2017.

For the past ten years I have been in a loving and respectful relationship with a great man. We live together and have two wonderful cats.

In January this year, the abusive ex got back in touch with me on Facebook. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and began talking to him. He was still in a relationship with his sister’s friend. He had gotten her pregnant by accident and she was keeping it. I felt weird when I read this news and couldn’t pinpoint why. I didn’t want him back. No way. Nor did I want a baby of my own; I’ve never had any maternal instinct.

Within just a few days of re-establishing communication, his narcissism and emotional abusiveness re-asserted itself. Without going into the details of what was said, I felt like I was done in our relationship. His personal remarks made me feel down, anxious and left me with a poor self-image once again.

His attitude to others in his life was also very troubling. He’d just moved out of home for the first time into shared accommodation. His reasoning was that his Mum was “annoying” him because she was depressed. This was just after his Dad had passed away. It seemed to me to be rather understandable that his Mum (one of the nicest people I’ve ever met) was depressed.

Of his baby, he stated that he saw having a child as a hobby or project and wanted the child to think and act just like him.

Suddenly, the reason for the weird feeling I’d first experienced on hearing his baby news became clear, and hit me like a brick to the face. It was cold dread. It wasn’t just adults he could subject to his narcissism and emotional abusiveness anymore. Now he could do the same with this baby, too.

To someone who hasn’t been there it may seem like it took me a long time to understand, but this was the point at which I realised that our relationship had been abusive.

I felt a mix of emotions: anger, regret, frustration. His behaviour was always behind closed doors, so I feared that anything I said would be my word against his. For my own mental health, I blocked him from social media. I am now getting on with my life – without him in it.

If any of these behaviours sound familiar in your own partner, my advice is to recognise it as emotional abuse and get out. They will only make you feel worthless and their behaviour is not love.

I hope the new baby is the making of my emotional abuser but I doubt it.

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