I never thought that I would end up in a toxic and abusive relationship but that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t see the signs all at once and it took me a while to even admit it to myself that I had been in an abusive relationship because again I never thought that I would end up in that position. But once the relationship ended and I did some research, got into therapy, I discovered that my ex was an emotional abuser.
According to crisistextline.org emotional abuse is described as:
Controlling another person’s actions and behaviors through verbal and emotional manipulation.
Many of the abusive actions that my ex displayed during our relationship were signs that I dismissed because at the moment it didn’t seem like a big deal but it didn’t feel right either. Many times I would find myself trying to explain his behavior. But my explanations illuminated that this relationship wasn’t healthy. Now a year later, I can pinpoint the abusive behavior that I missed.
The Signs I Ignored
- My ex would constantly criticize me for not responding to him in the way that he felt I should respond when he was sad or going through something. At first, I would try to use the “tips” that he’d say would help. But whenever I used them the criticism would continue. It got to the point where it seemed like I couldn’t do anything right. I couldn’t say the right thing, wear the right thing, etc.
- My ex would also blame me for any and everything that went wrong in our relationship. Of course, there were times when I messed up but not to the extent that he blamed me. In fact, nothing was ever his fault. I wasted a lot of time trying to fix myself when I wasn’t really the issue.
- My ex would call me out of my name and then validate his reasoning for doing so.
- There were a few times when my ex would threaten to hurt himself when he noticed that I was trying to leave the relationship.
- On the flip side, there were many times when my ex would withhold communication and affection from me if I didn’t do what he wanted me to do (e.g., giving you the silent treatment).
- Unbeknownst to me at the time, my ex would log into my email, phone, or social media profiles without my permission.
- My ex would take my debit and credit cards and spend my money without asking. When I would confront him about it, he would get very upset about it and never own up to any wrongdoing.
- Lastly, my ex always deflected the blame and responsibility for any of the above actions, leaving me to always feel like I was the one at fault (aka, gaslighting).
You don’t have to have each of these occur in order for you to be in an emotionally abusive relationship because I didn’t. It’s important to note that emotional abuse doesn’t only happen in romantic relationships, it can happen in any relationship.
I know that it’s a risk to share this experience. My ex is still in my life because we share a son and I was concerned about how this would affect him. But then I thought to myself, this is a part of my story. Not speaking about it only continues the cycle of control that my ex had over my life. So I chose to share my story, to continue my healing, to hopefully bring more awareness and understanding. To maybe even help or encourage someone else who is in this situation.
Because I still get so upset when I think about how badly I was treated by my ex and I still have scars that affect me in both small and big ways. But most importantly, I am still alive. I got out before things got physical because there were signs that it was definitely headed that way. I thought my ex would change, but emotional abusers are incapable of changing. I repeat emotional abusers are incapable of changing. They are incapable of viewing people or at least their partners as people, they only view them as objects, tools to be used, as a means to an end. So I will never believe that my ex has changed, despite what he sees, the actions confirm it every time.
It’s difficult to parent with an emotional abuser because even though we aren’t in a romantic relationship with each other, the emotional abuse continues in different ways. My ex still tries to manipulate me into getting his way every chance he gets. He also still tries to blame me for things and start arguments over nothing. He still tries to get me to apologize for things that aren’t my fault. How do I deal with it? By remembering that we aren’t together, so the hold that he had is no more. By thinking of my son, and all of the progress that I have made, the milestones I’ve accomplished. By thinking of everything that I have to be grateful for. By praying even when I don’t want to. Lastly, by living my life, on my own terms again.
If you or someone you know is in an emotionally abusive relationship, know that you are not alone. I hope that this story encourages you and empowers you to do the next step, whatever that may be. Hold on, you are worth it! Share your story in the comments section below, there is healing in our stories.