You're Not Alone Part Four: Reflections and the Path to Healing

Part One here. Part Two here. Part Three here.

Okay, so much for leaving this a trilogy, but this part will be a little different. I will not be diving anymore into what happened to me specifically. That tale is told and there isn’t much more to say besides abusive relationship was abusive. I have already done a reflection of what happened several months later, as well as writing two just weeks after the occurrence. It is my hope that reading about an emotionally abusive relationship at different stages will help others spot similarities or differences in their own lives, and that my example will be of some benefit. Enough talk has been said about what it feels like to be in an emotionally abusive relationship, however, now let me devote at least one article entirely to talk about the path of healing.

To give some reference: it has only been three months since my last real contact with my abuser. To many, this may not sound like a lot of time – and it’s not. Yet I write this now (as opposed to waiting years) to show what can happen in just three months. To show how quickly healing can take hold of the mind and the body, and to elaborate on what issues continue to be struggles, so that those with frustrations and continued hardship can know: you’re not alone.

Words to Forget

The sad fact is that many of us grew up with phrases (taught by our parents or whomever) that simply were not true. First and foremost is this: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

Man oh man, this saying, while a fun little nursery rhyme, is completely wrong. It would be if your parents closed with “Never pancakes and seldom a tart but greasy transfat is good for the heart.” No matter how well it rhymes, it isn’t true. This out of date ditty has caused horrors for those who have suffered from emotional abuse. The idea that, if someone does not physically strike you – they don’t hurt you, has made many victims feel ashamed of their pain. Well never do. Emotional abuse can be just as bad, if not worse, than physical (including horrors like sexual) abuse. Forget the notion that you’re weak if you’re harmed by words. It is just foolish.

“Forgive and forget.”

This one is personal for me. I grew up hearing this saying and, as a result, I always associated forgiving with the act of giving a clean slate. Everything was equal again after forgiving, after all – I had forgiven, and by nature that meant that I was okay with what happened, right? Wrong. Forgiveness is not about being all right with what happened and agreeing to forget the incident entirely. If it was, forgiveness would be nowhere near as powerful as it is. I will get more into this later but for now let me say that – whether you forgive or not is entirely up to you. No one can force you to ever forgive someone for something you don’t want (or are not ready) to forgive.

Adopting a Healing Attitude

How we perceive the world affects our world. I believe I have already spoken about the importance of taking both the negative and the positive in life and how it can influence who you are/your behavior – but let’s take a different approach. Imagine your went through life focusing on the pain, on how much the abuse really hurt you. You would likely define yourself as injured, broken, wrong ,whatever way you choose to express it. A healing attitude does the opposite. Yes, the hurt is real and I am not asking you to invalidate it by pretending it doesn’t exist.

Rather take strength in how much it does exist, and how it has not stopped you from being you. By putting emphasis on how injured you are, you give power to your abuser. Given how most abuse occurs from an abuser taking too much power already, this is something no victim likely ever wants again. In my research and reading, I have found that the best way to obtain this attitude is to perform the “best friend exercise.” Here is how it works:

Write down everything bad that happened to you as a result of the abusive relationship. How your abuser treated you, how it made you feel, everything. Next, write down a list of your best positive qualities. Everything you’ve always liked about yourself. Okay, now pretend that you aren’t the one who wrote down part one (the list of negative things that happened) and instead, your best friend just told you all of that. How would you respond? What would you say to them? With luck, the positives listed in step two will come in real handy in writing your response to your “best friend.” I have found this exercise to be extremely helpful when I am feeling down on myself.

By seeing yourself in a positive and progressive light, you will be that much closer to putting the pain behind you. Remember, while we have been injured, we are not broken. We are healing.

While sayings like this may seem cheesy and unrealistic, it doesn't mean they don't have power to heal. How we think determines so much of the path we take. Say things like this, write them down. Such exercises will enforce them into your mind and slowly help them to sound like normal thought and less like a cat poster.
While sayings like this may seem cheesy and unrealistic, it doesn’t mean they don’t have power to heal. How we think determines so much of the path we take. Say things like this, write them down. Such exercises will enforce them into your mind and slowly help them to sound like normal thought and less like a cat poster.

Understand How All Relationships are Connected

Have you ever known someone who just goes from relationship to relationship without ever seeming to be in a healthy one? Have you been that person? Have you ever heard someone say “well last time it wasn’t, but this time it’s real!” only to be subsequently let down and heart-broken again. The sad reality is that many people underestimate exactly how much all of our relationships are intertwined. I’m not just talking about the obvious ones like all the romantic relationships – obviously those all fall in the same group. Yet I know I personally underestimated the role of relationships encountered much earlier on, namely family structure, and how they can dramatically influence all relationship expectations.

The family is the blueprint for emotional reaction. When thought about, it seems obvious. Who do we encounter first in life? Who is literally our whole world for at least the first ten years of our lives? Families, and in particular the relationships within their structure, are everything. A child raised in a family where parents were unfaithful and treated one another with lies and manipulation will think that normal, how could they not? There is no other family blueprint to compare it to. By nature, we all believe we are born into a normal-ish family (unless the behavior is so abusive or jarring as to create the immediate knowledge of bizarreness). To better understand oneself in relationships, I suggest starting with taking an objective and honest look at the family. This can be difficult as it is a challenge to alienate what is so familiar. Yet it is crucial to help stop and prevent abuse. That cycle is brutal. Those who have been abused are far more likely to abuse someone else. Those who grew up with parents who were abusive may well believe (even if only subconsciously) that this is the normal way of life and anything else is foreign or a lie.

If there is a pattern of emotional abuse in romantic relationships, odds are it began in the family. The good news is that it is a pattern that is easily broken. One cannot change their family, but it is possible change your personal level of family interaction. If you have a family that is always sarcastic and very critical, be genuine and positive with them (for as much as you are able). It will lead to interesting results. View your family as people, flawed people (aren’t we all). By fixing the personal relationship with the family, by learning and admitting that their abuse was wrong – one takes a vital step towards leaving the cycle behind forever. Sample questions to ask:

  • Do you feel like you were important to your parents? Was there anything more important to them? How did that make you feel?
  • Would you be comfortable going up to your mother/father and hugging them, telling them that you love them and that it’s okay. Why or why not?
  • Think of your sibling (if you have one). What memories come to mind first? If they were negative, how do you think that made you feel?

Be Thorough in Your Approach to Healing

The brain is like the body in a lot of ways. Think of emotional abuse as having the same effect as eating nothing but junk food and not moving from your couch/bed ever. It’s not the healthiest way to live. To change it, would you simply stop eating a certain type of candy? No, of course not. Especially if you were serious about getting into shape. Getting the mind/soul into shape after abuse requires this same level of commitment.

For starters, while search engines like Google are a helpful tool, do not simply google “how to heal from emotional abuse,” read the first article and feel like you’ve cracked it. This knowledge I’m writing now did not come solely from online articles. Read books (preferably by those with degrees). Read more than one. To date, I have read two entirely and bits of many others and they have helped so much more than any five-minute article from Buzzfeed. Get informed, get as informed as possible on what has happened to you and how best to heal.

The second book I read, full of helpful exercises and really simple yet powerful language. Highly recommended.
The second book I read, full of helpful exercises and really simple yet powerful language. Highly recommended.

And remember (title time), you’re not alone – and you should not do this alone. While a sad taboo is still associated with therapists, they are a wonderful idea. Think about it, someone whose job it is to help you. Someone who has spent years learning how best to help you deal with problems such as the ones you’re experiencing. That sounds pretty awesome. Seeing a therapist is no admission of weakness. It is a sign of maturity. You are admitting you are not perfect and signaling to all that your happiness is important. Everyone could use someone to listen during their lives. Friends are nice, but friends didn’t go to school and study exactly what to say in that kind of situation. These people did.

And it should not end with a therapist. The sad truth is that emotional abuse can have severe physical repercussions. Emotional abuse can cause physical symptoms like muscle pain, panic attacks, fatigue, and many other wonderfully not fun things. No one is weak for feeling any of these. They are the body’s natural response to a horrific incident. The good news is that professionals exist to help with all of them. Nutritionists, physical therapists, massage therapists, and even regular doctors can help if they are informed. While your abuser may have wanted to see you in pain: not many other people do. Be thorough and take a balanced approach – it will pay off quickly.

Consistency is Key

Imagine someone walked into a room and declared “I am all about peace and being passive” and then punched you in the face. “Diplomacy is awesome” followed by another blow. “I never want to hurt another living thing as long as I live.” Kick to the gut. Odds are you would be confused to say the least.

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Actions matter and words matter. One might matter more than the other… but I feel like that is arguing particulars. Point being, many abusers sadly fit this model. They will often declare one thing and do another. Well this can also work the other way too. If you’re someone who enjoys helping others, yet you call yourself worthless: that is the same disconnect. If you say “I have to heal and I’m willing to do whatever it takes” and proceed to go out, get drunk, hook up with someone and start a relationship – that is the disconnect too. It can mean slowing your actions and thoughts down, but you want to be consistent. It may be hard but it is so important. No one likes a hypocrite and this goes into being a person you can like/love.

Respond, Don’t React

This can be one of the most important pieces of advice to remember. Odds are, even if you were the victim in an abusive relationship – you behaved in ways you did not like. You may have snapped, given into an argument, or just not spoken up for yourself when you would have liked to. No one is perfect and it is impossible to be fully healthy in an abusive relationship. Even after the relationship is over, you may find yourself getting angry at anything that reminds you of that dark time – and taking it out on someone in the present. Odds are this makes you feel less than great, and hinders a healthy self-image.

Most problems can be solved if heard.
Most problems can be solved if heard.

We are creatures of emotion, this is true – but we are also creatures of reason. Take a moment (whenever possible) and simply think. “This is making me sad/happy right now, but is it really this or something else? What is that something else? What can I do about it? How do I ideally want to respond to this situation?” How would the ideal you respond? Think that and try to make it happen. Perfection won’t be achieved, but you’ll likely spend a lot less time committing to actions you will later regret.

The Power of “I love you,” “I forgive you,” and “I’m sorry”

As we have recently discussed: words have power. Some words have more power than others. I personally believe that the three sayings highlighted above may be among the most powerful words out there. The emotional weight attached to each of them is staggering. “I love you” is self-explanatory. When spoken with genuine emotion, there is little these words can’t do. Yet that is the catch with all three – it has to be genuine. This also goes back to consistency. If an abuser says “I love you” followed by a slap, a lie, or a cheat – then the words become a lie. This is horrible, and one of the greatest things to watch out for. Never say “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you” without meaning it. Such an act will undo all the power of the word and turn it into one of the most damaging forms of emotional abuse there is.

What Does it Mean to Forgive

Really, you should decide this for yourself. I mentioned above that I don’t believe forgiveness should be associated with forgetfulness and I stand by that. When you forgive someone (or when someone forgives you) that is not an admission that what happened in the past was okay. While I have been recovering, this was something I struggled with. A part of me did not want to forgive my abuser because I was scared that doing so negated the abuse. In the past, I had been abused whenever I tried to bring up past abuse after forgiveness (usually to compare it to current abuse) because I had forgiven her. I forgive – so it doesn’t exist anymore, right? Wrong.

It has been said that anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I find this true. There is a freedom in forgiveness that makes it worth the everyday struggle to obtain.
It has been said that anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I find this true. There is freedom in forgiveness that makes it worth the everyday struggle to obtain.

Forgiveness is not wiping the slate clean, it is not an admission that, whatever happened, you have decided to be okay with it. Abuse is never okay and no act of forgiveness and erase wrongs. What I feel forgiveness is, is the ability to look past what happened, acknowledge the pain, but find it within yourself to still say “there is something more to you, something worth my continued investment, openness, and caring.” That is powerful and takes a lot of personal strength. Again: no one can ever force you to forgive.

I will say that forgiving an abuser is not dangerous, but forgiving and letting them back into your life can be. It is important to never forget who that person is. Forgiveness is not a clean slate in that regard either – it doesn’t change who they are.

When Compassion Becomes Enabling

One thing I realized very quickly after my last run in with emotional abuse was that it wasn’t going to affect just that relationship. I shared several friends with this person. When you’re a friend, it can be very hard to know how to react. I learned this because, a short time before my abuse happened, I watched similar events transpire between two friends: one whom I was very close to, the other whom I was only fairly close with. In this case, the one I was closer to was the abuser.

I wanted to confide in my friend, wanted to talk and understand, but I realized I wasn’t helping them. Frequently, emotional abusers are high-level narcissists and giving them attention does nothing except fuel their need for validation. My old friend talked about change, talked about improving their life and becoming someone who they could love. This friend had been as quick to condemn Sinda as they were to follow in her actions. I don’t hate my friend for this, but I knew that I (wanting to change my life and heal) could no longer be part of their inner circle.

There are times when open kindness is the wrong response.
There are times when open kindness is the wrong response.

I caution against judging from a perch, as I have written before – the line between abuser and victim is slim, but escaping the cycle means escaping it entirely. I could not champion this cause against my own emotional abuse without condemning every act of it. Were I to say “that’s horrible” to what happened to me but only “I understand” elsewhere, not only would I be a hypocrite but much worse – I would be validating a wrong act. Emotional abuse is incredibly harmful, being friends with an emotional abuser (without confronting them about their problem) is very similar to being friends with a rapist or a molester. Compassion can be a wonderful emotion or a crippling enabler – try to know when is when. It was horrible to confront my friend and tell them I could no longer be there, but it has helped in my healing.

Maintain Balance Between the Emotional and the Logical

As has been strongly hinted at by now, pretty much all of these improvements require the ability to detach and view your personal life through an objective lens, as devoid of emotion as possible. Without the ability to objectively look back at past actions, it is very difficult to make any sort of change. That said, do not abandon emotion. Our emotions are a powerful and natural part of who we are. They define us as surely as our ability to reason and reflect. Abandoning emotion can lead to severe problems with intimacy and will ultimately hurt any attempt at a future relationship (of any kind). Human beings are social creatures, we evolved that way. It wasn’t solitary skill that propelled us to the dominant race on the planet. I’m not saying go be the life of the party every night, but try to keep at least a couple of souls you can be truly honest with. On the same token – do not let your emotions run free… that way is no good either.

Being Drunk and Being Angry

Have you ever had someone say “well I was drunk” as an excuse? Have you ever had someone say “you were angry, you meant that”? Were they the same person? There is a lot of debate as to whether we are more truthful when we are angry. Personally I have always said no (well, more no than yes). Anger lowers inhibition, this is true. You are more likely to just say what you’re thinking when angry… but you’re also angry when you’re angry. Anger is a passionate emotion that has to burn and looks for fuel constantly to stay alive (that is why thinking about something in the past can make you angry in the present). It is also an emotional response to sorrow, as human beings prefer to be angry than sad or emotionally hurt. It is a defense mechanism, meaning your guard is up. How honest are we at that point – I don’t think very, but we will say what is on our mind.

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Same with being drunk. Being drunk lowers the inhibitions and allows us to say whatever we’re thinking, but there is no correlation between inebriation and honesty. It is the same distorted state, simply distorted in a different way. Before of any decisions or actions in these states, as most people are not fully themselves. Our inhibitions exist for a reason – we need that logical part of the brain.

See the Good and the Bad in Life – but Focus on the Good

Over the years many people have tried to simplify life. Life is like a box of chocolates, life sucks, life rules – there’s a million “life is…” statements out there. I have found that life is life. An entity completely independent from us in a way. It has existed before we were born and will very likely continue long after we’re gone. Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.

Anyway, there is good and bad in life, but the importance is to focus on the good. This harkens back to the healing attitude. This absolutely does not mean downplay the bad – noooooo. Pretending the negative does not exist can be a very dangerous idea. Imagine breaking your arm and just going about your day. You never get treatment, you never even get any over the counter pills. It’s not a big deal, right? You have two arms.

People behave that way a lot when it comes to emotional damage. Yes they cheated but it’s fine – it happens. No. That is a completely wrong way to look at it. Like an unchecked broken bone, the pain will go away, but the healing will be nowhere near as complete. Allow the pain in, but look for the silver lining. I believe that there is a positive in every situation, even when I look back on what happened with Sinda. This does not validate her hurting me, it just means that I choose to take what strength I can from the pain, rather than simply surrender to it.

It Will Never Be Simple

(Update 9/4/15) In my first write-through of this, I missed an important lesson. It will never be simple, your feelings toward your abuser. Some people will tell you “it’s okay to hate” or “you should forgive” but really, odds are you will be doing both for a long time. This can lead to problems when you tell yourself “how can I miss him/her after all they did?” or “am I stupid for still caring?” The answer to this lies in a wonderful part in our being: the proof that we are governed by both logic and emotion. It is natural to miss someone you love, but it is logical and rational to understand what they did and resent/feel negativity towards it. Too much emotion and everything is forgiven: who cares? Too much logic without compassion is they are horrible – a horrible, inhuman monster: f*ck them! Neither one of these is a truly healthy view, regardless of how good or right they might feel in the moment.

While it's from a show, I think this sums up the point I'm trying to make. Don't ever let them change you. That is the only time an abuser can truly win. Obviously respect yourself and your limits (all my points above are still relevant) but just because someone damaged you with an act of hatred is no reason to hate back.
While it’s from a show, I think this sums up the point I’m trying to make. Don’t ever let them change you. That is the only time an abuser can truly win. Obviously respect yourself and your limits (all my points above are still relevant) but just because someone damaged you with an act of hatred is no reason to hate back.

I am a firm believer in that there is no such thing as simple as a “bad person.” The abuser wasn’t all bad, or else you never would have fallen for him/her… but they clearly were far from all good or else the abuse would not have happened. It is okay to remember the different layers and shades of the relationship. Your feelings never have to fit into one clean definition. Just don’t let it consume you, don’t think about it too much.

On Future Relationships

A question has been asked since I left my abusive relationship: when will I start my next one? There is no time table, nor should there be. I will use an analogy to make my point. Going for a relationship can be like going food shopping: never do it when you’re hungry. You inevitably come home with at least one thing you don’t want. Loneliness is like sadness: we hate it. We hate feeling it. Sometimes, we can hate it so much that we will do anything to change it. Yet loneliness should never be the primary reason (or really a reason at all) to start a relationship. Most healthy relationships are born out of a desire to share, and a trust that you can be fully open with another person. The problem with loneliness, in addition to being an emotion we try naturally to get rid of, is that it is selfish. You’re beginning a relationship, involving another human being, just to make yourself feel better.

You are always in a relationship with yourself. Make sure it is healthy before you involve another person.
You are always in a relationship with yourself. Make sure it is healthy before you involve another person.

In my time healing, I have had many nights where the desire is strong to go out and find someone, anyone, just to distract me from what I’m feeling – but feeling is part of healing. It really is. Time, and attention devoted to equalizing the parts of life (job, hobby, passion) will help far more in the long run than hopping from relationship to relationship. That is akin to opening a wound every day. Sometimes things need to heal. There are other ways to relieve the primal needs to loneliness, ones that don’t involve other lives.

The day you should enter the next relationship is the day you have found someone you feel truly open with, and want to share something.

This is actually one of my favorite quotes, I didn't just choose it because it made sense. I find these to be words to live by.
This is actually one of my favorite quotes, I didn’t just choose it because it made sense. I find these to be words to live by.

 

Well, that will do it for sagely advice for now. Again, most of this came from much wiser people than I – and I advise you to seek those people out, whether it be through written word, counseling, support group, or whatever method you take. Perhaps I shall write an update in a year and report on how healing has changed. I hope that this series has been helpful to you so far. My goal was to give writings at every stage, from the immediacy of the next day to the reflection of months down the road. Who only knows what new lessons will turn up in the next year.

I hope you continue to heal. It is a hard journey, and sadly not one everyone makes. There are those who never recover from abuse and their lives appear controlled by solely the negative of what life has to offer. You’re worth more than that. Every soul on this planet is. I will leave you with one last exercise idea. Write down what matters to you and who you want to be. Look at what you have written. Say it out loud, say it as confidently as possible. Were there parts where your voice faltered? Right down what can be done to fix those weak spots.

Move forward. Move slowly. The road is long and full, but so is life. Take your time, you are worth it. You’re not alone.

You're Not Alone: A Message of Support for Victims of Emotional Abuse

Update (4/7/2015): a revised version of this post is pending. I will not be taking down the original as I do not believe in whitewashing. A link will be provided when the new version is published.

This blog post is not like any other. While Red Rings of Redemption continues to be a site targeted at examining the way that media shapes our world, it is also a site dedicated to insuring that abuse and human rights’ violations do not go unreported. In the past, I have written about many injustices taking place. It has been my hope to add my voice to a positive movement for change and equality. It is because of that that I am writing this. Watching the courage around the world of young men and women standing up, unafraid of being who they are – it has inspired me. I am coming out as a victim of mental and emotional abuse, and I am going to tell my story so that others out there will know that they are not alone, and that there is always a way out.

There are many different types of abuse in the world. They all hurt in their respective ways. Even though this chart is designed for teens, it is appropriate for all ages.
There are many different types of abuse in the world. They all hurt in their respective ways. Even though this chart is designed for teens, it is appropriate for all ages.

The following is an account of actual life events. I have altered the names to protect those involved. I am not writing this to point fingers or assign blame. I do not wish to demonize while sanctifying myself. I will try to be completely honest with what happened to me. One last note: I am including pictures and links to help boost this post’s reach. It is not my intention to dilute the message with flashy distractions, I simply want as many people as possible to be able to access this if they need to.
To begin with, I suppose I better summarize how the relationship started – to give everything that follows context. In college, I was lucky: gifted with many friends. One of my best friends was dating this woman (let’s call her Sinda for this article). Sinda and I quickly became great friends. We had a lot in common and enjoyed playing games and going for drinks together. Everything was kept very simple by the fact that Sinda was dating my best friend. There was no drama: I was there for her and she was there for me.
Then they broke up.
Anyone who is friends with a couple knows how hard dealing with a breakup is. You never want to take sides; you do not want to lose friends. It sucks when two people who have been together suddenly aren’t anymore. However, breakups happen for a reason and are usually for the best.
Months went by and Sinda and I kept talking. I began to see sides of her I never had before. As she shared more and more of her life with me, I began to realize something: this was someone who I truly cared for . Really, my first sign should have been how reluctant she was… or moreover how she spoke:
“You don’t want someone like me.”
I may be paraphrasing but I remember that main reason very clearly. On the face of it, it does not make sense… but it was a warning sign. People with healthy self-esteems do not ever say that about themselves. After all: why wouldn’t someone be wanted? It confused me greatly as I did know her, and more than that – I knew I wanted someone exactly like her…
Over the months that followed, our relationship grew before ultimately ending. I will cover that more in the proceeding paragraphs. Right now I am going to list some of the signs of an abusive relationship and explain how they related in this particular case. This is to help those out there who are unsure… although really, you can always feel when something is innately wrong.

The Control
This is the big one. It will serve as a factor for most of the following points and is, in my opinion, the most dangerous element of an abusive relationship. I was saving it for last but really, it has to be addressed. Everything was used as control, and she let nothing happen that was not within her power to fully tweak or change at a moment’s notice. To put in bluntly: our relationship never existed when she was not okay with it.
What do I mean by that?
I told my friends when she and I started dating. How could I not? I was so excited. This was someone I was really crazy about. We were spending a lot of alone time together – going out for drinks, to watch movies, etc. She had at this point told me she loved me and I had told her I loved her. Yet when we talked about my friends, she labeled it as “boasting” and definitively told me that the two of us were not – nor had ever been – in a relationship. Not only did this hurt emotionally, but it pulled the rug out from under my feet.
Had I been wrong? It certainly felt like we were dating. Months later when I detailed exactly what had happened between us to my friends, I was met with the universal “that sounds like dating to me.” To be fair, I used the term boyfriend/girlfriend once to stop someone at a party from hitting on her. I should not have done that as we were not using those labels. However, she and I had arrived at that party together and would leave together that night. Yes, maybe we were not “boyfriend/girlfriend” but we were two people who had said “I love you” and were together.
Sinda wanted desperately to control my level of comfort in the relationship and she succeeded beautifully. By always being kept on my toes, I could never relax around her. This stopped me from taking any real risk in advancing the relationship – allowing it to stay exactly where she presumably felt comfortable.
The Isolation
I mentioned before that she dated my best friend before me… so you can imagine that things were a little awkward. What made it worse was that I could tell my best friend nothing, NOTHING, about my new relationship without enraging Sinda. Again the words “bragging” or “boasting” were used often. In the end, Sinda asked that I let her tell my best friend, as the two of them had been in a prior relationship. I agreed and kept silent. It wasn’t until after the relationship had ended that I learned that Sinda had never told my best friend anything. As a result, when the relationship ended and I went to my best friend for solace – it wasn’t there.
Indeed, I later found out that Sinda had told my best friend (and several other friends) that nothing had ever existed between us and I had made the whole thing up. To hear that someone who said “I love you” now tell your friends that you were crazy… I did feel a little insane. She wasn’t describing the relationship I remembered but… what if it all was in my head? It would not be until over a year later when she finally admitted to a couple of my friends how much she had lied in regards to her words.

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That said, her initial denial and subsequent lies by omission to my best friend put them in a spot that no one should ever be in. Two people telling radically different stories? It creates drama… unnecessary drama. I love a good conflict as much as anyone but senseless drama is just that. In a sense, it was the same manipulation and control described above, except directed at my best friend instead of me. By keeping everyone unsure, she controlled the reactions. My best friend could not really be there for me… if they weren’t sure I was telling the truth.
By inserting doubt with my friends, my support network was effectively taken away from me. This was incredibly challenging to battle through, but luckily friends are not called friends for no reason. Don’t worry: Lies have a tendency to change over time and to be exposed for what they are.

Punishment for Affection
Yeah, I’m not making that up. Right away you might be thinking “affectionate” in a sexual context but no, I’m talking about saying things as simple as “I love you” or making breakfast. At times, it appeared fine to let Sinda know just how much I cared for her. Other times, she berated me for it.
She insisted that I only loved her because “I didn’t know her” (we had known each other for over two years at this point) and that I was just seeing what I wanted to see. In one respect, she may have been right. I was insulted or put off whenever I was open with my feelings. She trampled on my words and created this feeling of fantasy where none existed. I was essentially told that I was stupid for caring, although I don’t think she was ever that direct.
These actions deflated my esteem and added to my feelings of unease. In any healthy relationship: you want to make your partner feel good. I wasn’t trying, I was simply saying the positive emotions that I was feeling… and I was trampled for it.

Everything was an argument… and not usually a small one
If you can’t tell from my blog, I am opinionated. I love debating people, playing devil’s advocate, engaging in friendly arguments. This was a ballooning. Simple misunderstandings derailed entire evenings and most of the time it did not appear like there was any reason for fighting. In many cases we both seemed to just be trying to express that we cared. Yet when two people say they love each other, what follows next should never be tears.

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An Emotional Roller Coaster
As miserable as Sinda could make me feel, she also elevated me to new heights. When things were good, they were wonderful; when they were bad, they were terrible. It was not until much later that I realized the full impact of the lack of median. With nothing ever feeling “stable”, there was no way to get comfortable. Again, this prevented me from feeling like myself and created traumatic after effects.

This can become a far too common state of those who suffer from this kind of abuse. It eats you from the inside out.
This can become a far too common state of those who suffer from this kind of abuse. It eats you from the inside out.

The Double Standard
One of the main points of punishment came from the “double standard.” If I said anything ever that implied I anything less than loved her, my claims of emotion were labeled as complete lies. In anger, truth is usually said… but nearly always in a distorted way. With Sinda, anger was the only truth and everything else was a lie. Part of the fantasy she convinced me that I was living in.
Yet she in the relationship (and after) frequently went between “I love you” and “so there were some things I said last night.” In the end, I am unsure how she ever felt about me. I can only spin the tale: actions speak louder than words.

Sadly, the abused tend to take an idea that they are to blame. Often, it works to remove yourself from the situation and pretend if things were reversed - or think of an imaginary couple.
Sadly, the abused tend to take an idea that they are to blame. Often, it works to remove yourself from the situation and pretend if things were reversed – or think of an imaginary couple.

The No-Win Scenario
This is where nice people, truly nice people, get trapped. Being with someone who tells you that you make them feel so special is a wonderful emotion. It makes you feel overjoyed and fills you with the happiness that can only come from making another human being happy. Yet this can be dangerous in abusive relationships. It can be used to create an unrealistic standard and a “no win scenario.”
With Sinda, my no win scenario was this: if we did not have a happily ever after, I was full of crap. In our relationship, I said things like “I will always be for you” and “You will always be special to me.” Only to be met with:
“You cannot make those promises. You are lying.”
Now, it is true that life can throw some curve balls and that we can lose the people we care about. That said, those extreme cases aside – life actually is not that complicated to at least manage. If you care about someone, it is very easy to make time for them.
With Sinda, she was convinced that I was only saying those things as a “spur of the moment” or that I would only love her until she pushed me away. In this way, I began to feel superhuman – and not in the good way.
I was either going to be labeled as the savior – the first man to see her for who she truly was – or just some lying jerk who only wanted to take advantage. In relationships, it is always best to be seen as just a person – a regular, fallible person.
I could not win by being supportive and loving, I could not win by being myself.

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Predetermination
In going with what has been mentioned above, there is another dangerous sign here. With Sinda, it always felt like we were already over. I later found out that she “always felt we would never work out anyway.”
If you are with someone with that outlook: do not start anything. Our perceptions shape the world around us, and someone who is dominated by a negative outlook will inevitably be a negative person. Again, the positive was treated like a fairy tale, something that went against the truth of the negative: we weren’t going to work out anyway.
My true “no win” turned out to be in a relationship with someone who was already convinced it was a bad idea.

It was Never Her Fault
Her hometown, her parents, her upbringing; eventually every person has a choice: be the person you were raised to be OR be the person you want to be. With Sinda, she avoided blame in every action by passing the torch to someone else. If it was not those three things, it was me. I provoked her, I said something stupid, I acted the wrong way… I was lead to believe that it was always my fault.

The problem with a lot of these behaviors is how cyclical they are. It is a perfect trap that is rarely seen before one is caught in it.
The problem with a lot of these behaviors is how cyclical they are. It is a perfect trap that is rarely seen before one is caught in it.

So Now What?
I will take a break from revealing my experiences to address the area where I feel that internet help is weakest: now what? Listing traits of emotional abuse is all well and good but it renders the relationship far too black and white. People are gray. Even when the relationship is abusive – you still care about the abuser. They are not some devil come to inflict pain. They are often a screwed-up mess themselves.
“Just get out.”
That’s what your friends and family will say – and they are right to say it. Sometimes though, the truth can be very hard to swallow. If you are with someone who makes you feel that level of superhuman positive, it can be difficult to walk away, even with the devastating accompanying negative.
In society, we are raised to believe that being in a relationship is part of an end goal. Everyone wants to be together, to be by yourself is lonely. This is not entirely true. While healthy relationships are wonderful experiences, being in an abusive relationship is worse than being alone. Let me repeat that: worse. In an abusive relationship, there is no way to ever be yourself. True, being single can force one to confront a lot about themselves, but that is all part of the process of being your true self. That still occurs in healthy relationships as well.

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This may be hard to accept (it was for me), but even if you’re staying for the best intentions, it is not worth it. An emotional abusive person will take and take until there is nothing left. You cannot devote yourself to pleasing another human being at the expense of yourself. Being nice is a virtue, a goal to strive for. Being a pushover is a vice, it is a self-destructive weakness that will ultimately leave you crippled when it comes to actual relationships.
Loving someone means doing what is best for them, true. Really though, is allowing an abuser to stay comfortable in that level what’s best? It is prolonging a sick joke that was never funny. We all want to have our faith rewarded. Fun fact is that it usually is… just maybe not in the way we’re expecting.

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Someone who loves you will never force you into such a defeated and powerless state. Remember that. Take responsibility for yourself and your behavior. Doing the right thing and doing the easy thing are seldom the same thing. There will be no medal for walking away from an abusive relationship. Your life will not turn magically and instantly better. Your friends and family may not understand what happened and may not be there for you right away. This not a movie, not a video game. Healing takes time – real time. It may not be easy, there will be periods of loneliness and sorrow. The good news is that it does work, and surrounding yourself with a healthy support network of people who care is one of the best tools to help break free.

The fears of getting hurt again can become a double-edged sword. It is okay to feel pain, as long as it is not forced on to someone else.
The fears of getting hurt again can become a double-edged sword. It is okay to feel pain, as long as it is not forced on to someone else.

The Cautionary Tale: What Happened After
I am a romantic. I have said this on the site before. I love to believe in the best of people, and I believe I am good at seeing the true potential in every person. I love being supportive, friendly, and open. In short – I like being who I am.
With Sinda, after it ended, it did not take her long to begin dating someone else. Over the course of that relationship, I would sometimes receive texts: “I love you”, “I miss you”, “I made a huge mistake”. I wanted to believe in these things. Sinda even went so far as to come over my apartment and spend the night. She told me that night how she had made a mistake and she loved me far more than the person she was dating… then she went right back to dating him.
Months later she convinced me to stay for drinks. She told me how lucky she had been to date someone like me and that she believed we were soul mates. The following day, she went right back to dating him.
So many nights, so many texts. I was part of a cheating relationship… one that was still as abusive as ever.
Eventually they broke up and Sinda and I agreed to talk again. Almost immediately the old habits re-emerged. Sinda kept me controlled, declaring that she needed to be alone for a while and to fix the emotional issues she was struggling with.
“I am doing this so that you and I can have the chance to be together.”
I will never forget those words. I will also never forget these:
“I love you… I didn’t mean to tell you that so soon.”
She said both of those things to me that night. Less than a month later, I was informed that she had gone out and gone home with some random guy. In the two weeks that followed, she resumed what sounded like its own form of abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend. Sinda never told me any of this. I had to find it all out on my own.
“I am doing this so that you and I can have the chance to be together.”

The Irony
In truth, part of me believes that Sinda did what she did out of pure fear. Love is not a controllable emotion. When someone you love hurts you… it really hurts. The part of me that believes Sinda did love me… feels that she was so afraid I would hurt her, so afraid I would stop loving her and leave her for someone else… that she did it to me first. Fear can make a person do truly terrible things.

The Message of Hope
I will not lie and say that this relationship did not leave a scar. In a way, it left a very ironic one. In the months that followed Sinda – I only engaged in relationships that I could begin and end on my terms. I kept things simple and unemotional. I did not share feelings, I did not tell the person I cared, I did not trust that they would not hurt me like Sinda had. I started to become what had hurt me. Luckily, I had friends, loved ones, and the ability to step back and seriously examine my behavior and my reasoning.
I have been forever altered by what happened to me. There are many events… some truly tragic ones… that I have omitted due to irrelevance. To be fair, there were beautiful times as well, and it is important to never forget those.  When someone you love hurts and leaves you, it leaves a hole. Heart break no longer sounds cliché but rather like a very apt description. It actually hurts – there is a scientific reason for it. When you truly love someone, you never stop. But there is a difference in loving someone and being used by someone.
Someone who truly loves you back will never use you. You do not exist to make them feel better or even to make them feel loved. You exist as a person. Love is not a condition; it is not something that is negotiated or controlled. It simply exists and either a person is brave enough to embrace it and trust it… or they are not.
And it is still out there.

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For we who have been abused, it is the easiest thing in the world to shut everyone else out. To believe that love is a lie and that things like it only exist in fairy tales: to become cynical and unfeeling, to become emotionally distant, to build a wall so strong and so thick that no one will ever be able to tear it down. Sure, you won’t be close to anyone… but at least they can’t hurt you.
I think that beliefs like that are how Sindas get created.
Am I able to love as freely and as openly as I could before. No. But I’m working on it.
That is the message to take away from this. Do not abandon your beliefs simply because someone took advantage of you. People like Sinda are the exception, not the rule. Believe that people are basically good and trusting and seek out those who seem to emit this positive energy. That quality you have to love, don’t blame it for what happened. If you’re like me and are ever the optimist – don’t lose that optimism… just remember to keep a level head and an open heart when dealing with people. Also: do not demonize the person who hurt you – but also make sure you see them for who they are, and for the behavior patterns they follow.
I do not hate Sinda, she is still incredibly dear to me. I simply know that, people take time to change (if they change at all) and right now, it is damaging for me to be near her. I will always trust, I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt to people. These are not parts that anyone who has been in an abusive relationship should want to give up.

Inspirational-Quotes-Recovery
Those people who are able to be emotionally there and open with their feelings, they are out there. In finding new and healthy relationships, you will find people to help open your eyes to what loving can be. It isn’t easy and there is no quick happily ever after… but the key is to keep trying. Every day is a new adventure. It is limited only by what you believe can happen (and also reality but you see my point). That is what I have started. In doing so, I have begun to heal, and where there will always be scars… I refuse to be afraid of getting hurt again. Life is about risk and love is the greatest risk of all. We’re only alive once as ourselves, and living without regrets appears like the best option. Do not let past abuses fill you with regret. Take the chance: you are worth it.

Part two further outlines a plan to escape the cycle of emotional abuse, and a warning to be more aware of your potential role within it.