When I was in college I spent over a year in an abusive relationship. Why would I stay if it was abusive? Honestly, I didn’t realize that it was. So many times when people talk about couple’s abuse it’s very black and white. The criteria that most people know to indicate these types of relationships is if your mate is putting his/her hands on you, or verbally abusing you. In my relationship my boyfriend never laid a finger on me, and he never called me out of my name. However, when I had to go to therapy to help me rebuild the self-damage that he inflicted on me, I realized then that the relationship was very abusive. So to you, dear readers, even though I don’t know you, know that I love you enough to not want you to go through what I did. It took many years for me to even be able to look myself in the mirror and like what I saw, not have a panic attack whenever I walked past a reflective surface, or get angry at a guy because he liked me (“How can he like me? Is it a trick? Doesn’t he see me? Is this some type of joke?”).
To give a little bit of background, I’ve always been a very commitment phobic person. I don’t have a problem with making friends, but I’ve always been very cautious of romantic relationships. Before I met my husband I had been in three previous relationships. My third relationship was the abusive one, and it took me three years to get over that before I actually started dating again. So when that third relationship started to get abusive, since I was so inexperienced with relationships, I didn’t know that it was wrong. I didn’t have any knowledge to go on and my boyfriend was so secretive, he didn’t want me to talk about the relationship to anyone. So when I wanted to ask my family and friends if this relationship was normal, because I was loyal to him, I didn’t ask and I continued to be in the dark to what a crazy situation I was in. When I would ask my boyfriend if this stuff was the familiar he would always say: ”Of course it is. You haven’t been in a lot of relationships so you don’t know.”
However, there are signs that things are out of whack in your union, and even if your beau is telling you it’s normal. Please know that it’s not.
He cuts off communication you have with others. At the time we were dating I didn’t have a cell phone, only a landline in my dorm. Whenever he was in the room with me he wouldn’t let me answer my phone. The way I didn’t see it as abusive was that whenever the phone rang he would pull me into him lovingly and say things like: ”No, be here with me right now.” Then, he would also want to take all of my time. Having someone being possessive of you might sound very endearing, but when that person systematically becomes what your life revolves around (with a very small margin of wiggle room for friends, and family), then it’s not a healthy union.
He/She wants to hide the relationship. Now, there’s nothing wrong with trying to keep the intimate parts of your relationship (either physically intimate or emotionally intimate) between the two of you, but when the person doesn’t want to claim you, then that’s a problem. My boyfriend’s excuse was that he had gotten out of a very tumultuous relationship that lead rumors to be spread about him. He wanted to stay under the radar when it came to relationships. Well, that was fine to me when it came to being on campus, but when he didn’t even want to tell his family about me, and they were steady trying to set him up on dates and he would accept… yeah… something’s not right. Which leads me to my next thing…
He doesn’t respect you. During the time that his family was setting him up on dates, they would ask him to take a picture of himself, and send it to them in a text message so they could show his potential suitors. Why did he ask me to take the pictures for him? On top of that, WHY DID I TAKE THE PICTURES?!?! But, to use another less pathetic example, he asked to borrow some money from me. When he came to pay me back, instead of handing me my money in my outstretched hand, he actually THREW IT AT ME, and sang Fat Joe’s “Make it Rain” while smiling in my face.
Now, no disrespect to any woman who has spent time on a pole, but I’ve never been one, and I certainly wasn’t on one when he threw my money at me. Someone who doesn’t respect you is someone who doesn’t deserve to be with you.
You’re not allowed to be yourself. Before we started dating, we were actually friends for like a year. I had gained the sophomore 30 (I was always an overachiever) and he was helping me to lose weight. After I lost 40 pounds, he began to put his input on other things that I should change about myself. Like, throwing away outfits of mine that he hated. Or not liking how wide my smile was and making me practice my smile in the mirror for twenty minutes a day… as he watched…. Or making me take pictures down on my Facebook of my friends and I making silly faces. He told me how disproportionate I was for having a small middle and a large bottom, and he would force me to do hundreds of squats… while he watched. When we would get take out, only he could eat, and those burgers that I loved so much would become his and I couldn’t even eat the fries.
The things that I began to love about myself all seemed wrong. I began to hate my smile, my body, and myself for being “not right.” One day he wanted me to look in the mirror and I started crying because I didn’t want to see myself, he apologized for being so harsh, but the damage had been done.
To this day, I still wonder if he was cognitive of what he was doing. He swears that he didn’t know, and he was only trying to help me, but it doesn’t change the fact that the relationship definitely fell in that gray area of abuse that no one talks about. It took three years to finally like myself again, and to trust a relationship. After having my daughter it’s still very hard sometimes to look at my transitioning body as I try to lose the baby weight I gained and not hear his voice chastising me, but once you move out of the gray, it’s nothing but blue skies from there.
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