"Sometimes something catastrophic can occur in a split second that changes a person's life forever."-Jeanette Walls
This quote has embodied my life for the past eight months. I don't mean to sound dramatic, but I feel like my world view has been completely distorted since one of my exes (the one before my last relationship) and I split up for the last time. After being part of someone's life for so long (two years), I felt like I was missing something in my life for several months afterwards. I felt like I needed him in my life and I couldn't go a day without wondering how he was doing. But as I started to feel more independent, anger and bitterness towards him started to creep in. I began to realize more clearly, now that the rose-colored glasses of love had faded, that I had gotten out of a manipulative, co-dependent, and abusive relationship. I have no idea how to healthily process how this relationship has affected me, and I honestly feel like I'm drowning in insecurity, invulnerability, and anxiety.
Before I go further into this post, I want to say that it's not my intention to be any sort of rumormonger. I know that some readers will know who I'm talking about. For those people, I ask you to not make a snap judgment based off of what I say. I am a firm advocate of getting to know a person before judging them and their actions. I can't say that I was the best person in the situation, myself. Situations where people are mistreated often leads to the mistreated, in result, mistreating in return. I was not kind. I wasn't the best person I could be. And the results of that make me sad. What this post is about, for me, is to publicly acknowledge that the abuse and manipulation really messed me up. Hopefully I can also raise some sort of awareness about what abuse is and means. I think it's important for those that are experiencing an abusive relationship to know that they are NOT alone and that they need to get out as fast as they can.
I recently read an article recently that said this:
"Usually a relationship starts out really lovely and charming and then a [person] hangs on to the memory of that once it does become an abusive situation, and [they think] that [they] can help [their] partner get back to the person that they were before. When, in fact, usually that's not the person that they really were ― it tends to be a ruse and once the relationship gets close enough the exercise of control happens." (Brackets added)
I can't think of anything that could have described my situation better. I fell in love with a man who was charming, incredibly attractive, educated, could make me laugh until my stomach hurt, bought me flowers when I had performances, would surprise me with romantic dinners, and made me feel like the most attractive guy that walked the planet. It seemed like a dream, and we were happy for a long time. About six months, to be exact. The relationship started to go a little bit south when he had a mental breakdown and drove to his last ex's house and then later tried to get him fired from his job. Me, being an optimistic and empathetic individual, understood that it's hard to get over an ex, and I tried to be there for him as an emotional support. It never occurred to me that he would ever do something like this to me in the future of our relationship because we were in love. He just needed help getting through this minor setback. Even though I should have seen it, I totally missed the blaring red flags.
After that, things changed more subtly. The compliments that used to be plentiful disappeared and were replaced with criticism of my body image, pointing out my pimples, loose eyebrow hairs, and bad haircuts. He also started criticizing my career choice. Reminding me that I wouldn't ever make good money as a dancer, and that I was bound to be a stay-at-home parent because I would never be the breadwinner. I have always been pretty sensitive to criticism, but I would be lying if I said that there wasn't a distinct difference in treatment and behavior. This obviously was indicative that the honeymoon period was over, right? I just had to get used to the criticism and hurt I felt.
After the criticisms started to turn into fights, I started to think that maybe this relationship wasn't going to work out. I kept that to myself, because I don't think that a relationship should be given up on because things got hard. But things kept building, and I finally made the decision a few days after New Years to break up. I still cared about him, even loved him, after the breakup. But I knew that I wouldn't be happiest if I stayed. We tried to be friends, but it became apparent that he didn't think that it was just a friendship, and I started to get confused about how I felt. We talked and made it clear that we were broken up, and even though there were tears, I thought it went well. I fell asleep feeling like I made a sad, but right decision. I started dating soon after and actually met someone I really liked. That's when things really fell apart.
When my ex found out, things went south fast. I started getting mass amounts of texts of him threatening suicide, sending me pictures of bloody knuckles, wrists, and broken mirrors that he had shattered. He insulted my family members, called my best friends derogatory names, and told me I was a Jack-Mormon, that I was a shitty dancer, and that I was basically a slut. This went on for several days, into weeks. I decided to stop dating that guy I started to like because of the stress that I had from this.
After I stopped responding to his messages, he decided to try a new tactic and attempt to get me disfellowshipped/excommunicated from the LDS church. After that failed, he drove to my house, overdosed on anti-anxiety medication, and in tears he screamed at me and stumbled around the road because the drugs messed up his balance. I took him into my house because I didn't want him to drive home while he was on the medication, and sat him down and hugged him while trying to calm him down. He would settle down and then have sudden bursts of emotion, and there was even a point where I had to wrestle him to the ground so that he wouldn't drive away under the influence. I got in contact with his family and told him I was going to drive him home and spend a couple of days over at their house to make sure that he was alright. This was a good and bad idea. The good thing is that he could function in society again, the bad thing is that I fell in love again while taking care of him and we decided to have another go at the relationship.
Remember when I said I never thought that he would do something similar to getting me fired from my job? Well, something like that DID happen to me. And why did I overlook him calling me a jack-Mormon, a shitty dancer, and a slut? Why did I overlook him trying to get me disfellowshipped/excommunicated? Why did I overlook him insulting my family and friends? The only answer I can give is that he was not mentally well when those things were said and done, so it seemed excusable. I thought I could fix things. And I was in love. I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could make things better. I didn't listen to my best friends and family because they didn't know him like I knew him. How could they possibly see something that I couldn't?
Well it turns out they were right. The remainder of the relationship was riddled with insecurity. I felt like I was on the wrong career path and wasn't successful in my field of practice, so I started to shift things into a field I was not as passionate about. I felt uncomfortable at church and eventually stopped going because I was made to feel like a "jack-mormon" for being gay and attending. I was scared of any sort of physical intimacy because I didn't want to be perceived in a negative way. I felt cornered between my friends, family, and relationship. I was isolated from my best friends and family, not being able to talk about the relationship, because they didn't like him. This is definitely an oversimplification, because he wasn't the sole cause of any of those. I can't attribute all of my emotions and insecurities on an outside variable. But it was a major contributing factor. Not only was I insecure about myself, I was scared he was going to explode again.
And he was scared I would break up again, and he wanted to have control of the relationship. Over the course of 9 months, things would reach a breaking point 8 times, he would break up with me, and then ask for me to get back together with him, and I always took him back. I had the patience to wait out this "bad spell" because I was absolutely confident that things were going to get better. But they never did. I just felt worse about myself because he seemed like the only thing that was constant in my life. Because of my insecurity of the relationship and my life in general, I acted terribly. I was sarcastic and moody because I had slowly turned into a cynic because I felt like my life was in shambles. But after every breakup, I tolerated less and less until finally, on the 8th time he asked to get back together, I wouldn't. I had promised myself for the last two times that this time would be the last, but in September of last year, it really was.
I was bombarded with texts that were manipulative and emotionally abusive, he left apology gifts at my house, he admitted that he was a closeted alcoholic after our first breakup and continued to drink to cope with his problems, he called incessantly and left voice messages of him sobbing and threatening to kill himself over the course of two months. I had started to date someone, but ended it after about a month and a half because the stress of my ex was again too much for me. I finally told him that if he bothered me, my family, or my friends again that I would get a restraining order against him. I blocked his number and social media and there was finally radio silence.
I have to admit, it was hard. I reached out to him every once in a while and regretted it every time. I missed that deep connection with him. I knew that the relationship was unhealthy because that's what I was being told, but I never really understood until I finally walked away. I wasn't being treated well- not only in a relationship, but a friend would never treat me this way either. I became more okay with the fact that he and I were never going to get together again. I started to develop my independence by immersing myself in dance, the career choice I knew would truly bring me the most happiness. Every step I made in my career was and continues to be an act of defiance, proving him wrong. I even drove to Portland to audition for some companies I was interested in. He wasn't the only reason I became so passionate about my career, but he really pushed me along. I started spending more time with my friends, picked up extra hours at work, and did things that I felt were meaningful. This might seem silly, but even cutting my hair made me feel more independent and empowered.
Right now, I feel like I have become my own person again, but I have changed irreparably from the person I was two years ago. I no longer believe that being jaded is a choice. I am more invested in my career than ever before and I know I'll achieve my dreams. I am riddled with anxiety when faced with physical intimacy. I view myself in so many ways that are unhealthy now that I have felt an incredible amount of anger towards my ex that I am still not sure how to handle. I don't want to be angry. I've never been an angry person. And I hope it wont last. And maybe it's part of the stages of grief, but it's been really upsetting that I feel so passionately upset.
This anger is part of the reason I am writing this post, but not to be petty and get back at him. I'm angry because people get caught in these unhealthy situations more often than I initially thought. I want to be able to be a voice to listen to for people who are going through these situations and don't even see it, or don't want others to see it. It may be hard to understand, because I know it was for me, but life alone without your abuser is so much better than with them. I wish I understood that earlier.
To anyone who think that they might be going through manipulation or abuse, whether verbal, emotional, or physical, please reach out to someone. I understand what it's like, and I promise I will be a confidential shoulder to cry on. There are hotlines for emotional abuse, domestic abuse, physical abuse... so many resources. Please use them if you think you might be being abused. Life is so much better on the other side.