Ok so this is about my own experience in an abusive relationship and where I am now. I hope not to make this too graphic but it's something I feel would help me to talk about, so I think I should say that some members of the forum may find it triggering.
I've spent all day today trying to work out the best way to write this, because there are several aspects of it. So first, some background- I was in a romantic relationship with my abuser for a year and a half in total. I finished things last June and I'm in a good place at the moment, I'm with a new partner who is very loving and understanding and whom I can trust entirely. I met my abuser at school, and we got together halfway through our final year. We were both 17 at this point. I was the stereotypical goody-two-shoes and he had the "bad boy" image. Smoking, drinking, you get the picture. I still maintain that's not why I was attracted to him. He was very charming and had a good sense of humour, as hard as it is to recall the good aspects of his personality now. To start with, it was a reasonably healthy relationship I think. (It was a long time ago and there are more memorable aspects of the "relationship" to say the least.) Needless to say, it wasn't long before it turned sour. We were very passionate about each other and said we loved each other rather early. We probably didn't love each other. He certainly didn't love me. I like to think I didn't love him. Anyway, this probably isn't all that relevant. I think maybe the best way to discuss the rest of this is for me to split it into three sections: the emotional abuse, the physical abuse and the sexual abuse.
So first the emotional abuse. This is probably going to be the longest section. Very quickly my abuser, I'll call him V, began to subtly control aspects of my life. He was my first "real" boyfriend, and so the whole situation was quite new to me. V was extremely manipulative and would disguise his manipulation with charm, or by convincing me that what he wanted was "normal" and to be expected. This could even just be as simple as him expecting me to spend more of my time with him than I was prepared for. I wanted to spend time with my family and on my studies but all of my time was taken up with him. At this early stage of the relationship, it would be only fair for me to take some ownership of this. My mother, while very loving, was perhaps what you could call a little overprotective and focused on my school career. I was always a good student and she wanted to help me do the best I could. However I felt a desire myself to rebel somewhat and gain some more independence. Regardless, it soon became that V was demanding more and more of my time. However I also found that when we were not together, he was extremely difficult to contact. He put a lot of effort into distancing me from my mum, and came extremely close to destroying my relationship with her. I am very grateful that we have always been close and that this did not happen, though an extreme amount of stress was placed on the relationship. (My parents are divorced and I live with my mum, so he introduced a whole new dynamic to our home as it's only the two of us.) He told me that he had something he wanted to ask me but was afraid to because if I said no he would be devastated and he thought I would say no. He told me he wanted to ask me to marry him (this wasn't him asking). I was... glad but upset that he'd phrased it like this. I told him that I would love to marry him one day. We discussed it with my mum and she was very unsure and to be honest, distraught. After fighting and arguing, I planned to go ahead with it anyway. But I couldn't handle what I was doing to my mum. I told him that this wasn't right for me at this point and he attempted to give me an ultimatum- say yes or we're over. You obviously don't love me as much as I love you. I explained to V that I did love him (more fool me) and that I just wasn't ready for the repercussions our getting engaged would cause. He calmed down and said he was disappointed in me but would stay with me. We agreed to wait a few months. We got engaged a few months later, my mum was devastated but tried really hard to be supportive. If I'm honest, V's influence over me only got worse from then on. He would keep me from going home when I had said I would leave, even if it meant deliberately upsetting me to the point where I was hysterical and couldn't drive. Regardless, he said I made no effort in the relationship and on several occasions tried to finish things. I would get upset and he would scream and yell at me. Several times this happened sitting in my car and I would beg him not to leave and he'd tell me that by trying to keep him there it was akin to kidnapping. (It wasn't, the door was unlocked and he could leave if he wanted.) On one occasion I became extremely upset and he told me I was hysterical and crazy. He left me alone in his room for 20 minutes and when he came back he told me he had phoned the police and was going to get me committed to a mental institution as I was clearly unstable. I tried to reason with him that I was just upset and that wasn't the same as being mentally unstable in some way. This sort of thing happened several times.
This leads me on to the physical abuse. This only occurred in very select situations (not that that makes it ok, and regardless of the circumstances I would strongly advise anyone else finding themselves in similar situations to seriously consider leaving their partner) and this was on the relatively frequent occasions when he was performing his "break-up scares" as I now think of them. These are what I mentioned before and they were usually framed as an ultimatum to get me to do something he wanted. Anyway, in several of these cases, later on in the relationship, he began to use physical violence against me. During the violence he would tell me that I was "obviously crazy" or I wouldn't be willing to be hurt to get him to stay or "If you don't shut up crying and just let me leave without causing a fuss you're going to force me to hurt you so that you can't stop me." Afterwards he would tell me that he was just trying to scare me. The abuse was never so bad as to leave external marks. No-one could have known without me telling them. But it still terrified me. And even more it terrified me how willing to put myself at that risk I was by not doing as he said and remaining passive as he left me. I would've been doing myself a favour in so many ways, I realise now. Sometimes this was "just" forcefully pushing me away from him, but on other occasions he would choke me, or put me in an arm or head lock. On one occasion he held a knife to my throat.
The sexual abuse. This basically is an extension of the emotional abuse. I was never physically forced to do anything sexual that I didn't want to do, but I know that isn't the only kind of sexual assault. I was pressured and guilt-tripped and generally manipulated ("I thought you loved me" "you're a tease" "this is why people thought you were frigid.") into a lot of things. In some cases this meant that he pushed me to do various sexual things before I was ready for them (I was a "virgin" when I met him in that I was entirely sexually inexperienced, I hadn't even kissed "properly" before.) This also meant that in some cases, after we had done things already and I felt comfortable with them (bear in mind I did not recognise what he had done as abuse at this point) he would often pressure me to pleasure him or have sex with him when I just didn't feel like it, was tired or ill, or didn't want to. This ranged from oral and manual sex to penetrative sex. Sex was used as another way of controlling me.
I haven't told the whole story here, it's far too long to condense, but it covers the abuse side of it. The most damaging to my mental health I feel was in fact the emotional abuse and manipulation. In May last year I found out that he had been stealing money from my mum's purse on several occasions. During the uproar that resulted from this, I also found out that he had lied to me extensively for the whole relationship. He had invented previous girlfriends, invented a job with the army and more things than I can even remember now. He told these lies to everyone but it hurt that he hadn't even told me the truth. We were supposed to be getting married after all. That kind of relationship (any relationship) has to be based first and foremost on trust. And I'm fortunate that his lies and stealing made me realise that the relationship was unhealthy. So I didn't leave him because of the abuse. It wasn't until a few weeks into my sort of break-up healing process that I recognised the emotional and physical abuse for what it was- abuse. But it wasn't until this week reading the q&a and message boards on this site that I was able to recognise the sexual abuse for what it was. So thanks to Scarleteen for that. It does mean that I feel I've started a healing process all over again but I'm in a much better place to be able to deal with it now.
I met my current partner in August when I joined my local amateur dramatics society. We formed a good strong group of friends and he and I became particularly close. In December I ended up telling him the whole story of the relationship. At this stage we were not in a romantic relationship but extremely close. We talked for a long time and I felt that it helped me a lot to talk about. I didn't tell him about the sexual abuse as I hadn't even really recognised it myself at this point. We've been together since January and formed a genuine, supportive, loving relationship. After recognising the sexual abuse for what it was earlier this week, I told him about it and discussed it extensively with him and it helped me a lot but we both felt that maybe some objective viewpoints could be helpful to me too. I did experience a trigger situation last night during sex, when we were experimenting with restriction and bondage play, but we've talked through it and will work this out over time.
I'm not really sure what I'm looking for in posting this. I'm feeling good about life in general and my prospects of healing properly, but I guess maybe I'm just looking for objective opinions on this. Am I correct in identifying this as abuse? Or was it just a bad and unhealthy relationship? Honestly, any opinion or view would be welcomed. And if you've made it this far- thanks, that was a massive read. Thanks Scarleteen
Posted by Jacob at Scarleteen (Member # 66249) on :
That sounds like a horrible ordeal and I'm so glad you got through it. Even to be able write this out as you've done here is a huge achievement.
I'm also honoured to volunteer here when people like you find it a safe enough place to share your story. So thank you for having so much faith in us.
As per whether it's ok to call this abuse; absolutely. I'm not sure I could call it anything else. Someone who plays on your inexperience to completely dictate how you're able to think through your situations, and to hurt you as much as he did is an abuser.
I'm constantly amazed at the strength of healing, and seeing where you are already is inspiring. I can only imagine things can get better and better.
Posted by Redskies (Member # 79774) on :
I'm glad you felt able to share this here, and I'm very glad you are away from this person.
It's clear you already know that all of this was indeed abusive, but I know sometimes it really helps to hear it from someone else too You're describing something which is a pattern of serious abuse, and yes, as you identified, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
It's not uncommon for someone to only identify something as abusive once the relationship has ended. It's very common, too, to realise more parts of it at different stages during the healing process.
You're certainly not the only person to feel that emotional abuse had the most damaging impact on you. It's a very hard thing to find that someone we trusted and thought cared about us actually lied to us, manipulated us and used our trust and care for them in order to hurt or control us.
If there's anything we can do for you, just let us know. If what you need is simply to be heard, we are, of course, very happy to just be a space where you can be.
(crossed with Jacob's posting while writing this. Hopefully the two replies are different enough to each give you something )
Posted by acb (Member # 108645) on :
To me, the fact that you have identified this as abuse yourself is actually a really big deal. It can take a while to process that and although I definitely would say that what you've described sounds like abuse to me, the fact that you have come to call it that yourself and recognise it is really powerful regardless of what I think (although as Redskies says, it helps to hear it from someone else too ). After all, you are the expert on your own feelings.
Anything else I'm trying to write sounds really cheesy, but I'm glad you're doing well after what sounds like a really tough ordeal and the way you're talking about your healing process is pretty incredible .
Posted by silvergirl_sailing_on (Member # 110025) on :
So firstly I just want to say thanks so much to all of you. I'm in a good place just now but nonetheless your comments made me feel even better. It does help to hear what you've said, especially since I know it comes from a truly objective viewpoint. I really appreciate all your comments and the knowledge that you and this site will be here if I need to talk about it is really helpful. I really hope to be able to she my experience to help other people experiencing or healing from similar things. Thank you all so much, your kind comments mean a lot.
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