I mostly know emotional abuse from the inside, which means I hardly know it at all. I lived with it for seven years because I loved him – I love him – and I thought I could help. I thought I was strong and patient enough, and that if I could just nurture him enough, I could help him heal and let go of his fear. He was so badly abused that, even though he is a good person, his fear twisted him into a person who lashed out during any negative emotion. He had the most horrendous childhood I’ve ever heard about, going from being beaten, kept in his room for months, denied food and then punished for “stealing” food from the kitchen, into being thrust into the foster-care system and shuffled from home to abusive home for a year, getting adopted and living for one year with supportive grandparents before being hospitalized from age 15 to 18, and then released into the world without having been given any guidance, any skills, any security, and any plans. He fell deeply into alcohol and drugs, frequently getting arrested for misdemeanors. He had two serious failed relationships before ours, and both ended with physical assault, police, and time in jail. I knew all this at the beginning. Wearing rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just looked like flags.
I am so embarrassed that I let this go on for so long, but I’m still full of remorse. Knowing the way he sees me and the world, I just did the very worst thing anyone could do to him, and I’m a monster. I keep replaying the thought that if I had stayed, I could just feel bad all the time and keep him stable and safe… and then it disappears into a cloud of nonsense. I know it’s nonsense. But every time I feel regret, I have the thought again. Thank god there is a clear delineation of my logic being faulty and I can ground myself in truth. Truth always brings me back. I’m dependent on it.
I haven’t done a ton of research on emotional abuse yet. That’s something I’ll get to later, when I have more capacity to process. I’m realizing that I was right about being gaslighted. It was unintentional. I accused him of it a few times, but couldn’t explain exactly how, and he denied it because he honestly didn’t know it was happening. It was a lot of convincing me that I couldn’t do things by myself, that I was not capable, that I was wrong about most things, and that my memory was so faulty that I should only ever trust him. The gaslighting came from his own mind, not his intentions. His thinking is radically different from most average people, and he is incredibly intelligent, charismatic, and well-read. And I loved him so much that I stayed with him for the past seven years, all the while internalizing his way of thinking and coming to believe that the world was really the way he saw it. I thought that I was the way he saw me. This is only my second day alone, and I feel like I’m looking at a mirror that is cracked in two. One piece of mirror reflects the way most people see me, and the other piece reflects how he sees me. I’m switching between the two shards of mirror, trying to get my bearings and reestablish what I actually think, believe, and feel. I’m trying to see like other people.
I am not blameless in this. I’ve been going to therapy for four years and improving my mental state and coping abilities, but I kept being dragged down and stunted by my relationship. We got… tangled. I would say something he didn’t like, so he would lash out. I, being horribly averse to conflict (especially conflict with him), would go into a negative thought-spiral and start crying. We would say I was in an episode, and I would become weak. He would take pity on me and try to care for me. So eventually, my defense was to break down and actually have an episode. It stressed and depressed him and it hurt like hell for me, too. We twisted our behavior around each other because we needed each other, and dragged each other further and further down. By the end, both of us felt that we had nothing left to give. He accused me of being a parasite, and internally I felt that he had sliced into my heart so many times that the whole of it was covered in scar tissue, and nothing could get in.
I miss him. I do. I want his approval, his affection, his company, his smell. His smell has already left the house. It really disturbs me. It means he’s really gone.
He’s not a monster. He’s not evil. I don’t even think he’s a bad or malicious person. Maybe that’s the shade of the abused mindset, but for now I truly believe that he wanted to be good. He wanted to help people and be kind. There were just a lot of things he never got the chance to learn, and that’s not his fault at all. It’s incredibly unfair that something as huge as not being raised by anyone and being horribly abused all now rests on his adult shoulders. He doesn’t have the tools to cope with people or life. He was never taught.
I loved my life over the last year. A lot of it was horrible, but it was so much better than where I had been. I was defining my values and metrics for success and I was making major progress in my mental health. I still believed I could not live without him, so staying was the only option. But there were lots of times when I was really happy. There were some really wonderful moments.
But he’s not the right person for me to build a life with. I am terribly afraid that I will be alone for a long time, because I live in a small town and don’t own a car. Tinder is something I know exists, and will learn more about later, once I’m emotionally available again. I’m considering letting myself rebound, as long as I’m honest with the person about my feelings and intentions. It seems acceptable under the circumstances as long as no one gets hurt.
*Note: This was written 2 days after I ended it. Originally, I had this text marked as “Not To Publish”, because I simply wasn’t ready to tell the world how fucked up things got.
I take one-time donations here. All proceeds go to maintaining the site.