It’s quite a terrible thing to admit that you have been in two abusive relationships. Confessing that though, I must add that calling the things right names is the first big step in recovery. Ironically, when I met my second boyfriend, I was quite aware that my previous relationship had been abusive but I wasn´t able to realize that things were going the same way again. I wanted love so much that I denied all signs right from the beginning.
When I started dating my first boyfriend, I was a 15-year-old depressed girl with family problems. I had a weak health, poor self-confidence – it was as if I was wearing an “abuse me” sticker.
Right from the beginning I knew that something was wrong, but my intuition was silenced by the hunger for love I had. Later in our relationship I realized clearly that I was suffering but I wasn’t able to identify the source. It was standing next to me and I was calling it love.
Being in the relationship was like being locked in a prison, being tied up and unable to speak. Sometimes when we were out together I “disappeared” for the whole evening and curled in a nook. I felt better away from him, away from his mordant words. My eating habits were never okay, but with him at times I wasn’t able to eat at all, as he used to scold me in restaurants and even at home for “bad table manners”. I was not a sociable person by the time I met him, but I wasn’t lone freak either. Gradually he made me believe that I have no friends. If I had any, I wouldn’t introduce him to them because I was so afraid of being embarrassed. So he discouraged me from making friends and on the other hand he criticised me for being a loner. Later I read in a psychology book that this is called a “double bind”, a manipulation.
I managed to develop a kind of bipolar life. In some dark moments I was desperate with pain, and in the clear moments I was able to write a whole page about my boyfriend denouncing how evil he is. Guess what I did with that page later? I threw it out and persuaded myself to forget about it. I guess I could read a whole book on relationships three times and I would never admit that “this applies to me too.” Love is blind, the saying goes, and I was blinded by fear.
There were many obvious signs that he didn’t care about me: he didn’t give me any presents for birthday and Christmas, he didn’t keep promises, he didn’t return things that I had lent him. I apologised for him, believing the excuses he gave me. I did schoolwork for him and he hardly ever thanked me. If I didn’t do his tests for him, he would fail. I was an excellent student compared to him but he never wanted to hear anything about my successes. He accused me of hurting him and showing off. He was The King in my eyes and the loser was always me.
When I got out from this relationship, I realized there had been even more serious stuff going on. He assaulted me physically more than once and often he would hold my hand to tightly that it hurt. The worst assault was when he strangled me and pushed towards the wall. I was petrified and tried not to make him more furious. He never apologised for this, and I believed “I deserved it” because I made him angry.
Then there was also a great confusion in my head about our sexual relationship. I thought that everything was okay even though I remember myself going home in pain and him scolding me for being too slow (he was rushing to the pub just like he did every Friday). He didn’t care about my feelings. I thought my sexual life was just okay but later I developed a post-traumatic syndrome and gynaecological problems.
I remember he could get furious about just anything and start to yell and kick things. Once he called me bad names just because he couldn’t find his keys. Another time I was helping him with his homework and he wouldn’t stop shouting at me. Was I the one to blame for his laziness? Sure I was. I believed that if I had behaved well, he wouldn’t have got angry.
We never argued in the true sense of the word. He had his requirements and I submitted.
It was the third Christmas when our relationship started to break. I was so afraid of losing him that I would negotiate his insane accusations and try to submit. He didn’t like that I am not a “sociable person” (i.e. drinking and driving fast with his friends), that I don’t wear make-up like the other girls and that we don’t have much in common (which was true, no matter how hard I tried to resemble him and his friends).
I negotiated with him and soothed him for two months more but our relationship was coming to an end. No matter how I would try to satisfy him, he became bored and for reasons that I don’t remember, he wanted me to leave. I thought my life had come to its bitter end.
My “last offence” was that I cried in front of his mother, because I felt so bad. It was “agreed” that I would not discuss our relationship with anybody else including my and his family. He gave the reason that it really hurts him and I had swallowed it.
I was beaten, broken, but with that kind of faith that gives you courage. I had tried to do everything he wanted me to and it didn’t help, so in my foolish head I assumed that I am not worth him. It gave me a certain light. I realised that if I had belittled myself to nothingness, and had apologised for things I didn’t feel guilty of, and it hadn’t helped at all, then there must be something else going on. The pain didn’t seem unbearable from that moment on.
His brother told me after we broke up: “He loved you only until you started to demand greater freedom. When you stopped worshipping him, you were no longer attractive to him.” It took me another month to realize that it was true.
It was only two weeks or so after our final break-up and I managed to find another boyfriend via an internet dating service.
That’s a different story.
This guy hated women and on the other hand glorified his best female friend. He always told me to behave like her, to dress like her, to be like her. When I got mad and told him to go and be with her, I realized that she didn’t want him. He never had a girlfriend before and he was two years older than me.
The trap was that he was so different from my first boyfriend that I thought he must be a decent guy. He wasn’t. I start to tremble when I see him even now. I called him a vampire when finally I broke up with him and that’s precisely what he was.
He made me stay up late and tortured me with endless negotiations about “his uncertainty whether he wants to be with me or not”. He never had time for me and would rather go with his friends to pub to “help them to solve their emotional problems.” This personality trait he seemed so to be proud of turned out to be an utter falsehood. He would smile at everybody else except me. I saw in his eyes several times that he didn’t really see me as a human being. I rarely in my life have felt so deeply terrified although there was nothing obviously violent in his behaviour…but his gaze.
This relationship lasted for a half a year. It was full of power struggles and my attempts to grasp him. He used to talk a lot about various forms of violence, weapons and fighting and he had a whole hard disc full of sadistic porn.
This all sounds pretty terrible but I considered him a weakling, an unloved child who needs a mother. I tried to help him, but he wanted me to be a hot mistress and a totally asexual friend at the same time. In this schizophrenia I felt lost and guilty.
This relationship broke up when I met an elder man and became friends with him. It was bliss because I wouldn’t have been able to break free without help of another person.
It was quite dramatic. Though my boyfriend had never phoned me at home, he managed to get my number and called my parents to ask them where I am. I was scared to death. He even turned up at our house and wanted “a word with me.” He told me he feels he has to fight for me and that after everything I had done for him he must pay me back (before that he always told me that he was sacrificing for me and that I am not worth him). I told him I no longer want him. After he realized this, he started dating his friend’s wife…
I consider it a great success that I ended this relationship within half a year. Even though I felt so powerless and scared, I managed to get out of his influence. After several weeks my health has improved and I have more energy. The post-traumatic syndrome is still haunting me from time to time, but I have never lived so fully before. I wish all those who are trapped in abusive relationships that they find a good friend and can get out and live in freedom again.
My advice to others
Listen to your intuition always, folks. It’s better to be embarrassed once than to get blinded for years gradually! If you feel something is wrong then there is something wrong. Tell a friend who you trust and who isn’t involved in your relationship directly (for example, an adult). On the other hand, be aware that nobody knows better than you. Don’t let anybody mislead you. If you feel terrible, then you are suffering and if it’s not getting any better no matter how hard you are trying, the fault is not yours. Quite the opposite. The manipulator sees your efforts as a threat to his power and so he tries to push you back.