How I Left an Abusive Relationship
Two weeks ago, I was finally strong enough to leave an abusive relationship. It lasted 2 years, 8 months, and 12 days. During most of that time I was unaware of how we were spiraling towards such a painful place. In hindsight, it’s still difficult to trace. It sneaked up on me.
In the beginning it was love. The type of joy that overwhelms you, coursing beneath your skin. When you stop to look around, you find that you’re floating, several feet off the ground, a tingly, lightheaded, smiling mess of a human. Time misbehaved. Hours went like seconds. Entire weekends came and went.
That feeling never entirely left. Even when things were really bad, when I could conceptualize what was happening, when friends and family were telling me to leave, I still felt echoes of that joy. I remember telling friends, “30 percent of the time, maybe less, I’m still in love.” The rest of the time I was miserable, but I was unwilling to leave that little bit of happiness. I was afraid I wouldn’t find it elsewhere. I felt obligated and guilty for wanting to leave, right until the point I admitted it was all I could do. I never imagined myself the type of person to be caught up in such a cycle, and that was part of how I was trapped. I overlooked the subtle little changes, ways I was suddenly being treated, because of our long happy history together, and because it simply never occurred to me that I could be a victim of abuse. In my mind it happened to people in film, television, literature, magazines, but never people in real life; or if it did, they never talked about it.
Since I ended the relationship, I feel as though I’ve been walking in a fog, and its only now starting to lift. I definitely feel stronger, not weaker, now that I’m on the other side of it. I feel like I have a lower tolerance for abuse and a much higher sense of self-worth. I don’t feel hateful or jaded, which makes me grateful. I mostly feel free. I also feel lucky that is wasn’t the kind of relationship that left physical scars – it wasn’t that kind of abuse. It was mental, emotional. I was lied to and manipulated. I would be told one thing with a smile, and then find out from friends I was being criticized behind my back, accused of being lazy, lying – ridiculous claims really. Time together began to drag on, when it had once passed so quickly. I was repeatedly pressured to do things that made me uncomfortable and which I felt were actually immoral. I never voiced my concern or my discomfort, and that was a mistake. I let myself change and do things I regret because I felt I had to. On more than one occasion money was stolen from me. Texts, emails and phone calls that were important to me went unreturned. Before I knew it, the mutual respect we’d once shared had been eroded entirely. My own expectations, reasonable as they were, stopped being met. In a nutshell, I was made to feel valueless and inferior. Part of me wants to be more specific, but then this becomes a story of gossip, and that isn’t my intention. My intention is to share my experience, so that anyone in a similar situation might wake up.
Something I will share though, is that the relationship I left was not a romantic one. It wasn’t even with a person. It was with a company. It was a job. A job I loved dearly and never imagined leaving. That was another surprise for me; that an abusive relationship could develop with an inanimate entity. I do not mean to make light of the violence that millions suffer worldwide on the daily. I am told that one in four women are involved in a relationship of domestic and sexual abuse in their life, and one in seven men. That’s fucking ridiculous. It’s awful. It makes me very angry. What I’m suggesting now, though, is that we need to be aware of how we are being treated on all fronts, not just by our significant others. Because it all takes a toll. I felt hostage to a situation I couldn’t leave, and I was depressed. It took me a long time to realize what was happening, and as awful as the situation got, the worst part by far was being aware of it. Of knowing that I was unhappy, and consciously coming up with reasons to accept it. To argue against myself at the detriment of my own wellbeing. For what? A paycheck. A feeling of security. A routine.
Hopefully you have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just some guy who hated his job and quit. But if for any reason you do identify with my struggle, I hope you can find the strength to leave. Whether it’s a relationship with a person, a company, a place, a behavior, if you’re spending any time fueling your own deterioration, please recognize it. Because it sneaks up on us. And though walking away seems unimaginable, imagine what will happen if you stay. I don’t want that for you.
You deserve better.