By Amy C.
#Fearless Family Writer
I don’t know about other emotional abuse survivors, but I often look at my current romantic partner – my husband to be, no less – and think, “How can you put up with me? Why do you stay with me, even when I have my wobbles? Hasn’t it been an awful chore?! Why do you stay and put yourself through that?!”
It’s a scar left by living with someone who made it clear they found me tedious, boring, and stupid, and still influences my thought patterns to this day. The difference now is that I don’t let it take me down. I recognise them and do something about them, so you know what I did about these questions?
I asked them.
I’m not at home to repressing and hiding my questions, imagining the worst, and living with crippling doubt and self-loathing anymore. If I want to know what my love really thinks, I ask him, safe and confident in the knowledge that he will answer honestly and respectfully…and often with kisses and cuddles thrown in, you know, just for fun. Or because it’s a day ending in Y.
In preparation for my previous writing for Hashtag Fearless, I asked my then-boyfriend and now fiancé (sorry, I’m still bouncing with happiness over his status change!) a few questions because not only did I want to write a well-rounded piece that reflects his own highly valued contribution to my continuing recovery, but I genuinely felt curious as to what he’d say:
Amy: How did you feel when you first heard about what happened to me?
Fiance: A combination of angry and disgusted. Nobody should be put through what you went through, and I just wished I’d been around earlier to have stopped it then.
A: Did you feel apprehensive about being with me/did it put you off?
F: No, not at all. Somebody in your position needs a lot of love and care, and as that was what I was intending on giving you anyway!
A: What were the challenges that you faced?
F: The main one was trying to remove the brainwashing that he’d put into place – that everything wasn’t your fault; you are the most beautiful person in my eyes; you are allowed to have an opinion, and say no; etc.
A: What were the rewards?
F: Seeing you re-emerge from the hell he’d put you in and blossom into being as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside.
A: How has it affected us as a couple, either positively or negatively?
F: I think it has helped us bond together – we’ve both been through a lot in the past, and we’ve got through it all together, as one.
A: Do you have any regrets about us?
F: No regrets at all – it’s like I proved that by PUTTING A RING ON IT!
A: What do you think are the challenges that we still face?
F: I will say that I think that the challenge is still ongoing, but we are working through it still (and probably always will be).
A: What advice would you give someone about to embark on a relationship with a survivor of emotional abuse?
F: Be caring, be patient, be there. Things aren’t going to miraculously fix themselves overnight. It will take time, but it’s worth it in the end. Sometimes all they’ll need is to know that you are there and have got their back – support is key.
What I took away from this exchange, which I’m glad I pursued, was simply: he thinks it’s worth it. His rose tinted glasses are off; having sat with me through some of my darker fights to recover, he knows what this involves. He knows I try to assume blame whenever something goes wrong, and calls me on it every time. He knows I get twitchy about some things, and what is most likely to make me cry with frustration. He knows I am sensitive to criticism, and works hard to word things carefully.
And he doesn’t begrudge any of it, at all.
Instead, he takes pleasure in seeing me do well, and is willing to fight with me when I struggle.
So if you are wondering the same thing about your new love, about how they see things and how they feel about being with you, you brave survivor and emotional warrior, I humbly suggest you ask them. You’ll probably find, as I did, that they are proud of you. The best type of partner appreciates, admires, and respects your bravery.
Don’t accept anything less.
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