#Fearless Family Writer
I had a good portion of this written, and then I erased it all. After a period of dwelling and analyzing, I realized that I was writing down every horrible thing he did to me and found myself explaining my actions to possible readers. I was writing out of anger and I wanted to drudge up a “She-woman Man Hater” club. I wanted strangers to hate him. I was writing from a place of anger and re-living every negative detail made it feel like it was happening all over again. I’ve spent two years trying to heal and forgive him and I was slowly undoing my progress.
“Why did you stay? I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. Well, if it was me, I would have left before it started.”
Whenever I try to talk about my experience about being in an abusive relationship, those are the words that I hear the most. No one likes to be abused and no one stays for fun. I can’t speak for others’ experiences, I can only talk about my own. The more I reflect, I can see all of the red flags; it’s something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Not as a mistake, but as a lesson.
Thanks to him, I will never let anyone mistreat me. I will not accept anything less than what I deserve; I have found my voice and my backbone. Yes, to stay is a choice, I understand that and it was a choice that I made many times. I’m sure he did love me in his own way, but it was a convenient love, not a soul love. No matter how much love we have to offer someone, you can’t make them love you back. You can’t force them to give as much as they’re getting.
For anyone who is reading this and has gone through something similar, I want you to know that it is okay. Maybe it’s not okay right now, but it will be.
For five years I stayed in a mentally abusive relationship because I thought he loved me. Don’t get me wrong, it takes two to tango. I have my moments that I am not proud of, but I am no longer that young, naive girl. It started off really fast and not from the best circumstances and I allowed myself to go blind to what was happening around me. Any time I would sense something was wrong, I immediately brushed it off. By the time I was aware of what had happened, I felt like I was too far in to back out.
I thought “Maybe if I just love him harder, he’ll change. He’ll be motivated and just needs to be loved through this slump.” So, I did just that. I kept making excuses for his behavior because I thought I was helping him. I was desperate emotionally, financially, mentally, and I thought admitting the abuse to myself would somehow make the situation worse.
It didn’t though, it made me his puppet instead.
I didn’t know who I was anymore and at such a young age when most people are discovering who they are, I had no idea. Because of that, all he had to do was tug on the right string and I would end up doing exactly what he wanted and I thought it was what I wanted, too. I thought everything going wrong was my fault and that I wasn’t doing enough. It was a continuous cycle of abuse, depression, and isolation.
A while back, after I’d left him, I came across a quote that said “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it.” That resonated so deeply within me because I realized that’s exactly what I had done. I thought that I would be throwing away all the hard work I’d put into our relationship. I asked myself what kind of person I would be to leave someone in such a manner who would have nowhere to go or a way to get there. I painted myself as the villain in my own life and I tumbled deeper into a black hole.
I stayed because I thought I was doing right by myself and that leaving would just be running away; I thought I was being responsible.
We always speculate how we would conduct ourselves if found in a certain situation, but honestly, we have no idea until we’re in the middle of it. Even then, we don’t know what we’re doing until it’s over and we begin to reflect. In the end, it doesn’t matter why I stayed, because I got out. I found myself dreaming about better days ahead, realizing that I didn’t want to live my life as a shell of a human anymore, and I was done being scared.
In my line of work, I always tell my clients “Sometimes figuring out what we don’t want leads us to what we do want.” I knew the life I was living was not what I wanted and dreams began to outweigh the fear. I was scared of being alone, but I was already alone. I was scared of being broke, but I was already broke- I knew I could actually break the cycle by living for one instead of two. I was scared of being isolated, but I was already there.
One day at work, someone sent me a picture with the words “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” That gave me the smallest bit of courage I needed and one by one, I began to cut my strings. I couldn’t get it out of my head and it became a nagging in my mind.
With the love and support of my roommates at the time, I was finally able to break free. It was then in that moment that I saw his true colors. When I told him that I wanted to end it, I saw the fury in his eyes. He stopped loving me a long time ago and was angry that he was losing his free ride. I don’t remember anything that he said to me, but I remember the malice in his voice. That gave me all the confirmation I needed to know that I was doing the right thing for myself.
Since then, I had been asking myself how I would move on from the pain and forgive him. I didn’t want to forgive him because he deserved it, but I did. We don’t forgive others because they need it, but because we deserve peace. It’s cliche, but it’s true; if we don’t, then we can’t truly be happy. If you don’t learn to forgive those who have done you wrong, then you will carry that pain with you and it will manifest in every action.
Forgiveness is also not a one step proclamation; it may take days, weeks, months, or years. It’s something I’ve had to say to myself on a daily basis while enduring random times of crying. The tears would appear out of nowhere, but I had to let them out. I had to make myself feel the pain so it would go away. The longer we suppress our feelings, the longer they will fester. I would allow myself to cry, then I would dry my tears and move on. Whether I was at work, cleaning the house, or waking up from a nap. I refused to cut myself off from emotions any longer and eventually it started to get easier.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was still grieving. There’s no time limit on healing and just because you’re healing doesn’t mean you can’t move on. I have been shown true love and even that it isn’t glamorous like the books try to make us believe. I ended up getting a random message from him with an apology. I was so caught off guard that I started laughing and crying and had no idea what my emotions wanted to do. I decided that I wasn’t going to reply right away, though. I wanted to respond when I wasn’t being ruled by emotions; I needed a clear, grounded state of mind.
When I told a few friends and family about the message, they all scoffed at the action and some were even worried that I would go back to him. I was perplexed by their response, but brushed it off. I wasn’t going to let anyone affect my decisions again.
I replied with a simple sentence: “Apology accepted and I forgive you.”
We are often driven by anger in one form or another and it’s exhausting. To be controlled by anger meant that I was still being controlled by him and forgiving him was an act of taking that control back.
All of a sudden, I could breathe easy, and I smiled because I had finally let go.
Thank you to CMT for sharing this moving story!
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