I have two words for you: abusive relationships.
I bet you just got really uncomfortable. You probably wanted to close this article and find something cute and funny with some GIFs from New Girl or of hilarious scenes from Bridesmaids. While those are fine and dandy, and they make for a great morale booster when you’ve been cornered in the library for hours on end studying for that one midterm you just know you’re going to fail, there are some deeper issues in our society that need to be talked about. They just don’t get enough light shed on them. One of those is the very uncomfortable topic of abusive relationships, both emotional and physical. We are told to keep quiet about it because it is personal and people feel awkward talking about those types of situations. I’m here to say screw those societal standards. I’m about to get real with you.
One year ago today I was in a controlling, emotionally abusive, threatening relationship. It has been almost an entire year since I pulled the plug and finally got up enough courage to walk away from the dangerous situation I was in. However, even though I have been free for nearly an entire year, I have carried the damage of that detrimental relationship with me every single day. It gets better, sure, but it does not go away. One thing that we are not realizing is that while yes, these relationships are horrible while they are happening and need to be stopped, they leave an everlasting mark on the person involved.
When I was dating this person, I would walk with my head down and shoulders slumped, not making eye contact with anyone. I was always terrified that he would know if I was talking to anyone that was not him (even if he wasn’t there) and would get mad. Months and months after we broke up, I continued to live my life slumped over and hiding. One day, at the boutique I worked at, I was trying on a dress and I hated the way it looked on me. One of my coworkers said, “Stand up straight and stop hunching over like that. Nothing looks good when you’re trying to hide your body that way. That is a leftover impression that he left on you, and you have to let him go.” I realized that day, that even though I was no longer dating this person, I was still allowing him to control my life. As hard as I try to get away, I still find that control lingering over my head today.
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to write. While I do share a lot of my writing, some of the more personal stuff I keep in private journals. One time, he found some of my writing I had tucked away inside a dresser drawer. I asked him to please, please put it back. It was private, only for me to read. He refused and continued to read anyway. It felt like someone had gotten inside the most private parts of my mind and taken the things I had for just myself. I never wrote in my journal again for the rest of our relationship. Even today, when I write something private I have this deep fear that people are going to go through my work and read it. Sometimes I have the urge to hide my writing or even throw it away after it has been written.
When I was with this person, he would tear me down every single day. I remember picking him up for school every morning, and if he had not yelled at me within the first five minutes, I considered it a good day. He would tell me constantly that my dreams of traveling and writing were stupid and unreachable. He spent all of his time trying to tell me that I did not need to follow those dreams, I needed to settle down here with a job I did not want because it was more realistic. Now, I am going to spend a semester abroad and have even looked into Grad schools overseas. However, on an almost regular basis I feel the doubt begin to creep in and I think “I can’t do this. It’s unrealistic.”
His behavior towards me has left me with a deep-rooted fear of not being enough for myself and for other people. I find myself constantly watching what I say or do around others, afraid to be my real self in the case that my real self is not good enough for them. I have a constant fear of the people closest to me turning their backs. I spend a lot of time alone. I go to the gym alone, the movies, dinner, coffee shops. I have made myself get comfortable with being alone, in case one day I have to be.
It is a very difficult thing to live with, and I hate it every single day. Knowing that this man still has a form of control over me is a very hard thing to come to terms with. It hurts my heart to see other people suffering through unhealthy, volatile relationships because I know from experience that even once they get out if they get out, it will be an extremely long journey to self-recovery. This is why, even though people tell me not to talk about it or to keep quiet, I continue to raise my voice. These situations are happening everywhere. Look around you, I bet someone you see every day is secretly miserable inside at the hands of one of the people who is supposed to be showing them unconditional love.
I could go on about this topic for many more paragraphs, but I know this is an internet article, and no matter how interesting the topic is, we all get tired of reading them eventually. Instead, I’m going to end with poem I have written and include the hotline number for domestic violence. If you ever find yourself or someone you know in one of these situations, please do something about it. You could save a life.
What it’s like to be in an abusive relationship
(for those of you who haven’t)
It is waking up every morning and not knowing who you will be waking up to
It is stepping over minefields with your words
It is walking with your head down
It is “you are too young to be so sad”
It is living with a constant fear
It is “he won’t like that”
“that looks slutty”
“He’ll be mad”
On repeat in your head like a song
It is him telling you again and again you are not enough, you won’t reach your dreams, stay in small town America with me
It is feeling like you are suffocating every minute of every day
It is too many Sunday afternoons crying on the bathroom floor and drying your eyes before dinner with his parents
It is in the way you walk and the way you talk
It is in the way you hold yourself one year later in your new found freedom
It is with you forever
For those of you who haven’t been
*Editor's Note: If you are someone you know is in an abusive relationship, whether that be physical or emotional, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). You are not alone.