I found myself in him. I was so used to his control, I didn’t know how to be independent. He convinced me being alone was a bad thing. He told me that once he was done with me, no one would want the “damaged goods”, and I was so terrified of letting him go, and even when I tried, I couldn’t get away.
Many abusive relationships don’t seem abusive on the outside, or even to the couple until it’s too late. It is rare for us to be able to pick up on the tiny signifiers that we may be dating a sociopath, and even harder to know how to, or want to escape them.
1. Stockholm Syndrome vs. Love
During a lot of relationships, we become so used to a routine, cherished traditions, and just being around the other person, that sometimes we don’t realize we are just accustomed to being with our partner, rather than being in love with them.
It is in our nature not to like change. Even during the stages of evolution, natural selection played a significant role in the process. Without it, we wouldn’t have witnessed much change, even though these adaptations were needed for the organism to thrive. Similarly, we are afraid to let go of the relationship, whilst battling the thought of enduring a break-up and awkward first dates to start over. It all just sounds too exhausting.
However, it is important to understand when these changes are good for us. Part of being human is knowing we have vibrant souls and emotions that we need to protect.
This plays a huge role in abusive relationships, whether the abuse is psychological, emotional, (verbal) or physical.
When we fall in love, we often let our partner know us inside and out, simply because we want to feel close to them. It is a safety net we want to feel when looking for a partner. This being said, we are entrusting them with the possibility of having full control of our emotions; a choice that should not be left to someone else.
This can be identified significantly in abusive relationships. I can speak for this myself. In a lot of these codependent interactions, one party may say or do something to hurt the other, and nothing can be done to make that person feel better unless it is from the person that hurt them in the first place. The other person may offer an apology or an act of affection to clean the slate, but the pain never really goes away.
How does that make sense? Humans need closure. And for those who can’t give it to themselves, they seek it from the person that made them question themselves in the first place. And that, is the definition of Stockholm Syndrome. It is so important to be able to identify the difference between this and love.
Love is kind, love is sweet. The man or woman of your dreams won’t ever make you cry, and he/she is well worth the wait — remember that.
2. Control and Codependency
The first hint in a relationship that one party may be abusive is control. It’s one thing to banter about different opinions, but if your significant other is telling you that you literally cannot do something, and you just met them last month, Houston we have a problem.
Even though society may disagree, no man or woman should ever have that amount of control over another human being. If so, that person is insecure, and they’re just ordering you around to make themselves feel better. Most of the time, this stems from some deep, dark past that you may never even hear about. This has the potential to cause more problems for the relationship in the long-run.
However, this kind of control results in the victim thinking to themselves: “I never do anything right.” “I’m worthless without this person.” “They’re just keeping me in check.” “I don’t know who I am without them.”
These thoughts are so scary because they not only attack one’s self-esteem, but this way of thinking also plunges them into losing their own identity. This eventually causes them to become codependent on their partner, allowing for even more control and abuse to take place.
3. Verbal and Emotional Abuse
The main trigger of Stockholm Syndrome and codependency is emotional abuse, which is defined as abuse inhibited through words and actions rather than the intent of inflicting physical pain. I personally think this may even be worse than physical abuse. Although physical abuse is known to lead to a lot of PTSD and self-altering images, people often neglect the fact that emotional abuse opens up the same wounds and takes so much longer to heal.
As I mentioned earlier, in this kind of relationship, when your significant other says something negative, you more than likely believe them. Even if it is about you, and you know they are wrong, but something is wired in your brain that always makes them right. You then begin to question yourself, your actions, your intelligence, your personality, etc.
Although you may disagree with a comment or insult, you will end up believing them and the only one who will suffer in the end is you. So instead of putting yourself through this type of trauma with someone who is undeserving of you, try to be strong and break the cycle.
Love yourself enough to know when to walk away.
4. Physical Abuse
I don’t think much needs to be said about physical abuse, being that it is a pressing subject in our society, which is good, and hopefully, with enough awareness, we can put it to an end.
Just know, if your partner screams at you, and you let them, it gives them the okay to do so again. If your partner gets angry and comes at you, or slams you into a wall or throws something, and you stay with them, it shows you are okay with them losing control and completely flipping out at you. If your partner hits you, even if you initially fight back, but still stay with them, again, this gives them the okay to do this again, and worse.
Once physical abuse comes into play, please understand that your partner is not in the right state of mind and that even if they swear to never do it again, if you forgive them, they will strike again. It will always get worse.
5. How many times we say goodbye…
This is the hardest part of any relationship, whether or not someone is victimized. With every love, there are memories, anniversaries, photos, special “things” you had with them, the dreaded change in relationship status on social media, etc. It is always a lot to let go of.
But in abusive relationships, the big “thing” we can’t seem to move on without, is closure. One must understand, that abusers are not capable of giving closure. They always want to know that they can still come back to control, use, and abuse you whenever they want. So no, the abuser will never actually say goodbye, no matter how many times you press them to.
I know my abuser did this. We only dated for 2 months, but for 2 and a half YEARS, he would come and go as he pleases, and no matter what I said to myself or others about being over him, and never taking him back, somewhere in my broken heart, I always wanted to.
I always gave him another chance praying he had changed.
I always believed him when he said he did.
I always made excuses when he had outbursts for no reason because, after a certain point, I knew he was crazy, and in fear of losing him for good, I decided to just put up with it.
I told myself I’d rather cry over him every night than cry because I lost him. This is a really bad, self-destructive way to think. At that point, despite everything he did to me, I put my abuser first.
So for the big reveal: the escape tactic.
All in all, after so much damage, it is really hard to love yourself when they are not around to love you. And at some point, you believed all the horrible things they said to you and convinced yourself you deserve everything they did to you. You tell yourself “I drove him insane” when it is truly the other way around. But you also need to keep in mind, that without them around, you will no longer have to endure the abuse.
It feels like a breath of fresh air, like a load was lifted off your shoulders, and suddenly, you’re not afraid anymore. You’re not anticipating the next time you’re going to get hurt. You’re not losing sleep wondering if they are cheating or if you worth anything at all. It’s a serene peace that I can’t even fully describe.
When you find the kind of love you deserve, (which you do deserve, no matter who you are), they will love everything about you. Instead of controlling you, they will voice their opinions. If there is a disagreement, there should be mutual respect in a discussion to resolve the conflict. No one should have the upper hand. Love is precious and gentle. Once you see a hint of it becoming something otherwise, you need to know that the safest thing to do is to walk away, even when you don’t necessarily want to.
You have to know what you are worth and understand how to love and respect yourself enough to find what you deserve.
Lastly, you need to know how to give yourself the closure you deserve, because they will never give that to you - I swear.
You need to be able to tell yourself it is over. You need to tell yourself it will never work. You need to tell yourself that you won’t be happy spending the rest of your life this way, and have the dignity to move forward.
And don’t forget, you will never truly be alone, and if you keep your eyes open and continue to put yourself first, you probably won’t be single and bitter for too long.