“You should date someone who treats you like shit. I’m completely serious."
That’s how this article begins. It goes on to say that you should date someone who ignores you, who yells at you, who “belittles you” and “treats you in a way that makes all of your friends wonder what the hell you’re thinking,” someone who “never says they’re sorry” and “doesn’t care about you." Basically, this is an article telling you to seek out an emotionally abusive relationship because it’ll help you grow as a person or something like that.
Kendra Syrdal, the author of this article, claims that dating someone who uses and abuses you (because what she describes goes beyond “treating someone like shit”— it’s straight-up abuse) because “you’ll realize how you actually want to be treated.” Syrdal claims that “Once you [date someone who abuses you], you’ll never let yourself be treated anything less than amazing,” a statement easily disproved.
As someone who spent an unnecessary amount of time in a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship, this article made my blood boil.
In my relationship, I was constantly belittled — for my mental illness, for my career goals and aspirations, for my fitness level, and for my emotions. I was told those things made me weak and subpar, and he was the only person who could make me a strong, worthwhile human being. I was “clingy” if I talked to him too much, but I was “neglectful” if I didn’t text him X times a day. He had no idea why he loved me — I wasn’t his type, I was so sad all the time, I distracted him from all his dreams — but he was too involved to quit now. After all, unlike me, he was perseverant. He told me that he doubted if I loved him because I was hesitant to lose my virginity to him. When he cheated on me, I was destroyed — but I stayed with him because I had no idea who I was without him. Eventually, I left him, but I am sure as hell not stronger for having gone through that.
So, a few things, Miss Syrdal.
First of all, people in abusive relationships have a very hard time knowing they’re being abused. Their abusers work to make their behavior seem normal. They don’t know they’re being treated like shit. They — rather, we — think that this is just how relationships are, or (more commonly) that we deserve this treatment. Which brings me to my second point.
I (and many other abuse survivors) do not You do not come out of an abusive relationship scot-free, shiny and smiling about how you’ll “never let someone treat you like that again! Ha-ha! Life’s a Disney movie and I’ll just laugh about this later on!”
We emerge from these relationships scarred, Miss Syrdal. Many of us are unable to enter relationships that have the potential to be healthy or fulfilling because we push those people away. We fear that this relationship will be just like the last one, or we’re happy. And, as we’ve learned from our abusers, we don’t deserve to be happy.
Here is your prime misunderstanding, Miss Syrdal: you do not exit an abusive relationship knowing you deserve better.
You leave having internalized that the abuse was what you deserved. You carry around the weight of believing you are all the names your abuser called you, believing you are just as worthless as how he treated you. You loved the abuser, and you both placed his needs above your own. Everything that happened wasn’t because he’s a shitty person — he was just reacting to you being a shitty person. You don't feel stronger, you feelsorry.
After a lot of self-care and therapy, I’ve worked through the aftermath of my abusive relationship. But it still seeps into every part of my life—I have diagnosed symptoms of PTSD. I apologize to my boyfriend multiple times a day for the littlest things. My heart stops in my throat when I see someone who looks like my ex. Every single day, I fear my boyfriend will see me for the piece of shit my ex-boyfriend treated me as... and leave me.
Miss Syrdal, your article is comically irresponsible at best and a romanticization of abuse at worst. You are encouraging people — young girls specifically, the demographic most susceptible to relationship abuse — to degrade themselves and compromise their mental health.
Miss Syrdal, we should absolutely not “Let go of the dreams of finding someone who loves surprising you with your favorite things and feels lucky to just sit next to you at brunch.” Why? Because to do otherwise is to put ourselves in danger and to scar ourselves beyond belief — and the “growth” is absolutely not worth it.