I was going to title this article "to the girl in an abusive relationship," but I think that it's important to note that relationship abuse can happen to any gender in any relationship type. So, with that in mind, here's what you came for.
Let's face it. You've probably seen movies, read books, and heard stories of people that have been in abusive relationships. You know the signs and you've read the pamphlets, but those things don't happen to people who are careful with their heart, right? Well, unfortunately, no. You can reexamine every decision you've made, and not be able to figure out where you went wrong, but still find yourself in a place where you're not happy. It might be a romantic relationship, it might be a friendship, or it might be a relationship with a family member. Either way, if there is a person in your life (male or female) that is damaging your health, I hope that you read these words carefully and do what's best for you. Let me start out with a story…
This is hard for me to write about, I'll admit. I was in a relationship with a guy named Jake recently and I thought he was the love of my life. We were really good friends, and he made me laugh like no one else. The further we got in our relationship, however, the more upset I seemed to find myself. When things were good, I'll admit, they were great. But when Jake did something that upset me, somehow the blame always came back to me. After being together for a while, Jake actually downloaded Tinder (an app predominantly for dating and hookups). He told me he did it, and that it was all just a joke to "mess with people," but the more I thought about it, the more upset I got. I tried talking to him. I tried to tell him that this made me really uncomfortable, and he brushed off my comment saying, "it's just a joke, it shouldn't matter this much to you." If it was just a joke, it shouldn't be that hard to just get rid of it right? But maybe I was overreacting.
I'll also admit, that at the time I was dating Jake, my mental health was in a really bad place. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and balancing school with a relationship isn't an easy feat for a person in the best shape—let alone someone in my position. Because of this, I got overwhelmed very easily. I really tried to explain this to Jake. I wanted him to know that when I cried, it wasn't because I was trying to manipulate him. Things sometimes just got too intense for me, and I started to think the worst. There was nothing I could do to convince my brain otherwise, and things soon started to become a battle both against myself and Jake. I felt ashamed for crying at things that upset me, and I would try to hide it. Because that's what a good girlfriend does. Don't put him through more than he can handle.
One of the hardest things for me to handle in my relationship with Jake was the way he would talk about other girls. He would get on Instagram while we were hanging out and show me pictures of other girls with big butts or tiny waists and say, jokingly "is this going to be you someday?" He didn't mean it to be hurtful, but I've always struggled with body image. From an early age, a close family friend of ours had always commented on my weight. He would come over for meals and tell me I needed to eat less or tell me my shirt was too tight and didn't look good. I revealed these things to Jake early in our relationship, but I think he thought that telling me he thought I could look like those women one day would help me feel better about myself. Either way, it upset me, but I didn't want to upset Jake so I tried to hide my tears and hold my tongue when I could. Maybe I would look like those girls one day because maybe that was what he wanted.
When Jake and I ended up breaking up, I knew it was for the best. Even though I had fallen in love with his family, and my heart was shattered, I knew that I would piece myself back together, stronger than before. I knew while I was in the midst of that relationship that there were things that just weren't right. That wasn't what love looked like, no matter how hard I tried to squint and disfigure what I was seeing. Looking back now, I don't blame Jake for what happened between us. I wasn't in a good place with my mental health, as I've mentioned before, and I know I contributed my fair share of problems. I write this not so that you'll think less of Jake and feel sorry for me, but for anyone who finds themselves in the same situation. Do you find yourself trying to hold back your emotional reactions in attempts to please someone in your life? Do they make you uncomfortable, but after being shot down multiple times for expressing your feelings, you just try to make it bother you less? If you feel deep down inside yourself that something isn't right, then you know that more than one thing is probably wrong.
Emotional abuse doesn't come with outside bruises that physical abuse does. Yes, there are women out there being told that they're useless and getting shoved into walls because of it, but that doesn't mean that your problems are any less important. It's going to be hard to remove yourself from the relationship with an abusive person, no matter what role they play in your life. It'll probably break your heart some, but time heals just about all wounds. You need to do what's going to be best for all aspects of your health in the long run. Surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally, and if you need to cry, do it. There is nothing wrong with experiencing your emotions and being a little selfish to take care of yourself.
**I want to add a note to any family or friends who might know Jake. I don't hate him or wish him ill, and, again, this article was not meant to put him in a bad light. It was simply a bad relationship and we both contributed to its final destruction. I'm happy now with the person I've become, and I'm making my way to a better place day by day. That's all that matters and I thank everyone for their love and support**