I consider myself to be a strong, empowered woman, so it’s hard to admit that I once found myself in a controlling relationship. It was something I was completely unaware of while I was in it, and even if I was aware of the many red flags throughout the duration of the courtship, I didn’t know how bad it was until it was over. Thanks to my ex, I now know the warning signs.
They subtly would isolate me from friends and family. It took a while for me to realize this was happening, but if I mentioned gatherings with either of these groups, it was always the beginning of a fight. They would make excuses to get out of plans and if I still insisted on going, they would make comments that made me feel horrible for wanting to engage. No person that loves me would want to keep me away from those closest to me, but back then I brushed their comments off and stayed with them as to not get into an argument.
They constantly criticized me in big and small ways. Whether it was the way I overcooked dinner a few times or something I was wearing, they knew exactly what words would tear me down the most. I thought they were just being thoughtful in trying to correct issues they saw with me, but someone that cares about me doesn’t go about that by making me feel terrible. Constructive criticism is one thing but directly degrading someone is quite another.
They praised me, but it was conditional. I lived for each and every one of the rare moments that they praised or complimented me, but they always came at a price. They would build me up, but only if I’d done something worthy of deserving the accolades in their eyes. It wasn’t enough to just tell me I looked nice; I looked nice because I’d worn the dress they approved of. It made me feel as if I had to do everything with their approval in mind. Now, I do things for me, and those that love me appreciate that alone.
I was constantly providing them with validation. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous their accusations of me or doubts of themselves were, I was the one having to prove and convince them that nothing was wrong. I’m someone who needs validation herself and I understand that comes from insecurity, but I don’t ask others to reassure me countless times because I’m worried that they’re deceiving me. If I trust the person, one response should be enough and I expect the same courtesy now in my relationships.
Taking time for myself was rarely an option. Everyone deserves some time alone and while that’s a bit harder when you’re in a serious relationship, it shouldn’t be impossible. I would find myself looking for any excuse to be alone and it only seemed to happen if I had a legitimate reason to be away. I’d sneak away to the grocery store early in the morning or take on extra errands after work. I always had to be able to explain my whereabouts. I get that you shouldn’t disappear on your partner, but being tracked that closely is a no for me.
My morals and beliefs were often questioned. Things I’ve stood behind for my entire life were often a huge point of contention between us. I know that two people won’t always agree, but I was finding that if I didn’t side with themm on things, they would shut me out for long periods of time. It became easier to just go with their values and disregard my own. I think a couple should support each other’s differences even when they don’t see eye to eye and that’s something I’ll be striving for in the future.
I lost my voice. Over time, I began feeling that I couldn’t have an opinion on anything. Chivalry is fine and sometimes one person speaks for the relationship, but I’ve always considered myself a strong person and not being heard was a huge burden for me to bear. I didn’t want to be the silent woman who sat behind her partner, nodding her head at everything they said. I wanted to engage in conversation and speak up for myself and they took that away from me. I want to be with someone that encourages me to be vocal about whatever is on my mind and supports my right to do so.
The whole relationship made me doubt who I was. With all of these different things building up, once combined I completely lost any sense of self I had before him. I became a total shell and wasn’t even aware that so many people noticed. I had several close friends and family speak to me about it but I wouldn’t listen, I thought this was just how things were going to be. I thought everyone was just being nosy but I know now that they were speaking out of direct concern for me. That should have mattered more than anything. If I find myself in a position like that again, I’m confident I’ll be able to tell the difference between people meddling and genuine concern. I don’t want to lose who I am again, it took me long enough to get it back after. I want to be myself with anyone I choose to date and I want to be loved for who I am.