Back when I was young and stupid, I was caught up in a very abusive relationship. He started out so kind and loving, but our relationship quickly turned to verbal abuse and manipulation. Dating someone who was abusive has had long-lasting effects on my mind and my relationships with others. However, not all of it has been bad—I learned a lot of lessons from dating an abusive jerk.
I now know the signs to look out for. Dating an abusive partner was soul-destroying. Had I not been incredibly naive and stupid when I was 19, I might have seen the signs of abuse long before I got so entangled in it. I learned some of the red flags to look for, like trying to separate me from my friends and gaslighting. Knowing these has kept me from getting into another abusive relationship.
I learned that my friends and my self-respect are more important than anything else. To keep this guy with me, I was forced to make some changes I wasn’t comfortable with, like leaving friends behind and giving up a lot of my own hobbies and identity. Boy, was that a mistake. No matter how kind the guy is and no matter how much fun he is, nothing is worth what I had to put up with to keep him.
Now I know what I’m comfortable with sexually and what I definitely don’t like. My abuser eventually manipulated me into doing sexual things I wasn’t comfortable with. He proclaimed that if I loved him, I wouldn’t have a problem doing anything of these things for him. Now, I’m familiar enough with my body and my heart to know what I’m okay with and what sexual favors I’ll never perform ever again. I’ve gotten much better at saying no thanks.
I started prioritizing myself and my friends over relationships. Any S.O. who came along after my abuser that was unhappy that I was still friends with my ex or that my BFF was male were all kicked to the curb. No matter how much I think I love a guy, no partner is worth giving up my life, my friends, or my family.
I spent a lot of time single afterward. I’ve always heard that you should spend some time single to find yourself, but I never believed it until I was actually single for a while. I thought the whole “spending time alone to find yourself” thing was just hippie BS, but I’d been dating almost constantly since I was very young. After having an abusive boyfriend for more than a year, I was ready to spend some time alone. In that time, I learned more about what I like to do, who I liked spending time with, and what I wanted in life.I learned more about myself in those first months than I had for the 20 or so years before that.
It made me hesitant to get into relationships with others too quickly. While being too afraid of commitment isn’t a good thing, hesitating before jumping feet first into a relationship I might not end up happy in is a good thing. I learned to take my time, learn as much about the other person as possible, and weigh the pros and cons of being with that person. Although sometimes I was overly hesitant, I managed to avoid some bad relationships with selfish people who would have used me.
Looking back on it makes me feel good about my life now. It took a long time to get over what was done to me, but looking back on the person I was then made me realize how strong I’ve become. It’s not the lesson I wanted to learn, but I certainly learned a lot since then. Looking back on that time in my life makes me realize how much I’ve grown and learned and changed, all for the better.
I learned to be more compassionate towards others. Once the unthinkable had happened to me, I found myself becoming more empathetic towards everyone else in the world. It’s easy to see an abusive relationship from the outside, but not so easy to see it from the inside. I know this better than most now, and I find myself putting myself in other people’s shoes more often than I would have before experiencing it myself.
I value my healthy relationships even more. Remembering the abuse always makes the supportive, beautiful, and healthy relationships I have formed since seem even more amazing in comparison. My husband is incredibly loving and supportive, and I have loads of friends that are the same. I find myself pushing away those who are unhealthy and nurturing the relationships that make me feel the opposite that my abusive relationship did. Sometimes I wonder if I would be so happy and content with my current life if I didn’t have those terrible memories to compare them to.
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