I can tell myself over and over that I couldn’t have known we would end how we did, but the truth is the red flags were staring me in the face from day one. Beyond the warnings I should have noticed in his behavior were the countless people around me who expressed concerns. For the most part, I ignored them, and I paid a heavy price.
- People aren’t always who they seem. He looked so good on paper — maybe too good. It should have been my first clue that something wasn’t right, but then we met in person and he was charming, sweet, and chivalrous. He opened every door, pulled out every chair and picked up every tab. He called me beautiful, made me feel special, and basically promised me the world. I felt so lucky that I believed him.
- I was so excited to tell everyone about him. Family, friends, coworkers — I didn’t care who it was, I just wanted to share. I noticed I was talking about him constantly, thinking about him always and finding a way to bring every story back to him. What I didn’t notice was the look on people’s faces when I rambled about how I loved him after only a few months or the way they glanced at each other sideways when I canceled plans with them again because I needed to hang out with him.
- I didn’t recognize the signs for what they were. I remember the first time I casually told someone about his texts that needed an instant response or else he’d “worry” about me. The extravagant dates he had to plan out perfectly or else they were ruined. The subtle suggestions he’d make about what I should and shouldn’t do, say, and wear, or else others would disrespect me. His constant need to see me all the time or else we weren’t a “real” couple. The pressure to move quickly or else he’d need to find sex elsewhere. The degrading comments. The jokes about my weight. The demanding tone. And yet, I didn’t see any of that as anything out of the ordinary.
- Friends and family started to keep their distance. As the relationship progressed, most of those who could recognize the abusive patterns took a few steps back. I didn’t know it, but they were keeping themselves out of the whole thing because they knew I couldn’t handle the truth. At least not yet. Looking back, part of me wants to be angry at them for refusing to call me out, but deep down I know it wouldn’t have done any good. I was so blind to what was going on that I saw everything as an attack.
- The ones who did point out what they saw got the cold shoulder. A few of the people closest to me attempted to open my eyes to the reality of the situation, but all I saw was jealousy and misunderstanding. I defended him, I blew up at them, and I ended up losing some of my strongest support systems. Instead of keeping me grounded, reminding me what I was worth and being there for me, they desperately tried to get me out. Unfortunately, the rose colored glasses I was wearing not only made me push them away, but it also made me cling even closer to him.
- Eventually, I saw the truth for myself. One day everything snapped, and all a sudden, the realization of what I was enduring dawned. With strength I had never known before, I called him out, walked away, and refused to look back. No matter how much I wish I would have listened to the warnings or seen the relationship for what it was sooner, the truth is that I had to get there on my own. I couldn’t hear the things that were said, I couldn’t see what was right in front of me, and I couldn’t fathom that it would come crashing down. Until it did.
- Hindsight is 20/20. Now, when I tell someone new our story, I notice that the realization that something was horribly off seems to come earlier in my narrative each time. Every old conversation I find on my computer or memory that resurfaces when I least expect it, proves that while I may have been happy at the start, we were never healthy. It’s easy to kick myself for not noticing sooner, and for not knowing what I deserved. But the past is the past.
- Next time, I’ll notice the warning signs before it’s too late. I’ll listen to my gut when it’s telling me something isn’t right. If I have any doubts or insecurities about the way I’m being treated, I’ll voice them. Next time, I won’t pretend everything’s okay. I’ll use the people around me to validate my concerns and respect that if it’s hard for me to hear their opinion, that’s probably because I know they’re right. And next time, I won’t rely on hindsight to tell me what I don’t want to admit, even if deep down I already know.