It’s definitely possible to be in an emotionally abusive relationship and not realize it—I know this because I’ve been through it. The worst part is that the trauma still affects me to this day:
I was insecure and made excuses.
I didn’t mean to let myself fall into such a bad situation, but I also secretly thought I deserved a crappy relationship. I was always excusing his behavior to myself and to others and I hid his terrible behavior from my friends out of shame. Now I’m super paranoid that I’m going to get myself into a similar scenario again.
I cared about him and it blinded me.
I thought that if I just loved him hard enough, everything would be OK. He’d break up with me over and over again and I stayed up all night arguing with him and begging him to stay with me. It was extremely unhealthy and now I worry that I’ll make those mistakes with someone else.
I thought I could handle him.
Everything thinks of me as so strong and independent that I didn’t want to admit that he made me feel bad. It was supposed to be a casual thing, after all, not something that turned into a living nightmare. Now I’m always second-guessing my ability to deal with men in general.
I confused drama for passion.
I thought he was deep and introspective but really he was a hot mess. His immaturity and insecurity showed in the inconsistency of the way he treated me. Now if there’s the tiniest bit of drama with any guy, I’m sure the whole thing is doomed.
I didn’t understand the lasting impact it would have.
I thought that once I finally got him out of my life for good, I’d be OK. That isn’t at all what actually happened. The trauma stayed with me for years and affects me even now. I find myself expecting every other man to treat me just as badly as he did.
I dismissed him even as I catered to his whims.
Emotions are so freaking complicated. I look back and wonder what I was thinking, but the fact is that I put up with his abuse for a long time without understanding it. I thought because he was childish that I was immune to anything he did to me. Now I wonder if I know anything at all about relationships.
I got used to expending massive amounts of emotional energy.
It wasn’t until it finally ended that I realized how exhausting he was. I structured my entire schedule around seeing him, and then our time together usually ended in disaster anyway. I don’t understand how I could have been so blind and I worry I’ll end up doing it again.
I had to try and predict his moods.
I didn’t realize until later that I fell into this pattern because it mirrored my relationship with my emotionally unstable mother. It was extremely unhealthy to tailor my behavior to his unpredictability but I understood how to do it. Any time a guy I date is moody around me now, I freak out inside and I want to run away.
I didn’t realize the gravity of his alcohol issues.
It was quite obvious that he had a drinking problem but I didn’t want to see the truth. I liked who he was when he was sober, but he was only sober about 10% of the time. I hated it when he started drinking because I knew the demons were bound to emerge. Now I’m terrified to be with anyone who drinks at all.
I wanted to help him.
I used to have a wicked savior complex. It secretly made me feel better about myself to date someone who was such a mess. I felt like at least I had my act together a bit more than he did. It was foolish and naive of me to think that dynamic could work in a relationship. Now if the person I’m seeing shows the least bit of dependence on me, it bothers me.
I thought I wasn’t emotionally attached.
Ironically, he was the one who wanted more than a casual relationship. After he caught feelings, I thought I was safe to do the same. I was so wrong. He professed that he cared about me, but the way he treated me was anything but loving. It was damaging, hurtful, and manipulative. I had trapped myself before I realized what I was doing.
I felt like I could reveal my worst self to him and he couldn’t judge me.
After all, it could never be as bad as his worst self. That sounds dysfunctional and terrible because it is. I sunk to my lowest, most base, most horrible behavior because I felt justified. I struck out in frustration instead of simply walking away like I should’ve done. It’s still a struggle not to revert to those childish impulses in my current relationships.
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