I Thought I Was “Too Smart” To Be In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship… Until I Realized I Was In One

I’d read the books, heard the stories, and done my research. I knew what to look for in an emotionally abusive relationship and because I considered myself to be educated, I thought that I was prepared enough to never get trapped in one myself. That all changed when I realized that the man I loved was emotionally abusive to me, and even though I knew the warning signs, I still had a hell of a time convincing myself to break up with him.

  1. It started out great. Like every abusive relationship ever, my (then) boyfriend didn’t start out terrible. He was as affectionate, doting, and sensitive as any girl would hope her partner would be. Looking back, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that the man I broke up with was the same one I started dating, but I know that that’s how abusers reel you in — if he’d revealed his true colors right off the bat, I would’ve never stuck around.
  2. The yellow flags came in slowly. The problems didn’t hit all at once. The warning signs that he wasn’t as great as I thought he was trickled in, and he never introduced a new flaw before he was completely sure I was going to accept the previous one. I knew that this was a classic manipulator move: he had to test the waters before going all-in, otherwise I’d leave. But at this point, it was still far too early for me to tell that things would escalate like they did.
  3. I dismissed the bad qualities as “quirks.” Everyone has their flaws, right? That’s what I told myself when he made weird misogynistic jokes or would tease me about my hopes and dreams. I’m no saint, so I convinced myself that his good qualities were enough to cancel out the off-color things he said or did. I barely even noticed when his “jokes” and “teasing” started escalating into full-on insults.
  4. His apologies kept me around. Even though I really liked this guy, I still had to stick up for myself. When I finally told him how much his comments and behavior bothered me, he offered me a sincere apology and seemed to really take my feelings into account. He admitted that he had taken things too far and told me that he’d be more self-aware in the future. It gave me hope the first couple times he did it, and that was enough for me to convince myself that he was trying to change when he kept messing up afterward.
  5. By the time the red flags hit, I was hooked on him. Before long, he’d gotten me so conditioned to accept his poor behavior that I barely even flinched when he started comparing my body to other girls’ or humiliating me in front of his friends. Somehow, despite how he treated me, I’d fallen for him and even though I knew he was treating me like garbage, I was too attached to him to break things off.
  6. Soon, his good qualities started disappearing. The things that initially attracted me to him started fading away — his physical affection turned into him calling me “clingy” and pulling away from me when I tried to kiss him, and he started dismissing my concerns as me being “naggy” or a “typical sensitive female” instead of taking me seriously. Everything that had won me over in the beginning of our relationship was gone, and I was too blinded by love to see it.
  7. His gaslighting messed with my head. When I started catching on and hinted that I was on my way out, he used another classic abusive technique: gaslighting. He’d deny saying things that I heard him say with my own ears, and he acted so genuinely concerned that I wasn’t mentally sound that I started questioning my own sanity. Despite everything he’d said and done, I still thought he cared about me too much to deliberately mess with my head like that. Of course, I was wrong to trust him.
  8. I knew better but I still stayed. The worst part about all of this was that I realized what was going on and still convinced myself to stick around. Even now, I don’t understand why. Maybe I was just comfortable, or maybe I thought he’d change, or maybe I was hoping the man I’d fallen for was still in there somewhere. My gut told me to run far and fast, but my heart was stronger, and I stayed far longer than I should’ve.
  9. He played dumb. He seemed like he had such good intentions that I felt guilty when I finally got up the nerve to leave him. He swore that all the classic signs of emotional abuse were purely coincidental and that he’d never meant to manipulate or hurt me. It made it that much harder to stick to my guns and get him out of my life, but I knew that whether or not he was trying to be abusive was irrelevant — he was emotionally damaging me, and I needed to get out.
  10. Now that I’m out, it’s all so clear to me. That phrase about hindsight being 20/20 is painfully true. Looking back, my relationship with my now-ex was textbook emotional abuse — the same kind of relationship I’d read about so many times and had supported my friends through when they experienced it. But when was the one going through it, it wasn’t so obvious. It’s scary to me how easy I could get stuck in something like that even when I knew what to look for, and I’m hoping that it’ll never happen again.
Averi is a word nerd and Brazilian jiu jitsu brown belt. She's also a TEFL/TESOL-certified ESL teacher and an equine enthusiast. Originally from Pennsylvania, she lived in Costa Rica for a while before moving to Australia. In addition to her work as a writer and editor for Bolde, she also has bylines with Little Things and regularly writes for Jiu-Jitsu Times.

You can follow Averi on Instagram @bjjaveri or on Twitter under the same handle.