Typically when one talks of an abusive relationship their mind jumps directly to physical abuse. While physical abuse is absolutely horrendous, needs to be stopped in it’s tracks and should never occur to anyone another form (and probably more common form) of abuse is mental abuse. This is the category I am extremely familiar with and have some thoughts I want to share with you about in the hopes that you will see the signs and get help (or help someone else get help).
Until the day my ex walked out to go live with his Mistress I did not realize the degree of mental abuse I was living with. At first when he left I was hurt and sad, but then I quickly came to realize that a weight I did not even know was there was lifted. I could finally breath again, I could finally not live with the anxiousness of not knowing which version of him was going to walk in the door that night or wake up that morning. Would it be the loving happy friendly helpful husband and father or the moody temperamental unhelpful husband and father? I no longer had to worry about it because he was gone and with him so was the oppression I never realized I was living with.
S0 how did I get to this point? How did I get to such a state where I was walking on eggshells and never realized it? The answer is slowly, over time he exerted his control (a control he still tries to maintain today in all our interactions and fails at because now I realize what is going on and I fight back in my own way but that’s a story for another time).
For me it started with him making comments about some of my friends and and saying he did not like them, then he did not want then around when he was there because they were “annoying”. This progressed to him not even wanting me to go out to see them or do anything with them. Because I loved him and wanted him to be happy I cut back ties with people I should not have cut out of my life. I lost myself in him and his needs. So instead of seeing my friends we spent all our time either together, with our families or with his friends. My friends got tired of waiting for me and they moved on. Good friends stuck by me and we saw each other and talked on the phone when possible. Of course once he left we were able to work on rebuilding our friendships but things were not the same. So eventually, I had lost most of my friends and was distant from my good friends.
Additionally, things that I liked to do were pushed aside as unimportant and told “why spend the money on that” activity. Yet everything he wanted we did. Simple everyday things such as eating out in restaurants he liked were ok, ones with the spicy foods that I liked were not. Any time I expressed an interest in something or hinted that I’d like something he ignored it, yet when he wanted something he got it (or more likely I got it for him).
So yes, I know I played a role in all this, but still I didn’t deserve the treatment I got and when I tried to stand up for myself and get what I wanted or needed in the relationship I was mostly ignored, sometimes humored for a bit or made to feel bad because I wanted something for myself (be it dinner out, to go to a movie or a show, or simply a small gift for my birthday or even flowers).
NOBODY deserves to have someone control their lives and I simply let him because I loved him. Even when he hurt me or cut me off from people I loved him. But I’m beginning to wonder if he was capable of real love… does someone try to control others because they love them? I think not. I think someone tries to control others because they are scared of love. They are scared to share their heart and be there, really be there, for someone else. I think they do it because it makes them feel good to have someone under their control who is there for them when ever they want.
As for me, I’m glad I’m out of that kind of relationship and I will never go back to that kind life again. Nor will I allow my kids to head down that path ever. As they grow older and start dating I am going to make them aware that when they date someone who tries to change them and not allow them to be who they are then that maybe a warning sign of trouble. I’m planning on teaching my boys not to control their girlfriends, to allow them to be who they are and love them for who they are and if they can’t then to do the right thing and break up with them.
So if someone you know starts a new relationship and suddenly you don’t hear from them don’t just assume it’s because ether time is taken up by their new love. Yes a new relationship is a time suck, but friends will always find the time to get together (or at the very least talk on the phone). If your friend keeps making lame excuses not to meet, try to find out why and be there for them. If you leave and give up on them eventually (like in my case) they will have no-one to turn to when they realize what is going on and need help.