This week marks the two year anniversary of my escape from someone I consider to be extremely dangerous. Why is this person so dangerous? Because he is charming. He goes to church. He uses flattery. He does “nice” things for people. And he uses guilt, manipulation, and emotional blackmail to get people to do what he wants.
When people think of abuse, they tend to think of someone who hits his wife or girlfriend. But mental and emotional abuse can be so much worse. Because the victim usually has no proof and may not even realize it themselves for a long time. There are no bruises. There are no scars. (At least not visible ones.) They are slowly pulled into the relationship until they can see no way out. It is her word against his and these types of men are often respected leaders in the community. The same charm that they use to draw in the women they abuse is used on their neighbors, their boss, their pastor, their rabbi, etc. So when the woman comes forward with the truth, the reaction is usually that she is lying. That she is trying to get out of trouble for something. That she is jealous of him. There are many things that people tell themselves so that they don’t have to deal with the fact that they too have been duped by this man (or woman).
In my case, I had made some very wrong decisions concerning my relationship with him. I take full responsibility for those decisions because they were my responsibility, no matter how I felt. However, he too had responsibility. He had the responsibility to respect me when I said “no”, no matter what my body language or anything else told him. He had the responsibility to not use guilt in order to keep me in a emotionally unhealthy relationship. He had the responsibility to own up to the full extent of what he had done when I finally told someone the truth.
If someone makes you feel like a bad friend/spouse/daughter/son/etc., you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.
If someone makes you feel like you are crazy and that you can’t trust your own perception/judgment, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.
If someone won’t listen when you say no, whether sexually or not, you may be in an abusive relationship.
If someone seems like they are trying to control you (they have to know where you are at all times, they flip out if you ask to go one day without talking to them, etc.), you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.
If you feel like you need to change your behavior or otherwise be perfect or else that person will get upset with you and withdraw, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.
If someone has different standards for what they can do and what you are “allowed” to do, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.
If someone criticizes or teases you about your looks, your work, or anything that they know you are insecure about, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.
If there are aspects of your relationship that you are uncomfortable with and have asked them to change and they say they will but make no obvious attempts to change (or change for a short time and then slowly reel you back into it), you may be in an abusive relationship.
If someone tells you that you are an idiot any time you disagree with him, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.
You don’t have to be someone’s spouse or girl/boyfriend for this to apply. This man was supposed to be my friend, my father figure, my spiritual leader. In the process, he drew me away from my other friends, he did nothing to help my relationship with my real father and only encouraged my bad perceptions of him, and he used his spirituality as a way to guilt me when I did things he didn’t like. Or to convince me that our inappropriate relationship was fine and that I was being too legalistic.
If you find yourself nodding along to this list, you need to speak up to someone that you trust. You need to do everything in your power to escape the person you are thinking of. They will not change unless they are given a serious reason to and even then, they may not. I cannot promise that the people you tell will believe you at first. Some people may never believe you and that is their choice. Your choice is to stop letting this person have any part in your life. It will be hard. You may lose a lot. But I promise you, it will be worth it.
Two years later, I am happy. I am more confidant. I have a husband who loves me and doesn’t make me feel like a horrible human being or an idiot when I disagree with him. I don’t feel like I *have* to talk to someone every single day or they will be upset with me. I don’t worry about someone destroying me if I “make them too mad”. I made him mad and you know what? I was not destroyed. What would have destroyed me is staying in that relationship. Abusers only have the power that we (and others) give them. Do not allow someone who fits the descriptions above to have any power in your life anymore.
Let me say this again: I promise you it will be worth it. Maybe not today. Maybe not a month from now. But one day you will look back and say with pride “I made it stop.”