If someone had told me that I was in an abusive relationship, I wouldn't have believed them. It's only now that I am out of it that I can really see it for what it was. There were no beatings but that doesn't mean there was no abuse.
The first red flag that this relationship wasn't going to work was his insecurities; I put it down to petty jealously as we can all be guilty of that in relationships. It quickly turned to a discussion about our pasts and my refusal to get into it showed me a side to him that intimidated me. I eventually told him everything as he asked, expecting it make things better but I felt it was held against me and that I should be ashamed. I was apologising for having a life before I met him.
The second red flag should have been the ultimatums; I assumed this was because of how much he cared about the relationship. I would often be given the option to do as he said or he would leave me. So I would do as he said, ignore my own feelings and this would chip away at my self-worth.
The red flags kept on coming. I felt like he picked at everything I did and blamed me for everything that went wrong. When we argued, I felt I was brow beaten until I apologised and accepted blame. I would be given the silent treatment for days at a time and all the while not fully understanding what I was supposed to have done wrong.
It seemed like there wasn't any consideration for how his behaviour affected me; this left me feeling like I didn't matter. I didn't feel valued or loved. I grew frustrated and angry at how unfair it was. I felt I was doing everything to please him and he did nothing but control me, intimidate me and use emotional blackmail.
We split up and got back together more times than I can count. I always went back for fear of what would happen if I didn't/ what my life would be like without him. I became embarrassed of the relationship; I made excuses for our behaviour and felt I was being judged by my family and friends when they questioned why I was still with him. He did not like that I spoke to them about us and I was told to keep everything to myself. I felt like a burden and eventually grew apart from my friends.
The worst thing about it all is in trying to regain some control I tried to fight fire with fire. I became harsh, unkind and full of anger. Name calling and belittling became normal. There was a constant power struggle. I felt so wretched, trapped, I had no one to turn to and I was in utter despair at what my life had become. The relationship took all of my energy and I was exhausted. There were times when I thought I was losing my mind. We went round and round in circles. We were abusing each other and I hated who I had become.
When we finally ended it, I had lost who I was; everything that made me, me. My confidence was destroyed after spending so much time supressing my feelings and inner voice while trying to be so many different things in order to please and accommodate someone else. Even after the relationship was done, I found myself still ruled by those same feelings of anger, self-doubt and worthlessness. I suffered from bouts of anxiety and depression that affected me so much that I stopped going to work. After a while I sought help, I wanted my life back.
Over the years using CBT with the help of a counsellor, I built my confidence back up by gaining knowledge on how to change my negative thought processes. I dealt with my anger and accepted responsibility for my errors in that relationship. I still suffer with self-doubt from time to time.
Looking back, I've grown and learned a lot. I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I'd had enough respect for myself to walk away sooner for both of our sakes. I wish I could have seen how much damage we were causing to each other and the impact that it would have on my life in the future. I wish I'd have trusted myself to know that I didn't deserve to feel the way I did and I wish that I hadn't lost so much time feeling like I wasn't good enough.
This post originally appeared on Ashleigh's blog here