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April 17, 2024

I’ve Hesitated to Write about my Abusive Relationship for Years—that Stops Today.

 

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He lives in my head and makes me doubt myself often, even though it’s been years since I’ve seen his face.

But recently, I found out that he got himself into some trouble.

My hands and feet go numb hearing the details of the story and thinking back on my experience with this man because it felt like an Earth-side hell. I was trapped by his constant mind games, demeaning insults, and love bombing. Every time I questioned our relationship, I would think back to our first three months together (when nothing seemed to go wrong) and remind myself of the man he truly was.

I would later learn that this is a common response to gaslighting in an abusive relationship.

When I originally sat down to write about this, I had a whole rant planned on why narcissists often threaten suicide, another memorable experience from our relationship. I know many abusers do the same. A family member’s ex threatened to kill himself every time she tried to break up with him, even going so far as threatening to harm her animals. A friend’s ex would threaten suicide if she left him.

I went through much the same.

But I also don’t want to claim any expertise on the subject or classify any of these men as narcissists when that term is being thrown around so freely these days. I don’t have the credentials to diagnose anyone. Still, I do wonder why this is a common theme in abusive relationships. Abusers often attract empathic people, and it’s easy to get an empath to stay when you’re threatening to take your life. Very quickly, the abuser paints themself as the victim, rather than the other way around.

This all lends itself to the confusion of gaslighting. I would question my own reality because I was often convinced I was the perpetrator hurting him. When I made a mistake, it was always made to be a bigger deal because it gave him the power to convince me that I was useless. I needed him because no one else would accept someone as stupid as me. This is how I was manipulated into staying.

And when the relationship finally ended, I wasn’t even the one to do it. He moved on before we were even broken up. I thanked my lucky stars for many years that he found a new victim and released me from his grasp. But that, too, left me feeling powerless.

Even in the end, it wasn’t my choice to leave.

For years, I have grappled with tough emotions surrounding this man and the issues he left me—my struggle to have a healthy relationship, to be kind and compassionate to myself. And thankfully, in the last couple of years I finally stopped thinking about him entirely.

So when I heard about his recent issues, I didn’t feel the anger that used to rise up. Instead, I felt something new—a deep sadness. After all these years, I have moved on and created a beautiful life I get excited every morning to wake up and live. But it was a slow climb out of that deep, hellish pit. First, I learned to stop apologizing to everyone. Then I started to value myself and began to find my voice and strength once again. And finally, I found I was worthy of love and developed a healthy partnership that turned into marriage.

I was able to escape the hell he created for us, but here he is—still enwrapped in it all after all this time. I feel so sorry for him that this is the karmic cycle in which he seems to be stuck.

I know he grew up with a colored past and did not have the best family experiences. He has plenty of trauma of his own, but instead of using this trauma to help others, he has chosen to inflict it upon others.

I know deep down it’s because he’s hurting.

This is a big development for me, as in years past I did not see him as a human being. He was a perpetrator, and I was forever his victim. All I felt toward this man was anger and wished him nothing but the worst. But then a few years ago I had a dream.

I dreamt that he was an old man, holding himself as a young man (in his 20s or so), holding himself as a baby. We were in some other-worldly realm where all time exists at once, maybe not too different from the movie “Interstellar.” And I remember him as the young man I knew saying, “I love this girl,” talking about me. And I smiled.

I woke up and felt exactly what he meant. We had a soul contract to meet each other on this planet, and although his role was difficult, he played it well. And I grew from it.

This dream was the first time I let go of my anger and learned the true meaning of loving-kindness. If I can look at my ex with love and wish him the best in life, I know I can do the same for anyone saying an unkind word to me on any day and see the good in them.

I have forgiven him for all he did, but there is still a lot of pain thinking back on those years of confusion and gaslighting. That hasn’t gone away. I still have his voice lodged in me as a loud inner critic, telling me I am stupid and won’t amount to anything.

His voice is still there, but therapy is helping me distinguish this voice from my own.

And yet, after years of silencing myself out of fear, I found my voice to write about him. I hope this story can be healing for someone else in the midst of a similar healing journey.

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