“No one will ever know you like I do.”
A few weeks ago, I was feeling anxious and bad for no reason other than the chemical bubble that exists in my head, which causes my depression and anxiety.
Because of this bubble, I did something impulsive and self-harming.
I went and read the tweets of my ex-boyfriend and one-time big love of my life.
His name is Greg, and when we met I knew within seconds that we were going to get married and spend our lives together.
It didn’t matter that Greg was living with his girlfriend of nine years at the time.
It didn’t matter that I’d caught Greg in this lie when we met on an internet dating site.
Sure, the circumstances were less than ideal, but doesn’t every great romance have its fair share of obstacles?
I won’t say that I was stupid, but I will say that I was desperate to be loved and that Greg smelled this desperation from a mile away. Our relationship wasn’t the longest one of my life, but it was definitely the most emotionally abusive.
I’m a smart woman, but being smart doesn’t mean anything when you’re dealing with an abuser.
I confessed to him early on that I’d overcome a problem with telling white lies I had a kid (which it turns out is pretty normal). He would use this against me, calling me the biggest liar he had ever known, when it didn’t really matter at all. Like when I told him the candy bar I’d bought him was a little bit less expensive than it actually was.
He was the one cheating on his partner of a decade, but I was the liar.
Somehow, it made sense.
Greg knew exactly what to say and do to make me feel like garbage. It wasn’t hard because I shared my fears and insecurities and instead of providing me with support, I wound up just providing him with ammunition.
“You’ll never be a great writer because you’re a coward,” he would say, and I would believe him.
“I wonder what you’ll tell the guy you wind up with about me,” he would say, drunk and high.
“No one is ever going to know what you’re really like except me.”
When he broke up with me, it was done in the same way he had done everything else: with calculation, manipulation, and malice. We hadn’t seen each other for two weeks and he emailed me.
“I haven’t missed you the way I expected to.”
But he wouldn’t go away. He wanted me to write for a ‘zine he was penning with a cute girl at work. He would badger me and badger me and when I finally did submit something he told me they wouldn’t be running it.
After I was ghosted by my boyfriend, Greg texted me from across the country to somehow make the ghosting my fault. He was good at that, at making me feel like every disaster that occurred was down to me. After we broke up, we were still having sex. I remember slipping back into my clothes while he watched.
“You like me too much,” he would say.
I believed him. He was the evil voice in my head telling me I was a monster, that I was broken. Sometimes I still worry that he’s right. When he fell in love with a woman who did not love him back, somehow this was my fault too. He would harass me with texts and emails about how I had ruined his life.
I would block him and unblock him. End things forever and then go crawling back.
It didn’t feel good, but it felt familiar. It was like scratching an itch: it felt good at first but over time I was left bloody and infected and hurting all over. I didn’t even realize he was emotionally abusive. I just thought he was a bad guy. Turns out those things aren’t mutually exclusive. Far from it.
The relationships I got into after I finally cut Greg off for the last time were disasters. I wasn’t trying to connect with these men, I was trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t a bad person, that I deserved love.
Did I even like these men I was with? I have no idea. How I felt about them didn’t matter, it was how they felt about me. It took time, more therapy, and dating a good man to realize how fucked up the entire situation was. I never thought I’d be “one of those girls”, hooked on this toxic man, caught in the cycle of emotional abuse.
But I was. And the damage it caused me was extensive enough that I still hear it on my bad days.
It used to be my own voice that belittled me, now it’s his and I have days where I worry that it will never go away. He will never be sent to prison for being bad a person. There’s no law on the books against being a controlling asshole.
It’s up to me to maintain my distance and make sure those ties I severed remained severed for good.
It’s been years now, but I still worry about slipping. That’s what an emotionally abusive relationship does to you. After reading his tweets that day I had a choice. Let the bad feelings and memories overpower me and drag me down, or click away from the page and move on with my life.
I clicked away, and right now that feels huge.
If you believe you may be in an abusive relationship, help is available. Reach out to people you trust, or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224 or visit their website.
Images via tumblr.com and giphy.com.
Comment: Have you ever been in a toxic relationship?
This article has been republished from YourTango with full permission. You can view the original article here.
If you liked this story, read more like it on YourTango.com:
Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:20 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.