Edit: Name redacted at request of subject
If my posts have been extra negative lately, there’s a reason. I broke it off with XXXX. I think I should say why without divulging things that aren’t necessary.
Sometimes you just don’t want to have to work so hard, you know? When things were good, they were fucking golden. But when he got upset or angry, he got scary and there was no talking him down. I started managing him, which is a sign that I need to get the fuck out of a relationship. Managing emotions, managing alcohol consumption, managing angry outbursts.
And then I had a week, just laying in bed sick, to think about all the little red flags that were bothering me. The way he called women “bitches” and “cunts.” The way he said people “owed” him things. The way he said he “owed” women acts of violence. They way he couldn’t drive a mile without getting outraged. The way he couldn’t listen to things that had happened in my life without comparing them to worse things. The way he felt more and more like an angry beta male who rants from behind a screen instead of an awkward punk kid with something to say. He started to remind me way too much of other people in my life who had also been abusive, and I knew that if I didn’t get out as soon as possible that I was only asking for whatever was coming down the pike.
I made a plan to get out safely and I stuck to it. It isn’t easy. If you think that abusive people come with warning labels, you don’t understand the pathology. The abuse starts after the bonding. You already have good emotions, and you might even have bonded over great sex. This means there are confusing signals being sent all over your body about the same person. And then soon, arousal and fear start to feel like the same thing. You tell yourself you can ignore it, control it, escape it, manage it…because the good feels really good and you don’t want that to go away. You might even start to feel guilt about feeling bad about the bad. When he smiles, you think you’re an asshole for ever questioning the bad.
I followed through with my plan. I got out and I made sure to tell everyone around me the reason for getting out so that I didn’t backslide. I needed to keep myself accountable to others because I don’t always trust myself. And abusers are good at manipulations. XXXX started using autism as an excuse for outbursts. As if I had to accept being yelled at because of his inability to control himself. He told me I was the one causing his outbursts. I’d tried over and over to build boundaries and point out to him when I wasn’t ok with his behavior. But it only got worse over time and the last time it was scary enough that it sealed the deal for me. And this time, his outburst came with a threat. I wasn’t going to wait to find out if he made good on his threats. I’ve only got one face and I don’t need it broken.
The responses I got from people ranged from the ideal to the really fucking toxic. On the ideal side, Steven asked all the right questions:
- Are you safe?
- Is he gone?
- Did he hurt you?
- Does he have a key?
- Do you need to talk?
On the toxic side, I had someone ask me if he was drunk, as if that were an excuse. “Well people act strangely when they’re drunk,” was the justification. Let me be plain spoken. ‘Drunk’ is never an excuse. ‘Drunk’ will happen again and again. It’s not a one time kind of thing. I know this all too well. I used to think I could manage D’s drinking this way. Everyone else just saw the cute D who became bumbling and playful when he got drunk. I knew better.
Another toxic response was, “Well I guess you just missed the signs.” I didn’t miss anything. I saw every single one. I listened to my intuition. I got out before I got physically hurt. I did exactly what I hoped someone would do in this situation.
Let me be plain about this, too: don’t ever shame a victim of domestic abuse who got out. My situation with XXXX didn’t get too far. But I’ve been in the situation where it had, at least emotionally. And I was afraid to tell anyone because of the guilt and shame I felt. Smart, capable women find themselves in abusive relationships way too often. And the first people to condemn them are other women who think it will never happen to them. “She stayed,” they will exclaim. “She knew better,” they will judge. “She was college-educated,” they will say, shaking their heads. I’ve sat in the back seat of a car, trying not to cry, as I’ve heard intelligent self-proclaimed feminists talk about DV victims in disparaging tones. What they’re really saying is, “This is something that could never happen to me.” And they’re wrong. It happens to a minimum of one in four women.
So what is this bad mood that I find myself in? Some of it is guilt. I feel bad that I allowed myself to get into a relationship with someone who could have hurt me. Some of it is the shame of having to tell people that I was in this bad situation at all. Some of it is the anger that comes from reliving old trauma that I thought I’d put to bed. Some of it is the isolation that comes from knowing what I know on the back end that scares me about trying again in the future. Bad guys don’t always wear black and they’re not always bad. That what makes it so hard.
What I should be doing is popping the cork on a nice $50 dollar bottle of Prosecco and rewarding myself for doing the right thing. I should be breathing multiple sighs of relief that I did all the work necessary to get me to the point where I could exit a bad relationship before it got worse and that I’m here to tell the tale. I didn’t need rescuing. I’m not broken. I’m not still in it.
I’m not there yet, but I hope to be soon. I just really, really, really need a mother fucking hug from someone who knows me of old.
You might be wondering to yourself if I should even post this. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is after the relationship is over. I think this is something I have to share because it’s eating me alive at the moment and I just want to feel good again. I’m not too worried about him. I’m more worried about me and getting back on track. And I refuse to censor myself. I promise to share everything because it keeps me honest and it lets you know that when I do post about the good, it’s not blowing smoke. It really is good.
Life is just…well…complicated. Give it time.
Edit: as if to prove my point, my boys The 1975 came out with a video about incel culture because they always have my back.