I Was In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship. Here's How I Got Out

Written by Katy Saer

My ex thought he needed me to complete him. "You are the reason that I'm so happy," he used to tell me. But he wouldn't tell me this in a simply sweet and caring way. He would say it with a kind of urgency — to mean literally that he depended on me for happiness.

That's a red flag if I ever saw one. We need to be the ones to allow ourselves to be happy; if you attribute your happiness to someone else, thinking of them as a "reason" for "making" you feel a certain way, then that means they have some sort of control over you.

He had given me his power, the power to be the one thing that made him happy. That's not something I wanted. I didn't consent to having that power. I wanted to share moments of happiness with him, not create happiness for him.

I didn't deserve this obligation and pressure, the constant sense of having unwanted control over another person's feelings. Yet I allowed the pattern to repeat and repeat over the years. He would say he couldn't be happy without me, and then exert abuse toward me when I didn't live up to his expectations for who I was supposed to be for him. When I tried to be myself.

In these moments, I would feel wounded and hurt, and then angry. Then I allowed myself to turn into almost an invisible entity entirely. As a defense mechanism, I guess, I would then project someone he wanted me to be, only for him to react the same way all over again. I felt stuck in this dynamic of emotional abuse. I would do everything he asked, only to get the exact same bullying. Or worse, he would then see exactly what he thought he wanted, and then run out of fear because he realized he didn't want that at all.

The abusive circle continued. What was it that I had to take a look at in myself? I could see what was going on with him — his insecurities and other issues. But now thinking about it in hindsight, by looking at how this same thing happened over and over again, I see lessons about myself and my own insecurities.

After much inner work, I discovered I allowed people to treat me in ways I didn't want to be treated, because that's what I thought I deserved. I thought I didn't deserve respect from anyone (well, maybe my friends, but no respect from people I shared intimate connections with).

Why? I thought I respected myself. I took care of my body by eating healthy. I was finally pursuing lifelong dreams. I had supportive friends. What else did I need to do?

It turns out that I was allowing this cycle to happen because I was running from my deeper emotions. Rather than confront the feelings I was having on my own, without the added pressures and toxicity of the relationship, I put all of my energy into being the object of emotional abuse. I confined myself to only feeling things having to do with the relationship.

No one had told me to allow people to disrespect me; in fact, I only ever really heard the opposite — that I should only allow respectful people into my life. But ironically, the people who were telling me that I deserved respect were the people I was the most intimate with. And they also happened to be the ones abusing me.

I remember feeling constantly confused as a child, growing up around the people I was closest with, who were also always those doing the opposite of what they preached. When they told me, "No," it really meant, "Yes." I had literally been programmed from infancy to do and believe the exact reverse of what was going on.

In my mind, on some deep level, the words "I love you," really meant, "I hate you," or something like it. Those who told me they loved me projected so much anger onto me that I associated that abuse with love. No wonder I ran from real love so much. And no wonder that, when I allowed it into my life, I would either run away, or they would, because I had too many unresolved issues to work through. Because I didn't know how to love myself.

The last and final time I allowed someone to abuse me, he luckily lived out of town. He had some things at my house; he left them there to "mark his territory." It sickens me to even think that. I told him I was leaving him. I made a cry out to the universe, telling it, "I deserve better!"

Not even forty-five minutes later, a friend of his called me to come pick up his belongings. Since then, more doors have opened for me than ever before. Trust, and love, as they say, are seriously the most important things one can ever do.

My friends all know that this is something I have been working through, and I guess now the world knows, too. I am proud to have made it this far, and I am looking forward to the upcoming year.

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