“You are selfish. You are inconsiderate. You are ungrateful. You are a user. You are a liar. You have no friends. You are nothing. You’ve gone mad. You have issues. You are a cheat”…….
“I love you”……
Emotional Abuse is still abuse.
Confusion and Fear.
It is the most confusing thing in the world, to have someone who you love and trust rip apart your character and make you doubt every single ounce of your being and then tell you how much they love you. To be in a position where you trust someone and tell them things in confidence only to have it twisted around and used against you in moments of rage. To live with someone who lavishes you with gifts and then accuses you of taking advantage of them. To go from being a confident and outgoing person to someone who second guesses every single move they make and everything they say, every single text they send, just because you know anything you do IS being stored up and WILL come at you at a later date twisted around in order to suit their character assassination of you.
This can leave you feeling vulnerable and extremely lonely. Essentially you are living in a climate of fear and uncertainty. You’re in love with someone who by virtue of being in a relationship with them, should be your best friend, but you have to think before you speak, choose what you tell them, think about what you’re saying, the tone in which your saying it , because you know that they can turn into treating you like they are your worst enemy at the flick of a switch.
Unfortunately this can be learned all to late in the relationship. You only learn the lengths someone will go to hurt you and humiliate you when you have already opened yourself up to them and put yourself in a position of vulnerability.
Obviously this kind of behaviour doesn’t happen all day every day. There are good parts , there are amazing parts , this is why it’s so confusing. The person who buys you flowers every day and brings you breakfast in bed, is also the person who is towering over you whilst you’re cowering in a corner telling you that you are nothing, and each incident is more than likely being followed by a grand gesture, a new handbag , a surprise meal , a weekend away in your favourite place. All wonderful things that gain forgiveness at the time, but that you will more than likely pay for at a later date when you are told how ungrateful you are. You end up with a wardrobe full of apologies each beautiful object carrying its own dark memory.
Emotional abuse or Bullying, whatever you want to call it , all boils down to the same thing, and is usually about a person trying to gain control over the other person by creating a climate of fear and uncertainty.
It can be very subtle. Mood swings , they go in a mood over something and you don’t quite know why or what you have done, something isn’t quite right , but you don’t know what it is and they wont exactly tell you. Mood swings create uncertainty and therefore create fear. This can be used to manipulate many different situations. I know from my own personal experience, it was my utter dislike of public ‘scenes’ , and making other people around us feel uncomfortable, if a disagreement or argument was started in public, the more I would try to calm a situation down and express my embarrassment, the more it would be escalated into a larger public scene, the ruder they would be to the people around us, all purposefully to upset and embarrass me and go against my wishes.
Of course, this would more often than not result in me not wanting to go back to a certain hotel, restaurant or place, it was all about making me , who wanted to appear inconspicuous , as conspicuous as possible, all my fears and buttons pushed to purposefully put me out of my comfort zone and humiliate me and ultimately start to break down my confidence.
You start to dread going to events or getting to know or be introduced to people in our regular ‘haunts’. I didn’t want to make myself known to these people for fear of a scene being created the next time we were there. It made me withdraw and rather than saunter around chatting to people just want to rush in and out with my head down.
The worst thing that I experienced was an extreme betrayal of confidence , and this is something that will take me a long time to recover from, using things that as a couple you may discuss over a glass of wine , about past relationships or how much a member of your family had irritated you that day, silly things and mostly mundane things that happen in life but things that were private and told in confidence, all of those things that were what I thought innocent conversations, were to be used against me, twisted around and used to ‘back up’ the next attack.
I only recognise now that the incessant need for detail of my past , was simply so that it could be used as a tool to hurt me.
These were not isolated incidents nor where they weekly happenings, it was a constant drip feed over time, which is why I know it was more than just ‘not getting along’, I have also spent the last few months reading up a lot on narcissistic and emotionally bullying behaviour patterns. There was an ongoing sense of fear created by this behaviour. That is abuse.
“Manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity”
I had not heard of this term until I started to try to research and understand more about emotional abuse.
Luckily I had managed to get to my late 30’s with most people thinking I am a pretty nice person, so to be hit all of a sudden being thrown into a situation where someone who I loved and thought I could trust with my emotional wellbeing and life!, continually try to tear me down was new territory for me.
I had never experienced such verbal abuse and constant attacks on my personality and character before, and all over the smallest of things, the most mundane daily things would be blown out of all proportion and added to the list of why I was such a bad person.
I never thought that I would find myself on numerous occasions at 40 years old unable to get my breath, have tears streaming down my face, crying and begging someone to stop bullying me. Only to be told that I had gone mad and wasn’t right in the head.
Yes I certainly felt like I had gone mad, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, I was doubting everything I stood for, I was so worn down by confusion and constant doubting of myself that I didn’t know which way was up.
I found myself thinking back over previous relationships and thinking if anyone had ever called me ungrateful.. disloyal.. selfish.. and I could honestly say I had never been described like that by anyone. I have since spoken to ex partners who describe me using the opposite words to that and are completely astounded by the whole thing.
The fact that there is this version of me and my character being put out there that bears no reflection on the person I have been over the past few years or the person that I am, is very upsetting to me, but I cannot control that, I no longer doubt who I am , I no longer feel like I am going mad. I know me and I like me and that feels so good again.
Divide and Rule.
This is a very clever means of manipulation.
‘Your mother agrees with me’ .. ‘My friends think I am mad for being with you’.. ‘My work colleagues say this and that about you’. It is essentially an adults game of ‘he said she said’, designed to control a person through isolating them from others.
When we are with a partner we don’t want to go questioning their friends to find out if they actually did say this or did say that, we trust their word, we also don’t want, or I didn’t want to embarrass our relationship by asking anyone else to confirm what they had or hadn’t said, so essentially you end up with one source of information and that is the person who is trying to control you.
Many times we would have conversations and both agree on what we thought of a person, then at a later date it would be translated into ‘you don’t like anyone , you’re so hateful , you don’t like any of my friends’. When the reality is, I didn’t really know them, I was basing my opinions on what they were telling me about them and how they were saying they were being treated by them.
The person manipulating me also played a very good victim, everyone did them wrong, they were such a good kind person and everyone was always taking advantage of their generosity. I believed this, because one side of their personality was very kind and very generous, so it was quite plausible that this was the case. However its only recently that it hit me , I only ever had one side of the story, I was never shown any proof of any of these people behaving in this way. I formed my opinions of people , which ultimately led to a dislike of some people who I had never even met, and certainly led to me distancing myself from others, based on one person’s say so. I now see that this was possibly all part of controlling the situation and creating pockets of people who have opinions on each other but who remain divided. Never knowing who said what.
Why allow it?.
As with all abuse this is the age-old question, it’s an easy one to ask but the answer is not so easy. You have a life with this person , you are invested in making a future, and when the good parts are so very good , its easy to forget how bad the bad parts really are. When I first met this person and throughout our relationship there were pockets where they were the kindest most thoughtful person I have ever met in my life, and I couldn’t square the circle that the same person who was so kind, was also capable of behaving in such a dark way, treating me so well, but also being so cruel, I still don’t understand it and I don’t think I ever will.
There could be something that you have done wrong , something that they can ‘hang their hat on’ and repeatedly use as an excuse for their behaviour , and I cover this is another blog post about forgiveness. This creates enough doubt and sense of guilt in your head to excuse or justify their behaviour .. after all ‘you’ must have driven them to it, so ‘you’ should be the one helping them overcome their insecurities.
They may be going through a particularly stressful time in their lives and there is the thought that ‘we just need to get through this period and everything will change’. When you become used to accepting a certain pattern of behaviour it becomes normality and that is how it almost just becomes an acceptable part of life, but of course controlling someone by trying to break down their personality should never become ‘normal’.
There is also that part of us that wants to fix the situation. I know that to have done to me what they were doing they must have been really hurting inside, and I didn’t want to leave them hurting. I didn’t want to leave them in pain. It has ultimately ended in my life being in absolute turmoil and as a result is causing me an immense amount of pain, but I posted something the other day about not regretting being a good person to the wrong people, and I stand by that.
It is one of the most complicated and confusing positions I have ever been faced with in my life and has ultimately cost me everything.
I feel so many different emotions every day. I kept so much in for so long, and I did this out of trying to respect the person who did this to me. I walked away quietly from my home, my job, my life, my friends, and still the abuse continued. The behaviour got even more erratic, the accusations more outrageous. I had nothing , I said nothing, and still I was being bullied, disrespected and controlled from afar, up until very recently.
It was this that made me start to write. I couldn’t continue to keep bottling things in, clearly my silence wasn’t being appreciated by the other party as they continued to disrespect me, and being in a position to turn around my life and get back to where I wanted to be wasn’t going to happen overnight , so I had to start to deal with what was in front of me and start to look after me and my own wellbeing. After all looking out for someone else wellbeing is what put me in this position in the first place.
The first blog post that I finished it felt like the moment when the top flies off an old-fashioned pressure cooker. I posted it and then went for a long walk along the beach and cried my eyes out. I have never felt a release quite like it. I remember saying to myself that ‘its going to be ok , everything is going to be ok’. I vividly remember saying it out loud to myself. I finally felt I had managed to be heard. The truth of it was , I didn’t care if anyone read it, I didn’t care if I was heard, but I had made the first steps towards admitting what I had been through, and rather than sitting in denial imagining that I would wake up and it would all have been a bad dream, I started to be focused on my healing.
I did say and I have said throughout this blog, it is not written with the intention of any kind of revenge or bitterness, and this is still the case.
It is a way for me to enjoy what I do which is writing, it is a break from writing my book and also my way of processing things.
Unfortunately or fortunately however you want to look at it, it was not possible to write about this subject without drawing on my personal experience with it. I have been writing and re-writing this for a couple of weeks now and I tried to do it without mentioning my own experience but I wanted it to be authentic and I do hope to help people who may be in a similar situation so I wanted to be relatable.
It’s not a pretty subject to discuss but sometimes life isn’t very pretty. My hope is that we all just think about how we treat others, and do so with love and compassion and respect. There is nothing clever about breaking people down and wrecking lives. There are no winners when you are forced to come out of a relationship with no fond memories because the person you were with has destroyed them all by vindictive and nasty behaviour.
Be mindful and be kind to each other.
Thanks for reading.