Living each day much muchier
The image of emotional abuse is a woman looking distressed and a man looking angry. The MO seems pretty straightforward. He starts off as a loving and attentive partner and then isolates her until he’s in control of her money, time and self-worth, but he never hits her. Violence is not in his nature.
It’s still a story of abuse, but you’ll never find the bruises.
Every story is different. For me, a truer image would be of one person going about their business and the other staring off into the distance. There’s no argument, no fear, no intimidation, nothing that that triggers the idea of abuse. Nothing you can point to in defense of how you feel. On the surface, there’s affection and domesticity. From the outside, it looks pretty normal.
So, is it really abusive? Isn’t it just a broken relationship?
Most articles explore the tactics of control and few years ago, I found these warning signs helpful, as well as this definition of a toxic relationship – but the lists are all end-result oriented and not everything applies. You find yourself explaining them away.
I’d like to share a different kind of list – my boiling frog list. When you’re wounded, it’s from subtle, hard to refute ideas that rebuild your world from the ground up and ever so slowly boil your frog.
1. This is what love that lasts looks like
You have to share ALL of yourself, ache to rush back into their arms after a couple of hours. Why would you delay that? Wanting to spend time with other people or by yourself means you don’t love them as much as they love you.
2. You’re hiding things from me
If you’re quiet, you’re hiding something. If you don’t detail every moment of what happened when you’re apart, you’re hiding something. They jump to the worst, occasionally bizarre conclusions. You don’t actually have anything to hide, so you don’t bother with personal space or personal thoughts.
3. It’s not good enough/be better than that
The things you like and hobbies you kept were fine for the life you had before you met but now you’re aiming for something better. Of course you want to be the best version of yourself. Clearly your tastes and instincts aren’t very refined. Best be guided by theirs from now on.
4. It’s not worth the argument
Your way isn’t as good. You make poor decisions, so you don’t do anything without asking. You follow unspoken rules to avoid the hassle.Nothing upsets you anymore, just being upset causes an argument. You don’t say much anymore. It’s not worth it.
5. It won’t ever be like it was
You’re not 20 anymore. You need to get to bed early and don’t bounce back from hangovers. It’s time to grow up and stay in. Nobody wants your old, fat, tired self. Isn’t it good that someone already loves you. No-one else will tolerate your clumsy vagueness or ever love you as much.
It took me a couple of years to unwrite these wonky scripts in my head and many habits are simply ingrained now. I have to accept them as part of who I am.
Emotionally abusive relationships aren’t just for people with low self esteem or limited socio-economic means. Anyone can get rewired. If you recognise these thought-patterns and these conversations, please reach out to the people who love you and knew you before and seek help.
“You are not broken. You are not a problem to be solved.”
“Don’t confuse poor decision-making with destiny. Own your mistakes. It’s ok; we all make them.”