I have written about many happy topics on this blog. How about some emotional abuse?
I told you that I was in a very volatile relationship. One very central aspect of it was emotional abuse. I can’t claim that I have any idea what it’s like to be physically abused by your partner and have looking like your passport photo suddenly become a distant dream.
My ex-boyfriend never hit me. Even at times I almost hoped he would, so that I’d know that it’s him who’s doing wrong because I was so fucked up at that point. But all in good time. Let’s start from the beginning.
Nobody declares that they are going to be abusive, when you first meet them. Neither did Lewis. He was very popular and outgoing, he had a way of making people comfortable. That’s what he did to me at first. Now I realise that as we got to know each other, he would also learn my every little insecurity, so he could tap into them when required.
I didn’t have the greatest self-esteem back then. I was bullied at school, and didn’t have many friends. I really wanted to make friends and be well-liked. He made a note of that.
For the life of me I can’t remember what was the comment that first started it, but then they started coming. Every time we would leave a social situation, the critique started arriving.
“You shouldn’t be telling that joke. Nobody finds it funny.”
“Don’t talk about that, nobody is interested.”
“You are so awkward with other people.”
“Don’t talk about that, it’s boring.”
“You are so bad at conversations.”
And once I was upset enough that I would cry, he would comfort me. He saw how funny and intelligent I was when we were alone like this. He just wanted others to see the same what he saw. Didn’t I see? He was only trying to help me.
If I got upset or angry because of what he said, he would turn it on me. I was such an impossible person. He was only trying to help, and that’s how I repaid him. I couldn’t take a word of criticism. Couldn’t I see how unreasonable I was?
There was a little voice at the back of my head that said that the things he said were hurting my feelings.
And while we were out he continued being Mr Popular, and I had to wonder whether he was actually right. All these other people seemed to think the world of him.
And the assessments into my character continued. Pointing out my flaws. Comparisons to other girls. As the weeks and months passed I had become a nervous wreck, afraid to say a word whenever he was around because I was terrified of what he was going to say once we were alone. Then I would get told off for being so quiet. I could never catch a break.
Or I’d be looking up to his acceptance every time we left an outing. I did a good job didn’t I? Didn’t I?
“What are you talking about? You don’t need my approval,” he would then say and I’d get that chilling feeling that my insides were being turned upside down.
The problem was that I had many faults. The base material was good, and that’s the bit he had fallen in love with. He was only trying to improve me in order for me to be the best I could be and also worthy of his love. The standard was up there but no matter what I did, it always remained just a bit out of reach.
Of course I’d fight back. Especially in the beginning. I would challenge him for his behaviour and we could spend hours yelling at each other but the end result was always the same. I had somehow lost. And as time went by I was so sick of arguing, so sick of getting upset and so sick of crying that I would avoid it the best I could.
I could never trust anything. I could show him a movie, one of my favourites, and he would go on and on about how brilliant it was. He’d give it a five-star rating on Facebook and I’d be so pleased that he had liked it because that movie was very important to me.
Then at the next argument he would say: “Why did you force me to watch that fucking stupid, boring movie?”
I had the rug constantly pulled from underneath me, and that made me even more paranoid about things. Does he actually like this, or is he going to throw it into my face the next chance he gets? Are we having a nice time, or am I going to get blamed for ruining it?
He was a man of grand gestures, Lewis. He would do something romantic, usually after I had said that I’m really tired and not in the mood. Then he would have a go at me for not having the right reaction into his surprise. Didn’t I understand how it made him feel when he had seen all this trouble and his girlfriend didn’t care? I still hate dates and any organised events where I’m expected to behave in a certain manner because of this.
I couldn’t trust my own interpretation of the situation because everything was somehow turned into being my fault. Because we also lived together, there was no escaping it. He would be on my back constantly. He was also my only mirror of the situation, no matter how distorted the image was and I’d find myself asking ‘is it me?’
One time I was watching a stand up show on my laptop. He was doing something on the other end of the room. The show was funny and I would laugh. I heard him say something. I took off the headphones.
“Could you go to speech therapy or something? I can’t stand your laughter. It’s so horrible.”
One time we were going out to meet his friends. He would put a lot effort into his appearance, and I had a pair of white trainers that he really hated.
“I’m ashamed to introduce you to my friends because your shoes are so ugly,” he said five minutes before we were supposed to leave the house.
At that point I was so defeated that I just went upstairs and changed shoes. I thought nothing of it. I just didn’t want to have another argument.
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