It was like meeting a beloved old friend after a long time. She was not the same person. She was more reserved, didn’t smile much. Even when she laughed, it was only for a few seconds. And then almost mechanically, she retreated into her shell.
She wanted to meet her closest friends again, but it took her a lot of effort to get out of bed every morning. She went to meet her friends nevertheless. They reminded her of who she used to be.
She wasn’t happy with her new job at all. But this job had saved her. After being frustrated and unhappy at work, she realised she couldn’t make herself this unhappy in her free time too.
Maybe she didn’t have it in her to put up with this anymore. Or maybe, she found it in herself to walk out of this situation. This girl had just walked out of an emotionally abusive relationship, and she was me.
When I wrote about my experience as a feminist in an abusive relationship, I was in the process of recognising patterns of abuse, and understanding how to stop blaming myself. I now have a much better idea, and this is my way of expressing.
Also Read: A Feminist In An Abusive Relationship
Fear led me to this relationship. I was terrified of family pressures and arranged marriage. I believed I would be safe if I just found someone I liked. I did, but in the bargain, I forgot about the biggest obligation I had: the one to protect myself.
With him, everything revolved around his likes, his dislikes, his opinions. I was a tool to massage his ego. He manipulated me into constantly declaring his existence in my life. He made me tell my cousins, friends, and even parents when I wasn’t ready.
It was a way to trap me, because he was insecure I would leave him. He on the other hand never had to do any of this. “I’m not like you, I don’t hide my relationship from others. But you just want to keep it a secret to having your options open,” he would say. I was reserved and shy, and especially averse to making a display of my relationships on social media.
Maybe I was being too secretive? Maybe I was keeping my options open? I questioned myself then. Well, even if you were, does that give him the right to constantly insult you? I ask myself now.
I had to give him a constant update on where I was, what I did. I had to be on the phone with him if I was ever taking a cab alone. He would drop subtle hints at how my friends are disloyal to me, don’t make time for me. I never made any such demands from him. You were only too happy to have a break from him, I tell past me, with a high-five.
I forgot about the biggest obligation I had: the one to protect myself.
Anytime I went out with my friends, he would magically fall ill for that night only, so that he could blame me for having fun while he was suffering. And when I suggested he has a problem with me socialising, it would be a deep insult to his ego that I could even think he would be like this.
My illness, on the other hand, was irrelevant. I remember once having terrible joint pain and fever due to chikungunya. But I still had to go out with him (I only went to avoid his nagging and cold treatment later, I know now).
I actually read emotional abuse articles while I was with him. And I even made excuses for his behaviour. “He is only controlling because you didn’t tell him that you once texted that cute guy asking for contacts of real estate agents and didn’t even bother telling him. You’re not trustworthy because there are a couple of guys who reacted to your Facebook status with a heart right in front of your boyfriend”.
“It’s ok, you can be very stupid and self-destructive at times. But you didn’t know what I know about intimate partner violence”, I tell past me. I also tell her that if he really wanted to establish ownership over me, he could have just peed over my Facebook wall. That makes her laugh, and I’m glad because she needs it.
“By the way did I tell you that he used to like dogs but now he says he doesn’t because my ex loves dogs?”
“No, the ridiculous thing is that I actually felt this guilty about this at some point.”
It’s very easy to dismiss this girl, who stayed with such a guy for almost two years. But she’s the one who showed the courage to get out of a relationship and realise she was being mistreated. For that, I respect her.
Since my first article on my experience, I have shared it with a few people. Three of them even told me that with the genders reversed and barring a few details, this was their exact experience. I’m happy to say we’re all out of it.
I enjoy the little things so much more now. No more forced conversations, feeling worthless and lonely or being blamed for someone else’s insecurities. So many more girls night outs, holidays with friends without meaningless guilt. And so much more peace and glorious solitude.
I have wondered whether he actually knew me, or loved me (no he absolutely didn’t). I have wondered if he ever felt guilty or missed me or realised he was abusive (it’s not your problem anymore).
I have missed being in a relationship at times and enjoyed it most of the times. But not for one second have I ever regretted leaving. I know we’re all starting to believe survivors now. But I want everyone in such situations to understand this: don’t make excuses for him. Believe yourself.
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