Abuse is abuse, whether physically or emotionally. Neither should take higher priority than the other. Yes, physical abuse seems more and directly fatal to a person, but emotionally abused victims should never be brushed aside as well. People are not fully aware that abusive relationships can also happen emotionally, not the victims themselves, the abusers and the people surrounding them.
I never realized that I was in one until I came across an article online just a week ago, shared by a woman I befriended on a social media platform. I never knew that her one decision and a click of a share button on her page could have led to my realization of what has been going on in my previous relationship.
In this article are compilations of screenshots from the hashtag #maybehedoesnthityou that went viral on Twitter. Here are the few tweets that has gotten into my head at the time I was reading it and it still haunts me how eerily the similarities are.
After reading this article, everything made sense to me. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship.
This wasn't my reason to break the relationship off. I didn't understand it at the time, but I knew something wasn't right and that I should not feel like this in a relationship. I eventually got sick of it and stood up for myself. This is why I think it's important for me to speak up now. How many people out there have felt the same way I did and still have no idea what is going on? How many people out there still think that they deserve to be treated poorly?
I would like to change that. I would like to speak up. I would like to help people become aware that what their boy/girlfriend or husband/wife or partner is doing is not right. You do not deserve to be treated poorly, you never did, though they try so hard to make you believe that. I would like to write that one article that someone stumbled across and help them change their lives for good. So here goes.
"Is my relationship an abusive one?"
I was in a relationship for 11 months and during the first few months, I was recovering from a previous relationship that ended badly. He seemed sweet at first and said the things every girl wanted to hear, and I thought I was finally going to be happy again. Until I saw the early warning signs that something was not right. At first it was only little things that I would just brush off, like hitting me softly on my arm or pinching me slightly. Eventually, I decided to tell him that I did not like it, but he treated it as a joke and laughed it off. I have since realized that this was a clear warning sign: in an abusive relationship, they will never take you seriously.
Another warning sign is that when fighting, they would constantly be off-topic and attack you personally with hurtful words. In my case, he did not try to solve or understand the problem, instead he repeatedly said things to hurt me like, "Oh no wonder your ex hurt you" or "You totally do not fit in my criteria".
They would also not want to finish a problem or fight quickly on purpose because they enjoy seeing you hurt and powerless. In my case, when we were in fights, I would be crying and clearly upset and he would look at me in disgust and angrily tell me that I was overreacting and that what I was doing was unnecessary. Another warning sign is that every time you try your best to calm them down and solve the problem, they would directly show how uninterested they are in understanding the problem. My ex would do things like yawn in my face and lay back. Showing me who had power.
He will constantly compare you to other women and tell you how you are never enough for them. My ex would constantly let me know that other women are better than me, sometimes directly, sometimes subtly. He would openly look at other girls and do not mind if I was aware of it. If they are treating you right, they will NOT look at other people when you're outside together or constantly talk about and compliment other people in front of you.
Sometimes, the relationship will also get to the point when he threatens to hurt you physically and you're “lucky” that he doesn't. My ex has once swung a fist at me and stopped 2 inches away from my nose, showing me that he had the ability to punch me in the face, but chose not to. They will also treat you poorly and sometimes inhumanly. In my case, he left me in places with no money and no phone, helpless and begging for him to come back – again, showing off his power.
There will come a point when you start to realize that you do not like the way they treat you. And this is when they will do anything to make you stay. Literally anything, and most of the time, not in a good way. They will manipulate you into thinking that you're too broken or too ugly to be loved by anyone else. They will do little things to prove that to you. They will keep criticizing your body, the way you dress or the way you act and they will make sure that you know that you're lucky that they even want you. Another way is to tell you over and over again that you are nothing without them.
And when you do finally get the courage to leave them, they will start to become desperate. They will promise to change and they will not be afraid to beg you to stay. But if you still choose to leave, they will plummet and reach their lowest point where they will threaten to kill themselves to prevent you from leaving. They will literally guilt trip you to the point where you wouldn't be able to go anywhere and have no choice but to stay.
These are the common signs that happen to a lot of people, but it does not mean that they are all the signs in a relationship. All warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship have similar tactics that include fear, humiliation, guilt and manipulation. And if that rings a bell then what they're doing is not right and you do not deserve it.
So, what should I do now?
First of all, start realizing that what is happening is not okay.
These “warning signs” are not some little things to be brushed off. It is not okay to be treated that way, no matter how many times you try to persuade yourself into thinking that. No matter how many times you try to twist facts and agree with them that YOU are the one to blame. You are not wrong for expressing your thoughts, you are not wrong to have your own opinion and you are definitely not wrong for being who you are.
The little voice inside your head that has been trying to persuade you into not speaking up is proof that they have succeeded in entering your head and messing it up.
"Oh no, this is nothing to tell about to my friends"
"This is not important and urgent, I should keep quiet, rather than making my friends/family worried about nothing"
"This is not that big of a deal. Do not overreact. I can handle this myself"
These thoughts are inside your mind in the first place because they are part of your instinct. Your instinct is telling you that this is not right, but your mind has been brainwashed into thinking that speaking up is not necessary.
I regret not speaking up any sooner when I was still in the relationship. After building the courage to tell my friends and family about what he was doing to me for the past 11 months, their reactions took me by surprise. They all knew something was off, but I had always seemed fine. They also wished I told them sooner because then they would be the ones to pull me out of the relationship.
I then realized that the only other reason I was trying to cover these facts up is because deep down inside I knew that my loved ones would know that what's going on is not right, but I was too afraid to face the fact. The thing is I didn't have to be afraid, and neither should you. Again, speak up.
Stand up for yourself. That's the next step.
Tell them that you do not like how they are treating you. Tell them how it makes you uncomfortable. And if they still do not take you seriously, tell them that you have had enough. If they still do not care about your feelings or don't even listen to you, then that is your cue for your next step.
It is not okay to stay. It is not okay to be treated poorly. You are an amazing person, you are worth every struggle, you are precious, you are loved. Don't be afraid that you won't find a better person, that's what they are trying to make you think. A lot of people in this world would appreciate you the way you are without demanding you to change even a tiny bit. Trust me, you do not need them the way they've been manipulating you into thinking that.
They will try to get you back in every way that they can. They will even suppress their ego into the lowest level to coax you into thinking that there is a chance for them to change. Remember that that can never happen. If they keep treating you poorly, it will always stay that way.
If persuading you does not work, this will start to frustrate them and they will find other lower ways. They will start to threaten you. They will threaten to tell people your secrets, threaten your hopes and dreams and even threaten to ruin your relationships with other people. Do not give in to this. Know that whatever they will do does not compare to the damage it will cost you if you stay.
Rebuild bridges and fix yourself
The effect of an emotionally abusive relationship would not be as visible as a physical one. Self-esteem, self-worth and anxiety would be affected in these relationships and it will not be easy to face alone.
Therefore, the first step after leaving everything behind is to surround yourself with loved ones. They will always be there to support you and help build yourself back up. Victims of abusive relationships, specifically emotional ones, tend to burn down bridges with their loved ones. And that is now for you to rebuild. Do not worry, they will accept you back with open arms.
Surrounding yourself with loved ones will help you into the next step, which is, fixing yourself.
It's been a tough road, I could imagine. And it's not going to be that easy at first, you will always have to adapt to changes in situations, but it will be the best choice for you. Forget all the words that they have tried to plant into your mind to trick you into thinking that you are nothing and that you cannot do anything. They are wrong. You are strong, you are fearless, you are worth it. Plant that into your own mind and surround yourself in an environment that can support that thought.
Find new hobbies, surround yourself with loved ones, learn new things but always remember that it's okay to not feel okay instantly. Take your time to fix yourself, but believe that you will be able to.
You're okay. Everything is now okay. I am proud of you, now it's time to be proud of yourself.
Shafira Amalia Hidayat is a student of International Relations at Universitas Parahyangan. She is a hopeful person with pessimistic tendencies. Visit her at www.shafiraamaliah.blogspot.co.id