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December 17, 2018

How Abuse Turned Me into An Abuser

When when two troubled souls met, things escalated quickly.

by Filipe

When I was in my freshman year, I fell in love with a girl. At the time I saw her as this sweet, adorable and cheerful girl who happened to have a similar taste in music as I did. We started dating around two months after we met. We’d spend afternoons taking walks around the campus, singing random songs along the road. We became a couple envied by some, but mostly despised because of our constant public display of affection.
As the relationship progressed I found out that she had some past traumas, which only made me want to stick with her even more. But being an angsty and socially awkward teenager who barely survived high school, I had no clue what might happen later, or how I was supposed to treat her.
The warning signs were everywhere. She would call me all the time, even when I was out of town doing my research assignment. She would get mad at me if I didn’t pick up her call (which happened every 10 minutes on several occasions). She would lash out at me whenever she got mad at something or someone else. She would always be passive-aggressive if she didn’t get what she wanted. We broke up, we made up, we broke up, we made out, we made up. The pattern is obvious now, but I was absolutely clueless back then. I just kept going.
Unfortunately, at that time I hadn’t learned how to express my disagreement to people in a healthier way. I hated violence, and to this day I prefer a cool-headed dialogue as a method to resolve a conflict. But before adult life taught me how to don a more amiable mask, I wouldn’t try to sugarcoat my words if people started to piss me off. Sarcasm and patronizing self-righteousness was my theme, and it proved to be a big problem.
I believe you can imagine what happened when two troubled souls met. Things escalated quickly. Next thing I knew, she threw her phone at me when she got mad. She would often lock me up with her inside her apartment, forcing me to watch her angrily yelling at me or harming herself (or me). She literally dragged me into a room if I tried to leave. If I wasn’t around, she’d call and say she was feeling suicidal because of me. Threats, door slams, and flying objects were common.
Over the years, I changed. On the surface I appeared like a friendly person, always available for deep talks, intellectual discussions, or card games. But deep down, like the submersed part of an iceberg, my emotion went to opposite extremes. While repressing my rage in front of most people, in my most intimate relationship I became the devil. I started to do the same to her as she did to me. Sometimes worse. A few times, I did things that could send me to jail (to this day she still keeps some photograph of her bruises).
Why didn’t I exit that hell as soon as possible? The short answer is of course mutual love (and, sadly, obsession). But in retrospect, it was mainly my mindset.
To justify my choices, I developed a delusion that our relationship had helped me in knowing myself. I tried to assure myself that my newly-acquired destructive tendencies were simply hidden demons, and my relationship was a necessary step in learning how to tame them. Was it? I fervently believed so, until some questions popped up in my mind. What would've happened if I had never dated her? What if these demons were something new which I unconsciously conjured? What if I’m actually someone else?
Back then, I dodged the doubt with an equally toxic mindset: I put too much meaning in small changes.  Changes occurred, indeed. As we tried to fix the doomed relationship over and over again, we slowly learned to listen, to be patient, to properly take care of each other, et cetera. But the fundamental matters, such as power relations and conflict resolution remained the same. It always felt as if we moved the parliament into our relationship. Manipulation existed everywhere. Power play became our routine. Almost every serious argument only stopped after either one of us broke down.
Before I knew it, I projected it into my surroundings. I started to mildly manipulate people around me. When I entered into another relationship, I dragged my new girlfriend into my problems. I failed to recognize her own issues and toxic habits, then ignored that fact after I learned about them. When circumstances made our relationship difficult, I would unconsciously hide behind the sentence, “It was her own free will. I never forced her to stay in this relationship”. Luckily, the violent tendencies didn’t tag along. This fact itself proved that violence was an exception, rather than the rule for me. We never had a nasty argument, let alone violent fights.

Nevertheless, one can never escape his sins. I developed self-loathing, then slowly became a dysfunctional young man plagued with anxiety, regular nightmares, suicidal thoughts, and difficulty to focus on my tasks. I neglected my studies, to the point that I’m on the verge of dropping out now. My volatility constantly put me at odds with my parents when our relationship was already tense. I lived as a nomad for quite a while, never really felt content wherever I go.
It all seemed so surreal. The nostalgia, the regrets, the adrenaline, the traumas, everything. Recovery was really hard, and I’m still struggling. I tried to make peace with my past, starting with apologies to my family, exes, and friends. And, in all honesty, I’m really grateful for the fact that many chose to forgive me.
Felipe is a broke and foul-mouthed student who aspires to be a wandering storyteller and/or a journalist. He finds healing in music, poetry, and several forms of pseudoscience. If you have some stories to share, send him a direct message on twitter: @plutoniangoat (don’t bother following it though).