When you have had nothing to compare it to and your first relationship is emotionally abusive, it’s natural to think it’s normal.
People who may know me and read my blog posts may not like to read some of the material I write here. My voice here is my rational voice. It is honest and it is true and kind. It is only stating what has happened to me and what I am going through right now. I can’t talk about the full depth of everything with my voice yet – my head gets in the way when I have a physical listener and I miss out crucial points and overthink and worry about whether my listener really cares or not. Here it’s easier and I feel as if I can do my emotions and experiences justice.
Having just turned 16 I entered my first proper relationship. I went to an all girls school and didn’t have that much contact with the opposite sex so I assumed he was perfectly normal and I saw no red flags although I probably should have. The beginning was casual. It was weird. I think it worked because he wanted it to work although he wasn’t overly invested in me at the time and liked the idea of not being tied down to me. There was no commitment and since he went to a mixed school, he had a lot of female friends he subtly enjoyed pointing out to me.
As soon as we got slightly more invested and saw each other more often, I got fed up with not knowing what I was supposed to refer to him as to my friends, so I asked him if I could call him my boyfriend since there was nothing that we weren’t doing to fit that label. He agreed, reluctantly I suppose – he didn’t like the label.
He got used to it and we adopted those roles more comfortably. We began feeling more for each other and I believe it was at that point he starting showing signs (although I didn’t realise it at the time). I remember sitting next to him on the sofa whilst he was on his laptop. I was due to leave soon and he was on facebook, scrolling through messages. It was pretty hard not to see the top one, sent to a girl he’d never met before who he was messaging due to her exotic good looks. I saw this and turned cold. I didn’t realise he was sending these things behind my back. Did he not understand what we were now? Was I stupid for thinking we were more than we actually were and I’d got it all wrong? Was I not enough? I stood up and left, saying goodbye and trying not to show as if everything was wrong. He continued staring at the screen and didn’t get up to say goodbye or hug me. He didn’t understand those sorts of manners. I was angry to say the least. I was hurt and shocked and he didn’t even look at me as I said my farewell and left the room.
I didn’t speak to him all evening and at last he noticed my silence and blunt responses. When I eventually answered his pestering, I gave in and told him my issues. What I expected to be given by way of apology or excuse couldn’t have been further from the way he responded.
His stunning rage bombarded my phone with a mass of hideous texts, calling me wrong, calling me stupid, calling me paranoid and a bitch. A cunt. His overwhelming anger turned the situation around; he made me feel like it was my fault for feeling like this, for knowing what I saw when it was right in front of my face. He said I’d let him down and he was disappointed with me and he didn’t think he’d want to see me again because of what I’d done.
I went into school the next day and sat one of my GCSE exams with a brain full of shock and torment having had no sleep. I came out two grades lower than I would have got.
He pieced it together a few days later, saying he apologised and he was really sorry for what happened, but never apologising for his actions or words. He put in so much effort to get me back and I fell, young and innocent, soft from his coaxing words and made of putty, willingly back into his arms. We fell back to how we were before, but closer because of what had happened. I should have realised from that point that he enjoyed my anger and hurt. The confusion for why he would hurt my feelings so evolved into jealously as he displayed his affections to girls in front of me. There was a girl at his school that he’s always fancied, he said, and he showed me pictures of her. She was far more sweet and beautiful than I could ever be. Her voice was seductive and she sounded like a pornstar every time she spoke, he and his friends said.
Looking back these comments and behaviour was as stupid and childish as one could get, but having had no experience with boys before, I began to think this was what males wanted and desired – all men. I remember he used to text me during the day saying he’s had to partner up with her in school in class and he loved it and was excited by it. He threw comments in to show me he cared for me too, but not as much as her. I wanted to compete. I grew distracted with my own work, my mind miles away to where he and her were probably laughing together and he was imagining doing to her what he usually did to me.
Our own relationship grew as we realised we had more in common, and he gently cut me off from the rest of my friends. I found myself not enjoying myself in their company and craving his praise and rebellious nature instead. He was from Brazil and the house rang with the sweet melodies of portuguese and soft music, foreign to my ears and addictive. I was accepted by his family who told me I was making such a difference in him – he wasn’t moody and insulting anymore – he was happy. I began thinking I was making a change and if I persisted, he would stop flaunting other girls’ affections and wouldn’t care about them anymore.
Unfortunately I was wrong. He gradually started to do more than that. As well as making me believe other girls wanted to steal him from me, he began creating arguments and accusing me of letting him down or doing something wrong when I hadn’t. He was so good at being in control and manipulating me to believe fantasies that had no basis of reality. A number of times we’d be walking along or sat in his car and he’d tell me how we needed to break up: he just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I was distraught. We’d been doing so well and hadn’t been fighting – how could he be saying this? I thought he was kidding at first, but he was so cold and serious, showing no affection whatsoever and I grew to a state of panic, crying and hyperventilating due to his sudden change of heart. It was then, only when I had wound myself up so tight that he cut me free, saying, ‘It’s ok. I know you care now. I just wanted to see you crying so I knew that you cared’. The intense panic flooded with relief, such fiercely contrasting emotions created a state of instability and I became imbalanced, ever watching my every move, terrified of letting him down, treading on egg shells so that I could always please him. He used sex as a weapon – a reward when I’d been good. I never wanted to have an argument as he’d always turn it around to make me feel guilty for making him feel bad enough to raise his voice. I was ever apologetic. Since I saw sex as a reward, he’d often use it if we were fighting and he saw that he was at fault. It would be a mask he stood behind, a safety net to use against me, the girl he’d brainwashed to think he was the only one who could ever want her, in case I ever saw a tiny bit of sense.
He used to wind me up and be so ignorant and arrogant I would scream, scream until my throat was raw. And then he’d stand there, silent, and say I was mad and ‘what the fuck is wrong with you?’ But he did that to me – he was what was wrong with me, I just couldn’t see it.
In the end it turned out he was the insecure one. He was terrified I’d cheat so he cheated first, to stay in control. The girl messaged me one night late, around 1 in the morning. I didn’t know the girl so I glanced throught the message not taking it in, ready for bed. Something panged. I looked again and read properly. ‘Be wary of the guy you think is your boyfriend. He’s not as honest as you think he is and I’m saying this because I care about you’. I answered the messages and the whole thing came out. It happened when I was on holiday with my parents. He started with messages like, ‘come over, my girlfriend’s travelling so don’t worry. I want to fuck’.
I remember screaming out in the driveway at 2am into the night, not caring how loud I was or who heard me, praying someone would hear me and hold me, someone would explain what was happening to my chest. My dad came outside and found me in a heap on the tarmac, screaming myself voiceless. I’d been clawing at the concrete and my fingertips were raw.
I guess someone can do so much to you and so well that you never realise it’s wrong. It just takes something earth shattering to finally bring your old self back and rationalise.
And yet, we didn’t break up straight away. I was broken enough to stay with him and he’d made me think he was my lifeline for so long, estranging me from my family and friends so that I thought we could – we had to – get through it. There followed his apologies, saying he’d take as long as it took for me to feel ok. That lasted about two weeks before he started getting pissed off that I was still hurt. His annoyance made me feel bad for upsetting him and the whole cycle started again. I was crying in public when I was with him and he’d walk away leaving me in the street, angry and annoyed that I could still feel, and I’d just follow him like a lost puppy.
Stars suddenly aligned one morning and I gave him up. I’d been sad for so long I hated myself. It was like giving up a drug, which he only made harder once he started texting my friends after we broke up, attempting to seduce them. It cut me to the core – had he always preferred them over me? Were my friends replying and lying to me too? Who could I trust?
The last time I intentionally saw him was just after my 18th birthday. I remember it so well despite my efforts to erase the memory. He’d changed my passwords and account names to one of my online accounts and was using it for himself, essentially stealing my money. Engulfed by rage and the shove of his disrespect and spite, whilst knowing all too well the reception I’d receive if I tried to call or text him regarding the matter, I drove round to his house after college had finished, intending to have it out with him and show him my newfound mental strength, be it only slight.
I hadn’t seen him in a few months and he looked different, bigger from his constant gym sessions trying to look better for his new victims. He seemed taller and took up more of the room, standing with his chin lifted with authority and command. We circled the kitchen table, me trying to make sure we were always on opposite sides whilst he grinned at me and tried to walk round and get to me. It was a game. I stood my ground and didn’t let him get too close. I accused him and shouted, and he held his hands up with a smirk on his face, clearly not giving the situation any of the seriousness it warranted. I bumped into a chair and hit my hip on the back rest. As I doubled over slightly he took the opportunity to dance around the table and grab onto me, the same smile on his face as if he thought I still found him attractive and desirable. I didn’t. All I felt was hatred. He gripped my chin in an iron grip and brought himself closer. I darted away and stepped back, ‘you are not allowed to touch me anymore. I’m not yours anymore – you can’t touch me’
‘Don’t be stupid, of course I can touch you. I’ll touch you if I want to touch you,’ (his answer to everything – ‘I’ll do something if I want to do it’).
‘No, you can’t. Only one person can touch me’. It was then I revealed that I was seeing someone else. Little did he know that we’d been literally on one date, but I still felt that was enough at that point to say I was seeing someone since it was heading that way. I wanted to see his control vanish. Perhaps stupidly, I thought he would cave in and admit defeat. I could win.
He pushed me back against the counter and placed his hands either side, trapping me. He got right up close in my face, his anger pulsing and he reached for a glass behind me on the counter and smashed it. I remember his shouting at me, his pure fury, the fire in his eyes and myself trying to push against him, feeling this had got too much and I wasn’t in control anymore. He asked me questions, ‘have you had sex?’ ‘who is this cunt?’. Terrified and desperate for any way out I pleadingly answered his questions. I remember him settle slightly when I said we hadn’t had sex, the rage still boiling inside him but there was a glint in his eye.
His grip was fierce and strong and he spun me, my back to him and hitting my head against the cupboard and holding me there. He only did it for a few seconds but it wasn’t consensual, to remind me who owned me. I just remember watching my tears drop onto the broken glass in between my hands as I tried to come round to what was happening. I pushed and struggled and cried. He withdrew finally once he’s had his fill and I ran. There were steps leading to the front door and he caught up with me. He nudged me and I slipped, falling down the first few stairs. Stunned by the sudden impact, I sat there. He stepped down and knelt beside me, gripping my face in that same way and bringing us nose to nose. Staring into my eyes, he said, ‘don’t you dare leave this house and make me think this is my fault’. And with that, he shoved me down the remaining stairs all the way to the bottom.
I think that’s the only time I’ve sat and recounted everything and been brutally honest. I tell it not for you to read, not for pity, but because I’ve realised it’s always tumbling around in my brain and gives me headaches, and I wanted all of the details out in the open and out of my head. Should I be proud to get it all out? I just feel terrified to be honest, but I hope that by the time I get used to the fact that I’ve been true and honest, I can accept it and maybe my scars from that time, now three years ago, can heal and I can stop hating everyone around me and seeing them as a threat. I want to love everyone – that’s the thing. I want to be the person I know I am. But the manipulation and emotional abuse has unfortunately left its mark. It took me a long time to stop crying about it. It was only about 15 months ago that I stopped feeling the grief and panic from it. Now I am left with the effects – the hatred and fear of people, the jealousy, the suspicion and wariness I wear on my shoulders every day. I feel dizzy from recounting it and I’ve cried from writing it. Not because of me and pity and sadness, but because I think I’m starting to love myself again, and writing all of this, it makes me think – what would it be like to hear this has happened to someone you love – like your daughter or sister? I’m sorry, so sorry this happened. And I’m sorry that I’ve kept it to myself. But this isn’t my fault, and I’m crying for that because, confusingly, I love myself, and I’m so so sorry this happened. I never knew how bad it was until I started reading other people’s stories and realised I related to them. Last night I made love with my boyfriend and it was the first time I realised it was just him and I involved, and he wanted me, only me, for myself and for love and for nothing else. It was so special and I’ve never felt that before. It was something.