Friday Faves: I Was in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Why is that women stay with their abusers? A little less than two years ago, I certainly couldn’t have told you the answer to that question. Now I can. And that’s because I did.

I’ll never be able to pinpoint the exact moment when my relationship with Chris started to become unhealthy. It could have been as early as the moment I met him. It could have been the first time he criticized my weight. It could have been when he started controlling who I could hang out with. It could have even been the very first time he called me a “stupid slut.” Really, at this point it all becomes a big blur full of screaming, name calling, and suicidal threats, not to mention one very unhealthy pattern of fighting and making up.

With each fight, the emotional abuse became worse and worse. With each honeymoon period that followed, he’d tell me things would be different this time around and I would always believe him because I thought that our love could conquer anything. Eventually, I became convinced that I was just lucky to stand in his presence. I did anything that I possibly could to prove to him that I was worthy of his love. I gave him every single penny of the mere $100 biweekly paycheck that I earned at my student job. I stopped talking to people he didn’t want me to talk to. I ditched classes to drive an hour so I could bring him lunch at work, just to turn around and drive straight back home to school. No matter what I did, it never seemed to be enough. I was always too fat, too loud, too needy, too slutty, too something.

I guess the reason that I’m thinking about all of this is because I’ve recently been pressured by my current boyfriend to take out a restraining order so that Chris will stop sending me harassing text messages. This would involve me going down to the Alamance County court house to file for it, giving a copy to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to serve to him, digging up phone records of said messages, and then presenting my evidence against him in a civil hearing in which he will be in attendance.

And I guess maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal to someone who hasn’t been in an abusive relationship. Bu to me, Chris still seems 50 feet tall and I still feel like I’m 6 inches. It’s not that I admire him; it’s just that I’ve been so accustomed to thinking of the two of us in this metaphor for almost two years. It’s the equivalent of conquering a giant to me. It’s overwhelming and seems impossible and I just don’t feel ready to do that yet.

I’ve made a lot of progress since I left Chris once and for all in early September of 2010, and I’ll continue to do so. I’m just not ready to stand up and face this particular demon yet. I don’t know if I’m wrong to ask my boyfriend to stop putting pressure on me to file the court order. I don’t know how to explain where I’m coming from in this situation. I feel like unless you’ve been abused like this, you can never really understand the long-term implications and effects of it. The only thing I do know is that I’m not ready to face Chris in a courtroom. I’m not even ready to look at him or hear his voice. Just because I’m getting better doesn’t mean I’m back to the person that I used to be yet.

So why do women stay with their abusers? I can’t really speak for all victims of domestic abuse, but I know why I did for over a year. I did it because I didn’t think I was strong enough to leave. For me, it wasn’t that I’d never considered leaving; I said to other people numerous times that I knew the relationship had become unhealthy. I knew that if I didn’t get out of it, the relationship would continue to consume me until the only thing left was a thin emotional skeleton of what I used to be. I stayed because Chris had convinced me that I wasn’t strong enough to leave him. It took me months to finally leave after that. Despite me knowing I needed to do it and despite my best friends telling me that I had to do it, it was something I had to do on my own time. I think that might be the case here again. I have to wait until I feel strong enough to face him again, because until then I won’t win any kind of battle against him, in court or otherwise.

[A big thanks to reader Lauren for her strength in sharing her story.]

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, you can help.



    1. fannie60 says:

      Have your cell provider block the text messages and / or phone number for your ex??

    2. […] why I do it.” Rock on, Maria — for standing up for yourself and getting out of a toxic relationship and for owning your own definition of beauty in a way that inspires others. I probably would of […]

    3. […] why I do it.” Rock on, Maria — for standing up for yourself and getting out of a toxic relationship and for owning your own definition of beauty in a way that inspires others. I probably would of […]

    4. […] • Emotionally abusive relationships. (College Candy) […]

    5. Jennifer says:

      Stay strong!

    6. Rae says:

      I understand the " he seems 50 feet tall and I still feel like I’m 6 inches" I was in a relationship almost exactly likes yours from April of 2006- October 2010. I wish I had told my family about how bad things were so that it would have ended sooner, but I guess that seemed really scary to me at the time. I'm so glad that I haven't even spoken to him in over a year, and have a wonderfully supportive boyfriend now. Stay strong, and block him from any phone/social networking possible.

    7. […] • Emotionally abusive relationships. (College Candy) […]

    8. diana says:

      i totally understand. i went through it for 5 years.

    9. Natalie says:

      I was married to a man who was an emotional sadist….he got his kicks out of verbally abusing and emotionally degrading me…and when I no longer posed a challenge, and stopped responding (because I was majorly depressed and suicidal)….He Left me for another woman, one he says he will never treat as badly as he treated me. Blamed everything on me, saying that I had become a doormat, and let him get away with too much! In this case, I'm more than happy to say….A Toast to the Better Woman! Hope it works out!

    10. Molly - UNL says:

      I know exactly how you feel, especially about feeling like you weren't strong enough to leave. I knew I was unhappy with my ex, but at that point he had become my entire world and I didn't have an out, when I thought about life without him I would get serious panic attacks because I was so convinced I was nothing without him. Stay strong! We're sooo much better now.

    11. Tams says:

      My ex harassed me for years after I finally got the nerve to leave him. I ended up giving a voice mail tape to the police with a police report and they went and had a talk with him about phone harassment. He stopped for the most part, but sometimes would use someone else's phone and wouldn't leave messages anymore. Leaving is the hard part and you've done that. I'm so happy you were able to do it. I thought my ex was bigger than God until I went to work in a prison for awhile. Suddenly I realized he wasn't so big after all. Good luck in whatever you decide to do about him, but my main suggestion is don't reply to his texts ever.

    12. Natalie says:

      Wow this is exactly what i went through. Its been 8 months since i left; and every day i feel a little stronger. You should continue writing about how you feel now that you arent with him.. all the long term effects.

    13. Sarah says:

      I understand how you feel, and I've been there too. It is up to you whether or not you get a restraining order, not your current boyfriend, or anyone else.
      I did get a restraining order, and 4 years later I still don't know how I made it through the court appearance. I did take a lawyer, my best friend and my mom, to all hear horrible details of his abuse. I did have to listen as my ex publicly degraded me, lied and humiliated me. I didn't make eye contact. I couldn't look in his direction. I did stand on the other side of my lawyer, as a physical barrier.
      Afterwards, I felt strong again, like I was able to stand up for myself, even if I did still feel 6" tall for being so dumb as to allow myself to be treated tha way. My restraining order stopped my abuser from contacting me. However, this is not always the case, and there are stories of police refusing to enforce, and men who continue to torment.
      Save all evidence of his mistreatment, just in case. And, if you fear for him coming near you, get a dog. They're good for things other than protection too.

    14. Sirena says:

      I've been there too. From July 2006-November 2009 I was in a horrible relationship. We met at a family friends', started dating long distance, and it was great until he moved in with me in May 2007. From then on out, it was a spiral into hell. By the time I got up the nerve to leave him, I had to move back in with my parents to be safe, and he tormented me for over a year after I kicked him out. I felt like no one would ever love me again, like no one would want me because of what he had turned me into. I was scared of intimacy because of the violence I faced with my ex, and I still cannot stand to feel cornered or yelled at. I completely shut down, and have the freeze reflex. It was the only thing that got me through nights of just lying there, that made me spend hours with makeup to cover the bruises, to lie to my family defending him. I tripped, it was my fault. Well dammit, no it wasn't! It took me a long time to get healthy again, and now I have a newborn with a fantastic guy who makes me feel safe and loved, and whole. So hang in there, it gets better, and you WILL end up happy. Keep the faith.

    15. Ruthie says:

      It's hard. I was in the same situation except he wanted me to loose my virginity to him, he slept with other people on a bi weekly basis and always told me it was my fault because he needed sex and if I wasn't putting out he'd have to find it somewhere else. He would tell me that he loved me and that he wanted a future with me and that he'd be okay with waiting for me to be ready. I thought I loved him and that's why I stayed and I forgave him every time he cheated. I started to feel like everything was my fault and I stopped going out or seeing any of my friends. He was the only person I talked to except my parents. We broke up a couple of times but I would always go back because I thought I needed him. It took me about two years to get over it but a year after I had told him that it was over for good, I met the man I'm with now who couldn't be any different. He loves me so much and he treats me with so much respect to took a while but he earned my trust and I'm so thankful to have him. I did it by myself and I still haven't confronted him and told him what an ass I think he is but I know that I'm worth every happiness I have and that I don't deserve to be cheated on.

    16. Ruthie says:

      Any more different is what I meant to say in my other post

    17. Amanda says:

      Please read The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. It helps and gives some signs of how to recognize when an emotional abuser can turn into a physical abuser or more. That book even advises against restraining orders in some cases… Hopefully that can give some insight to the situation as well.

    18. CCT says:

      Why don't you change your phone number?

    19. anon says:

      FILE THE RESTRAINING ORDER before it's too late. It was too late for me– my ex ended up raping me and is now in jail for it. I was going to file the RO before the rape happened but held off because he insisted he would leave me alone. He never did. And now is behind bars for what he did. File the RO you don't want it to continue.

    20. Liz H. says:

      I had an emotional roller coaster of a LDR for a bit over a year. Like Lauren, there were so many cycles of arguing then making up. What kept me going were the good points.I let those few and far between moments overshadow the much more frequent times of him being a jerk. Like her, whatever I did never seemed to be enough either. We didn't talk enough, I didn't say I love you enough, I didn't do this enough. Unlike Lauren though, I didn't have to leave; ironically, he left me. Two months ago, I was crying because he was gone. Today, I'm glad he's gone because I don't have to deal with him anymore. (1/2)

    21. Liz H. says:

      The lessons I've learned from this: 1) no one will ever be enough for guys like him and I will never allow myself to be with someone like that ever again; 2) I deserve to be with someone who will love me for who I am and not who he wants me to be; 3) listen to your friends when the majority of them tell you your boyfriend is a jerk – they're not biased, they're right; 4) a relationship takes work, but it shouldn't be stressful – the good should always outweigh the bad by a large margin. Like Lauren, I realized the relationship wasn't good for me, but I had to learn it the hard way. (2/2)

    22. Lauren says:

      Hi all. This is Lauren, the author of the original post. I just wanted to give an update, since it’s been almost a year since this was originally posted. I didn’t end up filing the restraining order. For me, that was the right move. My ex lived far enough away that he didn’t pose a physical threat and it would have been way too emotionally painful for me to go to trial.

      A year later, I’m feeling strong and happy. I’m still with the boyfriend who I mentioned in the article and we recently moved in together. He is the exact opposite of what I was used to and I am so appreciative of everything he does for me. Every once in awhile, the emotional scars from my ex flare up and I have a breakdown because I feel like I’m not worthy of being loved or something similar to that. When that happens, it is nice to have the reassurance I need now. It hasn’t been an overnight transformation, but I want everyone to know that it is possible to heal and start anew.

      I have been touched and inspired by the outpour of women who were in extremely similar situations to mine and I want to thank you all for sharing your stories. I want you all to know that you’re strong and worthy and you deserve someone who appreciates you. At the risk of sounding cliche, but for lack of a better phrase, it does get better.

      1. sea_b says:

        From the bottom of my heart thank you for putting into words what I still cant after a year, it really helps to be able to read your story and I want you to know you are truly inspirational to put it all out there the way I will never probably be able to 100 percent do.

    23. Boo says:

      I was in an abusive relationship. Mine was a little different, I came from the "popular" crowd and he was a very attractive man that was just on the outskirts of the crew (in HighSchool mind you). When I went off to college we started dating. He couldn't let things go and constantly said I thought I was better than him. That is when the abuse started, this was my first relationship. I put up with the name calling, his family, loosing friends, I lost control of my life for 2 years. It was bad. Finally he did something that scared the crap out of me and I ran for the hills. It has been about 6 years since I saw him. He recently asked me to be his friend on Facebook and I kindly declined. This brought up a bunch of emotional baggage and I happy to have read this article. I am happily married now, and know that there is no reason to ever take any sort of abuse. Thank you.

    24. Luisa says:

      A year after our breakup I was doing great when he contacted me out of the blue. He told me he had been attending therapy, and was now able to admit to himself and to me that he created a lot of conflicts in our relationship trying to assert himself out of a feeling of inadequacy. He confessed that he had wanted to destroy my friendships, happiness, and personal satisfaction in order to bring me down, to "his level" as he'd described it. He had almost succeeded.

      While I had already come to terms, realized the abuse wasn't my fault, and didn't really need the closure at all, it was somewhat affirming to get it directly from the (asshole) horse's mouth. While I wish him well in his journey to become a better person, I don't have much sympathy for him. The cruelty may have been born of pain, but it was calculated and engineered to break my spirit. However, I don't think many get the chance to see their emotional abuser for what s/he really is — an insecure and damaged individual. Don't let one person's dysfunction destroy what's wonderful about you.

    25. 9286 says:

      Whenever you decide to get a restraining order, if you decide to get one, do it for yourself. If you do it because of your current boyfriend, your putting someone else in the controlling position again. I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and after 3 years I finally managed the strength to end it and I was lucky enough to find love with someone who treats me with the love and respect I deserve and I finally feel happy.
      This sense of self worth I have with my current boyfriend gave me the strength to get an order of protection against my ex after he tried contacting me. I filed the order and then told my boyfriend what was going on. He was very supportive and when I won, I felt like I finally got my power back and I would never let something like that happen to me again.
      P.S. Don't be intimidated by whatever stories he tries to spin in court because judges can see right through abusers' bs and you will most likely win the case

    26. […] Friday Faves: I Was in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship ( […]

    27. mk7 says:

      Thank you for sharing your story, so many women go through a similar situation & think they are alone. Also, most people don't realize how common abusive relationships are. Your ex is a total creep, have you considered blocking him from your phone?

    28. stronger2012 says:

      How inspirational to read all the above posts.

      Reading up on emotional abuse is all I seem to have been doing since I left my abusive husband. It has been a week since I left him. We were dating for 8 months before we decided to get married. I was with him for a year and a half, the last 9 months of which have been torture.

      The constant put-downs, name calling, silent treatment whenever it suited him had all become too much. He had told me on numerous occasions that he wasn’t happy with me, how I wasn’t fulfilling my responsibilities towards him as a wife.

      The sad thing is that he’s the only man I’ve ever loved, he was my first love. Now I realise that I was in love what I thought he WAS, not what he really IS. I feel so empty, not because I still love him but because I feel like I’ve been living a lie for the best part of a year. The harsh reality is that he never did love me and is incapable of love. He would often tell me that I didn’t know what love was, that I was too stupid and immature to handle the responsibility of being a wife. He would often mock my profession ( I’m a teacher), and often ordered me to quit my job, that my number 1 priority was him. I thank god that I kept my job, because I would have nothing to keep me going. Since telling my family and close friends, I realise that I never should have married him, the warning signs were there at the start, but I was just too blinded by love to notice. My paperwork at school was suffering because I was just too physically and emotionally drained every evening. I was tired in every way possible.

      I’m very fortunate to have amazing family and friends and they are supporting me in my recovery. I haven’t heard from him since I left, which shows how much he cares. It’s hurtful to love somebody who doesn’t love you back, but as Alanis Morrisette once said: “you live, you learn”. My heart goes out to all those women who are stuck in such abusive relationships, no one deserves to be treated like crap. I’m back at my job tomorrow after a week spent trying to get my head together. I just want normality back in my life, be the person I once was. I know it will take time, and I’ll feel more positive as time goes on, but I’m glad I made it out before the abuse turned physical. The next step is the divorce, I’m hoping it’s stress-free. Best wishes to you all:-)

    29. Someone says:

      I almost cried when I read this. I too was in an extremely emotionally abusive relationship for a little over two years. My ex also sends me texts and phones and I too, cannot find it in me to get a restraining order. My boyfriend is bothered by this and wants me to at the very least block his number but…like the author of this I am not ready to face this demon. Thank-you for helping me feel like I'm not alone….emotional abuse is not talked about, it leaves no physical evidence, and often the person being abused will not even realize the level they were abused till long after the relationship ends. Every day out of it is hard and the fear that your current boyfriend will do what your ex did never fully goes away.

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