My emotionally abusive relationship made me stronger

Recovering from two years of constant guilt and anxiety wasn’t easy


My daily life used to revolved around my relationship with a manipulative, unstable, emotionally abusive man.

Young and insecure, I basked in his attention when he started to show interest in me. He seemed like a charming, handsome, good-humored person.

I had no way of seeing ahead — no way of knowing our budding relationship would be slowly poisoned by his manipulation, unfounded jealousy, mental instability, and constant threats.

Looking back at this relationship, I find myself stunned by just how normal it all seemed at the time.

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In many toxic relationships like mine, the person being abused may not even be aware of it. Unhealthy behavior becomes so normalized in the context of that relationship that it is hard for them to recognize it for what it is.

I had never been in a serious relationship before – I did not recognize the signs of emotional and mental abuse when they began to emerge.

Now, nearly two years after breaking it off for good, I can finally say I have healed. I can now look back on that time of my life without feelings of heartbreak, guilt, or helplessness clouding my judgement. I can now think about that relationship in terms of what it taught me and how I can use that wisdom going forward in my life.

Here’s what I learned.

Listen to your family and close friends

These are the people who know you best. If your mom or best friend comes to you with worries about how your partner is treating you, hear them out. Often, someone in denial about the nature of their unhealthy relationship will attempt to defend and justify the actions of their abuser when concerns are raised by others. Before allowing yourself to get defensive, keep an open-mind and take in what they say along with the knowledge that they care about your wellbeing.

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Your feelings are valid. Period.

Never, EVER let anyone make you feel bad about having the feelings you do. If you feel strongly about something or notice a problem in your relationship, don’t be afraid to express it. Holding things back, just to avoid the risk of the other person blowing up on you, will do very little besides a) allow the problem to keep happening, b) cause you to resent them over time, and c) gradually chip away at your sanity.

If someone tries to convince you that your feelings are not valid or you should feel bad for expressing them, don’t listen. If someone tries to guilt you into thinking that maybe you shouldn’t feel that way, step back and evaluate. Did you come into the argument with a valid concern, and come out of it with the blame somehow on you?

Don’t allow yourself to be dependent on anyone else

Hold your own. This is important.

You can’t be anyone’s lifeline or therapist

You cannot be expected to be put in charge of another person’s mental wellbeing without serious repercussions. If they are in dire need of help, but refuse to seek it from a professional and choose to seek it from you instead, recognize this as a huge red flag. You cannot help this person. A therapist can.

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Believe me— you do not want to spend as many long hours as I did talking someone down. Do not let yourself be the only outlet or source of support this person has for whatever they are going through. Tell a close friend of theirs. Even tell a member of their family, if it requires swift action. At one point, I found myself having to text my ex-boyfriend’s mother about his erratic behavior- only then did he start getting the help he needed.

Red flag: they isolate you from parts of your own life

Being isolated from people you love and/or things you want to do can make a relationship go from “unhealthy” to “toxic.” My friend was forced to miss her senior prom, simply because her emotionally abusive boyfriend wouldn’t allow her to go because he didn’t “trust her.” Similarly, I was never allowed to spend time with any of my guy friends unless I was prepared for an onslaught of guilt, tears, yelling, and arguments that went on for hours.

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This is kind of behavior is controlling, and can very quickly propel you down a rabbit hole of further abuse if they succeed in isolating you. Once they have you all to their self, once they have controlled for any variables that could lead to a way out, they can manipulate your reality even more.

It’s not okay for your SO to monitor your every move

Casually texting throughout the day is normal. Constantly checking in on someone to find out what they’re doing, where they are, and who they’re with is NOT. My ex would text me incessantly throughout the day with questions about what exactly I was doing. Not responding within a certain timeframe would guarantee him absolutely losing his shit, calling me repeatedly until I picked up. This would require me to stay on the phone with him for hours until he was convinced I wasn’t doing anything behind his back. (I never was).

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You will find love again

One of the worst reasons to stay with someone: you’re scared that no one else would ever love you if you left your current partner. In a toxic relationship, this is actually quite an easy trap to fall into. Whether it’s your partner or your own mind spinning this narrative for you – the sooner you recognize it as false, the better. A healthy, loving relationship may just be waiting for you on the other side.

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