This Is How I Regained My Self-Worth After An Abusive Relationship

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A woman is sitting crossed legged with her arms opened.Alexa Mazzarello / Unsplash

I was an ordinary girl, from a protective conservative family. My parents loved me, I had a close extensive family, and overall I had an extremely happy and carefree childhood.

But I guess a lot of stories start like that.

Nobody ever thinks they’ll be the ones who fall prey to the wolves.

Fast forward, it’s the first week in college. He’s handsome, charming, and a pastor’s son, so surely he’d be nice. Times goes on, we start dating.

He turns out to be manipulative, emotionally abusive, and eventually sexually abusive.

We all know the type: works for a church, attends every Sunday, mistreats his lady friend when nobody’s looking.

And people always ask me, why did I stay with him two long years?

And for a solid five years, I could not answer that question. And it truly haunted me.

I kept racking my brain, wondering why I stayed with him. Was I just stupid and didn’t see the red flags? Or was I living in denial, hoping I could “change him” or whatever nonsense people in toxic situations tell themselves.

And the nightmares continued, the guilt and shame was suffocated. The self loathing went down to my core, and I honestly thought I would never recover from this.

But there’s this glorious thing called therapy. And in one hour, all the things that had been plaguing me for years just melted away into nothing.

Because the truth is, I didn’t recognize the red flags as red flags. A lot of his behavior was very similar to a close childhood friend, almost like a sister, and since these were two people who “loved” me I just assumed their behavior was a form of love.

They both belittled me, and no matter what I said or did it was either wrong or bad or embarrassing in their eyes. Both treated me as if I was an ignorant child, and treated me as such. That’s how the manipulation started with him, which led to worse things that do not need to be described. It didn’t help that all my friends at the time were telling me that I should stay with him to “save him” because for some reason that was the ideal in that crowd, which I did not agree with then and do not agree with now. Between his manipulation and the “advice” I got from the people around me, I didn’t even know breaking up was an option. Nobody told me it was ok to call it quits.

So all these years, I had been trying to convince myself that I didn’t know what was happening, but it wasn’t until those dots connected that I truly believed it. I was finally freed from the weight of “why did I stay” and “how did I not see this” and “was I stupid or in denial,” these thoughts that had tormented me for so long.

I didn’t register what was happening, and by the time I did I had no way to get out. I, just an ordinary girl from a loving family, was tricked and manipulated into an abusive relationship without even understanding what was going on. The fault was not mine.

And it “only” took five years and a great therapist to get me to see the truth of my innocence. Sometimes all it takes is understanding what the situation was, and what it meant to you, for all the demons to vanish into smoke.

You know what happened after this little revelation? Suddenly I became a person again, a real person with value and worth who deserved to be treated like a queen. It took away my victim status, and changed it into that of a survivor. I was not somebody’s doormat, I was someone who was cruel taken advantage of, but had grown wiser and would never be treated like that again. A phoenix rising out of the ashes is a good image of this, I might get it tattooed some day as a reminder of who I am.

I know that in today’s media there’s a lot out there about sexual abuse. But nobody talks about emotional or verbal abuse, and the first thing people say is “well why did she let him do that” or “she shouldn’t be out late alone, especially wearing that” and that is what is more destructive than anything else. It belittles what happened, it condemns the victim, and it gets rid of that person’s value as a person.

I know, I’ve been there.

So if you’re there now, or if you can’t move past it yet, I want to encourage you to hold on.

I never thought I’d move past this, never feel like I had any value or was worth anything, never love myself after all I had been through.

But here I stand, and while I’ve still got a long road ahead of me, and what happened to me can never be undone, it no longer controls me.

So hold on. This too shall pass. TC mark

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