That’s what the people who didn’t know her well enough thought anyway. She always wondered why people assumed everything was perfect when they really had no idea. But she could see why they assumed everything was great. She heard herself paint a flawless picture of their relationship. To everyone else, she had everything she could have ever wanted. A great job. A great partner. A great life.
But it wasn’t great. It was never really great. Maybe in the beginning but definitely not after the first month or two. But she stayed. She stayed because she loved him.
What people didn’t see was behind closed doors, he wasn’t really that nice to her. He’d easily extinguish any positivity that she tried to put out into their world. She’d encourage him to follow his dreams and he’d tell her how there was no way he could ever do it. He was telling himself all of the reasons why he couldn’t be the person she saw him to be and then he’d take it out on her if she tried to help him reach his goals.
But she was happy. Wasn’t she? I mean she was telling herself all of the time she was happy. She was trying really hard to convince herself that this is what this was supposed to feel like. Even though happiness felt a lot like misery. And sure late at night as he laid beside her, she’d cry. But that was normal– right?
She started to notice cracks and inconsistencies in his stories. When she would question him, he’d tell her that her anxiety was getting the best of her. That she needed to go back to therapy and get her thoughts in check. He gaslighted her into thinking it was her own insanity that was fueling the growing ache in her heart. But really, narcissists use this tool often when they think they’re losing the grip on the person they’re trying to control.
So, he told her everything she needed and wanted to hear in order to stay. He told her no one else would be able to put up with her. He never told her that he found her pretty anymore. He made her feel like she needed him. Behind closed doors, he told her things that made her feel like she would never do better because she wasn’t worth anything.
Out in the world, in front of her parents or her friends he treated her like a queen. Those moments of goodness would convince her he was worthy of her defending him constantly. When she would accidentally slip to her friends the comments he made behind closed doors, she defended him fiercely when her friends told her that wasn’t OK. She would wave them off and explain away the damaging comments with ‘he’s just stressed’ or ‘he didn’t really mean it.’
But even if he didn’t mean those words, it didn’t mean they weren’t haunting her in everything she did. She stopped believing in her own power and strength. She felt needy and completely defeated. She was exactly the way he wanted her to be.
That’s the thing about emotional abuse. It’s not something you can see on someone’s skin but it’s something that sticks with someone.
Any type of abuse is unacceptable. She explained away his because he wasn’t actually hurting her physically. But those emotional wounds he was leaving were deep and going to be a bitch to heal. She hid them in her soul and wouldn’t let anyone see them because she didn’t want people to not like him. She wanted everyone to love him as much as she did.
So, she hid in the bathroom stalls at work. She lingered in his bathroom. She didn’t tell her friends everything that happened. She cried by herself. She never knew how lonely it could be even though she was surrounded by people constantly. She was lonely because no one really knew the weight of everything she was carrying.
The scary thing is that the people who were close to her actually could see it. They could see that something wasn’t quite right. But they believed her when she said everything was OK.
When he finally left because he realized he couldn’t take anymore from her, that’s when the façade shattered. That’s when she let herself come completely undone and show everything the pain that was so deeply buried in her heart.
Suddenly, that perfect picture illusion was shattered. Suddenly, she had to pick up the pieces of self-doubt and worthless that were instilled in her over the entire relationship. She had to turn to the people she had almost shut out to help her get back on her feet.
She had to find her strength again.
His words still echo in her mind. His words reminding her of why she wasn’t good enough and when he left it proved to her she was never going to be. He was the one who told her how awful she was and when he left, she blamed herself.
Abuse is abuse. It doesn’t matter what form. It took her admitting that she had been used and victimized by someone she loved more than anything to start the healing process. She gave people a glance into what they called picture perfect and that’s when they realized you never truly know someone’s situation.
Slowly but surely, her strength started to return and she started the long process of healing what he tried to destroy.