It starts out like a dream. They take you on the best dates you’ve ever been on. They dote on you, they compliment you, they hang on to your every word. Within a couple of weeks, you’re probably thinking you’ve found the one.
Maybe it lasts for a few months, or maybe it lasts for longer, but eventually, things change. A gentle hand holding yours suddenly becomes a firm grasp pulling you away from the aisle you wanted to see in a store. Compliments become subtle put downs. Listening becomes telling. But you don’t see the red flags because you think that they’re doing it out of love.
If they tell you that you look bad in your favorite outfit, you question whether it ever looked nice. If they pull you away from that aisle with the cool new gadget you want to buy, you question whether you’re being impulsive about spending money and if they’re trying to help you. If they tell you that your best friend really doesn’t treat you well, you question all the bad moments you had with your friend and start to wonder if maybe you were wrong about them.
But these are all subtle tactics: gaslighting, control, manipulation, and more. They find the cracks in your skin and slowly reach under to make you question yourself in any decision or choice you once made. I know because I’ve been there.
This isn’t a sad story, though. And this isn’t my story either. This is about your story and what you choose to do next. Abuse in any form is never okay. But abuse in any form is also never easy to leave.
I’m not here to tell you to leave, and I’m not here to tell you how to safely do so. What I’m here to do is tell you that it’s possible to leave. I’ve done it twice, and though I have no intention of needing to do it again, I know that I am capable if the situation presents itself again.
Though you feel lost and small right now, know that you are so much stronger because of what you are weathering. There are countless men and women who have left before, and we are each on your side, silently rooting for you from across the globe. We want to see your story continue. We want to see you shine.
If you or a loved one is affected by an abusive relationship, you can get help today. Visit http://www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233 to speak with a domestic violence advocate.