Trigger warning: abuse
I am a romantic; I live in idealized states. I wear rose tinted glasses until they’re clouded over, cracked and hanging from my face. I pick out the good parts in people and blind myself to the rest.
I’m an optimist when it comes to the goodness of people because I expect others to treat me the way I treat them and it fucks me over 90% of the time. I’m a professional when it comes to defending people, making excuses for them, and just giving them one last chance. I want them to prove me wrong, to just be better, to show up, to stick to a promise, to follow through on something which left their lips in the heat of the moment. But they just don’t, and I feel disappointed and eventually discarded once I am so mentally broken, I give up. Until the cycle begins again, and it always does. Because this is who I am.
But the most devastating, most fucked up thing I have ever done is confuse abuse for love. And that’s not my fault, it’s a byproduct of being a romantic. It’s his fault. His fault for being so clever, so manipulative, so damn convincing, for holding up a mirror and letting me believe that what I gave him and how I loved him was reflected back, but it wasn’t.
I confused abuse for love the first time he told me my writing was “damaging” to women. When he tried to convince me I was “making other women crazy” and I sobbed, trying to defend my work, trying to get this asshole to understand that I wrote what women needed to hear and he told me it “wasn’t good enough.” I confused abuse for love when he told me he was “just trying to help me,” that he didn’t want me to “embarrass” myself. I realized three years later that he meant embarrass him.
I confused abuse for love when he met every discovered lie, every calling out of his poor treatment, every questioning of who she was or why she’s texting with gaslighting, deflection, and manipulation. When he called me crazy, a psychotic bitch, a fucking lunatic. When he convinced me to go to therapy because he had cheated on me and lied about it for two years, and when he told me after my sessions were up that it hadn’t worked because I was “still fucking mental.” I confused abuse for love when I slowly began to believe him, when I told myself, He must love me, he wants to help me. I’m very clearly mentally unwell.
I confused abuse for love when we spent long, drawn out nights arguing, going round and round in circles, when I was so tangled in the webs of his gaslighting that I apologized and he held me close to his chest, stroking my hair as he told me he forgave me. I confused abuse for love in those quiet moments after the storm had hit and blown me apart, when he was gentle and warm and soothing. When I fell asleep in his arms and believed it would get better.
I confused abuse for love every time he scolded me for eating carbs. When he criticized what I wore, how I did my makeup, how I cooked our dinner or did the laundry. When he poked me in the stomach after sex and asked me, “What’s all this?” and then rammed abuse down my throat for being upset by it. I confused abuse for love when he bought me chocolate as an apology and I felt it was good enough. I confused abuse for love when he told me to exercise, then laughed at me when I tried to work out at home. He just wants me to look better, to be healthy and happy. He’s only looking out for me.
I confused abuse for love when he begged for forgiveness after the first time he laid his hands on me. When he told me I had pushed him too far. I confused abuse for love when I believed I was an awful person, that I deserved it, that I was too much , that I was lucky that he put up with me. I confused abuse for love when he bought me flowers and wrote me declarations of love to ensure I wouldn’t leave. When I swallowed the fear burning inside me and kissed him, when I ignored the way he began to taste like poison. When I really believed it would just be once. Once was okay, right? Wrong.
I confused abuse for love when I looked for the damaged parts inside him and tried to love them. When I found excuses for his abuse in his childhood or his past relationships. When I told myself if I was just better, more understanding, more loving, more patient, then he would be the man I wanted him to be. I confused abuse for love every time he pulled me back in, every time my moments of clarity were quickly dismantled by his promises of the future, of us. Every time he told me he loved me and I really believed that love meant to him what it does to me.
I confused being trapped in that house with him, with returning to hell knowing it would burn me around the edges before completely smoking me out, with passion, love, desire. A need. With this fairytale life I so desperately craved from him, when I was simply existing in my own nightmare, and I just didn’t want to see it.
I confused abuse for love until the very end, and it changed me.
Made me pick up the pieces of my entire being and fix them back together in some new way I didn’t quite recognise.
But knew damn well I would never confuse abuse for love again.