There’s a lot of damaging behaviors in relationships that we so often romanticize; we have a way of rewriting our pain so it comes off as poetic. And with emotional abuse, that’s so easy to do because of the push and pull of it. The days of heartache and misery and sleeping beneath the same sheets but existing in two very different worlds can be met with a week of absolute euphoria, grand romantic gestures and adoration.
But for those of us who have found ourselves in an abusive relationship, we know that being swept up in the chaos of it all is what keeps us in the toxic cycle. Each time they fall back on hoovering techniques to drag as back into their games, we tell ourselves they really have changed—of course they have. We gush to our friends about the wonderful dinner they cooked for us after a tough day at work, how they massaged our feet without once complaining that we never do the same for them. We post photos on social media of the roses they bought us and our favorite chocolates “just because,” when in reality, they’re apology flowers or “please don’t leave me, look, I can make an effort” flowers.
When our friends keep giving us harsh reality checks because they can see just how well he’s pulled the wool over our eyes once again, we become defensive. We repeat his words to them, telling them he’s had a difficult life, his childhood was messy and his parents never loved him enough. We tell them he didn’t mean to hurt us, we try to convince them that his tears were real when he apologized, that he’s damaged and we need to stick around to help him.
But in all this, in the lying to our friends and family about how much he’s changed and lying to ourselves about how hurt and afraid we really are and keeping up appearances on social media, we feel isolated and exhausted. We want so badly for it to be okay. We want to not feel broken every time he calls us crazy or insecure or overly emotional every time we simply call him out on his shit. We want to believe that this sort of thing happens in every relationship. We tell ourselves we’re just so in love and with every passionate thing, there’s bound to be blazing fights. There’s bound to be words so hurtful that no apology will ever erase them. There’s bound to be times when his anger overwhelms him and he grabs us; it’s our own fault for pushing him that far. We start to believe all of the awful things he’s told us over the years—that we are to blame and he’s just doing his best, that he’s a truly great guy for putting up with us.
In romanticizing it, we keep ourselves trapped and we keep him in control. We put this fairytale spin on something far more sinister because we can’t cope with the idea that we wasted so much time on someone so unworthy of our love.
But sweet girl, if you’re reading this and you’re here in this cycle, if you lay beside him at night and feel as if the walls are closing in on you, romanticizing it won’t make it change. Convincing yourself won’t make it so. You’re worth more. You’re worth something that doesn’t need romanticizing because it just is.
It just is.