This is for all the girls who have been in abusive relationships, girls currently in abusive relationships, as well as everyone who has a mother, a sister, an aunt, or a girl friend. Take this as a cautionary tale.
I used to be naive. I didn't understand people in abusive relationships. Why couldn't they see the toxic environment they are in? And even if they did, why wouldn't they leave? Don't they value themselves?
For me, I thought I was above it all. That I would never be a victim. After all, I'm independent, smart, and have a foolproof method for weeding out unsavory guys. I was invincible.
Or so I thought.
From May to November of last year, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. The ironic detail is that I didn't even know it. In fact, it was only on this St. Patrick's Day that I had the realization.
I now understood, having been in the same position that countless women have been in. Abuse doesn't just come in physical punches, but rather in many forms. Insidious tearing downs and having friends taken away is just as bad, because there are no concrete markings for others to see and step in. Your self-esteem takes a beating and it changes your perception of people forevermore. I know it'll take time for me to learn to trust again.
Looking back, I should have heeded all the subtle warnings made by others while I was in thick of it and trusted my gut—that feeling you get (not unlike indigestion) when something's off. Because, even though you are influenced by your heart, deep inside, you still know when something is wrong.
The disconcerting truth about being in an abusive relationship is it rarely begins as one.
Instead, it started out as any other relationship with genuine feelings and attraction coming from both parties. Although an abusive relationship begins from a place of good intentions, the path it takes soon strays to a different trail. Due to insecurities, or in my case, I was with someone struggling to maintain the facade of the perfect man in spite of a bad reputation.
The ironic thing was, if he had been truthful from the very beginning, this would have had a different ending—one that didn't result in betrayal but rather acceptance. After all, one shouldn't be judged forever based on their past (unless they were a serial killer), but rather upon their present actions.
Instead, he did everything in his power to protect his seemingly spotless image. When confronted about unsettling information about his character and his actions brought up by others, he would change the subject, putting the blame instead on the so-called perpetrator.
By interjecting gossip and creating fabrications, he would bury the truth by undermining the reputations of those who stood up to him or had warned me. The fact whether they were my friends or his friends were irrelevant—all were fair game. To gain my trust, he also used his experience and profession as grounds for knowing better, always putting emphasis on his desire to protect me.
As time went on, I grew unsure of what's true and what's false and my friendships deteriorated. I doubted the sincerity of others, stopped going out and looked to the relationship as my main support.
But by then, the relationship has long changed dynamics. No longer was there communication. In its place, broken dates, exclusions and excuses. When I questioned his many disappearances and trips, he blamed it on work even though there were photos online proving otherwise. More alarmingly, there were flirtatious messages between him and others all over the internet that showed little regard to the relationship or me for that matter. Yet, he always knew just what to say, twisting the situation and claiming I was unsupportive.
I had such a distorted view of him that although it was clear the relationship was ill-fitting, I stayed on due to guilt and obligation. I learned to make due even though I was unhappy. Like a friend had once said, it was as if I was trying to put two pieces of the puzzle that was not meant to be together. You know, the cloud pieces that looks as if they fit so you try again and again, hoping the wear on the sides would give accordingly.
One of the my most regrettable moments in doing so was wavering on my stance on when to become intimate in a relationship. My personal rule is to be in love first. But due to increasing pressure and wrongfully placed guilt, I caved in before I was ready. What was meant to be an intimate and beautiful act became cheapen and debased. It felt as if a part of me died.
After a particularly bad month, my work, family and friends started taking notice. Although I brush off their concern, I finally started looking at the relationship at face value. Making a mental checklist, I realized I was emotionally starving and that there was no hope for the situation getting better.
It was then crystal clear what I had to do.
Over a meal of Chicken McNuggets and a bottle of Mexican coke, I told him I couldn't continue. He blamed work and everything else as usual and pleaded me to stay one year, promising things will change.
Immediately, my gut hurt acutely and this time I paid attention. I simply said no and told him I could very well hate him by then so instead, I'd like to end the relationship on a good note and be friends. After saying it, I felt like Atlas without the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Yet the guilt remain. He works so hard at his job and was I am breaking up with him based on his work ethics? All because I was unhappy? I felt horrible and tried to make amends by making plans to hang out with him—in essence, putting myself in the same cycle.
I was also slow to let others know of the breakup because of the guilt, but as I started opening up months later, it was as if the world finally spoke up about the elephant in the room and the truth came out.
Every event I went to, I learned something new about him through others—and if I had paid attention, even while I was in the relationship. At first I defended him, but the pieces started making sense. Though the truth was hard to hear, it was really the deception and dishonesty involved in concealing it all that was upsetting. To take advantage of someone's good will and trust to protect themselves was and still is hard to believe.
I became angry at myself for the time wasted, but looking at it from another light, I am proud of myself for getting out as quickly as I could, before the point of no return. Not to mention I had repaired my friendships even before I had ended the relationship.
But I've still got a long way to go. Learning to trust, or specifically, trusting the right people will take time.
And so, I want others to heed this cautionary tale. If I could stop at least one other girl from making the same mistake, then it's not for nothing. I wish for everyone to be careful and to look out for their friends because the sad truth is no one is immune.
With this journal entry, I want to take notes for myself, to refer back to as need, these promises to myself:
I will trust my gut.
I will only lose my heart to a man who's willing to fight for me as much as I fight for him.
Do not make due or settle.
Most of all, treasure my friends.
After what seemed to be the worst St. Patrick's Day where I only wanted to stay home, my friend Christina dragged me out the the most random and fabulous party in an Austrian mansion across from Oscar De La Hoya's home. With a night full of authentic Irish meal of corn beef, dill potatoes and boil cabbage, good conversation and better company, I felt renewed.
And yes, even got my chocolate fix with Irish Car Bomb cupcakes—rich and sinfully delicious. As I walked into their bathroom to wash my hands of incriminating crumbs, I looked upon the endless mirrors and in my best Marie Antoinette accent said, "let them eat cake!"