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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"That" Relationship

Photo by Jon D Barker
There is nothing easy or simple about leaving an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship. All the signs and red flags might be extremely obvious to those outside of the relationship, but it's a little harder to navigate when you're the one being made to feel like everything is your fault.

I have never publicly spoken about this relationship out of respect and out of wanting it all to just disappear. Now, in 2018, I know that the only one that deserves respect here is me. Not talking about it has let it continue to live in my head and affect me more it should have ever been allowed to.

Even now, I feel absolutely horrible writing about this.


This relationship started like many others do. Life was at a standstill, nothing had changed in a while and I was ready for something new. He was, as far as I could tell, everything that I had hoped to find in a partner.

The real issues began when I saw his personality start to shift. In just a few months, he turned into an incredibly emotionally manipulative and co-dependent person. My need for independence is one of my leading traits, so it didn't take very long for me to become frustrated and to start feeling like I was incredibly stuck in a situation I couldn't get out of.

I never feared him. I just, for reasons I can't get into, felt an incredible sense of responsibility for his happiness and well-being. He made some big sacrifices in his personal life to ensure that we could be together, and I couldn't shake that feeling of responsibility. What's really fucked up about that is that I never asked him to do anything, nor was I included in any discussion that led to his decision-making. He made decisions on his own that led me into a cycle that would, later on, be incredibly hard for me to break.

Friendships


Things started to fall apart very quickly. I think we were 4 or 5 months into our relationship before I'd been completely alienated from my friends. Choosing to spend time with anyone besides him was impossibly hard, as he would always have some excuse to become emotionally distressed. His excuses varied from feeling alone, to feeling anxious about things due to troubles from his past, to simply feeling like I would rather spend time with other people. In 3 years, I saw my best friend twice while living a 10 minute train ride away from her.

The only real friends I was able to see/maintain a relationship with were the friends we had in common. I would see these people every day, mostly because we lived with them. Soon enough, even these friendships became toxic to me when he started to accuse me of "stealing his friends". In the final year of our relationship, he actively told me that I was not allowed to befriend his friends because they were "his", and that he didn't want me to steal his friends again.

Work


This boy and I met through mutual interests. We both had friends in the same circles, we had similar hobbies and we wanted similar things. His insecurities got in the way of it all for him, which I sympathised with at first... but there's only so much you can do to help someone that complains about the same thing for years, but does nothing about it.

In any other relationship, this probably wouldn't have directly affected my work. The reality of the situation, however, was that it became incredibly difficult to pursue a hobby that he felt too bitter to support. I often felt ashamed of continuing to do something that he had given up on. It became evident to me, later on, that his insecurities were making him feel like I was excelling at all the things he wanted to do. I can understand how it might have felt like I had "taken over" all the things that he felt territorial about.

The only time I had to switch off from everything was my part-time job. I started working in retail to make some extra money, and to get me out of the house while I wasn't at university. Being at home and listening to him shout into his headphones and smashing his keyboard while playing online games became my actual living hell.

Sex


Yep, I'm going to talk about sex. Without going into too much detail or revealing more than I am willing to, this played such a huge part in what, ultimately, gave me the strength to leave. In a healthy relationship, sex should be about love, affection, pleasure and making your partner feel good. And for the first while, it was.

Everything fell apart when I was diagnosed with HPV. What should have been a moment where I felt supported, turned into a vortex of being unreasonably guilted for the inconvenience of having a virus in the first place. Over the course of 4 or 5 months, I visited Portugal multiple times to visit my gynaecologist and get tests and procedures done. These procedures saved my life and prevented the development of cervical cancer. Surely this should have been a happy, relieving moment. It was not. After my cervical laser conization, I had to abstain from sex for a month. This was met with extreme disappointment and pressure to have sex anyway.

What's worse (and what I will never be able to forgive) is that he refused to go and get tested for HPV. Even after all my procedures and doctor visits, he refused to get checked out and put me at risk of getting it again. When I had a conversation about this with him, he turned it on himself and how his deep-seeded insecurities from his past made it impossible for him to go. How is that even remotely related, you ask? I have no idea. This man was an artist at making me feel terrible for expecting the most basic level of respect and consideration.

He would lose all control of himself and his strength during sex. Time and time again, I would have to push him off me so that he would stop squeezing my thighs and pinching my skin to the point where I would have bruises. I am all for a bit of consensual kinky pain during sex, but forgive me for demanding that someone doesn't actually physically injure me every time we fuck.

Break-Ups


I think, from memory, that my first attempt to break-up with him happened 6 months in. I was feeling entirely overwhelmed by him and isolated from all the people & things I cared about. He took zero interest in my life, my friends and my family. Quite frankly, I just wanted out... but again, I had that huge sense of responsibility for his happiness. Leaving him would result in him being left entirely alone. Naturally, he used that as the focal point for his first bout of emotional manipulation. I stayed.

The second attempt at a break-up was another 6-or-so months later. We had been living together in a new place for 4 months and I was unemployed, depressed, underweight and miserable. I honestly just wanted to disappear from that situation and go home. But still, I loved him. I wanted things to work. I wasn't breaking up with him over a lack of love, it was simply that I felt so unappreciated, misunderstood and invisible to him that I couldn't let it carry on. A late-night conversation let to yet another case in which I was made to feel terribly for expecting more from him. I stayed.

The third attempt happened a year later, when we'd moved to a new flat in an attempt to start fresh. Things were good for a while because he was so consumed by his video-games, that I had the freedom to do a lot more. I started going out, seeing friends and inviting friends over. This, ultimately, is what allowed me to really see the pattern that I was in. My friends would openly tell me I had to get out. My family was desperate for me to make a move. This conversation happened late at night once again (as most serious conversations did - an afterthought on his part after realising that I was shutting myself off and not giving a shit about him anymore), but this time it took a turn. It was a lot more calm than previous conversations, and (although still in an emotionally manipulative way) he explained himself and his behaviours to me calmly, and promised that things would change. I stayed.

The Final Straw


We moved house one more time. I really believed that things had changed for good, and I was happy. I loved him with every last bit of hope and strength that I had in me. We were both working part-time, had healthy independent lives of our own and were seeing much less of each other even though we lived under the same roof. This was such a good thing, because it meant that we were enjoying the time that we did have together.

I started seeing a therapist to help with my depression. I started exercising and joined a pole-fitness class to help with my self-esteem. I was going out with my friends and living my life exactly how I wanted to. My relationship seemed to be back on track - until it wasn't.

We agreed to go out individually with our friends one night, meet at the club and then come home together. This should have been fine, except when I got there, he was already completely wasted and needing to get home. He could never quite handle his alcohol and I was not willing to let him ruin another night for me. I ignored him for as long as I could before he desperately needed someone to get him home. I was fuming.

We got home and I had no patience left for him and his constant need for babysitting. After throwing up all over himself, I got him fully-clothed into the shower and turned the cold water on him so he would sober up. After putting him to bed, I went and sat in the living room for a while so I could have some time to breathe and to think. This was when he got out of bed and came to sit next to me to tell me about how I was the reason he got so drunk.

He told me that he felt like I didn't want him anymore. He said that the only reason I wanted a nose job was so that other men would find me attractive, and how I was being a slut for joining pole fitness. He went on to explain how my need for independence was selfish of me when "he had done so much to change for me." I got up to end the conversation there, but he grabbed me and held me back down in an attempt to make me listen to his usual emotionally manipulative excuses for apologies. I fought him off me, went to bed and he didn't follow.

In the morning, he crawled into bed, tried to spoon me and tried to initiate sex. This was not an uncommon occurrence, since sex had become a trivial way of "making up" and "moving on" from an argument. I honestly could have punched him in the dick. I couldn't care any less whether or not it's true that he was so drunk he couldn't remember the night before. I remember it. I had made my mind up, there and then, that our relationship was over. There wasn't going to be another attempt to break up this time, because it wasn't up for discussion.

I got out of bed, got dressed and went to sort out a new place to live. In the evening, I called my mum to tell her what I was about to do. Then, I told him.

"I want out of this relationship for good, and I am moving out tomorrow."

I think he knew I was serious because he didn't fight me on it. He cried as he usually would have, but this time I didn't. I knew that my self-respect and self-love had to be larger than my love for him. I knew that this had to happen, no matter what my feelings were. Love was not enough on its own anymore.

I moved out. I kept every detail off of the Internet for years.

The first several months were really hard. I didn't know how to be alone and I needed to navigate myself out of my feelings for him. Moving out was the right thing, and I knew it, but it's hard to really believe it when you're laying in bed on your own for the first time in 3 years. I had to rebuild my whole life and my relationships with my friends. I was so used to that constant presence, that I found it super difficult to adjust. It took a few months to really let go of him, to stop meeting up with him to talk about feelings and to go cold-turkey on all communication.

The last time I ever saw him, he was mad. He'd brought with him a notebook in which he'd written a long list of all the things that he thought I had done wrong, all the ways in which I had hurt him and all the ways in which I was to blame for what happened to us. I let him read it out. One final attempt to make me feel guilty and to manipulate me into feeling like his happiness was my responsibility. I listened. I laughed internally.

The Aftermath


This relationship really fucked me up. I wish I could say that I'm not phased by it anymore, or that I don't think about it anymore. I still think about it often. I still get angry about it often. I wish, more than anything, that I didn't feel sceptical of my feelings and that I didn't feel constantly afraid that they might be influencing my judgement.

I learned a lot, for sure. Going through all this helped me become a much stronger person. I am no longer afraid to demand to be treated the way I deserve. I am no longer too passive to bring issues up as soon as they arise. I am working on telling my brain to shut the fuck up every time I feel uncomfortable & tell myself to grin and bear it. I am trying to not automatically blame myself every time things aren't perfect. I am trying to not let one bad relationship ruin my ability to love and to trust others to do right by me.

This is my story. This is my truth. I am so afraid to talk openly about this because I've kept it to myself for so long. I'm so uncomfortable at the thought of this opening a can of worms.

I haven't got an inspiring end to this story at all because none of this, before, during or after was a glamorous or inspiring ordeal. Emotional manipulation is hard to navigate. Love is not enough when you don't nurture it how you should. All of this was hard and horrible, and 2 years later, it still stings. I know now that I deserve to be able to move on from this. Writing about it is the final step in doing that.

Put yourself first. Look after your own well-being and be selfish towards the people that don't take your feelings into consideration. Don't let love cloud your judgement and absolutely do not settle for less than you deserve.

* Thank you to my friends & family who saw me through every struggle, listened to every problem and held me up throughout this entire experience. Thank you to all my nearest and dearest that read this before I posted it, and reassured me that I was doing the right thing. I would be an empty shell of a person if not for you and your constant love and support. I am only half as strong as I am because I have you behind me. I love you all xxx
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23 comments

  1. You are so inspiring, thank you for sharing!

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  2. So glad you’re in a much better place now, thank you for sharing this ❤️

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  3. Hi Bianca, I started watching your videos all those year ago when you and this person were dating and you were making vlogs about your life at uni. I loved those videos because you seemed like a good couple with life I could relate to. After reading this post It's scary to think what was really going on. I'm still watching your videos to this day and I'm happy that you got out of this relationship and are doing much better now. Love from Prague! Klara

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    1. I can't help but feel terrible about having shared such a clouded reality of what was really going on. Thank you for being kind and for sticking around for as long as you have! Lots of love to you too 💛

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  4. Thank you for posting this. You're very brave and I admire you for writing it all out. I only just started going to therapy to deal with my abusive relationship and boy, revisiting it all has weakened me in every aspect. But it's important for us to stick together so that we can become our best selves :) It's easier said than done, but I believe we can get there! <3

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    1. Therapy is a hard but wonderful thing 💛 I hope you manage to find peace & that you find it in you to be kind to yourself! We can certainly get there, and we will.

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  5. Thankyou for sharing this! It will help a lot of people I'm sure, and I'm glad you're in a good relationship now! x

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  6. You’re so so brave for posting this. I can relate to this on so many levels and it’s not until you’re out of the situation that you see it for what it truly was. That can be hard in itself because you almost feel stupid for not seeing it, but that shouldn’t be the case at all, love makes people do things that they wouldn’t normally do and view things very differently. Sharing this will help so many people, we have to stick together and look out for each other ������

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    1. Thank you Catherine 💛 I'm so pleased for you that you managed to get out as I did. Onwards and upwards!

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  7. So brave of you to share this! And I just love your style of writing! You should write a book !

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    1. Thank you so much 💛 I would love to write a book someday.

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