Having to leave someone behind whom you care deeply about is never easy, but sometimes, it is totally necessary. Recognizing a person who is abusive or manipulative is complicated and definitely difficult to accept. It is not as black and white as some may think. Abusive does not always entail physical fights, it can also come in the form of control, manipulation, and belittling. Does this person control who you talk to? Does this person control your money, or your belongings? Do they tell you how to dress? Do they express disapproval toward you as a person or who you surround yourself with? Do they embarrass you in front of their friends or family? These are just a few traits of someone who has controlling tendencies.
I fell hard for a boy who, despite his many amazing qualities, was controlling. I was so blind to his behavior that I made excuses for the things he did, the lines he crossed. My best friends left me behind, my parents and I fought for a while. Only later did I realize the person I loved most, was isolating me from those I loved just as deeply. I left my home in New Hampshire after a year in my relationship to pursue a degree in Florida, but after just a few short weeks, dropped out and resorted to my local community college instead. I told myself that is what I wanted, but later on realized I only wanted to soothe the tension in my relationship, prove to Him that I was loyal and would do whatever it took to be with him. Instead of expecting support from him, I told myself he wanted me close because he loved me so much. I had to share my location with him just to prove I was at work or school and not cheating. I had to show him my phone every night before bed to prove to him I was never lying to him about who I talked to. I skipped out on family cookouts and birthdays because I was so sure it would prove my love for him was greater than for anyone else in my life. The most frightening part of this was that I was willing to do it if it meant proving to him that I was a trustworthy partner. Soon, it became physical. A couple beers or shots with friends and he was angry at me for something he could not put his finger on. He would hurt me sometimes, but I told myself he was just drunk. He needed me to take care of him, be there for him, because no one else would be. He controlled every part of my life for 3 years. Who I spoke to, who I hung out with, how I spent my money, what time I went to bed, what I wore, if I wore makeup or not, how many hours I worked, what classes I took, and I let him do it. I told myself it was all because he cared too much. He had issues, but I could fix it, help him and improve our relationship. Isn’t that what people do when they love each other?
The truth is, I took a very long time to realize I was in an abusive relationship. I made excuses for him both for myself, and to present to others when they tried to express their concern. I did not want to believe it. However, after a while I began to become spiteful towards him. I did not appreciate his control, I wanted to be able to do things without being tracked down 24/7. I wanted to be able to make friends without feeling guilty and raising unnecessary suspicion. Why couldn’t he let me do that?
I wanted to save him so badly. I loved him so much throughout our 3 years together that I forgot how to love myself. I listened when he told me I was stupid or ugly. I allowed him to control me because it was easier than pushing back and putting our relationship in jeopardy. Eventually I took a big step and submitted a transfer application, and after being accepted, confirmed the beginning of my new college journey at UNH. I knew it would cause tension, and in the back on my mind I knew it would be difficult. It took me a couple weeks at school to realize I could not fully immerse myself into my new home with him in my life. He had too much power over me. It took me days to decide I was going to leave him, and up until the night I did, I was sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat or sleep. Was I letting him down? What if I make the wrong choice and I regret it? What will he do without me to take care of him? Who will be his person?
The problem with these questions is that none of them have to do with me. My own wellbeing was of no concern to me. After all the years spent with him, I forgot to put myself first. I forgot how to love myself. I forgot how to stand up for myself.
It has been over a month since I took the plunge into being single. The transition was hard, the first week or so I was a mess. After a few days, though, I began to feel lighter. No one was blowing up my phone, asking who I was with and demanding an immediate reply. No one was begging me for money or asking me to come back home for a few days despite the fact I had commitments for school. I surrounded myself with people who support me and my personal growth. I am slowly, but surely, finding myself again, and taking my sweet time doing it. I am putting myself first, and it feels great. I do think about him from time to time. I hope he is doing okay, and I hope he is finding himself in the same way I am. I do not feel hostile or sad, I feel optimistic and proud.
If you are stuck in a relationship with a friend, parent, teacher, or significant other, you are the only one who has control over it, and you are the only one with the power to change it. You are your own independent person, and you can leave. You can leave any situation that makes you feel less than what you aspire to be. No matter how hard it is, lean on those that support you and your choices. They will push you through whatever situation has you stuck. You deserve the best, and you have to love yourself enough to give it to yourself. Just remember; you can leave.