If there was one word to describe the realisation that I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship, that word would be shame.
It would quickly be followed by the word weakness.
How did I not realise I was in an emotionally abusive relationship? How weak was I to get into this sort of relationship and to stay so long? What does that say about me? What will other people think?
For several years, those two words have hung around me like a bad smell.
I no longer want to give them power, which is why I’m talking about it now and why, during our upcoming sail around Great Britain, my current (and amazing) partner Mark and I are fundraising for the UK charity SafeLives, which works to end domestic abuse. You can donate here.
Every year, over two million people in the UK experience domestic abuse and emotional abuse is a form of that.
It’s characterised by a pattern of behaviour that can be subtle but subversive and involves efforts to control and manipulate through a number of abusive tactics.
These tactics can include gaslighting (where the abuser makes the abused question their judgements and reality), love bombing (excessive attention and affection to make the recipient feel dependent on them), isolating the abused from friends and family, and controlling aspects of their life such as their finances, beside others. Emotional abuse tactics don’t involve physical violence but may hint at the threat of physical violence.
The aim of the abuser generally is to undermine the abused’s self-worth, remove their independence, instil fear and ultimately control their behaviour.
I say it’s subtle because it can happen without you realising it. It’s not like a black eye and the tell-tale signs of physical abuse.
For me, I was naïve.
I just thought this was the rocky road every relationship went through. I just thought we’d be OK, that we would get through it. He did love me; he just had a funny way of showing it.
But I wasn’t happy and I didn’t feel good about myself.
I only broke free when I finally asked myself how can he love me if he wants to emotionally hurt me?
I only broke free when I realised I deserved better.
It was hard. Not everyone is in a position to just walk away. It’s not that easy.
That’s why stopping domestic abuse before it starts is so important.
No one deserves to be treated or made to feel like a worthless human being.
No one deserves to be controlled and manipulated.
No one deserves to live in fear or feel like they are stuck with no way out.
No one deserves to experience emotional abuse or go through the mental anguish I went through.
That’s why I’m fundraising for SafeLives and why their work is so important.
You can do your little bit too.
By making a small (or large) donation you can help change lives and stop domestic abuse.
Please donate and be the change you want to see. Donations can be anonymous.
Click here to make a donation. Thank you!