“You’re not as smart as you think you are.” “You’re so stupid.” “You can’t wear that. Other men can’t look at you.” “You can’t talk to that person.”
When I was in my early- to mid-20s, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I heard all of these things and more. I was encouraged to not wear makeup, although I am a beauty product aficionado. I had to deal with envy toward male co-workers, and he was trying to pull me away from my family. I was in a dark place in my life, where anxiety and depression plagued me, and I was unsure if I would make it through to see the light at the end of the tunnel, much less reach it.
But, I made it. And I’m stronger now after this experience, as much as I hate looking back on this time in my life. Now, as I prepare to marry the man of my dreams (who is NOT the individual from my earlier life), I know what constitutes your own Happily Ever After versus a fairytale wannabe.
Millions of men and women across the world experience at least one emotionally abusive relationship. While each relationship has its differences, the signs of emotional abuse tend to be the same. If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you could be in the midst of an emotionally abusive relationship:
- Is your partner ignoring you and revoking affection intentionally?
- Does he or she constantly embarrass you in social situations?
- Has your partner had a history of cheating on you or previous partners?
- Is he or she unreasonably envious of your communications with others, including family?
- Does he or she use threats to main control and dominance over you?
- Do you have to deal with his or her constant guilt trips, extreme mood swings, refusal to communicate and more?
- Does your partner use money to trap or control you?
- Does he or she present everything as your fault?
- Do you have incessant text messages or phone calls when you’re not with him or her?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you could be in an emotionally abusive relationship. See more warning signs here.
One thing you could struggle with after the fact is forgiving yourself for being in this relationship in the first place. This is where writing in a journal, talking with a loved one, engaging in positive activities and more can aid you as you begin your healing journey. You may not the extremity of your situation until you’re out of it.
Here are some ways you can learn to forgive yourself and move on from your previous relationship:
Realize that the process doesn’t happen overnight.
You could still deal with the ramifications of this relationship years down the road. Be patient with yourself and focus on the positive steps you have taken in your journey.
Assess your current morals and values.
You may feel guilty because your previous relationship or behaviors don’t coincide with your current morals and values — or even the ones at the time. Begin living your life in tandem with these morals and values, reconstructing your self-esteem and decreasing negative thoughts.
Do something therapeutic.
Talk with a mental health professional in person or online at a site like betterhelp.com. Write down your feelings, regrets and things you would have done differently in the past. Realize that the past is the past and focus on what makes you the person you are.
Find what works for you. If you need help, seek it. Don’t wait. While it’s easier said than done, emotional abuse can escalate to financial, physical and other forms of abuse. You could very well feel depressed when thinking about your current situation, but there is a way out. Talk with a mental health professional near you or online at betterhelp.com. He or she could give you the tools you need to get out of your emotionally abusive relationship and learn how to forgive yourself.