Tag Archives: abuse

Was the relationship abusive or just bad?

Recently I was put in a position to explain what delineates an abusive relationship from a regular ol’ bad one.  Unfortunately, I can speak from personal experience.

In 2013, I left a bad relationship in California to come back home and pursue one that, obviously unbeknownst to me at the time, would become an abusive one very quickly.  I left my ex, Ken*–who I had a bad, but not abusive relationship with–after 4.5 years, to try to rekindle things with my (unofficial) ex Kevin–who became abusive very quickly.

Kevin was abusive financially, emotionally, and sexually.  He purposely stole from me on a regular basis, he lived off me completely and refused to move out when I told him he had to, he insulted me and set unreasonable benchmarks, he essentially tried to turn me into his estranged wife, he beat me unbelievably hard during sex, and he even forced me down and brazenly attempted to rape me once.  These things constitute abuse.

For those reasons–so many months later, after learning I’m not his only victim–he is currently facing criminal charges.  I wish I had pressed charges sooner, but it’s hard when you’re dealing with a sociopath.  Sociopaths are pure evil, but they’re very convincing, especially when they’re extremely charismatic and also classically handsome.  For well over a year, he managed to pathologically lie to me and convince me that anything wrong was all a mistake.

My other ex Ken*, though, is not a sociopath and is not evil.  We had a bad relationship, after the first couple years went by.  It was unhealthy, punctuated by cheating and lying.  But it was not an abusive relationship.  While he and I both individually did things that could classify as abuse when viewed through a lens, it was not an abusive relationship on the whole.  It boils down to two people hurting each other a lot but also loving each other (platonically), and being too afraid to let go.  I made the move to let go, eventually.  I’m sure that hurt him immensely, and that alone makes me sad.

To this day, any time I’m at a Chicago airport, I still cry.  He travels constantly for business, and Chicago is a layover city.  I cry just knowing he could be there.  A part of me misses him, as a family member.  Not at all as a boyfriend.  I do love him.  Just not in the way he needed.

So if you want to know what separates a bad relationship from an abusive one, I can tell you.  One is full of love and hope, and then eventual disengagement.  The other is full of sadness, resentment, and even violent assault.

There you go.  One ends in letting love go.  The other ends in pure, unbridled hatred.

*Name has been changed but you can also see below.

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Analyzing my abusive relationship

I did my best to convince myself and anyone I talked to that we were happy and in love, because if we weren’t, it didn’t make sense that I let him so blatantly take advantage of me.  Instead of calling the police so they could force him out of my apartment, I acted like I was making a choice to help the man I loved.  I was ashamed of myself for what I was letting him do to me, so I tried to deny it to myself.  I still carry that shame, even though I know I shouldn’t, because I regret the entire situation so much.  Damn it, I’m a feminist, for fuck’s sake!  My feminism is a huge part of my identity, so why would I let a man treat me that way?

Because he’s terrifyingly manipulative and deceptive, not just to romantic partners, but to his friends and family and even himself.  It was almost like mind control the way he got into my head and made me comply with whatever he wanted.  I constantly acted contrarily to my own best interests, and even my own mental health, because he had managed to gain control of me.

I’m changed for the worse because of him.  I know I need to go to therapy to process his abuse, but I keep putting it off because I don’t want to relive the pain.  I have PTSD and trust issues in a relationship now, as well as just recently developing occasional flashbacks to the way he’d beat my ass during sex until I cried, and I never told him to stop because I did whatever he wanted.

My boyfriend now is gentle as a lamb, a feminist, and a self-described beta male.  I know he would never intentionally hurt me.  But I can’t help having an underlying fear that anything is possible, because there was a time when I insisted that my ex was “a good man” too.  I’m not afraid of my boyfriend at all, but I’m afraid of the fact that I wasn’t afraid of my ex either, in the beginning.

Much more so, though, I’m afraid of unintentionally doing to Colin what my ex did to me.  I worry about it all the time, actually.  Because he’s so passive and always wants me to make the decisions, I’m so scared that I’m going to make choices for us that hurt him.  I’d hate myself forever if I hurt him in even a fraction of the way that Kevin hurt me.  This is something that haunts me constantly.  I’m paranoid of becoming the monster that Kevin is.  While I don’t think I have that much evil in me, I can’t help worrying about it.