real life

"I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with a narcissist, and had no idea how to escape."

Content warning: This post contains descriptions of abuse that may be distressing for some readers. 

When I was 17 years old I fell “in-love” with someone who would emotionally and psychologically abuse me over the next three to five years. Being from a small town, I was incredibly naïve when it came to relationships. I was a virgin, and my exposure to intimacy was limited to a handful of quick flings with tourists holidaying in my sleepy coastal home town.

I was confident in some ways, but like most teenage girls, I was also incredibly insecure about my physical appearance and my appeal to the opposite sex. Looking back, I was the perfect target for an abuser, and mine came in the form of a 25-year-old man who was handsome and initially incredibly charming and charismatic.

Within six months of seeing each other, I moved interstate to live with this man. He had found a home for us to live in, and as we shared a car he would drive me to and from work. At the time I saw this as sweet and caring, looking back now I see it for what it really was. Ways to isolate me from the world and to control me.

About a year into our relationship, I started working in banking and he suggested we put his personal debts into a joint loan so that he could benefit from my employee discount, and I naively agreed. This allowed him to now have financial control over me as well. I was isolated from the world I knew, limited in my ability to move around my new world and financially tied to this man.

While they didn’t appear straight way, there had definitely been warning signs along the way. The little lies he’d tell to other people to make himself seem bigger, like giving himself a better job title. The fact he’d introduce himself to other people while speaking with an American accent (I know…bizarre). His lack of friends.

These things I’d put down to his insecurities, he’d told me stories about how he was badly bullied as a child, and so I excused these behaviours. However, the lies grew and it was evident that even he believed the words that came out of his mouth, so much so that at times I honestly questioned my own mind.

Listen: Bec Sparrow and Robin Bailey, on how to deal with abusive and toxic relationships. Post continues after audio. 

Then came the control. He controlled what I wore, where I went and what I ate. He constantly tried to make me put on weight, however despite his best attempts my body rebelled against his insistence and my subconscious stress seemed to neutralise all of the nutritionally void foods he’d provide for me to eat.

I was even chastised for making any sound when closing doors and told that I’d benefit from etiquette classes. He attempted to further isolate me from my friends and family by constantly making comments about them being jealous of our “love”. While I wasn’t fooled by this, I again excused these comments as being due to his own insecurities and personal history, and I failed to identify them for what they really were, attempts to destroy my relationships with anyone who wasn’t him.

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This man manipulated me into sexual situations I was absolutely uncomfortable with, but that he could immerse himself into fully…even as I sobbed, he thrust. This made me feel so dirty, stupid and damaged, and the images of what had transpired flashed through my mind frequently for years, and left me feeling so sickened, hurt and dehumanised.

My fulfillment of his sexual desires however, was still not enough for him. So, he cheated…many, many times. Like many who have been cheated on, there was a knowing deep within me, however any evidence of his pursuits, short of catching in the act, were always dismissed with lies.

I’d accept his answers not because I believed them, but because I felt so lost and had no idea of how to escape. On top of this, he would even tell me that he had friends who would have sex with their partners every time they would be leaving the house to prevent their partner from seeking sex elsewhere. This had a dual intention, to make me give even more of myself, and to remove his blame for his infidelities by placing it on me.

I feel the need to point out that I didn’t just sit back and take it. At first when these behaviours started appearing I fought hard. I had been raised to be a strong and independent woman, not a passive bystander. However, people like this are ready for your resistance and probably thrive on it.

They are masters in manipulating your anger and frustration with them into guilt for questioning them and making them feel bad about themselves. Eventually, your fight dies out as you already know that no matter what they have done to you, somehow confronting them about it will end in your apologising for upsetting them.

Also, abusive relationships are not all bad. As much as abusers are masters of destroying your self-worth, they also know how to make you feel incredibly loved, precious and special. They give you just enough of this to make you want to help them uncover the kind, thoughtful human who is clearly just buried beneath their own troubles.

Teya today. Image supplied.
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You feel guilty at the thought of leaving this person, knowing that no-one else will see the good person hiding within them. So, you stay and you do everything you can to help them achieve happiness. However, the goal posts of their happiness are constantly shifting, and eventually you come to the realisation that they don’t actually want to be happy, rather their unfulfilled quest for happiness is just another excuse for their toxic behaviour.

I was in my toxic and abusive relationship for three and a half years. He drained me emotionally, physically and financially. I was absolutely exhausted by our relationship. As much as I tried to pretend it wasn’t the case, I wasn’t stupid, I knew he was a controlling, compulsive liar who cheated on me endlessly, and yet I had been so isolated from my own world and my own identity that I felt trapped and had no idea how to escape.

It wasn’t until he mirrored his own behaviours onto me and questioned my own fidelity that I finally cracked and admitted to myself and to him that I didn’t trust him. Fortunately for me, he had already chosen my replacement and he allowed me to leave. I feel for the woman who replaced me, but I also thank her for allowing me to escape my toxic prison.

If you’re reading this story and it feels like your own, please know that you are not alone. If you are still in the relationship, please go and see a professional and ask them to help you get out of your relationship safely. Don’t worry about finding that piece of evidence to give you permission to leave.

The way this person makes you feel is your permission. I know that when I was in that relationship I used to silently beg for him to hit me, as then I’d have no choice but to leave. If that thought has crossed your mind too, you need to leave. How many physically abused women do you think once thought that being hit would give them an excuse to leave too? If you’ve escaped a relationship like mine, I am so happy for you. Please know that you always deserved better, that you are not weak and that the shame is not yours.

If you’re reading this story and think your friend is trapped in a physically, emotionally or psychologically abusive relationship, please go and see a professional to find out how you can support them. When I was in my toxic relationship, I could feel the contempt from many of my friends and family members towards this man, and some tried to point out his flaws, however I was in to deep and I had my walls up, so they were all so scared of losing me to him completely that they were afraid to say too much. I will never know how I would have responded if they had told me I needed to get out of there, however I know that I silently begged for someone to help me get out.

Teya is a mother-of-two and a blogger with a passion for all things womanhood, sisterhood and self-love. She created andsoshethought.com to empower and connect women by sharing their voices and stories. She is passionate about exploring the issues many women face but don’t talk about.

If you, or someone you know, is being subjected to domestic violence, call the White Ribbon hotline on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).