When did you first realize something was wrong with your relationship? When did you first sense that your emotionally abusive partner was not really the right man for you?
Actually, that is a bit of a trick question.
If you are like most other women who end up in an emotionally abusive relationship, you had already met your emotionally abusive partner before you became romantically enmeshed. Chances are, you probably met him in a social, or work context, and thought to yourself,
“Not for me!”
(I know I did. So, too, did an awful lot of my clients.)
Ignoring the Red Flag Detectors
Maybe he struck you as arrogant, opinionated and/or downright rude. Maybe you picked up on a slightly “creepy” charm about him. Whatever it was, your Red Flag Detectors did their best. They sent you a clear “I don’t think so!” message.
But things changed when he showed an interest in you. Maybe even a keen interest in you.
That is certainly how it was for me. When I first met my future wasband, he was a definite no-no! He was rude, brash, arrogant, attention-seeking – and he had the most GRUESOME dress sense. (Among other things.)
However, something weird happened when this self-important man started to take an interest in li’l ol’ me.
At first, he honestly seemed to find me as fascinating as he was. The young, vulnerable me felt rather flattered. If he found me that interesting, then I had to be more interesting than I had thought I was. (Not hard, I would say now, with all the wisdom of hindsight.)
So, I bought – heavily – into what I fondly imagined to be the Wonderful Alchemy of Love. Sure, on the surface he looked like an arrogant, objectionable jerk but, underneath that objectionable exterior a warm heart beat – just for me.
Did that make me special, or what?
(How much trouble we would save ourselves if we only gave more thought to the “or what”?)
When the mask slips
Everything was blissfully – or should I say, “wishfully” – happy between us, until the first time the mask of love and wonderfulness slipped.
That was when I first realized that something was wrong. Very wrong. The face behind the mask made my very first impressions of the man look thoroughly wholesome.
All emotionally abusive relationships share the same blueprint. Therefore they all follow the same basic pattern. Essentially the pattern goes like this:
Something occurs that annoys the hell out of Mr. Nasty. He removes his Perfect Partner mask. He expresses his extreme displeasure either by raging, or withdrawing and sulking. Or else, he may well do both. Certainly, he betrays your trust in him. Maybe he will level some idiotic accusations at you. He may remind you – and himself – of his own irresistibility by chasing other women. One way or another, he will show you that he does not hold dear the “intimacy” between the two of you.
Part of you will express amazement, and horror, at his carry-on. That part of you already knows the relationship is headed nowhere good.
Whatever kind of hissy fit he has thrown his purpose is to tighten the choke chain of co-dependency around your neck. That first hard pull on your neck destabilizes you. Suddenly, the relationship becomes horribly complicated. (Actually, there were probably a fair few “complications” before that but, hey, Love changes everything – doesn’t it?)
You realize something is wrong when…
You first – consciously – realize something is wrong when,
- You feel devastated by what happened
- You tell yourself you can’t bear to be without him
- You tell yourself he is worth the trouble
- You decide to fight for your relationship
- You appeal to his Better Nature
- The Post-mortem reveals that What Happened was really your fault
- You both apologize – or else, you do, anyway
- You assume something must have been learned
- You sweep the hurt and ugliness under the carpet
- You try even harder to love him enough to make the relationship work
- You are both on your best behavior for a while.
Welcome to the emotional abuse merry-go-round. Before long, your emotionally abusive partner’s best behavior goes extinct. (It was always on the endangered species, anyway.) . But you continue to incur his displeasure. Over and over again. He yanks hard on the choke chain around your neck every time.
Getting off the misery-go-round
You will spend a long time on that misery-go-round, before you find the courage to throw yourself off it. (Especially, if you hang around waiting for it to stop turning.) The longer you stay on it, the faster it will turn. He soon stops apologizing, and wasting any energy on best behaviour. You, on the other hand, end up feeling permanently despairing and disoriented. (And yet, for the longest time, you tell yourself he really is – or could be – worth it.)
When you first realize something is wrong – or even when you second realize something is wrong – would be a great time to leave. However, in the end, any time is a good time to leave. Any time is also a good time to learn the lesson you missed at the start of that toxic relationship.
You only ever have two choices when you realize something is profoundly wrong with your relationship. You can stay and go through an awful lot of pain – for no gain. Or else, you can leave, and let go of something that your gut instinct warned you off in the first place. Honestly, staying in an emotionally abusive relationship really does not make sense. You will always gain more by letting it go than you will by holding on to it. Please share this post, via social media, for the benefit of anyone who has ever tried to explain away her partner’s damaging behavior. Often, all it takes is to be able to see clearly what is going on, for that person
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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