What I Wish I Could Tell My 18 Year Old Self About Her Abusive Relationship
He never hit me.
Looking back, that was probably the reason why I didn’t recognise him as abusive. Growing up in a home riddled with domestic violence and control, I knew that I’d never let a man lay hands on me, not after what I watched my mother go through, what I went through myself.
You would think after eighteen years of watching an abusive relationship between my parents, I’d be well equipped to notice one in my own life. But the truth is I was vulnerable, and looking for anything that made me feel like I meant something. If I got the chance to meet eighteen-year old me now, I’d have a lot to tell her.
You Don’t NEED a Boyfriend
I think I stayed with this guy because I thought I needed him. I was someone’s girlfriend, and it made me feel important — something I’d never really felt before. My self-esteem was at an all-time low, and I genuinely believed that if I left him, I’d never find anyone else again. What would I tell eighteen-year old me now? I’d tell her that in two years, she’s going to meet someone who’ll eventually be her best friend and will always have her back. That she’ll always have friends, and boyfriends will come and go.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Physical to Be Abuse
So many people think that it’s not abuse unless you get hit, punched, scratched or physically hurt in some way. But, I’ve seen domestic violence and I’ve been through it — and it’s so much more than just slapping and punching. In fact, you can be in an abusive relationship with somebody who’s never laid a hand on you and it can be even worse as there’s no proof — it’s your word against theirs.
I’d tell my eighteen year old self to wake up. Stop ignoring his mind games. Realise that when he’s telling you what you can and can’t do, making plans for your life as if you’re his to decide for, threatening you when you say no, he’s being abusive and controlling. She’s smart enough to know, she just chose to turn a blind eye.
He Doesn’t Own Your Body
My body is mine alone, and nobody else’s. He thought he had access to my body whenever he felt like it, and somehow I had to give him that access in order to prove my worth or something.
It all started a few weeks into the relationship when he’d touch me in places I wasn’t ready for and not stop when I told him to. I should have walked out then, but I persuaded myself that it was normal and that it was me who had the issues.
If I met that girl now, I’d tell her that he’s using her. That he had no right to shout at her and make her feel small for not wanting sex then go ahead and do it anyway against her will. I’d tell her that her body is her own, not his to do what he wants with.
Stop Making Excuses for Him
I was the classic controlled girlfriend. Every time he kicked off or spoke to me like dirt, I’d have an excuse ready and waiting for him. ‘He’s had a bad day at work’, or, ‘University work is getting him down’. The truth is, no amount of bad days or pressure from university is a good enough excuse to speak to your partner in an abusive manner. I don’t care about how much of a hard day he’s had at work, he has no right to shout and call you names when you’ve done nothing wrong.
Stop Blaming Yourself
He would blame me for his little outbursts, blame me for the way he ‘had’ to control me otherwise I’d do stupid things and he blamed me for when he eventually cheated on me because I wasn’t good enough. He’d tell me that I was disobedient, play mind games to ‘teach me a lesson’, have me in tears begging for his forgiveness for something HE had started.
If I could go back? I’d tell her she’s not to blame. She tried her best to be the perfect girlfriend and he’s picking faults. He thrives off the trouble and the need to control her. He likes being in charge and the rush of power he feels.
But most of all? I’d tell her she’s being abused. He doesn’t have to hit her to do that