An Act of Defiance: An open letter to my emotionally abusive ex.
I hadn’t thought about you in a long time. Maybe you popped up again because I’ve been talking to someone dealing with an emotionally abusive relationship and what she’s going through reeks of similarities. I don’t think people really realize that’s what it is until afterwards — or maybe we all know, but we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking things will get better. Either way, you decided to show up in a dream I had last night, and it threw off my whole day. Funny how someone you haven’t talked to in years and years can still influence you. At least you can’t make me cry anymore. No, you haven’t been able to do that in years and years.
I can’t even hear your name without a gut reaction. You fucked me up. You controlled two and a half years of my life before I even got a chance to figure out who I was. Did you know what you were doing?
On the one hand, if you did, that makes you a horrible, horrible person. If you didn’t, does that make me unlucky? Or does that make you terribly misinformed?
Somehow, through your guilt trips, manipulation, and attempts to isolate me, I was able to find and keep a piece of myself. The piece that kept the friends that were good for me, that cared about me. You know, the ones you hated. The ones that didn’t threaten to leave when I was in crisis. The ones that are still by my side.
It’s amazing how lonely someone can feel when they’re in a shitty relationship. But I suppose I do have something to thank you for; if it weren’t for you, I may not have cared so passionately about helping others and turned it into a career. Because of you, I know how it feels to feel completely and utterly alone and helpless. Because of you, I decided I wanted to do everything I could to prevent people from ever feeling that way if I could help it. And maybe, because of you, someone will read this and realize that how their significant other is treating them isn’t okay, and they’ll be able to get out.
I was never good enough for you. The straight As, swim team MVP — you only saw them as barriers, because if, on the off chance you wanted to hang out, I might not be readily available to you. You belittled me and my body and would tell me about other girls hitting on you and get mad when I got upset. You refused to come over to my house because you said my parents didn’t “respect” you. You made me cry almost every day the last year or so we were together, and yet I always ended up being the one apologizing. “I’m sorry for bringing it up,” “I’m sorry for upsetting you,” “I’m sorry for being emotional.” I’m sorry staring your emotional abuse in the face made you uncomfortable. No, I’m not sorry anymore.
I hope, for your girlfriend’s sake, that you do not treat her the way you treated me in any way, shape, or form. I don’t care if you’re happy. I just don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt because of you. What gives you the right? The therapist part of me is trying to ask, “What happened to him to behave that way? How did he feel about himself that caused him to treat someone else that way?” But really, I don’t care. None of it justifies what you did.
If you didn’t realize what you were doing then, did you ever realize what you did? Or do you still blame me for everything, just as you always did? Do I still haunt your dreams like you haunt mine?
I honestly don’t know what I would do if I saw you again. My breath catches and I get anxiety just thinking about it. I want you to know what you did to me. I want you to know how wrong you were. I want you to apologize for how much you hurt me. And I want you to know how happy and successful I am despite you.
Even though you broke me, I am proud of the woman I’ve become. One that’s not only successful, but caring. One that’s making a difference.
I know I shouldn’t hold grudges. I know I should let go. But I can’t yet. I’m not ready, because I still feel so hurt. Because part of me feels that if I let go, it means that what you did was okay. It wasn’t. It’s not. Looking back now, I realize I’ve become everything you hated and tried to change about me. Shame on you for trying to hold me back and change who I am. If you were anyone else, I would try to empathize with you — but I can’t. And I won’t, not yet anyways. Maybe one day I will have moved past this enough to do so. If not, I think that’s okay too. I’m living my life for me now, not for you.
Happily Married and Loving Life
P.S. My amazing husband supports me posting this. It’s because of you that I am able to fully appreciate how awesome he is.