Home Forums Looking for support? ‘Is it abuse?’ Is it abuse or is it me?

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  • #487
    AvatarDomestic Abuse Helpline Team
    Moderator

    Hi @Still-I-Rise,

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey and what you have been through at the hands of your expartner. What you have written may help another person in their journey too. What you really bring up here is the impact of her behaviour had on you, and how you found the strength to leave, seek counselling and grow past the abuse. To continue with your life after abuse, which can be a daily journey, but such a valuable one. It is such an important message – ‘this has happened to me but it does not have to define me.’

    I am so sorry to hear how your ex-partner weaponised your immigration status as a tool to abuse you. We hear this again and again on the helpline and it can be such a powerful threat, especially if a person’s country of origin is LGBT+ phobic. The abuser knows this and yet still continues to use it as a tool against you.

    For every person who is LGBT+ the decision to come out to friends, families and colleagues should be yours and yours alone. There are many factors in why we take time and care in coming out, like as you mention here, your African culture and it being ‘anti-gay.’ Coming out is perhaps another journey and there is no right or wrong, someone may never come out and that is a decision for them and that is OK. It is wrong for a partner to pressure or belittle your decision about this.

    It is really good to hear how counselling helped you so much.

    Thanks again for sharing your story,

    The Helpline Team

    #499
    AvatarDomestic Abuse Helpline Team
    Moderator

    This is a post from @NJT

    Just wanted to introduce myself. My name’s N. (well clearly that’s not my name, but this whole thing feels a little overwhelming and I’d rather go by N for now). I’ve been lurking on a bunch of forums over the past four months or so. Me and my boyfriend have been going through a bit of a rough period, but for a while now I’ve felt like maybe it’s more than just a period, and I’ve started to lose hope of ever reaching the end of said period.

    All of the info and forums that I’ve looked at talk about “abusive relationships” and “domestic abuse”, and I hate those words. I feel weird saying “abusive”, because it feels surreal to even consider that that is the situation I might be in. There’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to say it, because I don’t want it to be true.

    I don’t feel comfortable telling everything that’s happened because it feels too personal, but I will say I’m in pain both physically and emotionally almost every single day, and I’m not sure how much longer I can take it. I’m so alone in this, and I have no clue what I can do to make it better.

    I don’t even know what difference being on here is going to make. I guess maybe I just wanted to get it off my chest. I don’t have any questions or anything like that, and I don’t think I need advice. I just wanted to vent, which I did.

    I also just want to say that I do love my boyfriend, and I don’t want to lose him. I just want us to be okay.

    Hope you’re all having a wonderful day.

    #493
    OpeneyesOpeneyes
    Participant

    Hello everyone, thank you for sharing your experiences. I have been reading through the posts in this thread over the last few days and it has helped me in trying to make sense of my own experience, as I’ve been feeling pretty confused about whether what I have experienced can be described as abuse. I thought I would share my experience to see what others make of it.

    I separated from my ex-partner a few months ago but we have a child together so are still in regular contact. Something that happened recently (which is too specific to share here) made me see very clearly that my ex does not care at all about my wellbeing, and has made me re-examine their behaviour during the relationship. I’ve had some pretty upsetting flashbacks to things that happened during the relationship. My ex was never physically violent, although there were occasions where they screamed at me at the top of their lungs, which I found frightening. What I am trying to understand is whether their behaviour can be described as emotionally abusive. I’ve been reading about emotional abuse online and some of the criteria seem to fit.

    I was subjected to a lot of criticism – for doing things the wrong way, for doing something I shouldn’t, for not doing something I should, etc. If I objected, I was accused of being defensive. Actually, there was a lot of discussion of my ‘defensiveness’ from early on in the relationship – my ex thought I had a big problem with defensiveness and needed to work on being able to take criticism. They would never acknowledge that they were being too critical, and instead accused me of being too sensitive. If I raised with them the fact that their criticism was hurting me, they would ask for ‘proof’ in the form of details of specific incidents – if I was unable to provide this, they would dismiss what I was saying. On one occasion, when we were going through a difficult time in the relationship, my ex said that we would not be having problems if I could only learn to not take things so personally.

    My ex would frequently blame me for our arguments, i.e. they would accuse me of having started the argument (usually by disagreeing with them). If I objected, or failed to apologise unreservedly, they accused me of not taking responsibility for my behaviour. After some of the occasions when arguments got so bad that my ex screamed at me at the top of their lungs, they said it was my fault for pushing them beyond their limits.

    Often, after bad arguments, they would give me the silent treatment for days and be really moody, leading me to tip-toe around them to avoid being snapped at. On some occasions, during bad arguments, they threatened to leave the relationship – in fact, they declared that the relationship was over, but then later changed their mind. The effect of this on me was that I was terrified they would actually leave, and I would do anything to appease them and diffuse the situation (apologise profusely, admit it was all my fault, etc.).

    My ex also frequently accused me of being selfish. Maybe not explicitly but through statements such as ‘it’s not all about you, though, is it?’ or saying that I have no regard for other people, if I expressed a need or want. In essence, it was very difficult for me to state a need or express an opinion without having this invalidated in some way, and I felt extremely frustrated throughout much of the relationship about not being listened to.

    What I am most confused and unsure about is whether my ex attempted to isolate me from friends and family. It was never explicit, and I doubt conscious on my ex’s part, but there were subtle ways of discouraging interaction with friends such as always asking who I’m on the phone with if I was texting someone, or getting annoyed if I checked my phone or answered a message when we were together. Also asking for full details of my interactions/conversations with others (e.g. if I had gone for a drink with someone) – not in an aggressive way, it came across more as curiosity, but looking back it seems a bit excessive. I never went out much when we were together because we had a young child, but on a couple of occasions when I did go out, my ex made it very clear they were annoyed about me coming back late and disturbing their sleep.

    I also wonder if my ex tried to isolate me from my family – again, I doubt this would have been intentional, but there were some things that feel weird looking back. Early in the relationship, my ex made a big deal about how I needed to break emotional ties with my family of origin in order to be able to dedicate myself fully to our relationship and family. They said I was too emotionally attached to my parents and too dependent on their validation and acceptance. Similarly to the way they insisted I was too defensive, this was part of quite an elaborate effort to ‘psychoanalyse’ me and identify issues I needed to work on.

    Well, this has ended up being quite a long post. Thank you for reading if you have made it this far. Reading back, I realise it sounds pretty bad, but of course, as others have said, there were a lot of good times too, and the early days of the relationship were amazing, which makes it difficult and confusing. I have been struggling quite a lot in the last few days with bad memories and the realisation that perhaps I have been in an abusive relationship, as well as shame and self-blame for having let my ex treat me in this way, for having excused their behaviour, and for letting them convince me they were right. I am not quite sure how to deal with this and move forward. But what I will say to others who are scared of leaving is that I feel so relieved to be out of the relationship. It’s difficult to be alone but it is much better than feeling lonely and misunderstood within a relationship. I wish you all strength and courage in your journey, wherever it takes you.

    #524
    tulipanytulipany
    Participant

    Hello everyone,

    Thank you all for posting here about your experiences. To see that there are others out there, who have also struggled with questioning the validity of their feelings and with self-blame, has really helped me feel less alone.

    This month marks a year since I left a three year long, physically and emotionally abusive relationship. Throughout the year I have continued to struggle, as hindsight has made me come to terms with the reality of what was happening, and it has hit hard. Even though leaving felt like the biggest relief, and I now feel a sense of safety and freedom, I get awful mental health dips because of the memories of abuse. I get flashbacks and I ruminate over everything that happened, feeling the emotions almost as strongly as I did at the time, and I imagine other situations where it could happen again. I’ve had nightmares where my ex girlfriend finds me and tries to harm me again. I have noticed that always blaming myself, doubting my perspective, and being overly apologetic has leaked into other areas of my life, because it had become normal to me.

    When I met my current girlfriend, I was shocked to see what a happy and healthy relationship looks like. It was so alien to me. Every instance of healthy behaviour and good communication made me reflect on situations I’d been through with my ex, and see the stark contrast. Seeing them in a new light revealed just how wrong her treatment of me was.

    I think being a queer woman played a part in me struggling to define my relationship as abusive at the time. Domestic abuse is usually gendered as having a male perpetrator and female victim (for reasons I understand). Mine being a lesbian relationship wrongly made the abuse seem less serious. It clouded the view of the relationship, making it appear balanced and equal, with no one being more in control, obscuring the truth even to myself. I had even said to ex directly, after several instances of her being abusive, “if a man did this to a woman, it would be obvious to everyone that its abuse.” However, her manipulation and gaslighting made me stay, and blame myself.

    [TW: physical abuse mentioned from here on in] I completely understand when people say that emotional abuse can be confusing and difficult to term as abuse. It was the part I always struggled to accept was abusive. With the physical abuse, I somehow felt aware of it and in denial at the same time? On numerous occasions, my ex would have angry outbursts, which would result in very obvious physical abuse, which I will not describe here for the sake of those reading. Even this she managed to manipulate so cleverly, it would happen so quickly, with a long enough gap until the next time that it would give me time to decide to trust her again. Each time it happened, she would always blame it on me. Me confronting her, and telling her it was abusive, would always end with me comforting her while she cried and said she was a bad person, wanting me to say “no of course not” etc… My feelings were never addressed. As an example, one time we were hanging laundry together and I suggested that she hang an item differently so that I could get to the hanger more easily, which resulted in one of her angry outbursts, becoming physical with me. Over time, she referred to this situation as me “always being weird about the laundry.” I could almost laugh now at how twisted and wrong all of it was. I really spent three years thinking I had issues with the laundry.

    One time, around halfway through the relationship, I hit a really low point and decided to tell a friend about the physical abuse. It had felt impossible until then, as me and my ex lived together with our shared friends, somehow keeping all of our problems secret from them. But on this night I had a really bad panic attack and wanted to explain to my best friend why it happened, and to get everything off my chest. My ex gave me hell for it, saying it was “the worst night of her life” as she “knew that I was talking about her.” From then on, she referred to that night as a bad thing I had done. On that night, I told her I could only stay with her if she went to therapy and talked about her abusive behaviour. She did go to therapy, and after she finished all her sessions she admitted that she never brought up her abusive behaviour, because “it’s not all about you.”

    I think the hardest part to work through has been how much the abuse changed me as a person at the time. In the beginning of the relationship I would state clearly when I felt my ex did or said something hurtful, and express that I was upset. Her reaction was always to flip the situation around, and say that I was the one doing the harm by saying this, or that I was just too sensitive. She wouldn’t listen to what I was saying, make the conversation go round and round in circles until I felt confused, like I was the one who did something wrong, and I would end up being the one apologising. I lost all sense of what healthy communication should look like. Whenever I did something she didn’t like, I would take full accountability, and apologise profusely. She would then bring up the situation over and over for months/years, changing the narrative a bit each time until it resembled nothing close to the original event (like the laundry story), making me think I was a really bad person.

    As the relationship went on, my mental health was so worn down that I had anxious breakdowns/panic attacks. During these I would not want her around me, and I would tell her that I felt like she was going to do something to me and that I didn’t trust her. One night, when she would get close to me or grab me, I pushed her away from me twice because I was terrified. I immediately broke down and was telling her how much I hate her because she just grabbed me. After this event, she would bring it up over and over, telling me that I was the one being abusive, and making me believe it. Meanwhile, all the times she’d actually been physically abusive seemed completely forgotten. She would tell me that my fear of her and everything I was saying was “obviously not real,” and I really felt like I was losing my grip on reality. I started to think this was a mutually abusive relationship, which I have since then learned is a myth. I left the relationship three months later. I am now working hard to remember each situation as it really was, and to let go of always blaming myself for everything, which I had become so accustomed to.

    Me leaving was a very difficult situation. Me and my ex had lived together at uni, together after, and then apart for some time. I think while we were apart I subconsciously noticed the shift in how I felt. But consciously I only felt an anxiety/obligation to live together again. So we committed to moving in with one of her best friends. The whole time, I couldn’t pretend I wanted to be around her convincingly enough. She was the one person in the world who made me the most anxious. After three days, I still couldn’t admit to myself why this was. But I knew I had to leave. During our break up, I couldn’t bring up any of the real reasons, probably out of self preservation and fear of being manipulated again. I just said that something was wrong, missing, and it had to end. I had to continue living there while I found a new flat. Meanwhile, her friend, knowing nothing of the truth, was completely on her side. They teamed up immediately after the break up to pressure me to continue to pay for the room when I would move out, which was completely impossible for me to afford. I could understand the friend’s frustration, and offered to pay her part of the bill which would go up due to me moving out. Even so, when I found myself with both of them they would both talk at me, blaming me for the break up, for the bad timing, for everything. I stood my ground and didn’t give my ex any of the money she asked for, after everything she’d done. And I moved out.

    Although leaving felt like a huge relief, there’s still a part of all this that feels unresolved, as if no justice was done. In the eyes of her friends, I was the one to blame, because they didn’t know about the abuse. I never even told her that was the reason I was leaving her, so I feel like she hasn’t been made to face the truth. Out of the shared friends we had, who are closer to her now still don’t know the truth. Only two of my closest friends know, but I never asked them to cut off contact with her, letting it be their choice. I don’t know how I feel about that now, that they still find it okay to talk to my abuser. I feel this urge to get justice somehow, maybe for more people to know the truth, but I don’t know where to direct that urge. So I’m sharing here.

    #530
    AvatarDomestic Abuse Helpline Team
    Moderator

    @Openeyes and @tulipany – thank you for your posts. They both contain such clear, impactful accounts of the abuse you each experienced and why abuse can be so hard to see, make sense of and escape from. Being made to feel like you were at fault and to continually doubt your own experience is such a big part of it, and such a harmful one – it keeps survivors trapped and it can affect them long after the abuse has been left behind.

    You’ve both mentioned dealing with the after affects of the abuse from your partner, it’s impact on your mental health and the lack of resolution in some ways. If you want to reach out to the helpline directly (0800 999 5428 / help@galop.org.uk), telling us a little about where you live, we would be happy to look for local services that might be able to support you in your healing and leaving this behind.

    #599
    seahorse85seahorse85
    Participant

    I know no one has replied to this for a while but I wanted to say thank you to everyone who shared their story. I’ve been exploring the same question (am I just over sensitive or is my partner abusive?) and had come up with a long list of their behaviours that suggested listening to my instincts, but I was shocked at how many other parts of your stories I recognised their behaviour in. I’m still not sure what to do because the last year of working from home means I’d lose my job if I moved out and I would struggle to support myself on my income even if that wasn’t an issue, but at least I’m thinking about it. It was so helpful to see parts of my situation mirrored here so I could see that other people didn’t think it was okay, thank you all.

    #610
    AvatarDomestic Abuse Helpline Team
    Moderator

    Hi Seahorse,

    Really good to hear that the forum has been useful to you. It is great when people can help one another with their stories 🙂 Breaking the silence can be so helpful and it can be reassuring to know others have faced similar issues.

    Picking up on your point about thinking through are you being over sensitive or is your partner abusive. There are a couple of useful tools in understanding the nature of abuse incase you find these helpful. This wheel is designed to help explore all the different parts of abuse. People use it to see which elements makes sense and build a picture of their experience. Quite often it unearths lots of ways you might have not realised the how much abuse is or was happening.

    At the helpline we are big fans of this factsheet, which compares what makes a relationship healthy, unhealthy and abusive. It is really useful to gauge what you experience is in each of the categories. It also helps to demonstrate when important parts of relationships move to abusive.

    You mentioned struggling to support yourself if you were to leave. One real and big reason many people feel stuck with an abusive person is because of finances and being able to afford the next step. There is an organisation called Surviving Economic Abuse who have a resource section on their website which has a lot of information related to domestic abuse and money. If you wanted to call the helpline we could go through this with you.

    Wishing you all the best and you’re not alone with this,

    The Helpline Team

    #612
    AvatarDomestic Abuse Helpline Team
    Moderator

    Hi Seahorse,

    Really good to hear that the forum has been useful to you. It is great when people can help one another with their stories 🙂 Breaking the silence can be so helpful and it can be reassuring to know others have faced similar issues.

    Picking up on your point about thinking through are you being over sensitive or is your partner abusive. There are a couple of useful tools in understanding the nature of abuse incase you find these helpful. This wheel is designed to help explore all the different parts of abuse. People use it to see which elements makes sense and build a picture of their experience. Quite often it unearths lots of ways you might have not realised the how much abuse is or was happening.

    At the helpline we are big fans of this factsheet, which compares what makes a relationship healthy, unhealthy and abusive. It is really useful to gauge what you experience is in each of the categories. It also helps to demonstrate when important parts of relationships move to abusive.

    You mentioned struggling to support yourself if you were to leave. One real and big reason many people feel stuck with an abusive person is because of finances and being able to afford the next step. There is an organisation called Surviving Economic Abuse who have a resource section on their website which has a lot of information related to domestic abuse and money. If you wanted to call the helpline we could go through this with you.

    Wishing you all the best and you’re not alone with this,

    The Helpline Team

    #613
    AvatarDomestic Abuse Helpline Team
    Moderator

    Hi Seahorse,

    Really good to hear that the forum has been useful to you. It is great when people can help one another with their stories 🙂 Breaking the silence can be so helpful and it can be reassuring to know others have faced similar issues.

    Picking up on your point about thinking through are you being over sensitive or is your partner abusive. There are a couple of useful tools in understanding the nature of abuse incase you find these helpful. This wheel is designed to help explore all the different parts of abuse. People use it to see which elements makes sense and build a picture of their experience. Quite often it unearths lots of ways you might have not realised the how much abuse is or was happening.

    At the helpline we are big fans of this factsheet, which compares what makes a relationship healthy, unhealthy and abusive. It is really useful to gauge what you experience is in each of the categories. It also helps to demonstrate when important parts of relationships move to abusive.

    You mentioned struggling to support yourself if you were to leave. One real and big reason many people feel stuck with an abusive person is because of finances and being able to afford the next step. There is an organisation called Surviving Economic Abuse who have a resource section on their website which has a lot of information related to domestic abuse and money. If you wanted to call the helpline we could go through this with you.

    Wishing you all the best and you’re not alone with this,

    The Helpline Team

    #614
    AvatarDomestic Abuse Helpline Team
    Moderator

    Hi Seahorse,

    Really good to hear that the forum has been useful to you. It is great when people can help one another with their stories 🙂 Breaking the silence can be so helpful and it can be reassuring to know others have faced similar issues.

    Picking up on your point about thinking through are you being over sensitive or is your partner abusive. There are a couple of useful tools in understanding the nature of abuse incase you find these helpful. This wheel is designed to help explore all the different parts of abuse. People use it to see which elements makes sense and build a picture of their experience. Quite often it unearths lots of ways you might have not realised the how much abuse is or was happening.

    At the helpline we are big fans of this factsheet, which compares what makes a relationship healthy, unhealthy and abusive. It is really useful to gauge what you experience is in each of the categories. It also helps to demonstrate when important parts of relationships move to abusive.

    You mentioned struggling to support yourself if you were to leave. One real and big reason many people feel stuck with an abusive person is because of finances and being able to afford the next step. There is an organisation called Surviving Economic Abuse who have a resource section on their website which has a lot of information related to domestic abuse and money. If you wanted to call the helpline we could go through this with you.

    Wishing you all the best and you’re not alone with this,

    The Helpline Team

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