October is a month full of pink ribbons, pumpkins, and apples. It is absolutely my most favorite time of the year. Fall feels like an awakening and fresh start. That’s the beauty in changing seasons. We leave behind the old and usher in the new. I’ve been in a dark season of my life for a long time — much longer than I ever should have been. Now that the close to that season is within reach, I want to share it with you. The times are few and far between that I believe everything happens for a reason, but I have to, in this case, to make sense of the pain and the damage.
Since 1978, October has been recognized nationwide as Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic Violence comes in many different forms. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived through emotional, financial, physical, or verbal abuse. All of these forms of domestic violence are equally inexcusable. Your partner might put you down, disrespect you, and fill you with fear anytime you’re within the same space without ever laying a hand on you. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t abuse. I didn’t know that.
For years and years, I thought that even though I dreaded every moment I had to spend with my partner, it didn’t mean I was being abused. We just had a difficult relationship. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. So I share this with you, just in case it’s crossed your mind from time to time: Is this normal? Do other relationships feel like this? Is it me? No, love. No, it isn’t.
Emotional and Verbal Abuse is Domestic Violence
He promised it would be the last time. But then again, that’s also what he said the time before that as well. That’s a lie. He’d promised it would be the last time a million times over the past decade. I mean, he never hit me. Never laid a hand on me. I mean, yeah, there were a few times he threw things at me. He never physically abused me, though as crazy as it sounds, sometimes I wish he just would have. If he put hands on me, hit my face or my neck, then I could say without a doubt, I was abused. Then I could finally leave. He would have crossed the proverbial line in the sand. It would be black and white. But he didn’t, so I stayed on the premise that he wasn’t truly abusive and that someone else out there had it worse.
It took years to realize that domestic violence comes in all shapes and forms. Just because you aren’t physically assaulted doesn’t mean you aren’t abused in other, more insidious ways. My partner replaced my name with “bitch,” and yes, he did this in front of our child. Bitch, your child is hungry. Do you know how to be a mom? Bitch, maybe if you moved your fat ass more, you wouldn’t feel so tired all the time. Bitch… Well, you get the point.
I knew I wasn’t a bitch, I knew I wasn’t a bad mom, and I knew I wasn’t a waste of a life like I had been told time and time again, but you know what they say. If you tell a swan they’re a frog every single day, over and over again, eventually they’ll begin to hop, croak, and believe they are a frog.
This is the nature of emotional and verbal abuse. They start small, with little insults they play off as jokes. Your abuser will always tell you that you took things the wrong way and are too sensitive. By the time they are being obviously hurtful, and say degrading things to you, they change the story to make it your fault. It’s your fault they said what they said because if you didn’t act like a bitch, they wouldn’t call you a bitch. Gaslighting at its peak definition.
You Do Not Deserve To Be Treated This Way
It took me years to realize that not all relationships looked like mine. Of course there will be disagreements. And yes, there will be fights, but the way people choose to fight is the difference between typical squabbles and emotional manipulation. It is never okay for your partner to disrespect you or break you down. That isn’t tough love. It is domestic violence, and it is abuse.
From someone outside of the relationship, these red flags are seen a million miles away. But when you’re in it, it’s much harder to see. This is why abusers will do their damndest to isolate you into only having them to rely on. So if someone who has been in your life for a long time starts to takes issue with your relationship, it might be worth taking a second look. My ex used to always tell me to not let them influence me and butt in where they didn’t belong. After all, wasn’t it our relationship? These other people just didn’t understand how we functioned. In reality, he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he needed to get me away from the people who were willing to expose the toxic, abusive relationship for what it was.
Nothing you say or do makes you deserving of abuse and disrespect. No matter how long the laundry list is of why your abuser feels justified, they aren’t. Ever. Emotional and verbal abuse is unacceptable, and yes, it is enough to leave. You don’t need bruises and black eyes to prove you are being hurt or surviving domestic abuse. You are worthy. We believe you. Your pain matters, even though it isn’t seen.
If you need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline, or visit their website.