I didn’t get told I was crazy very often. I was, however, told frequently that I was being a spaz, or that I was broken because I simply disagreed with him and he sought to undermine my way of thinking in order to erode my boundaries. Eventually, you genuinely start to believe you are crazy, or spaz, or broken. It takes a special kind of asshole who cannot bear to ever be wrong to use language like this to undermine your arguments, reasoning, and point of view, and eventually, it destroys your self-esteem because you start to believe that you aren’t capable of rational thought, you think you’re worthless, and you start to question everything. (Sometimes, the need to be right all the time and never concede feeds into the power and control that undercuts an abusive relationship. Sometimes, the need to be right all the time just makes you a complete dick. Sometimes, it’s about both being a dick and being a controlling asshat).
I realised that the name calling actually started really early – from the very beginning of our conversations, before we’d even met – he’d call me a twat, say I was “spazzing” out if I disagreed with him, told me I was a bitch or a dick, a wanker, or a cunt, but he was so charming on the phone, he made me feel like I was making a fuss for no reason.
The first time he told me in person that I was being a bitch was when I asked him not to touch me because I was trying to sleep – I moved his hand off of me and his response was “there’s no need to be a complete bitch”. I later established that he felt entitled to me at that point, as he’d “sacrificed” himself and gone downstairs for a bit so that I could get some sleep. I wasn’t being ungrateful that he’d gone downstairs, but it was the wee hours of the morning and I still needed to sleep, (I am a long time sufferer of insomnia, and can be badly affected by lack of sleep, and I had a 2 hour drive to get home that morning!), however, he later claimed that he’d come back up near to the time I was due to get up and get ready – this was a lie, a twisting of the facts in order to fit his narrative. I was so shocked after the name calling that I didn’t get any more sleep that night. When I confronted him the next morning, he told me that it was a joke, that I’d overreacted, that he’d done the same with previous girlfriends and that none of them had a problem with it. All the typical gaslighting crazy making stuff you’d expect from someone who was abusing you, and all because I denied him and said no, and “no” was a word he didn’t like to hear, especially when it came to sex, and almost every time I said “no”, the response from him would generally be to call me a name and tell me I wasn’t trying hard enough.
The name calling continued throughout the relationship. Eventually I ended up calling him names too, as I was stuck in a permanent “fight or flight” response because I was being constantly attacked, criticised or belittled about everything; my way of seeing things, my point of view, my beliefs, my passions, things or causes I cared about, my need to spend time alone to recharge, films or TV I liked (all of which was considered to be puerile or “for babies”), the length of time I walked the dog – and my natural response was to defend myself, and eventually to retaliate – when reasoning won’t work, you find yourself in a state of desperation – everything I said would be twisted and thrown back at me, I’d be labelled as being unreasonable, inconsiderate, selfish, uncaring. I ended up exploding with the pent up emotions, and because I started pushing back, I was the one who was then accused of being abusive, mean, and negative. The arguments would go on for days, and eventually, it would get to the point where I believed that I was the one who was being unreasonable, and I’d apologise and promise to make it up to him, and would agree to “change my ways”. The constant arguing left me disoriented and exhausted, I was a nervous wreck, my depression began to deepen, and I started to dread going back home after work each day. I was told that I was abusive, that I was the one dehumanising him, that I was a bigot, all for saying no or for having a difference of opinion, or for disagreeing with him, or for saying no. Any time I tried to set a boundary about what I did or didn’t like, he’d cross it, or be disparaging about it. (He actually told me in an email once that he didn’t necessarily think that boundaries were that healthy – that was an early red flag that I should have heeded).
You know what I’ve realised, though? If someone has to put someone else down by resorting to name calling, it reveals their own lack of emptiness and lack of self-esteem, reveals that what they’re doing is to try and drag the people around them down to their level, to make people feel as worthless as they themselves do – to disempower, devalue, discombobulate and disrespect the other person. Abusive people feel a sense of power when they use names to insult someone. The shock factor alone can be enough to cause their victim to withdraw from the argument, and the use of certain words and phrases – “you’re broken”, “you must be hormonal”, etc, makes you doubt yourself, your point of view, makes you question your viewpoint. This pattern of systematic erosion is what takes it from relationship problems and into abuse.
Once you realise this, you can start to take your power back. Some people take a while to do this, they struggle to leave. They try to leave, but perhaps they aren’t ready. They aren’t desperate enough. Or they try and leave, and they’re convinced to stay. I tried to break up with him several times but was convinced each time that I was being unreasonable, that we could make it work, that I was wrong, that I was the one who needed to put in the effort. But I finally broke it off with him on the 28th of December. And it was the best thing I ever did. He, of course, is claiming that he left me. He neglects to mention the fact that I was the one who broke up with him. Neglects to mention to anyone the fact that I moved out of my own home, which I’ve owned for 11 years, in order to get away from him. Instead he tells people that he left to get away from me, that the situation was stressful for him because he had to move out of my home. My home, the one I’ve owned for 11 years. The one I felt compelled to leave, because of him and his behaviour – behaviour which is actually incredibly typical of someone like him. No doubt he’s also claiming that I’m acting the victim too, using my blog in order to garner a global audience.
The fact is, I don’t feel like a victim. Yes, something horrible happened to me, but by talking about it, I’m not going for the whole “woe is me” vibe. I NEED to talk about it, to process everything. And it helps for people to listen – part of the process of coming to terms with it all is a need to talk about it, repeatedly. But do I feel like a victim? No, I don’t. If anything, I’m a victim of my own low self esteem issues, which is how I let someone as horrible as him into my life in the first place – I felt undeserving of anything better than what he could provide. But I’m taking responsibility for my self esteem, along with taking responsibility for a lot of other things – if anything, this was a hard lesson, but one that I absolutely needed to learn.
The universe sent me something I needed, and I’m embracing it with both arms. Because I am strong. I am a survivor.