How To Regain A Sense Of Self After An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

by Mojgan Sherkat

It always starts out well, doesn’t it? A date here, a nice surprise there.

You’re excited. There’s flirting, chemistry, laughter and that mesmerizing energy that makes you believe you’ve found the one.

You start thinking you’re set. In fact, he probably tells you and makes you believe you’re the one for him as well.

We convince ourselves of things because of the words we hear, and not the actions (or lack thereof) we see.

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

In my case, I had a hard time believing who he was. I also had a hard time accepting I was being emotionally abused.

Maybe in part, this is due to the stigma around the word "abuse."

I didn’t encounter anything physical.

He didn’t try to control me in very visible ways. But alas, he did make me feel like everything was my fault.

This was a type of abuse I wasn’t really aware of.

For me, it was practically love at first sight. I know, so clichéd.

I had never felt so connected to someone before. Simply put, it was magic.

He told both me and our mutual friends that I was the one. He told me what his ultimate life plans and goals were, and that he wanted me to be there for the journey as his wife.

But months into our relationship, I came across the first sign of him showing me who he really was.

I was washing my face at the bathroom sink when his phone buzzed.

He had left it on the counter. I looked over and I saw her name.

My heart fell.

It was a girl I knew he had tried to pursue before I was in the picture. I went through their conversation.

I learned he had been texting her inappropriate messages the entire time we had been dating. I learned he had met with her earlier in the month and never told me about it.

I learned that I was not the only woman he flirted with and had deep conversations with.

I think it’s fair to say I learned I was not the only woman he had feelings for.

I was crushed.

When I confronted him about the texts, he made me feel like they were my fault.

He said the only reasonable explanation for his actions was I wasn’t giving enough.

Something was missing. Somehow, I believed all this.

I forgave him and continued the relationship. After all, I believed it was just a bump in the road. I was going to spend the rest of my life with this man.

But naturally, things never went back to normal. I had my guard up, and never really felt like myself after that.

It’s amazing what the power of manipulation can do to you. I became insecure, unhappy, closed off and guarded.

I was terrified of being vulnerable because I didn’t trust him.

Months later, I planned a little surprise for him. It was after a particularly stressful and successful week for him at work.

I got to his house, got everything ready and waited. He was out with his friends, but knew I was going to be at his place after work.

I waited and waited and waited.

Hours later, I texted him saying, "I’m falling asleep. When are you coming home?"

There was no explanation and no apology.

He simply said, “I’ll catch a ride now.”

He was drunk. I was, of course, hurt.

I tried talking to him about how disrespectful his actions were, but he didn’t want to hear it.

He made me feel as if my expectations of having an adult conversation and wanting an honest and loving relationship were absurd.

He left for a weekend trip with his family the next day. He could tell I was still upset, and asked me what was wrong.

I told him how insignificant he had made me feel the night before.

His response was that he didn’t have time to discuss the matter because he was with his family. Again, he made it seem as if my feelings were insignificant.

The final blow came just a few weeks later, when I learned he was talking to his ex-girlfriend.

What hurt the most was coming across a conversation the two of them had had the weekend he was on vacation with his family. He was too busy to have a conversation with me and smooth things over from the night before, but he had time to flirt with his ex.

He said things to her like, “I’ll never forget how beautiful you were on New Year’s Eve when we were in San Francisco,” as we were spending NYE together.

He even sent her a gift on her birthday.

It was hurtful and deceitful.

I have never felt so small in my life.

The relationship came to an end not because I finally realized how much more I deserved, but because he decided I wasn’t the one.

Due to everything I had been through with him, I dealt with serious heartbreak and depression.

I lost 15 pounds. My parents thought I was sick, and worst of all, I blamed myself for everything.

He had managed to convince me his actions were a result of my behavior.

Abuse is not a clear-cut issue, and because emotional abuse lacks physical scars, it is challenging to identify.

Emotional abuse erodes your self-esteem. It's a pattern of put-downs and mind games that is meant to gain power over you.

It leaves you feeling like everything's your fault and often, you feel like you're losing your mind.

Let's make one thing clear: You're not crazy. This is a kind of abuse.

He hasn't broken your bones, but he has broken your spirit.

Abuse can be incredibly subtle, as I experienced.

It can be as simple as thinking you are falling in love to wondering why all of the problems in your relationship seem to be your fault.

You have no idea how you went from being on cloud nine to feeling so low.

Before you met this person, you were doing well. You were confident, happy and outgoing.

There were no signs of depression.

But after entering a relationship with a person who exhibits manipulative tendencies, you will see how quickly life goes from serene and enjoyable to lost and insecure.

You assume (and even convince yourself) you have unrealistic wants and needs. You somehow think your expectations for a relationship are ridiculous.

This is not true. You deserve to feel loved and safe in a relationship. You deserve respect and honesty.

Let me tell you something I wish I had realized a long time ago: It’s not you.

It’s not your fault, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.