What I've Learned In My Years Of Recovering From An Abusive Relationship

Koen Meershoek

Dear ex-boyfriend,

For an entire year, I denied I was being abused. To me, abuse was physical. But I never knew abuse can come in all forms.

When someone constantly tears you down for his or her own sick pleasure, that's emotional abuse. When someone calls you names and berates you so much that you will do anything he or she wants just to make it stop, that's verbal abuse.

When someone forces you to perform sexual acts you're uncomfortable with, or even forces him or herself onto you, that's sexual abuse. The moment someone lays a hand on you with the intent to harm you, that's physical abuse.

All of it is used as a means for control. None of it is ever OK.

While we made some great memories together, now that we've spent six years apart, I realize what we had wasn't love. Now that I'm in what most people would call a loving relationship, I see things even more clearly now.

To start, everything in our relationship always had to be about you: what you wanted, what you expected and what made you happy. It was never about what I wanted or what I needed.

Every day with you was different, but not in a good way. Every day, you would have a new set of rules that had to be followed, and different expectations that had to be met.

You would say something one day, but the next, you would say the exact opposite. You said awful things to me and called me horrible names when I didn't do whatever it was you wanted me to. You always said you didn't know why you put up with me. You said I was a terrible girlfriend, and that I didn't deserve any happiness.

One day, I would be perfect. But the next day, I was useless and couldn't do anything right. You spread vicious rumors and lies about me. You lied to me all the time, usually to cover up another lie or something shady you had done.

You criticized everything about me, and you made me feel like garbage about the things I couldn't change. You used my insecurities against me.

A loving partner would have worked to build me up, but you sought out ways to tear me down. Someone who loved me would have accepted me for who I was.

But you wanted to change me. What we had wasn't love; it was abuse.

For years, I didn't know why you chose to be this way toward me. I believed I was the horrible person you always said I was. Now, I see why.

You were insecure. I had a lot going for me and you didn't. You had abandonment issues. You were afraid I would leave you, just like everyone else you had loved before did.

You were jealous. I had a whole other life that didn't revolve around you.

You like to be in control of everything. You tried to control every aspect of my life, including my personal style, who I associated with and even the days and times I could go to my job.

I kick myself all the time for being so stupid and going along with that behavior. But now, I see that true love is about being secure with yourself and your relationship.

I may have not been a perfect girlfriend, but I loved you so much, despite the emotional and verbal abuse I suffered daily. I defended you to my friends and family. By the way, they all hated you and didn't understand why I put up with you.

I tried so hard to work through our problems. I tried to compromise with you when we didn't see eye-to-eye. I tried to be the person you wanted me to be.

But despite all of that, you treated me like the dirt on your boots. Breaking up with you was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. It was better than graduating from college with honors and receiving my master's degree.

When we broke up, it was the most free I had ever felt in a year. You claimed you couldn't live without me, and that I had ruined you. But the truth is, you ruined me.

Recovering from your abuse took years, and it didn't help that so many people took your side over mine, thanks to all the lies you told them about me. It took me a while to feel like myself again, and to allow myself to get close to anyone.

The last thing I want to say to you is thank you. Thank you for showing me what bad relationships look like at a young age. Thank you for showing me how not to act when I really love someone. Now that I have a good thing going, I'll make sure he never doubts the love I have for him.

Sincerely, Allison