This is a post that has been festering in a corner of my brain for a while. Every time I sat down to write it, the time didn’t feel right; I didn’t feel ready. Today, a friend came to me, and we talked a little bit about stuff that pertains to this post, and..all of a sudden, I wanted to write this post, I needed to write this post, and get it out for people to read, as soon as possible. I’m going to cover a few topics, all of which are very important to me personally. Bear with me.
Abusive Relationships. Most people picture physical violence when they hear the term. A boyfriend taking out his anger on his girlfriend through his fists. A husband drinking straight from the bottle and throwing a chair at his wife. (I want to make it very clear that physically abusive relationships like the examples given are often thought of as male-on-female, and although this is in fact more common, female-on-male abuse can and does happen, as does female-on-female abuse and male-on-male abuse. Male victims, who make up approximately one third of victims, deserve just as much validation, love, and support. However, we must not forget that abuse is about power, and a large majority of abusers are male.)
No one really stops to consider emotionally abusive relationships, or their consequences. Most people don’t even believe that emotional abuse has consequences, let alone is harmful. As a result, they don’t take it seriously. In some cases, facets of emotional abuse are so normalized that people can’t even see that something is wrong.
I’m not an expert on healthy relationships. Not even close. In fact, I’ve been a part of some pretty unhealthy relationships. I’ve personally been through the mindsets that are so often present in victims of abuse: “I can make this work if I try harder.” “[The other person] will change.” “This is just a phase that we have to get through.” “Every relationship is like this at one point.” “These lows are worth the highs.” It’s a terrible place to be in. And all those statements are probably wrong, and if you find yourself thinking those things consistently, it’s probably time to examine your relationship, be it with a friend, or a significant other.
Another thing to note: I’m sure they make you feel great, too. It’s called the Honeymoon Phase. They apologize, promise they’ll get better, tension builds..and it happens all over again. It’s a cycle, it’s incredibly difficult to get out. But we have to remember that a lapse in cruelty is not evidence of kindness.
This is so important to me. Friends, significant others, they exist solely to make us feel good. And so many people I know, myself included, have engaged in relationships where we were very aware that the other person made us feel bad more often than not, and didn’t get out. Couldn’t get out.
Alarm bells often go off in my head, when I talk to friends about their relationships. “They take out their anger on me a lot.” “I feel like I’ve lost my individuality in my relationship.” “They emotionally blackmail me.” “They get jealous really easily.” “They put me down a lot—it’s how they show affection, right?” “They don’t want me to talk to [friend] anymore.” These are all signs of emotional abuse. And normalization? I’m fairly confident that these things are all statements we’ve heard before and brushed aside. “Whatever, it happens.” “That’s just how they are.”
We need to stop. We need to recognize the signs.
I’ve noticed that my culture, one built on arranged marriages, irrefutably perpetuates abuse. Marriage becomes a binding between two families rather than two individuals, and as a result, there are more people invested in making it work. Another factor comes from women being raised to worship their husbands, to believe that their lives exist to please their husbands, and end up forgoing their own goals and dreams as a result. People stay together even when cheated on. That baffles me. I just cannot understand that. I have never been in that situation, but that’s the epitome, isn’t it? It happens. We’ve all seen people give second, third, fourth chances to cheaters, the same people who desperately believe the other will change, because they will love enough, because they will give up enough. Yes, sacrifices must be made in relationships, but to what avail?
We have this tendency to believe that the “one in two marriages end in divorce” statistic means that society is crumbling, that my generation does not know how to “compromise” and “make things work.” We have this tendency to believe that no divorce equals a successful marriage.
It doesn’t. Not at all. I think that’s what bothers me the most. It’s not even about marriage. People seem to believe that a long lasting relationship automatically means it is a successful one.
Break-ups are hard. I know they are. But are they really worse than the alternative? Are they really worse than losing yourself? Are they worse than staying with someone who makes you feel terrible?
It’s..devastating. Emotional abuse is such a real, consequential issue, and we don’t ever talk about it. We don’t learn the signs and how to recognize them, in school. We don’t tell kids to watch out for them. In fact, we do the opposite.
Children’s books are filled with tales where the moral of the story is, “Love can conquer all.” We tell teenagers, “If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not love.” We celebrate musicians like Eminem who’ve built their careers on rapping about abuse. We bring books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” to the top of the bestsellers list, claiming that Christian Grey loves Anastasia Steele SO much (Spoiler Alert: He’s an abusive sadist). Edward and Bella. Chuck and Blair. Damon and Elena. Frank and Claire Underwood. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Daisy and Jay Gatsby. I could keep on going. Easily. I don’t want to get into a literary analysis as to why all these relationships are abusive, but I encourage you to analyze it for yourself.
See, we can’t even recognize the emotional abuse when we literally know every aspect of the relationship, like we do with fictional characters. How can we believe we can recognize the emotional abuse occurring around us, affecting real people, real lives, when we don’t even know what is happening behind closed doors?
This..needs to stop. Through my posts, I try to start a conversation. This is probably the most needed conversation yet.
I’m sorry if this post’s execution wasn’t up to par, or felt rushed. I had a lot that I wanted to say, and I was really emotional writing it. Thanks for reading through this entire thing. I want to finish off by saying that there are tons of resources online for people who feel they are, or may be, in an abusive relationship—I highly encourage everyone having doubts to research, or talk to someone. I’m always here, for anyone who needs someone to talk to, but I will say that some things are beyond even me. It’s not a bad thing to go to a professional. The emotional and mental consequences of abuse can be devastating, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. And remember, it’s never too late.