Who am I now? I am strong, happy, educated, healthy, loved. The sad thing, was that I was all of those things back then, minus the aspect of strong. Unfortunately, I spent four and a half years of my life in the hands of a manipulating monster. The ways my ex manipulated me were at times, subtle, other times, direct and stinging. You can think whatever you like having not experienced something like this, but it really does take over who you are as a person during that period. I became less of myself, more of a stranger. And if you have experienced something like this, I really feel for you and know that you are stronger now than ever before. For your awareness, here are the four ways my ex manipulated me.
1) Jealousy Implied
Have you ever felt jumped on for asking a simple question? I sure have. It only took a blissful year to reach a stage in which I would be berated for asking “Where were you this afternoon?”. He would snap, and I would defend myself, indicating that it was a casual question. He would infer passively and directly, that I was a jealous individual who needed to chill. Even if it turned out that my suspicions had been right.
To be entirely honest, I don’t consider myself a jealous person. Rarely, did I dig, even when I sensed red flags. And in looking back, I think my digging was more so in the direction of trying to find out if I’m wasting my time. Life is short, and why waste it on a person who might not appreciate you? This is entirely ironic, as I did spend three and a half more years with this person, but let’s move on, shall we?
2) Twist in Responsibility
Anything that went wrong on his end came right back around to my responsibility. I became more awkward as a result, as though I could do very little right. My confidence slipped.
He would burn a steak and begin yelling at me because I was being selfish in thinking I could speak to him as he cooked. He would miss a goal and then act distant as though I had put my interests first. If I pointed out this flaw, for example, that he should have been watching the game more closely if he wanted to see the goal, he would escalate to anger. If you haven’t experienced this, you can imagine how you may have reacted as a child, when your parents reprimanded you. You may have internalized that awful feeling, and learned not to do that thing. Well, in this case, it wasn’t my parent. And in this case, that thing would be communicating openly.
3) Guilt Trips
In the latter half of our relationship, my now-ex had began to sense a transition. I had finished my degree. Started going out more, hanging with some girls he’d never seen before (sorry, Drake reference). He would soften strategically as I’d leave. He was trying to make me feel guilty for this.
When I began to express concerns that this wasn’t a healthy lifestyle, he would imply that I wasn’t trying enough. That our breakup would be on me, because I hadn’t put in effort. That I was lazy. He would then proceed to get cuddly and romantic, as though I would be ridiculous to end it all with him. “Why don’t you remember any of the good times, and only the bad ones?”, he would ask with puppy dog eyes. I would lie there with him, focused as I tried to sift through all of this. Trying to find truth in everything, yet in nothing. Of the ways my ex manipulated me, this way was the most confusing.
4) Confidence Building and Destruction
My ex would work to build my confidence at times, and then attempt to destroy it when it would benefit him. Ideally, at the start of an argument. Or, as he was beginning to lose control of those around him. He would claim I was a prude and then a (pardon the term) skank in the same month. He would say I was too nice to others, and then too cold and bitchy. Too curvy and then, not feeding myself enough (same month usually). Of all the ways my ex manipulated me, this was the deepest cut. However, that eventually changed.
It got to a point that this was beginning to feel laughable. Likely maturity was a major factor here. At first, I had internalized and even listened. Yet when I reached my mid-twenties, the profanities began to sound ridiculous. He had likely become desperate for new material at this point. I decided at that point that I deserved better and jump started my life!
First off, learn to know yourself. If you are a jealous person, you can admit and remember that. If you aren’t, then remember that. Bad relationships often create feelings in us that are sharply unnatural. If you feel yourself acting out of character, analyze yourself and wonder if this is healthy.
Secondly, try to evaluate honestly. It can be tough when it involves the person you love. I would occasionally wonder if I was in denial on the things being accused of me. It is okay to have flaws, but try to make sure they are really there, and not placed there by someone who could benefit from them being present.
Try to avoid letting anyone make you feel anything. My ex made me feel guilty sometimes, but in a way, I let him have that opportunity. I’m not wiping his responsibility in this, but I’m also not wiping away mine either. We choose who we live with. Choose someone who accepts you as you are, and supports a healthy, balanced lifestyle that you have in mind.
You can be indestructible. You can love yourself so much, that no words will hurt you. These words can still surprise or disappoint us, but we cannot let them bear truth. If we are happy and powerful and empowered, nothing can shake that permanently. You are beautiful. Don’t let someone else try to make that appear differently. Words are still a form of abuse. The ways my ex manipulated me may not have been physical, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t abuse.
If you want to read another challenging yet motivating article, I recommend Channeling Negatives into Positives.