Julie, I was in an emotionally abusive marriage for six years and although it never got what I would call really physical, sometimes it came close. It was horrible. I lost my self-esteem, my self-worth, my self-respect. I became volatile and insecure, timid and easily cowed. I just shudder to think how I became. When finally he had an affair and I felt I had a decent excuse to leave him, I did. And it was the best thing Iâ€™ve ever done.
I did what Iâ€™d wanted to do since I was 18 and got a flat by myself, just me and my kitties, and lived on my own for a year until I met Max.
I was scared, too. Max seemed to be so wonderful but when he did the slightest thing wrong I would jump to all kinds of conclusions, go off the deep end, panic, get angry â€“ it was horrible. It hit home to me once when Iâ€™d had a nervous breakdown over something small and he said to me, `Wow, I didnâ€™t realise you were so fragileâ€™. Luckily, he was the kind of guy who didnâ€™t freak out and run when he realised that, but instead made it his duty to help me get back on my feet emotionally.
We stuck together and we are now engaged and more in love than ever. But it has taken three years to get here. The damage of an abusive relationship lasts a LONG time. I was fortunate that I met someone special enough to hang in there with me, through thick and thin, but I had to do a lot of work and changing, too.
I realised when I left my husband that I never knew I had expectations for a relationship until he didnâ€™t meet any of them. I worked out after that the things that were MOST important â€“ being respectful, communication - and I learned to pick my battles. I realised that itâ€™s not all up to the guys to make us happy, and that relationships are a two-way street. When one of those streets is clogged full of old baggage, you need to clear it before you can continue down the road to happiness.
So, I guess what Iâ€™m saying in a roundabout way is, trust your instincts, but be prepared to work on yourself as well as expecting him to help you gain back your trust. Pick your battles, donâ€™t sweat the small stuff but stand up for what you feel strongly about. Be true to yourself and completely honest at all times, no matter how hard it might be. Accept when youâ€™re wrong and apolgise if you are, and make him feel special, the way he should make you feel. Know your boundaries and stick to them until you are comfortable to shift them. And if you have some boundaries that you donâ€™t want to shift, thatâ€™s fine â€“ but be prepared to listen with an open mind if this causes problems.
It wasnâ€™t until I learned how to address my faults and my insecurities and baggage over my last relationship, that my new relationship started to blossom. It wasnâ€™t Maxâ€™s responsibility to fix me, but it was up to him to be a good, kind, loving partner and to help me recover using my own strength. I also learned that when he saw me changing and compromising and learning, he felt motivated to offer me the same respect, and address issues and faults of his own. We have really grown together and itâ€™s all been about complete and total honesty with ourselves and each other. Also, as others have said, avoid taking things too fast. That was a mistake I made with Max and a couple of times it almost ended our relationship.
In short, I think that women (and men) who have been in relationships that are abusive tend to come out of them with a sense of being owed something. The first partner that comes along who is on the receiving end of this can feel (rightly) under pressure, stressed and a little trapped by this expectation. The only person who can fix you is you, and having a great and understanding partner can really help with that. But as long as you are upfront and honest, things can work out better than you ever dreamed!
Jeeze â€“ that was a marathon! Sorryâ€¦.