I meant to follow up last week with a third and final post about Michael. Obviously, I didn’t, but I do want to round out those posts. If you didn’t stop by last week, you can find posts one and two here.
I want to expand upon something I mentioned in the second post:
“I don’t belong here, I thought, this site is here to help real abuse victims.”
This is exactly why I’m writing my story and why it should be part of the discussion on domestic abuse. I truly thought that what I had gone through didn’t count. When I thought of “domestic abuse,” I saw bright-line definitions (a punch or slap or shove) and stereotypes (the man as the abuser, a weak-willed woman as the abused). Abuse can happen to or be perpetuated by anyone. Michael has since graduated from law school. I have a master’s degree and a CPA license. We’re smart, successful people. And yet, it happened. I have a loving family and several close friends – in other words, a strong support system. And yet, it happened. I am a strong woman and always thought I’d stand up for myself. And yet, it happened.
It sounds trite, but the first part of helping yourself out of a toxic relationship is realizing that it’s toxic to begin with. I didn’t think it was abusive until I got out of it, partly because I didn’t know what it meant to be emotionally abused. Had I thought about it, I probably wouldn’t have even labeled our relationship abusive at the time because I might have thought that it needed to be more severe.
Because that’s the thing, our relationship did not involve me sobbing in a corner for five years. We truly did have some good times. Most of the abuse was part of the fabric of our relationship, but it didn’t necessarily affect each and every day. Michael was selfish and manipulative, but I knew that and most of the time it didn’t bother me. I knew that had I been stranded on the side of the road, I could not have counted on him to come pick me up (unless there was something in it for him) and I was mostly ok with that. I knew that it would be a struggle to get him to support something I loved (getting him to go to my annual dance recital was like pulling teeth) and while it frustrated me, I thought it was something I could live with and just a nuance of our relationship.
But abuse doesn’t have to be “severe” to warrant action.
I’m in a much better place than I was then. My mental health, confidence, and self-esteem are leaps and bounds from where they were. Part of that is just growing up some, but part of it is my own doing. Meeting Luffy and seeing what real, healthy love was like helped a lot too. He helped me realize my own self-worth and helped me sever ties with Michael once and for all (Michael was still somewhat abusing me through email).
It feels good to write about Michael, to give a nod to my not-so-bright past and to recognize how far I’ve come. And if anyone out there reads this and recognizes a few things, I urge you to re-evaluate. You’re worth so much more than your partner tells you.
If you need help or want to know how you can contribute, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).