If I had to graph it out, my relationship with him would probably look like a tightly drawn squiggle. I would often dread good days, because it usually meant a bad phase was soon to follow. A “bad phase” simply meant his annoyance with me, how much I take his love for me for granted, how I don’t understand the pressures he’s under, how unstable I am for trying to leave him and go. The guilt trips were many, the grief, unbearable. Sometimes I would try to sneak out of the apartment before he woke up so that he doesn’t find out. Unfortunately, he found out always, and I had to bear the brunt of my disloyalty, both emotionally, physically and sexually, later on. In one such episode, a coffee bottle was flung towards me. It shattered into countless pieces, and while I mopped the entire floor, once, twice, thrice – sobbing, trying to get the appalling fragrance of coffee out of the apartment, he slept on, peacefully, as if nothing had happened. He did not seem to remember the events of the night before (like always), and I chose not to remind him, for the fear of triggering him again. The evidence however, was right there – his extreme stoicism the morning after, and the numerous cuts caused by tiny glass shards on my knees and hands.
Soon, the bad phases followed everything. A low giggle maybe, if he was sleeping. The way I smiled. One word I used. If I talked to a particular co-worker for longer than he permitted. If I used my phone in his presence, if I kept him waiting, if I said no to staying over the night. I did not know I was in an abusive relationship until the red flags were glaring right in my face. The breaking point came when my luggage was thrown at me with full force, missing me only by an inch. Surprisingly, I had never suspected him to perpetrate “abuse” towards me, since he would quite often spoil me with love. I always assumed he is surrounded by the perils of stress and this is just him venting it out. It is never easy to come to terms with the fact that someone you love so passionately would inflict abuse on you like this. I was assured multiple times that he’ll improve, that he’ll never get so violent or aggressive, that he needs that “one last chance” after every tiff we had.
Beyond that illusion of something electrifying, an abusive relationship often follows a similar skeletal structure. Manipulation, deception, the abuser identifying as the victim, shifting the onus of the argument to the victim, extreme bouts of jealousy and possessiveness, are some of them. I don’t recall how often I was accused of “provoking” his anger. Bound by “duty” and guilt, I decided to stay by his side till this “difficult” chapter of his life passed on, in false hopes of going back to our initial, rose tinted romance. It never did. I was conditioned to believe that anything I did without his approval was illicit and caused him immense pain, for which, I was liable to handle his outbursts and face estimated punishments. His “love” seemed to exult every time I was humiliated by him and held responsible for the cracks in his fragile ego.
When I finally decided to leave him, I was met with a lot of verbal conflict. He threatened to kill himself and called me an unappreciative jerk who failed to acknowledge how he’d gone out of his way to protect me from the harsh world. The thought of moving on initially made me panic, because of how used to I’d become to the idea of loving him. After trying every method known to him to choke my escape, and his failure to do so, I was free. I was free from the burden of somebody else’s inappropriate decisions weighing in on my life.
It is never going to be easy getting out of an abusive relationship, at any point. By the time you notice the first signs, chances are, it has already laid its roots too deep. There is also no “one key fits all” solution to this. It has been two years now, but each incident of mistreatment is etched clearly in my mind, never to be forgotten.
It took me a lot of time to understand that I was not responsible for his mood swings, that I did not deserve to be hit, have stuff thrown at, be blackmailed into doing things I did not want to, or clean up after him whenever he messed up. I had ceased to exist as myself, and survived only as an extension of my partner. The shadow, however, of the whole experience still remains. After being blinkered by the idea of love painted by my partner during the course of this very tumultuous and difficult relationship, one thing I know for sure is, that love doesn’t harm like this, it only flourishes and nurtures.