This is going to be one of the hardest "Let's Get Coffee" posts I've written, because I am drawing from personal experience. I have known for a long time that this post is important, and almost necessary (for my own healing) to write, but it has taken me some time to become detached enough from my previous relationship, and be in a healthy enough state to write about this.
Eventually, I would like to write a "Let's Get Coffee" about the signs of emotional abuse. That is what this post was supposed to be, but as I laid out my points, I kept returning to my story. I realized that until I've talked about my own abusive relationship, I can never speak about it objectively.
Here is my open letter: these are the things I wish I had said to my abuser.
When the person that hurts you most in the world is your lover, your confidant, your best friend…how do you force yourself away from that? There was no soft partings or gentle goodbye kisses. There was yanking and screaming. I needed to leave you but I didn't want to, and they had to drag me out by my nails. I cried as I left. I cried more once I was gone. I had to deal with the consequential texts of a manipulator, you, trying to convince me that this isn’t what I wanted- that this was what everyone else wanted. And they didn't matter, only we did.
I had to fight through the rose-tinted glasses of a broken 2 year relationship and tell you that I cannot imagine a world without you, but I need to start trying harder. That this IS what I want, but I am fighting with two halves of myself- the one who keeps dragging me out the door, and the one who always makes sure I don’t throw away the key. They needed to stop fighting.
I wish the abuse had just been physical. Bruises disappear, physical pain fades, the body heals. It wasn’t the physical violence. It wasn’t the time you kicked out of the hotel room in a city I barely knew at 2am. You may remember I still posted Instagram photos on that trip- I never said a thing. It wasn’t that time you dropped me onto a glass table because the Timberwolves lost. It wasn’t being hit because you were drunk and mad and I was there, and you knew I would take it. It wasn't that time you fucked me, while I cried and screamed that it hurt. (You would later tell me that you hadn't noticed I'd done either.)
It was all the times you commented on how unflattering my jeans were. It was the times you would accuse me of being condescending, by mocking me with my ACT score, as if being smart is something to feel guilty about. It was all the times you made me change so I would look hot in front of your friends. It was the times you would speed down the highway because you knew it scared me to death. It was the time you told me I was only skinny because I had an eating disorder, and told me I couldn’t eat your food because it was a waste, and I would only purge it. It was the time you commented on what I wore, and said not to come crying to you if I got raped. It was all the times you made me feel like I was a chore to love. It was every nasty comment you ever made to me, and then acted like it could be excused because you were drunk and couldn’t remember it. It was every time you gaslit me, saying something horrible, then denying it minutes later. I even tried to record you once, but you caught me, and that didn't end well...I don't think you remember this. It was every time you ever told me I was overreacting. It was every time you ever told me I was crazy. It was every time you ever told me I was playing victim.
I made a lot of excuses for you. I told myself, over and over again, that you could love me more than you could love being drunk- that your love for me was greater than your hatred for yourself. I told myself that you would never say the things you say if you were sober- it took me a long time to realize that that detail is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if you were drunk, it doesn't matter if you remember it...I remember it. And every time I think that the memory of your insults no longer effect me, I try to eat, and I hear you telling me that I am only skinny because I have an eating disorder. I put on my favorite Levi's, and hear you telling me how unflattering I look in wide leg jeans.
I am not scared of saying no to sex anymore. Did you ever know that I was? When I said no to sex, you always expected a "no, because..." I could never simply say no.
I still feel this inexplicable need to justify myself. To apologize when I get angry with purpose... to question my own rationality...as if I owe anyone an explanation for what I am wearing, for who I am seeing, for what I am doing.
You used to ask me, "if you were so unhappy... if we had so many problems... why didn't you just leave me? It's because you love me." Well, you're right. I loved you with every bit of me. I thought that it was my duty to fix you, like a broken toy. I thought that if all of my suffering shaped a new, better man, then it would all be worth it. I set up our abusive relationship like a project, and it came shattering down on me.
I broke up with you while you were in jail. You had gotten drunk, blown a .24 on a breathalyzer, and when you told me over the phone how you couldn't wait to come home to me, I had to tell you that you'd be coming home to a stranger. It cost me fifteen dollars to leave you. It cost me a lot more than that. You had the nerve to say, "you can't leave me in a time like this. I need you." I know you did.
I finally put myself first.
I'm sorry if I sound angry. I've made peace with our relationship, and I have let go of my anger. Your family was good to me, your mother treated me like a daughter, we had some good days. And yet, the happiest day of our relationship was the day after our worst. Our whole relationship is tainted for me now, and I wish it wasn’t.
I cut my hair off after I left you.
I wear my Levi's all the time.
I hope you're sober.
I hope you're well.
I'm out of things to say to you.