Being truthful is an imperative part of breaking the cycle of an abusive relationship.
But being truthful can also be extremely difficult. At the beginning of my relationship with Jesse, I lied. I lied a lot. I lied to myself about how happy I was, I lied to my family about how ambitious he was and I lied to my friends about how well he treated me. All in all, I wanted everyone else to see Jesse in the light that I did. I wanted everyone to see how “cool” he was. I worked hard to justify my being with him.
But I knew, deep down I knew, he was wrong for me. So why did I continue to date him? Why did I keep trying to make it work? Why does any girl try to make it “work” when it’s so blatantly wrong?
While there is almost definitely a deeper, underlying reason, right now I suspect that it was because I was confused. I was confused about who I was, about where I wanted my life to lead and about how to determine my ultimate truth. And to be honest, maybe I still am a little confused about all of these things, but here’s my effort to figure it out; here’s the truth about some of my relationship’s most detrimental times (and the reason behind my pursuit to tell the truth now).
We all have pivotal moments in our lives—moments that change the way we look at ourselves, at others and at the world at large; moments that redefine life as we know it.
The day my life changed was the day I sat in the back of a cop car because I’d finally stood up to the man I loved.
I’d never been arrested. And truthfully, I never thought I could be. I was in my early twenties and I felt invincible—especially in relation to the law. So when three cop cars swarmed my boyfriend’s car in a parking lot outside a ski resort, I told them the truth. “I punched him in the face.”
I had punched my boyfriend, well, now ex-boyfriend, in the face. No one asked why.
To this day, very few people know why I punched him. And I liked it this way. I didn’t want to admit how destructive this relationship was. I didn’t want to admit how badly I’d been hurt—both physically and emotionally—by the man I’d loved because somehow, that would mean facing the reason I stayed with him. And that was terrifying.
It took going to jail, anger management courses and a whole lot of yoga for me to admit that the reason I stayed with him was out of fear. But not fear of him or what he was capable of—fear of the truth, the whole truth.
Admitting that my relationship had taken a turn for the worse meant I had to face the reason it had, and one of the contributing factors was me.
At the beginning of my relationship, I lied. I lied a lot. I lied to myself about how happy I was—I told myself that staying in the relationship was making me a better person; I told myself that I was learning something from Jesse. Over the course of our relationship, lying became my artistry. I lied in an attempt to justify my being with him. I lied to justify my staying with him. I lied so much that I became afraid of the truth.
Living in a lie was like living in a fantasy world where I was protected from reality—where all the horrible things he’d done to me didn’t exist. In this fantasy world, I didn’t have to admit that he’d cheated on me, that he’d done thousands of dollars worth of damage in my apartment, and that he had tried to pull me down a flight of stairs. In this fantasy world, I didn’t have to admit that I too had done some horrible things. In this fantasy world, nothing was wrong, nothing bad existed—there was no reason for me to leave him. In this fantasy world, I was still safe.
Admitting that everything wasn’t “perfect” meant facing the truth—the truth that somewhere along the way I’d lost a part of me to a boy—a part of who I was, before I fell into this relationship. I felt that admitting this insecurity meant admitting that there was something “wrong” with me—and my ego was too big (or too small) to allow me to do this.
But sitting in the back of that cop car I realized that running from the truth was harder, more taxing and detrimental than facing it.
Now, a world away from that lost, scared, little girl, I can admit that there wasn’t and there isn’t anything wrong with me. Though I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve learned from them and grown. In retrospect, punching my boyfriend in the face was the best thing I’d ever done. I had stood up for myself, I’d stood up to the truth. At that moment, I hadn’t run—I’d stood there and fought. And I’ve been “fighting” ever since.
Since that day in the cop car, I’ve learned that being truthful is an imperative part of breaking the cycle of an abusive relationship—whether it be a relationship with yourself or with someone else.
I’ve learned that telling the truth takes courage, conviction, and an ability to hold your head high when it seems like everyone else is trying to tear you down. And I’ve learned that sometimes it takes a mean right-hook to the face for the whole truth to come out.
I’ve learned how the truth is grounding, it is freeing, it allows you to analyze a situation objectively and subjectively. Truth helps guide you in the right direction; it provides a foundation for you to make justified accusations, and it helps you to realize who you truly are in this world.
In certain respects, my relationship lasted three years too long. It tore apart my self-image, lowered my self-esteem, ruined multiple friendships and even landed me in jail. At large, my relationship made me hate myself even more than I may have already. But no matter how spontaneous and out-of-character it was at the time—my decision to stand up for myself and face the truth set me free.
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Assistant Ed: Daniel Garcia / Ed: Catherine Monkman