Identifying Emotional Abuse before it Happens.


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On the other hand:

KD Illustration

I want to tell you an important story, and here’s why: not a lot of people will share their versions.

It’s scary. Too scary, for many.

Like for my hairdresser, whose husband was “the sweetest guy she ever met” at first, yet ended up nearly choking her to death against the kitchen wall. He didn’t spare her—she would have died if her 11-year-old son hadn’t come into the room.

Like for a friend of a friend who wasn’t able to leave her abuser until the day he popped a blood vessel in her eye.

Like for another friend of a friend whose boyfriend, for years, would threaten to kill himself with the nearby gun if she tried to leave him.

Like for my colleague whose sister died at the hand of her abuser, though he is still walking around free.

Like for the millions of women, men and children who don’t speak up every day because they are exhausted, don’t want to be reminded of the situation, or simply can’t say anything because doing so would risk their lives.

I’m doing my small part by sharing my story because violence of any kind, but especially domestic violence, is perpetuated by silence. The more we talk, the more we know, the faster we learn and demand better.

I love my bike more than almost anything in the world.

I think there’s a disease for that–object sexuality, anyone? But really, I do. There’s nothing that compares to riding, whether or not I have a destination, I’m exhausted or energized, my music’s blasting or I’m just enjoying the silence of my surroundings.

This time last year I met a boy who loved bikes, too. So we loved bikes together.

We rode our bikes everywhere and then pretty soon we did everything else together, too. All. The. Time. Every minute together.

But I was always unsettled with all this togetherness, that went from zero to 60 in just a few weeks time. I blew off the discomfort as me just learning how to be less independent and self-sufficient, as if those traits could actually adversely affect my future.

So we kept riding. Boy told me some things that were massive red flags, akin to those at Running of the Bulls, waving in my face, yet I was still charging right at them.

“Don’t judge,” I said.

“He’s changing,” I convinced myself.

“I won’t be like the rest,” I lied.

Every time I said these things my standards dropped lower and lower, and I perpetuated my own lie that everything was okay. I knew that if my family even knew the half of it they would douse me in a bucket of ice water until I cycled away as fast as I could (which is pretty damn fast).

But I kept riding.

The fights got worse, the anger more explosive, the jealously and put-downs and blatant hypocrisy so intense, only to be appeased by a shoulder shrug or guttural laughter that didn’t even sound like my own voice.

My brain felt like putty so often that all I wanted to do was sleep forever.

“It’s normal,” I assured myself, “It’s the dead of winter, who would have the energy to get out of bed?”

But I never stopped riding, and one day I rode so fast that even my bike said enough.

Though I love him to death, sometimes that carbon-fiber bastard has the weirdest ways of looking out for me.

Wake up, he said, or I’m gonna make you wake up and see it.

So he did.

My chin hit the pavement and that was it.

Well, it was more like, where the f*ck is all this blood coming from?! plus five days of hospitalization, six weeks of a wired jaw accompanied by a liquid-only diet, zero bike rides, dozens of nauseating painkillers, and two weeks of the most unimaginably inhumane response to my trauma from the “man” who was supposed to be there for me.

He took my weakened state and used it as an opportunity to yell, control, blame, punish, flee and cheat.

The cheating after my major surgery was the moment that finally allowed me to leave my abuser in the physical sense, yet it was the compounding layers of intense emotional abuse that will keep me away from him forever, along with anyone who possesses the same traits.

While I certainly don’t have everything figured out, or even know what a “perfect” relationship would look like, I have learned what relationships are most definitely not, what love is most definitely not, and that is the following abusive behaviors:


1. Frequent hanging out, right from the jump.

This intense togetherness is probably the hardest one to identify as a key sign of abuse, and I’ll tell you why.

In an age where we can deposit a check, order a burger, listen to the latest tracks and swipe through photos of potential matches all at once, it is safe to say that instant gratification has become the modus operandi. We subconsciously apply this to relationships, too, where hookup culture is expected and anything else is too old-fashioned.

Abusers, who tend to be extremely charismatic and complementary in the beginning, capitalize on this idea, convincing their partners that they need to be together all the time, and anything less is insincere. In this intense period abusers quickly establish a pattern of dependency whereby the partner begins to rely on the abuser’s opinions and habits to affirm their character and sense of worthiness as a match.

It is also common for the abuser to suggest “big steps” like moving in, taking trips alone or sharing financial resources. Because of the preexisting fast pace of everything else, in the moment it’s easy to go along with these big steps. These “suggestions” from my abuser were attempts to further control my actions, decisions and whereabouts, so that when the abuse started, my options for leaving would be more limited. Every time I voiced hesitation about moving too fast, I felt guilty.

2. Creation of isolation.

Because abusers need to maintain a strong power imbalance in the relationship in order to carry out the abuse, a prerequisite is making the partner feel isolated in every way.

Beyond physical isolation, this can manifest as threats of being alone if you ever leave him/her, verbal manipulation regarding those in your network and how they feel about you and reprimanding you for speaking to close friends and family about problems in the relationship.

“You’re missing out on a really good man,” he said one time I tried to leave. “You should be lucky to be with someone like me.”

When my family came into town after the bike crash, he got angry and resentful, calling me “spoiled” and “selfish” for being with them.

3. Extreme jealousy.

This is another hard one because I see so many people—myself included—mistake jealously for exclusivity.

When we first got together, I thought “Oh, he must be really jealous because he really likes me and wants to make sure nothing comes in the way of that.” I was unable to see the jealousy as the deep-seated insecurity that it was.

Toxic habits became the new normal. Things like looking through my phone every day, demanding that I answer if I had slept with any man we encountered who he didn’t know, and telling me not to wear certain clothing that he thought was too revealing.

He constantly fabricated stories about me cheating. He once went into a fit of rage because I didn’t introduce him to someone I had met for a few hours several years earlier, and a few weeks later did the same thing when we met someone who was an insignificant part of my past. In front of dozens of onlookers, he screamed at me, assuming I was currently sleeping with that individual.

4. Lack of respect for your property, aspirations, and values.

Because abusers see their partner merely as an extension of themselves rather than their own person with every right to their own opinions and limitations, boundaries are often blurred.

One of the first weeks I was dating this abuser, I had him drop me at a meeting on a topic that I was sure would be of no interest to him, and he immediately accused me of sneaking off to meet someone.

He often used my car and when I asked him not do things that would put me in jeopardy like smoke weed in it, suddenly I was, once again, “selfish.”

Once the relationship was over, all the money he owed me was no longer his problem.

Kind words that he had feigned regarding my job and career choices turned cold turkey to, “You’re a f*cking lackey.”

5. Self-victimization.

Abusers very rarely see themselves as abusers, which is why they almost never stop abusing. My abuser said things like, “I only attract crazy people” or “They made me do x, y, and z,” always looking through the lens of a victim when discussing exes, family members, friends, etc.

Because of this, whenever conflict arose, I was always wrong or to blame in his eyes. He refused to utter “sorry,” claiming that using that word makes you a self-deprecating person, yet he expected it all the time from me.

6. Uninterested in self-help.

Abusers tend to find people with bleeding hearts or a savior complex, and they will allow their partner to “fix” them in order to 1) make their partner feel like she or he is different and the only one who truly understands the abuser, and 2) (usually towards the end of the relationship) use this as a threat for why the partner needs to stay (i.e. “you’re supposed to be there for me no matter what”).

At the very end of my relationship, when for the first time I saw the heightened abuse with clarity rather than just a “complicated relationship,” I suggested anger management, and offered to go with him so it didn’t come across that I was singling him out. When he used lack of funds as an excuse, I offered to pay. When he still refused, I finally saw the distinction between someone with demons who is wanting and willing to do whatever it takes to healthily work them out versus a true abuser, who would rather just find someone new who hasn’t figured out their true character yet and start the cycle of abuse over with them because it’s easier.


This list is by no means exhaustive, and doesn’t even begin to get at the complexity of emotional abuse, especially when coupled with other factors like substance abuse, family history and mental illness, all of which were present in my relationship.

But I’m not here to talk about all that, I’m sharing simply to shed a bit of light on key signs of emotional abuse, which is so damn underexposed, if for no other reason that it doesn’t bear the visible scars that physical abuse does.

I’m also not here to tell you that I’m perfect, or that I didn’t possess qualities that probably enabled the abuse at times.

There is a certain kind of gratification that comes from helping someone improve, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the uplifting has to be mutual, no matter what kind of relationship it is. Anything less is a sure-fire path to the annihilation of your self-worth, and a total expending of your good energies on others, leaving nothing left for yourself.

And, please oh please oh please, don’t ask me #whyIstayed.

I did try to leave, but ended up doubting my own intuition every time.

I even called the National Domestic Abuse Hotline once after the abuse hit a verbal and somewhat physical climax. I was on hold for 45 minutes, during which my abuser insisted I was on the phone with a dude who I was making arrangements to go sleep with. But, at the time, I expected nothing else from him. It had all become normalized, you see.

I can’t reiterate enough how slowly emotional abuse can creep into your life—the first stage of complete adoration, gaslighting, and love-bombing from the abuser happens very quickly, but everything else is oftentimes so subvert you can only recognize just how bad it was once you’ve left.

Many people stay in abusive relationships far longer than they would like because they keep remembering the good times and subdue the bad. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t doing the same when it was first over. But as soon as I was able to identify the one thing we truly shared a passion for—cycling—I realized just how easy it was to replace the good feelings associated with those rides with hundreds of others in my city’s beautiful bike community, or even with the dozens of solo rides I’ve taken since getting back on my frame.

And I’ll leave you with this, only because it’s applicable to all injustices everywhere, not just the gross human rights violation that is domestic violence.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent oppression from mediocre minds” ~ Albert Einstein.

If someone/thing/force is bringing you down through its weakness, flush that shit and don’t forget to wipe.


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Want to join the dialogue? Here are a few ideas:


This post!

Your favorite DV-related story.

This simple yet very useful “Signs of Domestic Violence” infographic (available in other languages!)

39 Characteristics of Narcissistic Abuse

The best speech given about domestic violence. Ever.

Follow the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an all-encompassing resources for all things DV-related.

Volunteer for your favorite DV prevention or intervention non-profit.



Relephant Read: 

7 Steps to Heal from Emotional & Physical Abuse 


Tips on making the relationships we actually should be invested in work:


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Kendra Davis

Kendra Davis is just a lover of life, but especially of bikes, Italian food, and the ocean. She’s passionate about everything, and believes in truth over comfort. Follower her on Twitter.


100 Responses to “Identifying Emotional Abuse before it Happens.”

  1. Ella says:

    This behaviour describes what I went through with my BPD/NPD mother for 27 years. The enmeshment, jealousy, subtle control over who I saw/dated/befriended. The emotional abuse left its scars and only as a 30 year old woman can I fully understand what it was and how much it harmed me. Abuse can come in many forms, sometimes from the very people who are biologically supposed to love and support you.

    • Dee says:

      Hi Ella, sorry to hear what you have experienced. I had the same feelings reading the article. I am only just beginning to see the enmeshment issues I have with my mother and I am 38! It is very painful to acknowledge but it is only by doing so with self-compassion that I can move forward. Thank you for a great article Via Kendra Davis!

    • Julie says:

      I did not realize the level of emotional abuse I endured for almost 3 years with a narcissist. I can say this – I am a very smart. beautiful, honest woman who makes a very good living and the level of emotional abuse was so subtle and planned – the last month of our relationship, when I had a face to go with who he was currently cheating with, took a toll on me. He continued to accuse me of the very things he was doing. I got to a very low point that I am not proud of – it was as if the pain from the last three years melted out of my body. I walked away, no contact and every day I am away from
      him I realize from a logical standpoint how cruel and hateful he is. I wake up every day so thankful I am not with him. I feel in control of my life again and for once in my life I have created boundaries for myself for my next relationship. The boundaries are important -‘they reaffirm why I left the monster.

    • Jen says:

      Ella, I've had a similar experience with my own mother. I just turned 27 when I finally decided not to speak to my mother. I changed my phone number, moved to a new house (which I was already planning to do — just didn't give her the new address) and told her to contact my sister if she needed anything. I started therapy to work through all of the 27 years of emotion/confusion, to find my own strength. It only took a year before I saw her again, and it's now been 3 years. I still get nervous about seeing her but realized that she has (tried to) changed. The hardest thing for me was getting past that fact that she is my 'mother' — that relationship is so precious to some. It still hurts to think how guarded I have to be whenever I interact with her (whether via phone/text or in person). But reminding myself that emotional abuse is the same, no matter what type of relationship you're in, helps to stay strong. My fear now is becoming that abuser — I'm terrified of doing these same things to my partner or children (if I have any). Though, being super conscious of my experience makes me believe that I can and will be a better person.

    • Ashley says:

      I still agree this is just like my motherI had just had started my family and it got severely worse with my motherit started in my teens like most arguments with teensbut something was different about itshe anybody heads and she start getting very jealous of the fact that I was close to my father so she started pushing and yellingeven ignoring me because my brother was more important he was schizophrenic and she was bipolarits been two years since I’ve had contact with them over my choiceit’s safer this way I was always getting put down or always being jammed down my throat about how to raise my daughterI believe in tears because nothing was good enough for my motherI moved out because of abuse I was 18I tried really hard to keep trying to work at the relationship and after 2 years I couldn’t do anymoreI finally just had a break I couldn’t emotionally I could not anymore deal with itday of course that I was being a big baby about itthey cannot see how putting me down all the time was tearing me apart

  2. Dee says:

    I found this article really useful and supportive. It is always good to consider what emotional abuse looks like so that we can become better practiced at avoiding it as soon as we get the 'red flags'. Your reference to the Running of the Bulls also resonated with me as this has been taking place this week in Spain and on my mind. It is true that all violence and emotional abuse needs to be tackled for us to move forward to a more peaceful and harmonious world.

  3. MissB says:

    Thank you for this. I was married to a narcissist for 13 years who convinced me that I had BPD and basically made me question my sanity to the extent that I spent 10 of our years together going through one type of therapy or another. It ended with my hospitalization 2.5 years ago where he told me he couldn’t be with me whilst I had this depression and didn’t visit, call, text, bring our children to see me, nothing. The nurses and psychiatrist told me that I certainly did NOT have BPD and if I had depression at all it was because of my environment. After 4 weeks it was obvious he had abandoned me and without and family support, qualifications or money (he controlled all of that) I had to leave with nothing more than government financial assistance and start my life from scratch. Within 2 months he was with overtly someone else and it was blatantly obvious he had already been involved with her before we separated. She too is weak and vulnerable as she has a terminal illness. The difference between her and I is that she had plenty of money. Make of that what you will!

    An important thing to realize about these relationships is the long term effects. Codependence especially. I have just woken up from a one year on/off relationship from an emotionally immature and unavailable “man” who was brilliant at his profession of which I am at university studying myself. We clicked in other areas too of course but in the first couple of weeks everything you day was already evident. But in my naivety and underlying codependence I couldn’t believe this mean could possibly have any issues and that it must be me. When I recognized that self talk the alarm bells went off.

    It took a few break ups/make ups for me to realize that he was utterly unavailable to me beyond the crumbs he keeps throwing. I’m sad and maybe a little scared too- of myself. That I’m strong enough to overcome that controlling personality even though it’s second nature to me to succumb. But I am and after reading this that spelled out out even more, he really is history.

  4. ZSMA says:

    I am afraid am an abuser. Thanks I will stop doing the things you mentioned

    • Bubbles says:

      Thanks for reading the article. Hope it does make a difference in your life&the lives of your loved ones. It takes a lot of courage to admit our own faults&then to go a step further&actually make a change.

  5. Rose says:

    Thank you for the post.

    I left my abuser almost 6 month ago and am still dealing with PTSD as a result of that short but brutal relationship. Things will get better again though, even though that was hard to see initially.

    Good luck to everyone else out there! You can do it! Be strong for yourself!

  6. Sara says:

    I cannot thank you enough for this article. I am now 8 years removed from a 12-year-long emotional, physical and sexually abusive relationship. Even after 8 years I am still working through the aftermath and toll it took on me. On the plus side, I’m about to turn 40 – a milestone I was certain I would never see because I knew he would kill me.
    Your article really resonated with me – especially the part about him never apologizing. Every article or list I’ve read always says the abuser is very apologetic and loving after an outburst. Not mine. He never apologized once. Ever after breaking several bones in my body – when I came home from the hospital he immediately attacked me for “making him beat me” and “embarrassing” him by having to go to the hospital. I thought maybe I was missing something since my abuser didn’t fit the “apologize and send flowers” routine – but everyone is different. Glad to hear you recognized the patterns before it was too late.

  7. Lela says:

    These articles are so healing… I wrote this a few days ago. I tell my story not as a victim–but as an informant.

    “It was one year ago this past weekend that I was told “You think I’m cruel? If you don’t like the way that I treat you then divorce me because I’ll never change.”

    Mark had refused to help me zip up my dress because I had failed to take it in to the seamstress and get a new more manageable zipper pull placed on the dress. I was continually reprimanded like a child. “Why is this fucking zipper still on this dress? I thought you were going to take it in?! What happened to that plan, Lela? I’m not helping you with this. You are on your own. Where’s your list? Maybe you should add this task to your list.”

    I was refused assistance as punishment for my absent mindedness–like a child. I struggled with the dress on my own, eventually using a coat hanger to zip the dress. I wondered why I asked for help in the first place when all the long I could do it on my own–even if it took me longer and it was more of a struggle.

    After the dress was zipped, I walked down the stairs to leave. I could see it in his eyes that I had done something to upset him. He was angry. (Mind you… I had already laid out his clothes for the wedding, ironed his shirt, and fixed his hair for him.)

    The entire house was clean–but, the cats had knocked food out of their bowl. He slowly turned to me and said. “I’m going to take a picture of this mess and post it on Facebook so everyone can see the filth we live in. Do you want me to do that? Do you want me to show all of your precious friends and “fans” this mess, Lela?

    This was my every day life. Of course some days were better than others–and some days were worse. Most days I was belittled and verbally assaulted. Sometimes the verbal would lead to physical. Somedays the abuse came in the form of financial abuse when money for basic needs like groceries for the kids had been denied or accounts drained. Sometimes there was an over abundance of money and I was not allowed the details of how it came to be. Sometimes there was sexual abuse. This usually occurred at times when I was too sick or tired or disgusted with him to be intimate. At those times I was called “frigid” or “prude” or was told that he would go find “someone else to fuck”. These are all stories in themselves–and there are many.

    Verbal and emotional abuse doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. It’s silent and deadly. It depletes you and it doesn’t let up until your spirit is broken–daily. I had exhausted all options–options like asking nicely “please don’t say those things to me.” Or “I don’t like it when you call me a bitch.” Or “We’ve talked about this and you agreed that you don’t want to treat me like this, Mark.”

    The more I tried the worse it got. When I showed signs of sadness he would get more angry and I was called things like “weak” and “pathetic”. Sometimes when I was emotional he got physical. Before I knew it… He would act like everything was fine. And I’d either have to let it go or run the risk of more abuse for NOT letting it go. I let it go far too many times. I hoped that he would notice this “strength”–but, all that ever did for me is allow me to respect myself less… And allow me to be continually disrespected.

    So on that day one year ago… while we were driving to my cousins wedding and he told me to leave him because he would never change–I knew what I had to do. I had to leave him.

    And I left him.”

  8. Christina says:

    I had the same ex boyfriend like this, but he never hit me, just really knew how too manipulate me, and others. He said he loved me only after two days, I panicked and said it back. At this point he was still living with his fiance. (I didn't know about her). It sucked going threw this. And I cried when I reed this. I hope you are better, and that you are trusting males again. I still have problems trusting them. It's good to see other people who has gone through the same thing. After we broke up it took him two weeks to get a new girlfriend. Half a year to marry her. And know they have a child. I kinda wanna send this text too her, in case he might be the same person still. And I still think he is.

  9. Kira says:

    Wow, I also dated an abusive cyclist before and we basically lived the same life. Thank you for this, it was a great article and I know I'm not alone in my experience.

  10. Skb says:

    This is just what I needed… I got enough courage to get the momentum going to leave my abuser but if it’s not swift I feel the pull back into the cycle of “things will change” – but they never do. I could identify with nearly all your examples but hearing it as an outsider really makes you get out of your own head, to try to snap out of it and make a change. And big changes coming – I’m leaving my home, leaving my partner, leaving my job and moving closer to friends and family. And I’m terrified. Just let me know there’s better things ahead.

  11. Sabine Garcia says:

    The emotional (even physical) abusers in my life all started out TOO FAST, came on too strongly as if I was "the One" before getting to know me. When I reciprocated my feelings, they changed into different men and mistreated me. Since the strong attachment was there, it was hard to get out. It's a trap. If it's too good to be true, it usually is.

  12. Cathy Annis says:

    This is a really good story, it’s a very well written piece. I really identify with so much of what you said, thanks for sharing.
    I really hope you don’t mind but I have reposted it on my blog, I just did it and then realised that I should have checked first! I’m new to all this, but I just found it so heartbreakingly inspiring that I had to share it, I gave full credit to you of course. If it’s a problem please don’t hesitate to let me know and I will take it down immediately.

  13. cece says:

    This really resonated with me… spot on. I'm still recovering from the effects of emotional abuse and gaslighting, but knowing I'm not alone, practicing self-care, and a new interest in meditation, yoga, and journalling have made me stronger. I still struggle with letting go of resentment and constant 'what ifs' still run through my head, but simply knowing that I don't have to endure that pain anymore from someone I thought I trusted is freeing. Stay strong, friends.

  14. J says:

    Again, as with so many others who commented, this article reads almost exactly like my last 6 month relationship. It still helps a year on to know I’m not alone. At times I felt like a fraud knowing people are situations I perceive as ‘worse’ than mine was. I managed to get out after 6 months and dread to think how things would have progressed. This person exploited the fact I care, sometimes too much, about others and struggle with self esteem. Ironically, despite wobbles, being strong enough to leave and say enough is enough has helped my self esteem enormously! I believe in my own strength again. I do find it difficult, however, to forget all the things that happened, and worry about trusting someone to fall in love with. Oh, and I’m pretty sure this person had a thing about bikes too……. love to all who find themselves inexplicably where I was. Xxxx

  15. Wanda says:

    It feels like i just woke up from a dream of someone elses life after 12 years. I used to write his words down… i knew they were bad but his words became my words. it started with our first Christmas together. i was wrapping presents and doing a terrible job. he started laughing, said i didnt do anything right. i didnt cook right, didnt dress right, didnt wear make up. after that i became the bad welfare mother he would never take parenting advice from. The night he said that, i cried all night and he sat there and watched. The next morning i was exhausted, red eyed and swollen, i took the kids to school and came back and cried some more asking him why he thought so badly of me why he was with me. he told me he never said it. it didnt make sense to me, nothing made sense. i started seeing everything through his eyes. he attacked everyone i got close to and i started seeing them as a threat too. He told me, look at the way people are looking at you and I did. They were looking at me the way he was looking at me. I was sure of it. I stopped talking to people, i stopped talking to them

    mostly because I couldnt explain in my words what he was doing because i had his words in my head. Every time I left him, i was drowning in the misery of his lies. it is only now that I remembered the fear he put in me, how when I started talking to a friend I had isolated myself from, my heart beat out my chest when he found out and I never understood why. At one point i even called a friend to tell him not to post on my status because it would make him mad. I remember now, all of the words other people have said to me, you put up such a fascade… how do you do it? You’re in pain and you dont even act like it. You should be screaming at him, it’s your life… why aren’t you angry? I wasnt angry… i was confused. I was numb with grief. I was silently drowning. I could never understand how my friends could hold me while I cried but he couldn’t. That’s not true, he held me while I cried about the people i felt completely isolated from, asking me ,”Do you want me to beat them up for hurting you?” I literally had flashbacks about the things people would say, “What’s the matter with you?” I told you that you were bad? “why don’t you

    want to sit by me?” is there something wrong with me that you wouldn’t want to sit by me? All of which confirmed everything he said about me, that there was something wrong with me. I remember all of it, all of the nasty things he ever said to me, did to me and I wonder how long it will stay with me? I also wonder after I leave him when the numbness will come and then the pain, the drowning…I remember I used to watch and wait for his lips to thin out, tried to prevent it with everything i had inside of me because I knew what it meant. It meant that those bad words were coming but would it mean that this time he would ridicule me like a child, point his finger in my face like last time, what name would he call me this time. The worst part is that my daughter will grow up and find a man just like him and he’s gonna make her cry and he’s gonna steal her joy and her hope and she’s gonna wonder why she wants to die.

    i just wish he would have just hit me, atleast then I could have found the right words to explain what was happening to me. I tried to tell people but I didnt know

    how… i couldnt explain it… all i ever said was he was mean or he doesnt contribute… he’s bad with money…or he mistreats me financially because I was trying to make sense of it by looking at his actions but i never thought about the words. I remember when i would pray out in pain, I knew in my heart God was trying to tell me something. All I heard was, finish your book, finish it… what you are looking for are in the words.

    I remember when i first move to Texas, God was stronger. i would look at signs find words, put them in my book. And I heard God again. The words are every where.. now that i know and have found the right words… i want to shout it from the roof tops… I’m not crazy.

  16. Kimberly R. says:

    This is spot on. Great post.

  17. Matc says:

    I can relate to this story. My now ex-husband asked me to marry him after dating for 6 weeks. When I told him no he punched the top of his car and broke his hand. I ended up taking him to the hospital where he asked me again and I said yes. Less than a year later we were married. He worked out of town and was only home weekends, I was going to school and working. My savings account was drained for items he needed, my student loans used to get 4-wheelers, snowmobiles, trucks, jeeps, etc. things that were not needed but if weren’t bought would lead to a verbal assault on how worthless I was. Berating me over and over again how much I “didn’t contribute” to our family because I didn’t make as much as him. And I accepted that. While he was out of town “working” – going out to bars nightly and meeting girls at bars, I was at home by myself. If I went anywhere and missed his call I was accused of cheating, of seeing someone else. We would argue and he would break thing a that were important to me or throw my clothes outside and in the end it was always my fault. He didn’t like me talking to anyone because he knew I was only saying bad things about him, and why did they need to know about our relationship anyway. It continued for years, gradually getting worse and worse. His voice always is in my head telling me I’m “a fat, lazy c***,” saying how my boys “would be better off without such a worthless, stupid mother.” The years went on, and now the verbal and emotional abuse was happening daily, and in front of my two boys. The dishes wouldn’t be done and he’d swipe them off the counter, breaking everything, and it’s my fault. He can’t load a dishwasher! Dinner wouldn’t be what he wanted and he’d throw the hot pot of spaghetti across the kitchen, never mind that the kids were right there. He broke picture and figurines, and I wouldn’t replace them. My house was left in decorated so with his next outburst nothing that I held dear would be broken. He threw forks and knives, broke 3 screen doors, kicking them open, it wa my fault I had them locked. He came home drunk, would pee in the living room on the front window sill, projectile vomit in the bedroom, down the hall, in the bathroom. He kicked a hole in my boys bedroom door where I was sleeping with my boys, scaring the children, and I would have stayed, I would have continued to forgive, but my 8 year old son began my awakening one morning when driving him to school and he says, “Mom, I thought you said we were finding a new place to live if he did that again.” And then after the kicking the hole in he door night, I held him again as he cried and said to me, “I don’t understand why you don’t just get an avorce (divorce)” I had to leave, my children were being affected by this unhealthy relationship, I was no longer myself, I was unhappy, miserable, and had no confidence. Two days later the choice was made, he came home with a gun and started an argument. Told me he was going to kill himself, went out the back door and fired a shot, all of this in front of our 8 year old and 3 year old boys. I thought for sure he’d done it, I approached the back door to look, and he was carrying the fun, walking across the back yard to the shed. I remember thinking, this is it, I can cal the police and then it will be done, HE will never forgive me, or I can just let it calm down per usual and carry on. I remember holding my crying three year old and looking at my scared 8 year old on the verge of tears and I knew it was over. I called the police. And I would have still forgiven him if only he would go to counseling. Oh heck, I was so stupid!! He would never change!! Five weeks after he moved out, he had met someone else, a week later they moved intogether. The cycle will most likely repeat, but not with me. My two boys will be fine. We are getting happier and have less stress and anxiety about being home. My divorce was final 4 weeks ago today. I can still hear his words in my head, it’s only been 4 months after all. I have them written down and recorded. It’s a struggle to get out of bed some days, but I’ll get through it because no matter how many times he told me, and no matter that I hear it daily in my head, I am strong, I am an awesome mother, I am not stupid, I am not a worthless c***, I will get though this. I have to, I’ve got two handsome sons to raise, and to teach, hopefully, how to be good men.

  18. lizziecornish says:

    Narcissistic Personality Disorder….Horrible to have, horrible to live through, horrible to recover from…And yes, you will have been chosen because you are kind, loving, giving and trusting. Remember that all the loving things YOU did were real and true…THAT is how you find your way back, along with working out how to have compassion for the folks who have this disorder, for often, they closed down their hearts a very, very long time back, to cope with the trauma they had to deal with…and thus, they do bad things. They are not bad people, just lost people, who have got into a maze of bad things. Most narcissists actually loathe themselves, inside…and the more people tell them how vile they are, the more they believe it, the more hurt and harm they cause. Try to have compassion…but keep yourself safe and well..and know that it's OK to heal at your own rate. Do not go back, ever…..

  19. LAC says:

    Thank you for this insightful article. I was married to my abuser for 17 years after dating for 3 1/2 years. All the “red flags” you mentioned sound like you are describing my ex-husband. All my friends tried to talk me out of being with him, but of course I ignored them. My parents finally gave me the push I needed to divorce him…….that was 4 1/2 years ago and I still haven’t been able to return to the person I was before he came into my life. Unfortunately, my 17 year old son lives with him and I’m afraid my son is being raised to be an abuser too. I’m also afraid I’ll never be able to have a lasting relationship with another man since I’m “damaged goods”.
    Oh, and he plays the victim by saying he’s co-dependent, yet after talking to a therapist twice, he thinks he can “fix” himself and won’t get anymore help.

  20. jh says:

    I understand some this.. but some I do not. If I (male) treat women even remotely rude, angry, hostile or “mean”.. the women I date threaten to pull the plug until I pledge to change and take great steps to prove I know my behavior is/was hurtful…

    How come when these abusers start with this crap in earnest.. how come the abused don’t just call bullsh*t and hit the road. How do people accept this behavior as normal for a decade

    My ex left her “abuser of ten years” or me. After 3 years of dating me, he BPD brains decided I too was an “””abuser””” so guess what, she returned to ten year abuser “ivan” and now they are married!!!!

    What drives this: $$$, success, good looks, security, fear…. if you marry your abuser… isn’t that saying you are sick as he/she is?

    And no I’m not an abuser, but if we didn’t go out to eat- we never did anything she’d claim. And when we stayed in for dinner she claimed I was isolating her…….

  21. Amber says:

    I am currently in the middle of a very bitter, nasty divorce with a man who is an abuser. For years, I didn’t know I was being abused and manipulated. I told myself over and over that this was the moment I would leave, and I never did. We had a child together. I thought keeping my family together was the best choice for my son. He took a job 3 hours away, removing me from family support, and again, I couldn’t leave because I was “alone.” He started using drugs and I stayed. He stole money from me and I stayed. He cheated on me, and I stayed. Every fight we had was my fault. I was in the wrong. At one point I prayed that something would happen to him. That he would overdose, or piss off the wrong drug dealer, and I felt SO guilty for having those thoughts, but I imagined it being so much easier than leaving. He always let me know that I’d never make it on my own. That I wasn’t capable of being alone….and I believed him. I became a zombie. I didn’t cry anymore. I didn’t care anymore. And one day I just said “that’s enough.” I told him I wanted a divorce and the emotional abuse turned up to a point that I never knew he was capable of, but I put on my blinders and went full speed ahead. I never turned back. Never second guessed my decision….and it turned out to be the best, most important decision I’ve ever made in my life and my son’s life. I started sticking up for myself. Reporting his behavior to the proper authorities. He is currently serving a 6 month jail sentence for breaking our no contact order, and for the 1st time in 4 years, I feel like I can breathe. This article described my ex to a T. I hope it helps more women (hell, even just 1 woman) recognize the signs before I did.

    I realize this comment is very lengthy and wordy, but in a strange way, it helped to put my story in writing. A story I hope helps a lost soul like I once was.

  22. Madhuri says:

    Spot on spot on!!! “that will keep me away from him forever, along with anyone who possesses the same traits.” this Holds true for every single one I guess…

  23. Heather says:

    I have been in emotionally and physically abusive relationships almost exclusively, apart from the one I’m currently in. From the moment I first started dating I have been threatened, cheated on, beaten, assaulted, and treated terribly. I often say I could write an entire book on my life with no embellishments and it’d be considered a drama; so like daytime television. Finally, after 10 years of abuse I am able to stand up for myself. To recognize the signs of abuse and hightail it if necessary. With that, I appreciate this article so much. I was on board 100% until Sign #1. My husband and I have been married for a year and have a beautiful daughter and our relationship started exactly like Sign #1. We were with each other whenever we could be. We moved in together after a month of dating. Joined our bank accounts after four months. He paid for my schooling. But throughout all of this I have never felt unloved, put down, pushed around, or without control. I can express myself freely without being told I’m wrong or called names. We are a partnership. I think if you are feeling like your time is being managed by someone else that’s a problem. If the person you’re dating wants you to drop everything for what they want or what they are doing that’s a problem. But if you find yourself wanting to spend every moment you can with someone, well, don’t second guess it if you feel comfortable.

  24. L01 says:

    I’ve been stalked by a man who I met online and never even met. I only entertained him because I dropped him for someone else initially as I wasn’t interested and felt guilty about it – had no interest in him. He seemed nice at first, but then switched. I had more important things to worry about and focus on which I usually do and ignored the warning signs. He’s been stalking me via Jonathan Cainer’s horoscopes (…) which lie and put crazy ideas in his head like me being interested in him when I’m not and never was. He was stalking me and posting delusional things on Twitter, writing cryptic messages in Tweets and Favourited things relating to rubbish he’d read. And just because I wasn’t interested he started abusing me and my family, posting vile comments and jokes about my mum dying who’s in care with early onset dementia, my dad, myself and anyone else I knew. Threatened to physically hurt me. Said I was unattractive when I couldn’t be further out of his league if I tried. Tried to inflict “deep” psychological damage through making suggestive and completely false accusations and notions he’d dreamed up because he’s so mentally unstable; so completely insane and jealous at being who he is: a nasty, bitter b*stard with nothing going for him, least of all insight, intelligence, attractiveness and rational judgement. And he thinks he’s being clever when I just don’t care about him which is the most annoying thing of all. Wasted so much of my precious time – time I’m spending with my dying mother – trying to get rid of his ugly, delusional self. Hacked my Twitter account and stalked, abused and harassed me for months. Got his friends to do the same. Sitting behind a computer and cowardly dishing out abuse because his pride was hurt at being rejected. He’s low-class, unattractive and unintelligent (despite thinking himself smart and attractive) and lacks all perspective and self-insight. Disgusting, repugnant, scum. He must feel so proud. Completely insane and unable to accept reality. Typical stalker profile.

  25. Kate says:

    I wish I had read this five years ago. We’ve been separated for 7 months now but having two kids together makes him permanently attached to my life. He doesn’t have anything on me anymore since I stood back and saw the big picture, at least. Still.. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if I never saw him again.

  26. Janie Laviolette says:

    Just wanted to say Thank You Kendra! Wow, I have read a ton of material on domestic violence but nothing really went right to my soul like your article did. Amazing! Thank you so much for your courage, honesty, and incredible communication skills. Big love to you and everyone else finding their way out of this hellish way to live. The path out can be super tough but so, so worth it!

  27. Wendy says:

    Fantastic article. So true on a subject that is hard for us to explain in a way others can understand. I absolutely love your “flush that shit and don’t forget to wipe.” Yes!

  28. anjiandmatt says:

    you described the dynamics of my relationship completely.. replace bike riding, with social conscience and travel… the hardest thing is, they seem to find you when you are vulnerable… then present as your "soulmate" everybody has fractures to a point… and most will not walk away from a "soulmate" when you empathize with their "fractures".. little do most realize that disorders exist (cluster B) which mean no ability to love, or form a real connection, tendency to sadism, no guilt ,empathy ,remorse.. all the pain is intended…brain scans actually show totally different neuro-make up.. mine.. 6 years long.. wanted me to kill myself… i now have PTSD.

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