I think one of the scariest parts of leaving an abusive relationship is reliving countless memories and finally realizing how awful they were.
I experienced a stupid number of warning signs, red flags, well-lit exit ramps. Each one more grandiose than the previous.
The first red flag: he got angry at me for smiling and waving at a coworker. The next: he screamed at me for a previous romantic relationship (that had ended before he and I had even begun talking).
He would keep me locked up in our room, drive us full-speed into oncoming traffic, and threaten to take his life should I ever even think about leaving him.
“How could I have stayed?”
He threw me to the cement floor with such force that I was certain something snapped. He ripped my beautiful dresses to shreds in the blackness of my closed garage. Rhinestones flew. Seams snarled as they popped open. I could see nothing; each sound was magnified. Pretty soon glass bottles were whirring past my head, exploding in unknown directions. Moments later, I was on my back. His knees crushed my ribcage to the floor, his hands covered my face and nose.
I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.
Over the course of the next few weeks, similar scenes unfolded. I grew weary from keeping all of these secrets. My family and friends already wanted me to leave him—I didn’t know who I could talk to.
Shortly after that, I ended the abuse.
The threats were abundant. In a flash, he had me pinned to the wall with one hand, the other was balled into a fist violently punching the wall beside my head. He pulled a knife from his pocket. His eyes were wild and locked on mine. He put the knife to his throat and yelled that he was going to end it, leaving me covered in his blood. His eyes flickered before he firmly placed the knife against my throat. His words were desperate. Raspy. Panicked.
“I’m going to kill you.”
My head was spinning. By some miracle, he began to dry-heave and he dropped to his knees. I flew.
Down the stairs.
Out the front door.
Across the street
The police came and took him away.
Even though he’s gone, I’m still here. With memories, judgement and so. Many questions.
“Why could I not find it in me to leave?”
“What kind of person am I?”
“If I didn’t pay attention to the red flags before, how can I trust myself next time I meet someone?”
“What can I do to support others that are in a similar situation?”
Neither my closest friends nor family members could convince me to leave the relationship. I was determined to see it through, to help him through his insecurities.
I’ve realized through all of this that I have spent my entire life believing that I need to earn love. On a subconscious level, I feel that if I am not helping, doing, fixing, taking care of someone, there is no way that they could possibly love me. This is true for how I deal with my friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships.
I know that this is my pattern now. And I know that there are other healers, helpers, fixers, and lovers out there who probably have the same subconscious belief system as me.
It’s people like us who often end up in abusive relationships.
I want you to know that there is no amount of work that you can do for someone to make them love you. You are enough, without bending over backwards every hour of every day. You don’t have to stand strong through sharp accusations to be loved. You don’t have to fix anybody’s problems to be loved.
You don’t have to prove anything to be loved.
And if you do, it isn’t love. It’s fear.
And fear is not love.
October is domestic violence awareness month. This article is to honor, encourage, and support those free from abuse and living in it.
Author: Maggie Kitch
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren