They Never Hit Me, But They Didn't Have To
“You’re being crazy and jealous. Loosen up.”
“If you just did what I told you, I wouldn’t be mad.”
“You shouldn’t hang out with those friends. They’re a bad influence.”
You’re not being a good enough wife. I need more from you.”
“You’re at home all day, so you should be cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry.”
“If you leave, no one will ever love you as much as I do.”
You heard these things all the time. Every day, every week, every month. And it broke you. But you convinced yourself it wasn’t that bad. It’s not like they ever hit you.
They were charming. Your parents loved how kind they were and how well they treated you when you brought them over for family dinners. They made you laugh and knew how to put a smile on your face. They bought you flowers in the beginning, showered you with gifts you could never afford on your own and took you out to fancy restaurants.
You had thousands of good times together. And it was pure bliss – until it wasn’t.
Slowly, things changed. They started criticizing how you acted in front of his family and friends. Told you that you couldn’t wear this or had to wear that. The arguments became more frequent – and they got so much worse.
They called you every name in the book – bitch, cunt, stupid, crazy, worthless, piece of shit. Then they threatened to break up with you and kick you out of your apartment. They said if you left, you’d have nothing.
So you stayed. Because every couple argues and goes through rough patches, right?
You broke up a few times, got thrown out of the apartment you shared and learned that they returned the engagement ring they bought for you. Then they started being nice again. They gave you compliments, told you how beautiful you looked and made you feel special. They gave you butterflies and made you laugh. Things were starting to look up again.
When they got down on one knee and asked you to marry them, you said yes. Because they loved you, and you loved them.
But whenever you tried to plan the wedding, you fought. They wanted no part of it but hated every decision you made. The handwritten save the dates didn’t look professional, they hated the wedding colors (even though they had a hand in picking them), and they hated the friends you chose for your bridal party. You spent hours crying wondering what you did wrong. So one day, you asked why they were putting off planning the wedding.
"I wish I never proposed. I never wanted to do it. I only proposed because I felt pressure from my friends and family – and even you – and I felt like it was the next logical step in our relationship because we’ve been together for so long."
They said this a lot, and it made you feel like your relationship was a giant mistake. You questioned why you stayed with someone who was only with you because they felt like he had to be. But how could you possibly break up? What would your family think? How would you survive on your own?
So you stayed, and you convinced yourself it wasn’t that bad. It’s not like they ever hit you.
Then, after the wedding, things got so much worse.
The name-calling escalated, and you started to believe every awful word they said to you. You believed them when they said their career was more important than yours, that your friends weren't supportive and that your boss hates you. You believed that there was something wrong with you. You believed you were crazy, jealous, overreacting, being a bitch, being unreasonable. Everything about you just wasn’t good enough, and they made sure you knew it.
They started manipulating you into thinking everything was your fault. Even if you were upset with them for not picking up food from the grocery store, not walking the dog or coming home at 2 a.m., it was still your fault. Because you were crazy, ridiculous, selfish and uptight. You needed to calm down and stop nagging. You were annoying and jealous. They never took the blame or responsibility, even when they made a mistake. It was never their fault, always yours.
So you apologized over and over again. But those apologies weren’t enough. Years later, you still found yourself apologizing for situations you couldn’t change. They hung every mistake over your head and used it against you whenever they could.
You walked on eggshells every moment of every day. You were scared you’d say the wrong thing, wear the wrong outfit, not smile when you were supposed to, cook a dinner they didn’t like or act in a way they didn’t approve of. Every time you thought you knew the “rules” and how to make your partner happy, the rules changed. You could never win – no matter how hard you tried.
And when you experienced a mental health relapse, they weren’t there. They didn’t even notice anything was wrong. But that was your fault for not speaking up and not telling them what was going on. They made you feel that it was your fault for being sick.
When you stopped cleaning the apartment, doing laundry, cooking dinner and getting out of bed, you were lazy. When you started self-harming again, you were immature and crazy. They always told you: "Adults don't do that. It's not normal." When you were strong and brave enough to reach out for help, you were being stupid. Because, according to them, if you just stopped being so negative, everything would be fine. You were strong enough to get through it on your own.
Except you weren’t. You were dying inside, and you needed help. But because they didn’t believe in taking medications for mental illnesses, you weren't allowed to take them either. So, when you went behind their back and saw a psychiatrist anyway, they said you weren’t listening to them. And that wasn’t okay.
Because they were your partner, and you needed to listen to them and do what they said. Their opinion mattered the most.
You couldn’t get tattoos because they wouldn’t be attracted to you anymore. You couldn’t wear leggings because you looked better in jeans. You needed to look more put together when you left the house. You needed to smile more, wipe away that resting bitch face and put the phone down around friends – even though their friends made you feel uncomfortable and unwanted. You needed to make more of an effort with their friends and family. You needed to be nicer. You needed to be everything they wanted you to be.
You spent countless nights in the bathroom crying your eyes out because you were so hurt, sad and alone. You didn't know what you were doing wrong or how you could make it better. You felt hopeless and stuck. You started isolating yourself from everyone, working late, sleeping on the couch and going to Target even when you had nothing to buy. You just needed to get away.
And even though you wanted to leave, you couldn’t. Because they loved you, and no one would ever love you as much as they did.
Instead, you justified their behavior. They were just stressed from work, not sleeping enough or drinking too much after band practice. They were overwhelmed, tired and needed more space. They were this. They were that. You told yourself all these things were normal.
Plus, it’s not like you were perfect. Your actions – like not keeping the apartment clean, cooking healthy dinners, putting on makeup before leaving the house or wearing what they asked you to wear – caused a lot of problems. You were awful. You were worthless. You were nothing. And you deserved all this.
You kept convincing yourself that all this was normal. No relationship was perfect, every couple fought and you weren’t the only one going through this. It’s not like they ever hit you, so it couldn’t be that bad.
One day, you stared into the mirror, and that person you saw – you didn’t recognize her. She wasn’t you. You were independent, strong, ambitious, happy and beautiful. This person was weak, beat down, broken and bruised. This person hated every single thing about herself.
But you still couldn’t leave them. Because you loved them, and they loved you. But mostly, you couldn’t leave because you were scared to be alone. You moved across the country for them, were in the process of changing your last name for them. Everything you knew was with them. You loved their family. They loved you.
What would you do if you got a divorce? Where would you go? What would you have left?
One day, after scrolling through social media, you came across an article about emotional abuse. You read it, and every single thing on the list applied to you. So you read more, and the more you read, the more you related. And from that moment on, you saw the situation for what it was.
You saw the manipulation and how controlling they were. You saw how they would push blame onto you when it was really their fault. You saw how they belittled you, tried to minimize your accomplishments and made you feel like you were nothing.
And once you saw it happening, you couldn’t stop seeing it.
When they suggested getting a divorce, it was an easy decision. You wanted out, and they were finally giving you permission to leave. You finally got the strength and courage to get out of that toxic situation. And so you left.
Finally, you admitted to yourself that what they did to you wasn’t normal. They didn’t act that way because they loved you. They did it to control and manipulate you. It was gaslighting along with mental and emotional abuse.
Although they never hit you, they didn’t have to. They inflicted so much pain, and they left the scars behind to prove it. Some days, you still think you’re crazy, worthless and a piece of shit. You struggle to see the beauty inside you. You still can’t see how amazing you truly are.
But today, you no longer feel guilty when you make a mistake, struggle to get out bed, forget to do the dishes, put off doing laundry, go to the psychiatrist, schedule an appointment with your therapist, get a tattoo or wear the same leggings for a week straight. You no longer feel pressure to look perfect when leaving the house, and you put on makeup when you want to. Not when they you to. You do things on your terms.
You no longer spend your nights crying yourself to sleep wondering why you weren’t enough and what you did to deserve this. Instead, you feel empowered. You feel free.
Now, you realize that leaving and getting a divorce was the best thing you ever could’ve done for yourself. You’re stronger now that you ever have been, and you know that like a phoenix, you will rise from the ashes and build a life beyond your wildest dreams.