I didn't have a strong father figure at home growing up. He was around, so to say, but worked constantly. As I became of dating age, I found myself drawn to guys that were much older than my parents would have liked. I hung on to my boyfriend's every word and did my best to appease him. I also became responsible for his emotions, and his lack of control over them. It wasn’t until later, too late, that I realized I was the beginnings of an abusive relationship. I had failed to recognize all the warning signs.
My friends became distant; my family agitated. I was confused. I couldn't seem to make him happy anymore. In fact, I was always the cause of his discontent. He would yell at me, blame me for his woes, and I would take it all to heart.
I'd spend hours contemplating the ways I could not disappoint, anger or upset him. I could not get through an entire day without the dirty look, the mean names, and that sinking feeling that I was a failing individual because I couldn't make my boyfriend any happier with me, or with life.
After a couple months of this nonsense, my boasting teenage ego didn't even cast a shadow anymore. I was a rotten person. Obviously. It was so apparent; my boyfriend could plainly see it. With the crumbled self-esteem, I felt unworthy to be dated by anybody. How lucky I was to have such a great guy that loved me despite my horrible short comings! I craved his approval. I needed his approval. I had none left in me for myself.
It became hard to look at myself in the mirror. I was such a disappointment to my boyfriend. We got into arguments. I believed the names he called me were appropriate. He never said anything good about me anymore. He rarely said anything nice to me either. I permitted his influence over me to become so strong I found myself unable to think kind things about myself.
I dropped my morals, desperate for anything to make my boyfriend happy with me again. When that didn't work, my pitiful esteem plummeted farther, because I had compromised myself.
I noticed changes in him, too. His anger was coming more frequently and escalating. He began beating the family pets just for walking into the wrong room. My feelings weren't the only ones I saw getting run over anymore.
I'd laid the groundwork for dating, and not just as a teenager. These were things I didn't realize would follow me into the adult world. I also didn't know how challenging it would be to break away from the behaviors I'd allowed to become acceptable.
The dating habits formed in the teenage years can leave deep grooves which can be difficult to leave behind as you propel into adulthood. I know now I was in an abusive relationship. It’s easy to look back on now and see all the warning signs, but I hadn’t known the facts or warning signs prior to these experiences.
There are many warning signs of an abusive personality, but for myself personally, a few seem to resurface and I can now identify them with more ease.
• Jealousy – Constant phone calls, dropping by all the time “just to say hi”
• Controlling – I had to ask permission to even go grocery shopping
• Isolation – From my friends and family
• Blaming others for his problems and mistakes
• Making everyone else responsible for his/her feelings
• Cruelty to animals – From here it is a small step to people
• Verbal abuse – Just as scarring as physical abuse
• Unrealistic expectations – I was expected to be the perfect mate and meet his every need
There is NO EXCUSE for anybody to treat you in a manner you find displeasing. Any type of abuse in a relationship is NOT love and should NOT be tolerated! If you do find yourself in a position of abuse, there are people to help you leave the situation. AVA has trained community advocates to assist with crisis intervention, survivor and secondary survivor advocacy, and numerous resources and referrals. There are many statewide and national organizations to help too. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
This column is not is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.