This is my story. A part of my life that held many mistakes, much pain, and heartache I never knew possible. A part of my life I am not proud of. It is a part of my life that God has redeemed, restored, and forgiven me for as well as brought complete healing to me from. Our stories have power. When we keep them to ourselves we keep others from seeing the freedom, healing, and hope Christ brings. So, my story is YOUR story. It is for you. I pray what God has healed me from is used to bring courage to you, give you hope, and hopefully free you or someone you know from any kind of abuse or unhealthy relationship or circumstance. Our stories have POWER when we share them. Hiding them out of fear, shame, or worrying what other people will think helps nobody. Sharing our stories is powerful and God uses our stories to bring hope, freedom, and life to others through our lives.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. — Genesis 50:20
When we think of abuse we generally think of rape, punching, slapping, molestation, and abusers being alcoholics, addicts, people who come from broken homes, etc. But, abuse is more than the obvious things and abusers can come from squeaky clean backgrounds with great families and good upbringings – regardless of race, gender, and religion. Abusers are often victims of abuse themselves.
Often, abuse doesn’t look like abuse, especially while you are in the midst of it. Abuse isn’t always super noticeable and openly abusive. Abuse is often subtle, gradual, and escalates over time. Sometimes abuse isn’t as harmful physically but is harmful mentally and emotionally – that was me. Years ago, I dated a guy for a year. At first, things were great but within a month all we did was fight, I was controlled and isolated from my friends and family over time, whenever I left the house he had to know where I was going and with whom, I had to ask permission to have a glass of wine with friends, he repeatedly hated on my friends – telling me they weren’t really friends and were bad influences (absolutely not true). He constantly accused me of lying when I would tell him something and not give him every single detail the first time. He accused me of constantly flirting with other men – when I was just being nice to a friend. There was a constant cycle: treat me like crap, apologize and promise to do better, be on best behavior for a day or two, and start the cycle back up. Eventually, things got physical where he would bite and pinch me – thinking it was funny. He would lick my face like a dog and laugh because “he was being cute” even though I told him repeatedly to stop and I hated it. I would cry, I would yell for him to stop, but he continued these things – no matter how hard I cried, how loud I yelled, or asked him to stop. By the time I broke up with him I was completely dependent on him, broken, wounded, and had no friends left because I had allowed him to dictate my friendships for me. I was a mess.
Afterwards, I spoke with a counselor and shared all of the stuff that happened to me. She said, “You do realize that was abuse, right”? I was shocked. There was no way that he had been abusive – he was a good guy at heart and loved me to the best that he knew how. He loved God and was a Christian. He wasn’t a bad person (All things I still believe). But yet, the more I thought about it – he had been controlling, physically hurt me, stolen from me, lied to me, emotionally manipulated me (withholding affection and conversation when I had upset him), amongst other things. It hit me – this relationship had been abusive – he wasn’t an alcoholic with drunken rages, sexually abusing me, or slapping me – but, it was still unhealthy and abusive. While walking through it I would never have said those words. But, looking back I totally see it. He wasn’t a terrible person but he was a very broken guy who had the emotional availability of a peanut – and unfortunately, I ended up incredibly hurt by the end.
Here are 13 signs I missed and want to share with you to look for. Also, as a friend or relative, these are all signs of abuse (but, individually not necessarily abuse) – whether it is severe or not, it is still abuse – or at minimum signs of an unhealthy relationship heading towards being abusive. If someone you are married to or are dating has these signs: RUN.
- Does he/she control who you hang out with by talking bad about your friends and make you feel that your friends aren’t really your friends – even people you have loved for years and have never been unsafe in the past?
- Does he/she make you feel bad when you don’t do something they want to do? More than normal. Like, actually withholding something you love when they don’t get their way?
- Does he/she not stop when you ask? Whether it is a tone of voice, a physical habit (for me, it was biting and pinching), or a harmful situation.
- Does he/she guilt you into giving them sex? Do they pressure you into having sex/performing sex acts on them even after you’ve said no?
- Does he/she emotionally shut down or completely disconnect from you when you are talking to them about how their actions make you feel?
- Does he/she need to know where you are and who you are with when you’re not together? Does he/she not like when you go out without them and manipulate you into staying home with them instead?
- Have you lost contact with family since dating this person? Does he/she hate going to visit your family that you love and care for? Does he/she constantly whine that your family hates him/her (and if they do, it could probably be for good reason)?
- Does he/she steal from you (taking your belongings, prescriptions, or money without consent from you)?
- Do you feel like you need to ask his/her permission before going out with friends, drinking alcohol, spending money, etc or they will be angry with you?
- Does he/she make you feel unsafe when they are angry? Do they get irrationally angry over little things? Do they scream at you, hit you, or withhold affection or sex as punishment?
- Does he/she make you feel like you’re only a priority when they are happy with you or getting something from you?
- Does he/she accuse you of things you didn’t do, accuse you of lying or leaving out details (even if you accidentally left out a detail), accuse you of flirting with someone else?
- Do you constantly feel “on your toes”? Like you never know what side of him/her you will get that day?
While this is not an exclusive list of abuses, it is a good list of things we often overlook or notice when it is too late. I felt trapped after 7 months and spent the last 3 months of this relationship in hell. Even after it ended I couldn’t let him go. I had become solely dependent on him for my worth, my support, everything. Even after it ended he still would draw me in when he wanted something from me or was lonely. Because I wasn’t healed or even moved on – I fell for it every time. It wasn’t until 6 months after our official relationship ended and I had a miscarriage that it finally clicked that I needed to completely walk away. After our miscarriage, he told me, “This was God’s will. It was God’s plan. He knew we couldn’t be parents yet so He allowed this to happen”. I was devastated. I grew angry at God and at him. It wasn’t until 2 1/2 years ago that I finally got the help I needed, got my life on track with my relationship with God, and completely dropped all contact with him – God had set me completely free.
I urge you, if any of the signs above stand out to you, please seek help. Get a friend, pastor, parent, etc involved.
If you are a friend, pastor, parent, etc – GET INVOLVED. Do not sit by if you even suspect abuse is happening.
Also, check out an article I wrote for Redeemed for More on “6 Things To Never Say to a Victim of Abuse“.
For immediate help or counseling please go HERE
If you would like to talk to me further please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to talk with you ❤
Founder, Ezer Rising