Friends & Family Make the Difference (Part I)

This is the first of a three part series by a guest blogger.  This writer was interested in sharing some of the many ways friends and family helped her leave an abusive relationship.

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I went home to visit my family for the winter holidays. I had yet to identify my relationship as abusive or controlling– even though my then-girlfriend had thrown things (not at me), even though we got in fights almost every day, even though I had stopped going to some of the places I used to to go, even though I wasn’t hanging out with my friends as much, even though she yelled at me a lot.

I come from a family of arguers and yellers and as far back as I can remember we’ve all raised our voices during discussions and arguments. In some way, I thought that meant yelling wasn’t abusive. Being around my family for the holidays without my girlfriend, I observed how we all fought– how my parents fought with each other, how my brother fought with his girlfriend. I saw the raised voices, I saw how it happened and I thought to myself, “That’s different from my relationship.” I couldn’t quite put my finger on how, but knew it was different. It looked different somehow. It felt different.

A long table set with plates and glasses for a fancy meal.

I knew, then, that the arguments I was having with my ex were not okay. I started to realize that the way she yelled at me almost every day also was not okay. Even more importantly, this observation got me started in a process of noticing that it wasn’t just the yelling and the arguments that weren’t okay– what made the relationship truly and deeply not okay was that I wasn’t seeing friends as much, that I had stopped going to some of the places I wanted to go, that I had started to exercise less, that I had changed the way I dressed, changed the way that I ate. All those things (and the yelling, and the arguing) added up to a pattern of power of control that she was weaving around me.

My family may never know how important those holidays were. They never commented on my relationship and I never shared what it looked like, but being with them– seeing them in relationship to each other– started me on the path of looking at my relationship differently and exploring how I might be able to end the relationship with my abusive girlfriend, now my ex.


Friends & Family Make the Difference (Part II)

This is the second in a series of four short pieces submitted by a guest blogger.  This writer was interested in sharing some of the many ways friends and family helped her leave an abusive relationship.

 

“You have a choice, you may not feel like you do right now, but you have a choice.”

Those were the words spoken to me by my best friend when I was in the thick of my abusive relationship. At the time she said them, I couldn’t fully take them in because it didn’t feel like I had any choices, but they played an important part in many of my decisions around the long process of ending my abusive relationship. They helped bolster me when I decided not to let my (ex, by then)-girlfriend move in with me, and they resonated with me more and more as I managed to eke out more and more space to get out of the relationship.

My friend may have felt like those words didn’t matter much, because at the time she said them, I probably seemed to dismiss them. Not only did I appear *not* to be acting on them, but I flat out said they weren’t true. Inside me though, those words were deeply meaningful and so deeply important, especially as I had grown increasingly disconnected from friends, family and other folks in my life and was not hearing many messages about my relationship other than what my abusive ex was saying to me. Those words helped me know that even though my ex told me that I would have to leave town if we ever broke up, I could in fact (if I wanted to, if I could manage to) choose to stay. They helped me know that I could still make decisions. And it helped that my friend kept reaching out to me, kept holding on to me as much as she could even after I seemed to ignore her words.


Friends and Family Make the Difference (Part III)

This is the last in a series of three short pieces submitted by a survivor of domestic violence. She volunteered to write these for farout.org as a way to share some of the ways that friends and family members supported her (sometimes without even realizing it) in ending her relationship with an abusive ex-girlfriend. 

“Please never let me get back together with her again.” 

Those were the words I texted my best friend after telling her that my ex had punched me in the face, after I had gotten my ex out of my house, and right before crashing into a deep sleep. I sent the text before I had time to think about sending it. I knew if I even waited until the next morning, I wouldn’t be able to send the message. I needed my best friend’s support and (even more) I needed to say those words out loud so I could start making some of my private experiences more public. Choosing not to shine a light on what was happening in my relationship wasn’t helping me and wasn’t helping my abusive ex, who I deeply cared about. My best friend was leaving for a month-long trip and I knew she wouldn’t be able to actually support me while she was away, but knowing that she knew counted for me. Saying those words out loud, even though I would continue to sleep with my ex, hang out with my ex, and be yelled at by my ex, helped me continue to slowly but surely build on my plan to truly end things. Saying them gave me a feeling of wanting to be accountable to those words, even though from the outside it looked like no changes had happened in how I was acting towards my (now)ex.

When my friend got back from her trip, she listened to everything that happened, continued to help me explore options and stayed in my life, even though I was choosing to sleep with my ex, hang out with my ex, and be yelled at by my ex. I started to be able to share more about what my relationship with her looked like, the things I liked about it and her, and the things I didn’t like or that scared me about it and her. Sharing more with my best friend meant I was able to reflect on more parts of the relationship with my abusive ex to actually consider more of the options that were available to me.