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.
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.
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.