May 21st, 2020 // Status Report
In my last blog post, I discussed my journey into tarot and how my ex unknowingly played a part. I thought for this week’s blog post, I would talk about the signs of a toxic relationship and what to do if you suspect you’re in one.
Please keep in mind that these are the signs that I ignored, but they’re based on real life experience. All abusers exhibit certain signs more than others, or they may be more subtle about them. My ex’s behavior will be the inspiring source material for this post.
As far as a status report, I’m fine. In the home stretch before graduation. I’m having financial issues, but I’m still okay. It was placed on my heart to talk about this, given how so many of us are still in quarantine, and perhaps with some unsavory people. That being said, if you are in a difficult situation with a potentially dangerous person, please DM me on Twitter asking for a “tarot reading about Cupid’s mistake”, and I will be sure to check on you every day.
Anyways, on to the topic for today’s blog post. Abusive relationships. What do they look like to the outside person?
Heaven and eventually hell, after a while. Maybe you’re labeled as the crazy one, the controlling one, the toxic one. In the month (August 2019) before we broke up, my ex would run to his best friend’s house every day. I would come home around ten pm after working two shifts at both my jobs. He would greet me at the door, linger for thirty minutes, and then he was running out of the house at eleven pm.
I wouldn’t see him until five pm the next day, sometimes eight. Now, around that time, I was losing hope in the relationship, so it didn’t phase me so much. I would still do chores – the laundry, sweeping the carpeted floor and collecting all the stray dog hairs – so I had enough to keep me busy mentally. He became a stressor for me at that point, so I was happy to have myself and his cuddly, sweet but destructive dog to myself.
However, in the beginning, our relationship looked like something else.
How They Get You: love bombing
This is an unofficial term, and I will describe it for you: love bombing is the false honeymoon stage in the relationship. This is how abusers trap you. For friends, it can look like compliments and always wanting to spend time with you. Divulging “dark” secrets and gossiping about other friends, maybe workplace issues. It looks like they want you in their life.
For romantic relationships, this is even harder to identify. Love bombing in a romantic relationship looks like a trail of green flags leading up a grassy hill on a soft, cool summer’s day. You have tea in your other hand while you hold theirs. You run up the hill together and sit down to watch the fireworks.
First, those are bombs going off. The love bombing stage is how they get you. They flatter you with praise and blow up your phone with sweet goodnight and good morning texts. I miss you texts. Gifts. Expensive gifts. Food, maybe your favorite meals. They make it seem like you’re on their mind twenty four-seven, like they can’t bear to part from you.
This is how they get you.
A Weird Gut Feeling
Before me and my ex officially got serious, I had the oddest feeling in my belly with him. Of course, I wasn’t too in tune with my intuition then. It honestly reminded me of a faint stomach ache. Nothing strong and attention grabbing like in the movies.
It was subtle, almost barely noticeable at times, but it was me. I was trying to warn myself.
People Warn You
And you didn’t want to hear it. you’re too far in now if you don’t heed their warnings.
“Come see me!”
The second phase of the love bombing stage. Things are moving too fast. Maybe you’ve only known them for a week and you’ve kissed already. But you don’t see how this could be a problem because maybe they’ve already professed their love to you. My ex told me he loved me only a month after we started dating. Granted we spent so much time together, it felt like I knew him. I know. Quite foolish.
And maybe some people stumble upon genuine people who actually develop these feelings very quickly. That’s fine. We’re talking about an asshole here, okay?
The second phase of the love bombing stage is even more time together. Maybe trips out of state or even talks of moving in. Maybe they’re commenting on your appearance now, saying you guys look good together and you shouldn’t wear a certain top because it exposes too much skin. This flies right under your radar because maybe they’re right, huh? Maybe you should cover up. You don’t want the other suitors (man or woman) to see you and try to talk to you, huh? That healthy stuff that keeps your boo appreciative of you, see how they’ve got a good catch? No, you already have your boo so you should cover up to let others know you’re unavailable.
Again, this is how they get you.
Before you know it, you’re covering up, removing makeup, throwing away your favorite lipstick or pair of shorts. You’re beginning to hide yourself because “only my boo can know what my entire body looks like”, or “see my full face of makeup”. You’re slowly starting to tear yourself down and you don’t even realize it.
You’re sitting on the hill with the tea in your hand, and there’s the faintest whiff of smoke, but you miss it in the smell of your abuser’s perfume or cologne. No smoke here. Only pretty lights and green flags. One of them is turning pink, but you can’t see it.
Now, I consider myself a pacifist, so I avoid fights as much as I can. I didn’t grow up in the most relaxed household, so I can hear a hint of anger in someone’s tone and immediately shut down. This is called fawning, we’ll come back to it.
My ex had a short temper, which is a red flag all by itself, but on top of this, he was argumentative. Little fights he started would turn into blow ups, and God forbid if you tried to raise your voice and yell back at him.
“Don’t raise your voice at me,” he would say while proceeding to yell at my face, not even a foot away from me.
God, he was cruel.
But you don’t see how these fights aren’t your fault in the moment. All you think is, “I shouldn’t have worded XYZ that way,” and you adjust. You try to say exactly what you mean in a neutral tone so he doesn’t misinterpret you.
Baby, abusers hear what they want to. Half the time, they won’t even let you explain anyway. Save your breath.
Anyways, my ex tried to reassure me by saying, “all couples fight.”
I will never forget how he blew up on me when I was sleeping on my back (a no-no for me anyway) and he rolled his entire weight on top of me. He was almost two hundred pounds (no judgement here) and I was barely one thirty five. He rolled all of his weight on top of me while I was in a dead sleep.
I come to, thinking someone is trying to assault me at first, and then I realize it’s him. I asked for him to roll off of me, but he couldn’t hear me because my voice was hoarse from no water. I usually wake up dehydrated, okay? So I try to push at him gently to roll off of me. I’m squirming under him and everything. He should have known what I was asking for.
When I say he blew up, he blew up. Started slamming on the bed, yelling at me, saying how I’m not allowed to push him. Didn’t even acknowledge what he did, how I thought I was about to be assaulted, or the lack of air from him crushing me. Nope.
Dumb arguments turn into dumber fights. Save your breath, love.
A Verbal Beating
Okay, you’ve accepted the arguments and heartache. Remember their comments about your clothes earlier? Well, fortunately for me, my ex didn’t tear me down too much in this regard. He said something much worse.
Due to what I had told my mom about my ex, she interfered (rightfully so) and tried to make sure I was okay. My ex loathed this and began to turn her actions on me. She became the source of many of our arguments.
However, for some of you, your SO or friend may be going out of their way to be cruel to you. Maybe pick out all of your flaws in your clothes, your makeup, or your work. Saying you won’t be anything without them. Maybe some goes as far to say that you need them. No, you don’t.
They Make You Choose
Abusers don’t want you to have allies. Please believe me when I say that they will do everything they can to isolate you. My ex didn’t want me talking to any of my family, especially when it became known that I was confiding in them for help. I was thinking all of the arguments were my fault and my family was quick to reassure me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
My ex became very suspicious when I would leave the room to talk my mom or stepmom. Now, again, if you’re insecure and distrusting, of course this looks suspicious. I do blame his additional suspicion on me – given how he told me about his exes cheating on him, but I was a completely different girl. They don’t think logically.
Anyways, so I foolishly told him about one of my buddies from an old workplace and how he was giving me dude advice. The kid was two years younger than me and living in Arizona. I started to confide in him for advice, since my ex was my first boyfriend. Now, again, my best friend lived in Arizona. We barely talked anyway, considering how unhealthy his own relationship with his girlfriend was at the time, but my ex considered him to be a threat to our relationship.
He wanted to kick me out over this, despite the context of me and my friend’s relationship. He kept calling my best friend of one year, “some guy”, and I foolishly argued with him that the context of the relationship mattered, that he wasn’t “some guy”. My ex didn’t care. Even tried to forcibly remove me from the house. His neighbor heard the noise. Didn’t do a thing. This was in July, and it was the beginning of the end.
Abusers make you get rid of your friends and family, or they’ll do it themselves by ruining your reputation so it’s just you and them. No escape.
“No one will love you like I do.”
Baby, this is bullshit. You know why?
Because you will love yourself more than they ever will. They’re not capable of loving you the way you deserved to be loved. Love doesn’t hurt like this relationship does, okay? Love is kind. Love doesn’t envy or slander. Love is gentle and speaks positive things onto you.
Love can be unrequited and maybe hard to accept or to feel, but love isn’t cruel to you. People who love you will never be cruel to you. They may hurt your feelings when they tell you they expected more from you, that you’re better than XYZ and capable of great things, but love is never intentionally cruel.
And you should hope to God that no one will “love” you like this abusive person.
Apologies Without Changed Behavior
Maybe this person begs on their knees for you to come back in their life. Keep walking, gorgeous.
My ex started to pretend like he cared when he hurt my feelings after that blowup in July, but he didn’t. He acted like it was something he hadn’t considered – being kind to me and treating me like how I treated him, but he never followed through. Never treated me like the “special woman” I thought he was in his life.
His apologies for his behavior only paved the way for the future harassment and arguments. His apologies only “softened me up” for a worse punishment. He knew no bounds in his cruelty.
Subtle Manipulation With Threats Of Violence
Now, maybe my ex had an overactive imagination, but he used to tell me all these stories about him beating up former friends and coworkers because he could, because they called him names. Now, workplace harassment is a real thing, but beating someone to a pulp in an alley?
He even told me that he beat up someone who he spotted in the mall with his girlfriend at the time. Only thing was he apparently beat this man into a coma.
Maybe your abuser isn’t as crazy. But how would you know?
I didn’t know it at the time, but hearing those stories was establishing my ex as a threat in my head. My brain was inhaling those stories and subconsciously storing them. It was harder for me to leave because I had registered this man as dangerous.
It didn’t help that he eventually bought a box of bullets and left them on the coffee table for me to see every morning. He claimed he had a gun in the house, but I never saw it. He did have knives and their locations always changed.
He was establishing himself as dangerous. Manipulating me.
And maybe your abuser doesn’t do this so obviously. Maybe they have a vibe, a way of speaking, that allows this to register anyway.
Dying for Validation
Along with listening to these stories, I also heard the never-ending stories of how sweet this guy was. How he gave money to the homeless people. How he worked in the soup kitchen.
Always the loudest one in the room about his good deeds. Never let me introduce myself fully to him, but I didn’t care. All I saw was green. I only saw the fireworks on the hill, not smell the smoke of my burning village.
And maybe all of these stories were true, but how did I know?
They’re “Bigger” Than You
I quit my job at a licensed Starbucks shortly before I moved in with him. Given the workplace harassment that was going on there, I didn’t mind it.
And he was generous with the money he earned. Often gave me cash to buy what I liked, but for some of you, your abuser may be withholding funds from you. Denying you your half or even a piece.
Stingy. Abusive. Disgusting.
You don’t need their permission for anything, love.
“You’re too sensitive.”
My ex loved to say this to me when he made a joke that was full of hidden disrespect. He would disrespect me, pass it off as a joke, and then get mad when I called him on it.
Also, whenever I tried to discuss how he made me feel, I was always to blame for my feelings. Never his actions. He never played a part in wounding me.
This also plays into gaslighting, allowing you to believe that your reality is false. That maybe you are too sensitive and they’re the sweetest person ever. Maybe you’re in a bad mood and you misinterpreted them?
No, baby. No, you didn’t.
And this is where you fawn. You say nothing, you stop speaking up for yourself, to keep the peace. You make yourself small.
But eventually, hopefully, you decide to leave.
“Don’t leave me.”
Baby, keep walking.
By the time I left my ex, I was in a terrible state of mind. I had lost weight, lost sleep, and my self esteem was shot to hell. All the work I had been doing on myself since I turned eighteen was gone. I had to rebuild myself from the ground up.
And guess what happened?
Harassment. This man reduced himself to texting me often, acting out vindictively. The first day after I left, I texted back a few times. I was missing him, despite all he had done and said despite the disrespect. I found myself missing the potential that I had been straining to see throughout the relationship .
I was leaving him at the top of the hill now, seeing all the red flags that led up to the hill, and he clung to my hand.
He did some crazy things after I left, resulting in a phone number change, three court hearings, and a restraining order.
Abusers don’t want you to go. They don’t like to see your back. They like to see your underbelly, when you’re pinned to a wall in front of them. They like to see the sweat rolling down your brow and your tear-filled eyes.
Threats of self-harm
Two months after I left, he threatened suicide. Your abuser may do the same.
You are not responsible for their actions and choices, whether they’re bluffing or not. Do not blame yourself for the lengths they go to in order to manipulate you.
The Last Sign: You’re Reading This Post
Yes, I know this is a cliche, but if you have sat through this entire post and you’re still wondering if you’re in an abusive relationship, you are.
This post can apply to friends and family members. Anyone can be abusive, and I’m so sorry if you find yourself with someone like this right now.
I’m here for you, and you’re not alone. There is a way out. You will make it down the hill.
Again, please ask me for a “tarot reading about Cupid’s mistake,” and I will check on you every day.
I’m sending you love. So much love.
Stay safe. For me, please.
Links & Other Stuff
Other mentioned posts
- “You’re Too Sensitive” AKA My Journey Into Tarot // status report // May 14th
Content to Expect
- Breaking Bad // postponed
- The Haunting of Hill House
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Twin Peaks