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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

85

Run Anyway

The day my girlfriend and I broke up for the fifth and final time was the day Barack Obama announced that he supported gay marriage. I let out a laugh that was more like a bark, took a Xanax, and slept on and off for the next two days. My friends brought me water and pizza, sat next to me in front of television shows I don’t remember.

The next week was akin to rising up in an airplane above a city in which you have lived for a while, and suddenly understanding the shape of it — the curve of the coast or the sinewy motion of a river, the grid of streets. As I began to feel human, I resumed eating. In our kitchen, my roommate said to me, “You’re coming back. You’ve gotten loud again.”

I hadn’t realized I’d been quiet for so long.

I am not normally afraid of words, but I was afraid of this one. I was so afraid of it, I lied to my friends, my teachers, my no-nonsense therapist.

Abuse. Abuse. Abuse. Even the syllables sound ugly, debased. Even my friends who knew something was wrong couldn’t say it. “Something is not right.” “I’m not sure what’s happening is entirely healthy.” “I just wanted to make sure the thing I overheard is something that’s being addressed in your relationship and is not considered normal.”

The further away I got, the clearer it became. She had been my first serious girlfriend after a succession of boyfriends, and I was more in love than I had ever been before. But the relationship stretched and accommodated behavior I likely would have never taken from a man. 

She talked down to me. She accused me of cheating, so often that I became afraid to talk too happily about hanging out with specific people, or venturing too far away from my phone, with which she would check in on me. Our fights got more frequent, more upsetting, until my roommates would wait until I was done crying, which took hours, to gently knock on my door and ask if I was all right.

She would drink and tell me she hated me, and once, in the middle of one of these episodes, tried to throw me out of her isolated house at two in the morning on a January night in Indiana, with no car and nowhere to go. That fight started because, while at a bowling alley with her friends, I’d asked her to stop groping my breasts. I locked myself in the bathroom and she hurled her body against the door, screaming. Later, she cried about how bad she felt, and I found myself comforting her.

She’d ask me which of my friends knew about our fights. The very short list always made her so angry.

Every resource about domestic abuse is in agreement: abuse can happen in any kind of relationship — monogamous or polyamorous, lesbian, gay, or heterosexual.

But there seems to be something extra-hidden about abuse in queer relationships. Lesbians are coded as inherently egalitarian — after all, they’re both women, right? Both oppressed by the patriarchy? How can there be abuse if there’s no man present?

Lesbian relationships are not inherently different than other relationships, but social ideas that swirl around gender poison everything, including what we — and that means lesbians, too — expect or think about same-sex relationships. We expect women cannot abuse other women or men can be abused by other men (and trans people are never even considered in the narrative at all), essentially erasing those experiences from the dialogue. The baggage of gender roles overloads us so much, we can’t clearly identify behavior independent of our ideas about what women, or men, or people anywhere on the gender spectrum can or cannot do.

A man sobbing about how bad he feels after acting in a disturbing way reads differently than a woman crying for the same reason, even if the act of manipulation is identical. The cultural baggage we carry is clear: men are abusers, women are the abused, and the ideas are never inverted.

I try to imagine the things that happened to me with a male partner. Would I have let a man continuously, repeatedly put me down and humiliate me, in private and in front of my friends and colleagues? Would I have let a man call me a “fucking bitch,” rip down the shower curtain behind which I was cowering? Would I have let him threaten to throw me out into the sub-freezing night? Would, after that had passed like a summer storm, I have comforted him?

I don’t think so. But somehow, a petite blonde woman had me trapped.

So here I am, putting words to it. “Abuse.” I was abused. I keep wanting to say “not physically,” but some would argue that yes, it was physical, too. It was total and complete control; I became non-functional, a shadow of myself.

But I realize now: it’s hard to understand the scope of the ocean when you’re bobbing along in it. I have talked friends through abusive relationships before. I have encouraged people to break up with abusive partners, to find safety. I can recognize symptoms of domestic violence and abuse in a second, but when I was in the middle of it, it didn’t look anything like I expected. I was in love. I imagined a daughter, a domestic life. People don’t always get along, I thought. Lovers fight. It’s different because we’re both women. It’s different because we’re both writers. Both passionate.

Toward the end of our relationship, she told me a story about her teacher’s two cats.

“They’re so tightly bonded, they do everything together,” she said. “They eat together, sleep together, and even move together. But sometimes, they tear each other apart, because they’re so close. Kind of like us.”

If it ever looks like this, I am telling you to run.

Olivia Q. is a writer living in the midwest. She arrived at the heat-death of the universe, and kept going.



85 Comments / Post A Comment

Oh, squiggles

Oh, I am so glad you got out of that. Thank you for writing this. It is a good reminder that any relationship (even non romantic ones) can become twisted and unhealthy.

The Lady of Shalott

@Awesomely Nonfunctional Oh yes. Any flavour of relationship can be unhealthy and twisted and abusive--parental/child, siblings, romantic, even friendships can be painful and abusive and wreck lives.

This was a lovely piece.

C_Webb

This is amazing. Why does it have to hurt so much to get so wise?

Bittersweet

So glad you "got loud again" and (beautifully, painfully) shared your story with us. Wishing you all the best.

sugar cubism

This whole piece is so powerful and important; thank you. Also I want to point out that I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding at this "But I realize now: it’s hard to understand the scope of the ocean when you’re bobbing along in it." Truth.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Oh, girl. I want to hold your hand and stand quietly for a while. Thank you so much for sharing this. You are not alone.

serendipity

Wow. Just wow. So powerful and moving. Really well written and makes a very important point. I never before thought about abuse within same sex relationships, but unfortunately it happens, of course it does. These relationships are the same as opposite sex ones. Thank you for opening my eyes, and I'm so glad you got out of that relationship.

CaitlinWood

Thank you. Well done.

dtowngirl

Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I wish you the best.

EpWs

I am so glad you're out. And I hope that, because you wrote this, other people in similar situations will read it and get out too.

Pela

Thank you thank you thankyouthankyouthankyou

Blushingflwr

Thank you for writing this. Now if only I could get the people in my life who need it to read it and take your advice...

insouciantlover

Beautiful piece. And that last quote of hers... dear god. What a curious glimpse into the way she thinks/thought a relationship should work.

I had an ex who was cruel to the point of being emotionally abusive, I suppose (it is so much harder to classify when it happens to you, no?), and he would say things like "well, everyone has big fights." Not everyone has big (mostly one-sided) fights all the time. Not everyone interrogates their SO for ten minutes every evening about where they went after work. And yet eventually these major red flags become the new normal.

I'm really, really glad you got out of that relationship.

Ginger Slap

a petite redhead did the same thing to me. Glad we've both escaped that nightmare.

Summer Somewhere

men can be abused by women, too. just to add to your list of abusive relationships society doesn't expect/support/see.

i'm sorry for what you went through, and i'm glad you shared your story.

fondue with cheddar

@Summer Somewhere Truth. I'm dating one of those men (his ex wife was the abuser, not me).

This was a beautiful and terrifying story. I'm so relieved that it ended with her getting out.

TheDragon

I loved the "it's hard to understand the scope of the ocean when you're bobbing along in it."
I remember feeling like I'd never been more in love during my relationship. After we ended, I realized I'd spent two years on knife blade, and even if I wasn't teetering and falling off the sides, I was still cutting up my feet as I toed that impossible line.
Thank you for sharing that. It's good to know that smart, funny, strong people can become victims too, but that they can also escape.

crookedlegs

"I hadn’t realized I’d been quiet for so long."

This hits a little too close to home for me, concerning something I don't think I've completely worked through yet. Thank you for this piece - your honesty is striking.

tandemkas

This was just so beautifully written and horrifying at the same time. So happy to hear you got out.

TheMnemosyne

As I began to feel human, I resumed eating. In our kitchen, my roommate said to me, “You’re coming back. You’ve gotten loud again.”

After getting out of a severely emotionally abusive relationship of six years, I stayed at my best friend's house for six weeks afterwards. I slunk around the house, afraid to make noise, use resources like lights or water, use too much oxygen. For a whole week I was afraid to eat dinner because I didn't want to bother anyone with my hunger so I starved quietly and snuck out of my room late at night to eat handfuls of dry cereal. I didn't even like walking around in the house lest it make the floors creak, and they be reminded that I was a guest in their home. After the six weeks were up, the statement above is almost identical to what my best friend said to me.

Six months later I am still coming back, getting louder, and, as the author said, understanding the shape of my world. Thank you for this excellent piece.

CrescentMelissa

@TheMnemosyne I am so happy that you are ok. I understand that feeling, of not wanting to take up too much space because you've been told over and over again with either actions or words how much you don't deserve. It is incredible once you have your distance and start piecing yourself back together how much you give up when feeding a relationship like this. Thank you for your honesty and thank you for this piece.

Litebrite Idea

@TheMnemosyne It's also scary how quickly it happens! It was only a few weeks after the rapidly escalating critique of my every movement and bodily function that I began to be completely self-conscious of my resource and room use. Sadly, it takes longer to move freely and less anxiously again, so I know you will only keep getting louder and more free as time goes on!!

boxlady

I am so sorry to hear that you had to go through such an experience. Please take care of yourself. Also, please seek out counseling. Abuse alters your psychic landscape, often for a long time. I say this as an abuse survivor who's spent years rebuilding her physical and emotional health. I am out of the ocean, but I am still learning about other places and ways of being.

Passion Fruit

@boxlady Can you elaborate the ways in which abuse alters your psychic landscape? I complete believe you, but it's hard to see for yourself, especially if you are used to it, the ways that it is damaging.

ETA I hope that's not an annoying request. It would just be cool to see a list of this on the H Pin.

snowmentality

Thank you.

I have been there with a guy. I don't know how to warn anyone else. At first it always looks so normal -- people just disagree, he just has a strong personality, I just need to grow a thicker skin, relationships are just work. Even if there are "classic" signs of abuse, there's always an explanation for why they're normal and reasonable in this case -- and I mean the victim will genuinely believe there's an explanation. I did. It all seems justified. Your partner isn't being intentionally cruel, so how can they be abusing you?

I guess I would say: If you read a list of signs of abuse, and your relationship fits -- even though there will be a good reason why your partner did every one of those things, even though they're not a villain or a monster, even though you love them so much -- your relationship is still not a healthy place to be, and you're hurting. Maybe they don't realize what they're doing. Maybe you just need to be more or less whatever, and things would be happier. Maybe that's all true. But right now, things are toxic. You need to get away from this relationship to a place where things are quieter, less fraught, so you can figure out what should change. You don't have to label your partner as an abuser, or yourself as an abuse victim, when you leave; just take it as a sign that things aren't working in this relationship, that this relationship is bad for both of you. And leave.

And one thing that should be added to lists of signs of abuse: "You often find yourself crying about something related to your partner or the relationship." That should have been an early warning sign for me.

laurel

"Maybe you just need to be more or less whatever..."

nina

@snowmentality Thank you for this comment, I think it's great advice. I'd also add that if you're miserable all the time and you have no idea why, it might be your toxic relationship. I (and some people I know) was so reluctant to even consider that could be the culprit, but that reluctance itself was part of the fear.

bloodorange

@snowmentality and @nina Such great advice. Even if your toxic relationship isn't abusive per se, it's so important to check in with your feelings and take a hard look at reality...

Litebrite Idea

@snowmentality Yes, in discussing the recent spate of toxicity and abuse from a handful of people, I totally asked my therapist whether I just needed to grow a thicker skin and get some more game!

And I saw the signs of abuse right away in the emotionally abusive romantic one, too, but had a bunch of seemingly valid reasons to justify it for a while...until the actual threats started and I could justify risking some big stuff to get away. The state of mind/feeling that develops is really hard to fathom until you're in the midst of it.

dj pomegranate

@snowmentality "You often find yourself crying about something related to your partner or the relationship."

In my terrible relationship, I cried all the time about...well, everything. Everything was just so hard. Everything made me so tired. I distinctly remember having a conversation with a friend where I was weeping and she gently talked me through the things I could possibly be weeping about: "Is it your job...? Too much work...? Finances...?" Etc. I am pretty sure that she knew what the problem was, but she helped me eliminate all other possibilities before finally offering, "...it sounds like all your anxiety is about [boyfriend]. Is it him?" I immediately was like "NO OF COURSE NOT!" But deep down I knew it was, and that conversation pointed me in the right direction. I couldn't even express it, there wasn't ONE TERRIBLE THING that was making me miserable, but I was so, so miserable. Looking back, of course, I can pinpoint the exact abusive issues--but while I was in it, man, it was like I was just afloat in an ocean of anxiety, without a rudder.

katiemcgillicuddy

This was beautiful. I'm glad you've gotten loud again.

tee
tee

You are a powerful writer.

Palmetto

Great piece- thank you. It's hard to see abuse in one's own relationship when those lows are accompanied by loving, happy moments. In my experience, abusers may try to make their victims justify the pain by making the calm times so wonderful. The highs were so high that I was afraid to leave that 'bliss', and willing to forget the unforgivable.

Lady_Terminator

@Palmetto yes, abusers will always say "Remember all the good times we had?"

It took me awhile to realize that the good times did not cancel out the bad times.

Lady_Terminator

Really touches home.

I still have trouble saying I was in an abusive relationship. I don't think I realized how abusive it was until my current relationship. With my current boyfriend, I realized I could speak my mind without fearing a fight. I could spend my own money without having to justify it (or hide receipts). I wasn't terrified of him yelling at me in a public place or if he would leave me by the side of the road again. I didn't have to be change my clothes to hide my body. I didn't have to hide male friends for fear of a jealous rage. So many things I no longer had to fear.

It felt so good to relax. I love my current partner so so much. I was his first girlfriend, yet he taught me so much about what a healthy relationship entails.

and yet, sadly, sometimes I still catch myself telling lies to avoid any confrontation, even if it's will be non-existent or minor. But I'm working on it, I'm aware that I do that, and eventually I'll be OK.

lalaland

@Lady_Terminator Agreed - it's been over 2 years and I am now in a healthy relationship, but sometimes I find myself omitting certain things because I still get nervous. You know, wild things like talking to a person of the opposite sex...like a coworker. Eventually we will be okay.

Beautiful piece.

Briony Fields

@Lady_Terminator, @lalaland, I hear you for sure. 1.5 years out of an abusive relationship and I still find myself occasionally holding back in certain ways, or expecting some sort of explosive reaction from my lovely, kind, calm and understanding boyfriend. Even though he's never reacted like that, or in any way that my ex did. I'm one year into the new relationship and there have been great improvements, but sometimes it still boggles my mind how deep and subconscious the effects of abuse are.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@Lady_Terminator Me too - I find myself saying just what she mentioned, clarifying every mention of the a-word with "it wasn't physical abuse," or (if I'm being really honest with myself) "it wasn't physical abuse very often." I'm 7 years out from that relationship and have a really good thing going with a great man, but even still when we argue I wait for him to pull out something really hurtful and I'm always ready to go on the defensive.

Mostly I am heartbroken for the younger-me who thought that was normal and healthy and OK, or at least didn't expect to find anything better.

Lady_Terminator

@sudden but inevitable betrayal That's precisely what kills me. I, too, had no baseline for a normal healthy relationship. My parents were fine, but nobody taught me that abuse was more than just physical. It was sometimes very subtle, and the way he would just try to make it up to me made me think that that was the way it was in most relationships.

I want relationships 101 to be taught alongside sex ed.

dj pomegranate

@Lady_Terminator "With my current boyfriend, I realized I could speak my mind without fearing a fight. I could spend my own money without having to justify it (or hide receipts). I wasn't terrified of him yelling at me in a public place or if he would leave me by the side of the road again. I didn't have to be change my clothes to hide my body. I didn't have to hide male friends for fear of a jealous rage. So many things I no longer had to fear."

Hi, are you me? Pretty sure you are, or that we maybe dated the same dude? Here's to us and our new, better relationships.

Lady_Terminator

@dj pomegranate *pops champagne* fuck those dudes. CHEERS!

Tamara Motola@facebook

Great article, except when you used "trans" to mean "neither man nor woman"... You should've used "non-binary" instead, since trans women ARE women and trans men ARE men!

sceps yarx

This piece is very observant. It reminded me of Aimee Mann's hit song from her 80s band Till Tuesday. It is called "voices carry" and is about an abusive relationship. Apparently, Aimee originally wrote it about a girl/girl relationship, but the record label made her change the lyrics to be about an abusive man instead of an abusive woman.

laurel

Thank you for writing about this. I think we often idealize lesbian relationships, making it all the more isolating and harder for those in troubled situations to identify them as such.

pityslice

Please -- stay loud!

JoanTition

<3
Thank you.

wee_ramekin

Olivia, I am really proud of you for getting away. I'm glad you're rediscovering your old self, and I'm so sorry that your first queer relationship was so abusive.

You're strong, you're brave, and you deserve so much happiness.

Thanks for writing this.

cosmia

Thank you for writing this piece, and congratulations for finding the strength to get away from that situation. I can really relate to not realizing how harmful an abusive relationship is until you are forcibly distanced from it - when my boyfriend of two years broke up with me, I was completely devastated until I realized that he'd been emotionally abusing me (he broke up with me because my family was a "bad influence" on me and I chose them over him?), and it had been escalating for at least the last year.

fourdayweekend

Wow, this is a spot-on piece about my own experience. I couldn't see what was happening to me when I was in an abusive relationship until 2 years in, when one day, I saw.

This line is perfect:
"But I realize now: it’s hard to understand the scope of the ocean when you’re bobbing along in it."

Exactly. Congratulations on your escape and good luck in your re-building. It is wonderful to discover who you are and even more wonderful to realize that people love that person. I was always afraid to tell friends and especially lovers what I wanted because I thought they would leave me, but leaving abuse made me realize (with therapy of course) that I could say what I wanted and I would get it...as long as I was with the right people.

You will be stronger, happier, and healthier with your new ocean-wide perspective. I can't wait to hear more about your growth!

kano

I just created an account to say thank you for writing this. I had a similar experience with my first love, which was also between two people who were female-identified (at that time). I put up with years of emotional abuse, lied to my friends about my happiness and for a very long time i would never even tell them when a fight had taken place, because somewhere in the back of my head i knew that something was wrong, and i was embarrassed to admit my weakness.

Looking back on it now I know i kept so much of that inside because it was a queer relationship, and i didn't know how to handle it. I would never endure the same shit from a man, but i had no idea how to stand up to a woman.

Reading this article brings back a lot of feelings, but even just knowing that I wasn't alone in navigating these thoughts is reassuring.

hollysh

I think that line about bobbing in the ocean resonates with many romantic relationships. That's why it's so infuriating to me when people chastise those in abusive relationships for failing to recognize the abuse - many of us are familiar with being so emotionally invested in another person that we lose perspective. Thank you for being so brave in writing this piece. Good luck on your path to recovery.

fondue with cheddar

@hollysh That line about the ocean really hit home for me, too. I was in a marriage that might be considered abusive (if you consider neglect to be abuse), and my boyfriend is still dealing with the emotional damage caused by his abusive marriage. We both look back and ask ourselves how the heck we let it happen (and he feels guilty because he's got kids), but the answer is we honestly didn't see it because we were in it.

Karen Hoffman@twitter

I wish I'd been able to read something like this during college - I don't know that I would have done anything, but it would have been nice to know that little voice deep down was right, that there was in fact something wrong with the relationship.

Sierrararar

This made me cry. I am glad you are loud again.

SouthernSatine

Thank you for writing exactly the piece that I needed to read, when even I didn't know how badly I needed to read it.

Judith Slutler

so much love for this piece.

JustForThisThread

Gone anon because I usually use a Facebook log in and you know, Google etc. (I'd like to think I wouldn't be ashamed, but there's still the idea in my head that I would look less than competent to professional people, plus... this is personal shit.)

This mirrors an experience with an ex of mine, so strongly, right down to locking myself in the bathroom and him hurling himself at the door. When I eventually let him in (which I always did) he would stand over me and shout at me for crying, saying that I should know it made him feel bad and he thought I was better than sinking to emotional blackmail. It was not calculated crying, I would be pretty much hysterical and unable to speak by that point.

He would stand over me in arguments and tell me not to shout, bitch, because he could always shout louder.

He would phone me constantly at work, to talk about his personal problems. Often when I had a big project on or a deadline.

He would change stories about what he'd done, where he'd been or what he thought, then deny any changes. I started to keep notes, just to make sure I wan't going mad.

I used to sit in my wardrobe for hours, as I felt it was the only place in the flat I could call mine.

One year at Christmas he trashed a point I was making, thoroughly, in front of my mother and her boyfriend and told me I didn't know what I was talking about. (My mother, to her credit, stepped up phone calls and visits to my city after that.)

I barely saw my friends.

He was also sweet, vulnerable, incredibly clever and needed someone in his life.

I thought all this was fucking normal.

I rationalised it, in a very similar way to the lack of size with the petite blonde, because he'd been very seriously ill in our first year together. He could have died and was in hospital for three weeks, confined to the house for a further month. How can you leave someone in those circumstances? Even when they're refusing to do their physiotherapy? Or anything to help themselves?

Finally, on a day I told him I had to stay late at work, he called me, telling me he'd thrown our dinning room chairs at the wall and felt like killing himself. I phoned his mother, in a panic, and my manager sent me home (she said later she did so with some trepidation). It was a week after my aunt had died. I walked over the river to get to the station and thought: I can't do this any more. Life's too fucking short. Picking smashed up wood splinters from our rug decided me.
A week or so later I left him and moved into a friend's spare room. I got the last bit of my youth back. I got my personality back (my best friend cried when she saw me "blossoming again.") I happily slept with some very pretty boys. I got promoted at work. I fell in love with a wonderful, good man. Best thing I ever did.

Sorry that this is long. I don't even like talking to my friends about this, as I don't want them to feel guilty for not stepping in (but how could they have done? They made it clear they'd always be there and made huge efforts to get me out to see them.)But the more I read, the more I process it. I do describe it as abuse now, but only really in my head.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@JustForThisThread I'm so sorry you went through that. I'm glad you got out.

I have the same reluctance to talk to my friends about my experiences - I worked so hard to hide things from them where I was in that relationship that opening up about it...I guess I worry that they wouldn't believe me or would think I was exaggerating. After all the shit he put me through, I couldn't bear that.

JustForThisThread

@sudden but inevitable betrayal Yeah, it feels so unreal. I'm happy! I'm popular! This doesn't happen to girls like me. I think, based on the bits I have stammered out, after wine has got to my tongue, they would believe you, certainly.

I'm glad you left too. I wouldn't wish a relationship like that on anyone, but it feels very, very good to talk about it here.

wee_ramekin

@sudden but inevitable betrayal

Speaking as someone who watched her most recent roommate go through almost the exact same experience as Olivia's (seriously. Down to the first queer relationship with a petite blond; I'm beginning to wonder if Olivia is my old roommate), I would say that your friends would probably believe you. My roommate tried to hide a lot of the stuff her girlfriend was doing to her, but it was pretty obvious to me and to her other friends that something *bad* was going on. We didn't know the specifics - and when she did eventually open up about them to us, we were shocked and sad - but we didn't for one second disbelieve her.

I'm not trying to pressure you into disclosure, merely sharing that, if you think it would help you, I think you could trust that your good friends will believe you.

JustForThisThread

I just want to say to anyone, anyone who reads this in a similar situation: it's not normal. It just isn't. I didn't even really get that until about a year after we'd broken up. Run now.

cuminafterall

Oh lady. You are so strong. It amazes me that you can write so beautifully about this at only a few months' remove. Know that you deserve the best of everything.

fatblackcat

Great piece. I was in an abusive relationship last year and didn't realize it until I had to call the police to have my partner removed from my home because I knew that if I went home it was likely that he would kill me. I am still coming to grips with how I let myself get so deep. Anyway, I am glad you got out.

SarahP

Such a powerful piece. You are amazing to have gotten through this and come out the other side as strong as you are. Keep being loud. <3

anachronistique

Thank you. This is amazing.

rasko

I really appreciate that you wrote this and, more than ever, I really appreciate the sophisticated and eloquent comments of everyone else.

Oliver St. John Mollusc

Thank you so, so much for being brave enough to share this. It really hit home for me as I'm sure it did for lots of other readers.

nina

Would you have allowed a man to do this to you? Maybe not, but I did - when you love someone you convince yourself a lot of things are harmless, and maybe they convince you that too. That's gaslighting - when someone tells you your instincts (which are screaming that something is very wrong) are crazy, and you're naturally an irrational or jealous person, and you believe them. I wish I had run sooner. Thank you for this.

Slapfight

@nina Ugh. I hear you. Turns out I'm not an irrationally jealous person when my partner's giving me no reason to be. Funny how that works.
The sad thing about this whole comment thread is that this behavior appears to be so common, with men and women.

alicia

This is beautifully written, and I hope it can help others recognize and name their own situations. (Your writing credit is fantastic, also. "arrived at the heat death of the universe, and kept going." Congratulations.*)

*This is not a "Congratulations. How wonderful." congratulations!

LaLoba

It's so much easier to be a force field for others than it is for yourself. Whilst I was debating trying to leave my boyfriend of three years I said tearfully to my sister, "I mean, I figure anyone I'm going to be with is going to be mean to me; at least with him I know what to expect." And she replied that I sounded like an abused woman.

She works in social work and helps women in danger get restraining orders. She said, "You are so strong, it's not like you to let people hurt you. You would never let someone do this to somebody else. It's not like you to feel weak."

Q
Q

I have a friend in a relationship very like this. She's still in it, unfortunately. Reading this gives me hope she will get out.

Verity

I'm so sorry that you experienced this, and very glad to hear that you got out. Thank you for writing this.

I work for a charity that helps victims of domestic abuse; some of our service users are in same-sex relationships. Intellectually I knew that abuse can happen in any type of relationship, but was still a bit jarring to be presented with evidence that no, lesbian relationships are not automatically being nice, egalitarian things.

karion

The next week was akin to rising up in an airplane above a city in which you have lived for a while, and suddenly understanding the shape of it — the curve of the coast or the sinewy motion of a river, the grid of streets.

I love this. I loved this essay. I am so sorry you were in that, and am so genuinely glad you are out of it.

I have a friend who has just ended a very long, extraordinarily abusive relationship. I have to stop myself at least five times a conversation from thinking "how the fuck did this seem acceptable to you at the time?" Mostly because I know that has to be her worst fear - being judged that way - and also because I know my ignorance is both showing and hypocritical. I, too, have stayed too long with the wrong person.

I just wish I knew better what to say to her now, and how to help in ways that don't involve me being an attorney.

audreytoo

Does anyone else who has left an abusive relationship struggle with intense feelings of missing/longing for the abusive partner? I'm going through this now and it's so brutal. I want to go back to her all the time.

ladyraptor@twitter

@audreytoo
My best friend has been going through the same thing for almost a year now, and this is a guy who "cheated on her" by committing sexual assault on another woman (I use quotes because I have a hard time calling it cheating when it wasn't consensual). He was a shitbag and she knows she doesn't really want to go back to him, but she still misses him on a daily basis for a whole damn year now and there is definitely a part of her that just wants to run back to him. Brutal is an excellent way to describe it.

Also, this is girl is a smart, strong woman who doesn't take anyone's shit. I feel like I have to mention that because I grew up thinking that abused women were weak. I didn't think it was their fault, but still, this doesn't happen to strong people. And so of course when I ended out in an abusive relationship I was in denial, I'm not a weak person, so obviously I can't be in an abusive relationship. I would never let that happen to me, right? And then I'd go attempt to bury the shame of letting myself by in an abusive relationship.

eeemily

Thank you so much for writing this. I just got out of an abusive lesbian relationship, and the things you wrote about sound as if they could have been written by me. It's incredible how these things are happening so often, and yet we don't even know it until someone is brave enough to speak up. Thank you for breaking the silence.

PrincessK

Thank you so much for this article. I have been trying to justify my situation for a very long time now. I hope others read this and are enlightened, as I was.

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