Why it took a lot more than physical distance for me to feel truly free from my abusive ex

I’ve heard it all before: ‘you’re doing this to yourself’ and, ‘just block his number’. But it’s not as simple as that when it comes to abuse, it never is

Rukiya Newton
Sunday 17 February 2019 11:26
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We’ve all heard the expression “opposites attract”. An idea so routinely accepted that, in my experience, it’s often led to convincing myself to “give him a chance” despite my instincts pleading with me to do the opposite.

Nonetheless, a partner whose characteristics and interests that differ from your own can be stimulating and exciting. And I’ve always thought “#CoupleGoals” romantic partners on Instagram who squat together and toast their wine glasses in synchronised Boomerangs must be a facade.

My boyfriend and I were nothing like that. We did not sync our calendars, wear matching outfits or post idyllic videos for all our mutual friends and followers to see. Our love was imperfect, and, as many survivors of abusive relationships know all too well – addictive.

Our recipe of love contained a narcissist, an empath and a flood of insecurities. Even though we had excessive disputes and caused each other heartache, our craving to feel valued never failed to draw us back together, each time validating the idea that opposites attracting was a good thing.

As an empath, his brokenness was like a project for me, it gave me a false sense of purpose, as I believed I had nothing else to bring to a relationship other than my ability to lift other people up by being kind, or caring.

Just like any other “project”, there were highs and lows, unpredictable hiccups and long periods of isolation, and my commitment to this one was no different, because I viewed him as a diamond in the dirt.

Even though he slowly stripped away at my identity by excessively micromanaging every aspect of my life – down to my skin care regime or what contacts I had on social media – I saw it as his own way of caring for me; my confused sense of self processed his emotional manipulation as love.

Suffocated in the world he placed himself right at the centre of, he knew no matter how many times I cried, found the strength to leave “for good” or even mimicked his aggressive behaviour to show my strength, I wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I’d probably even find a way to understand and condone his actions.

Each and every time my empty threats fell on his dismissive deaf ears, I massaged his narcissistic ego and validated his ability to control and manipulate me, which is exactly why he was so drawn to me.

In a world that lacks compassion, it’s no surprise that some find it hard to fathom why I’d “choose” to stay with someone so abusive. I’ve heard it all before: “you’re doing this to yourself by continuing to go back” and, “just block his number”. But it’s not as simple as that when it comes to abuse, it never is.

Narcissists are overly confident and charismatic, and tend to be community heroes (you can do the math). They thrive off validation because they are in fact, morbidly insecure. My abuser feared being unlovable and protected himself by delegating just enough gestures of love to keep me craving more of his attention to make him feel important.

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Only a person with few aspirations or control in their lives would feel a sense of satisfaction by controlling another person’s.

To seek a broken man who gains power through controlling my life now, would be shrinking my own soul. My journey to drown out his voice of expectations has been a migration to courage, but equally has seen many relapses.

The urge to be his emotional sponge has presented itself in moments of me seeing no value in myself. It is only when I was in a position to be able to “chose” myself that it became clear that our insecurities, not our compatibility, was what brought us together. We were polar opposites, but in the worst sense possible.

By no means have I forgotten what I experienced, but through counselling, being patient with myself and allowing myself embrace the parts of myself he discouraged me from exploring, I learned to embrace being more unapologetically selfish, gradually loosening the grip he had on me for years. And now, it’s the sense of worth I’ve built up since, not the need to appease anyone else, that I use as fuel to keep seeking the best version of myself.

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