My worst childhood memory includes waking up to the sound of my father’s voice yelling and screaming at my mother, for no apparent reason. I will never forget her tears. They were pouring from her beautiful brown eyes and it seemed like they would never stop.

The next day everything would be ok. She would put a smile on her face. She would fix us lunch. She would do her best to make him happy, even though the only thing he ever did was make her sad. I couldn’t make sense out of the whole situation playing out in front of my eyes.

You see, my father wasn’t someone you could call a man in the real sense of that word. He was a worthless jackass whose life’s mission was to make my mother as miserable as he possibly could. He knew how much she cared and he would use it against her.

For that one time he would treat her right and land the stars from the sky right into her lap, he would ruin it with other ten times he would treat her like crap. There were days when she couldn’t say anything right in his opinion. He would disrespect her, talk down to her and show her in every possible way that she isn’t enough.

I am still quite unsure of how he managed to manipulate her so skilfully. Everything he did ended up being her fault. He played the role of the victim so accurately that he almost had me going, even though I knew that the things coming out of his mouth couldn’t be further from the truth.

It broke my heart to see her like that. He was emotionally destroying her. Every time he mistreated her, she would forgive him. Every time she wanted to leave, he would play it nice for a while and as soon as he saw he had her, he would go back to being his pitiful self.

I begged my mother to leave. I begged her to put herself before him. I knew that she could have a better, more peaceful life without him. But she couldn’t leave. I don’t know if it was love or her fear of being alone and starting over again.

She only left when it was too late. When the emotional abuse turned to physical. I had mixed feelings about it. I was sorry for her getting hurt, but I was so glad she finally got the courage to go from my father’s claws. We were both better off without him. And years later, when she finally rebuilt her life and learned to love herself, she told me that the only thing she regrets is not leaving sooner.

My regret is the same. I wish I never had to see her go through that. I wish I never heard that yelling and crying. But there is one positive thing I learned from my father: he taught me how not to treat women and why it’s crucial for them to love themselves first.

My own experience led me to write this article and to offer some advice to all the women out there staying in wrong relationships, settling for less than they deserve and tolerating the intolerable. It’s time you pack up your bags and leave. Don’t wait until his abuse turns into physical. Just because he didn’t hit you doesn’t mean he didn’t hurt you with his words and his actions just the same.

To be in any kind of relationship, it’s important to love yourself first. It’s important to put yourself in the highest position on your list of priorities. Only then will you have a chance for true love. When you are happy and comfortable being on your own, you won’t tolerate someone treating you like you are less.

You will leave the relationships in which you are taken for granted. You will know that everything you give to somebody else should be reciprocated. That you shouldn’t give your whole self to somebody who isn’t completely in that relationship with you. You will not settle for occasional glimpses of happiness when you know you deserve more.

You have to discover your worth and hold tightly to that feeling. Don’t give anybody but yourself the power to determine your worth. Just because somebody treats you like you are not enough is no reason to start believing it yourself. He is the one who isn’t enough. He is the one who has issues and insecurities and is reflecting them on you. He is the one who is not enough for you. And he shouldn’t be a part of your life.

Your love shouldn’t be used against you. Your kindness, commitment, and devotion to him shouldn’t be looked upon as weaknesses. A real man would be more than happy to have a woman like that by his side, but a lowlife will just use these traits as a tool to manipulate you and have you doing things his way.

If you feel manipulated or controlled, leave without giving it a second thought. Those are not feelings you get when you are in a healthy relationship. There will be no blame games and playing the victim every chance he gets when you are with a real man. There will be no bringing up your past to hurt you in the present. There will be no putting you down to make himself feel like he is superior or better than you.

What will be—and what should be—is respect, honesty, trust and love all the way. When you are with the right man, he will make you feel like the world is yours to conquer. He won’t prey on your fears and insecurities. He will call them irrelevant and urge you to fight through them and achieve more.

So wait for that man and never settle for anything less. Love yourself enough to walk away from anything that doesn’t make you feel loved, cherished and safe. Be with someone with whom even a rainy day will feel good because you are shining from within.

First and foremost you have to work on the most important relationship you are in—the one you have with yourself. That relationship will set the tone for all the other ones you are in.

by Owen Scott