Living through an emotionally and physically abusive relationship was the hardest experience of my young life. You never think a relationship like that will happen – let alone define you. I always used to cast judgment on stories I’d heard of women who stayed in these poisonous partnerships. I used to ask myself, “Why don’t they just leave?” It wasn’t until I found myself captured in one that I discovered how hard that really is.

The abuse starts slow. It’s just enough to convince you that you’ve done a few things wrong: nagged at the wrong time, said the wrong thing, used the wrong tone of voice. You begin to believe that your words are crippling your relationship. Over time, you begin to speak quieter. You begin to leave the room when you’re on the phone with your mom, cautious to not divulge certain aspects of your relationship you are paranoid about keeping quiet. You begin to burden yourself with responsibilities and lifestyle changes you weren’t expecting. You cook. You clean. You make the sacrifices. You live on someone else’s schedule, careful to not mess up, obsessed with acting correctly so to avoid another argumentative explosion. You tip-toe in what used to be the safety of your own house. You face battles alone because you don’t have someone who gracefully listens to your concerns. Instead, you have a monster who tells you you’re worthless, and stupid, and breaks you down to a point where you begin to sadly believe him.

Abuse suddenly begins to define you because who you are is not who you wanted to be. Your life has become diluted with the urge to go along with a life you didn’t ask for. You do it quietly and life, at least for a little while, feels like it’s normal. Your thoughts get expressed solely through the thinking you do at night as you fall asleep alone. Every once in a while he’ll tell you that you’re pretty. He’ll do some grand gesture. He might even shed a tear. He will definitely apologize. And, you’ll accept it – because it’s what you’ve been brainwashed to believe, brainwashed to accept, brainwashed to think is what you deserve.

Lessons I Learned From My Abusive Relationship

My abuse still lives inside me, and it probably always will. But the abuse I endured no longer defines me. I am no longer a product of it. I am no longer victim to it because I refuse to allow my life to be drugged any further. My life is worth more than allowing what some loser thought of me. I’m not a bad person. I’m not deserving of thinking for even a nanosecond that my life, my dreams, my thoughts or my feelings are worth even the slightest aggravation. I do not intend on spending one more minute of my life believing that the qualities I have are worthless – that I am worthless.

I understand more than ever how easy it is to become a victim in a hostile, abusive and controlling relationship. The problem is not you because the problem lies with them. It lies in their insecurities and I promise you this – there is nothing you can ever do to fix them. It’s not your job to pick up their shattered pieces that they use as an excuse to belittle you, to hit you, to spit on you, or to talk down to you. It will take time for the guilt they piled onto you to leave your shoulders but it will eventually drift away. It will take time for you to want to love again, to even trust that there are good men out there – but believe me, there are. There are souls out there who will love you, who will look at you with full force, knowing you are the most stunning individual on this planet – both inside and out. You will find strength and gumption and the dark times will lift. Healing your heart after it’s been mangled from some scumbag’s mouth takes time and allows yourself that sometimes dark, but healing opportunity.

I never thought I’d spend any year of my life in an abusive relationship. I’m not embarrassed by my past. I’m not ashamed of what I went through. I’m not burdened by the warped mentality it took me years to get over. I’m stronger for it. I love fiercer because of it. I give myself a slap on the back for being a badass, who knows she can get over literally anything that life decides to throw at her.

Abuse doesn’t define me anymore like it used to. I’m grateful for that long, dark road to recovery because I deserved to live a life that was blossoming with happiness – just like you.

by Courtney Dercqu