2004 was the year of transitioning and self learning, it was the year I was able to finally leave high school and the year I met my first long term boyfriend. 17 turning 18 I was naïve and believed in fairy tales, just like majority of girls growing up experiencing romance only in books and watching movies like Never Been Kissed. I had several crushes in high school – who didn’t? But to be able to go on dates was a little hard under the supervision of a traditional Asian family and low self-esteem.
So now that high school was coming to an end, this was my chance to have some freedom. The freedom to be able to do things normal teenage girls were able to do and luckily for me, I found someone to run through the waves of freedom with.
However, instead of running with me I found myself running away from him instead.
I previously wrote about how this fairy tale story was nothing but a murder mystery novel but for years no one knew what I have gone through nor could I bring myself to talk about it. But I was in an abusive relationship.
I could never allow myself to admit I was dealing with someone abusive, as I was too proud to realize I could be better off without him. Because what 18-year-old girl would want to admit their high school sweetheart is no more but an abusive asshole?
Here are 5 signs that I wish I knew back then that were red flags to an unhealthy relationship:
Losing Yourself & Yourself Worth
As excited I was to achieve my freedom after high school, it wasn’t a gradual change – but still, I expected my family and friends to just accept it and now I have my first long-term a boyfriend. I used to come home by dinner time but that soon changed the second summer took full effect.
Late nights with the smell of cigarettes and alcohol oozing off me by the time I came home at 3am. Not once have thought about taking drugs, but my nights with him and his friends consisted of drugs and alcohol.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe every teen should experience this stage in life by choice and I can easily say I’m glad I got that out of my system and that I no longer have the need to try it at the age of 29 however, it could’ve been exposed to me differently.
Truth is, I started doing drugs simply to feel accepted as his girlfriend and for his friends to accept me into the group, otherwise questions arise as to why he chose to date me if I was boring and well, he wasn’t. I started to disobey my parents more, I lost my interest in writing, and I lost my passion to expand my knowledge and suddenly my grades in university dropped.
When my family decided to move to another province, I decided to stay. This caused an uproar with my family but I did it anyway, because how could I be apart from the only love I knew? With my first paycheque I moved out and because my grades were dropped I decided to stop going to university for a good 6 months.
My life slowly revolved around him. Everything I did always involve him. Don’t get me wrong; being in a relationship it’s normal to include your significant other in your plans but this was over the top.
I arranged my school schedule to fit his schedule. I arranged my lifestyle to fit his. I arranged my whole life to best suit his needs and wants.
When he finally enrolled in school, we took classes together when we both knew it would be nothing but a distraction but we didn’t know how to not be apart. If he didn’t pick up his cellphone, I would call the house phone and deep down I knew it bothered his family especially I called in inappropriate times of the day/night but it didn’t matter to me, what mattered was that I got a hold of him.
When he was broke, I paid for his cab rides back and forth to my place because he wanted to come see me and I didn’t want to be alone. Admittedly, it felt nice to be wanted, however, my bank account didn’t agree with my decisions.
For the longest time, I couldn’t admit to myself that I depended on him to be happy but the truth is: I did. After being together for almost 6 years off and on, he was everything I knew – he was the only person who knew everything about me; he was the only person I could talk to and he made me believe I had no one else but him.
Limiting Circle of Friends
Before I met him, I had built several friendships with different people and was a part of different groups of friends. All amazing individuals but because they weren’t a part of our schedule I ended up leaving them in the dust.
Mind you, at this point smartphones, weren’t so smart, and texting was still something new on my LG flip phone. The only friends that were important to me were his friends.
They knew everything about him so whenever I needed the reassurance, I could rely on them to tell me he loves me. Little did I know, they were only watching out for him- not me. Because I have lost my passion to write and lost my need to socialize with anyone else, I could never speak my mind to anyone. I didn’t know how to reach out because of the belief that they were all I had.
There was no one I could turn to even just to tell me I deserved better. So I felt isolated and alone with my thoughts and it was so easy for him to manipulate my way of thinking all because I believed he loved me. Cue in: anxiety.
Justifying Partner’s Actions
I had every excuse ready to defend him.
The first time he laid his hands on me in public he claims to not remember any of it because he was drunk and after a moment of silence, I told him it was OK. So every time he would threaten me with physical abuse, I would brush it off and say it’s the alcohol talking. It was always the alcohol’s fault, never his.
Every inexcusable action he took, there was always a reason behind it to make it OK for me to brush it off. “His phone was dead.” “He didn’t mean to be that way, he’s just stressed out.” “He was mad, he didn’t mean it because he loves me.” “It won’t happen again.” Ultimately I was saying it was OK to treat me this way and it was a vicious cycle I didn’t know how to break or who to turn to.
I was left alone with excuses to justify it all and his own friends reassured me that it was OK.
After the first 6 months of being in complete bliss, the abuse started to surface. As briefly mentioned above, he had shown his abusive side and the first time when a group of his friends decided to go camping in Penticton, BC.
The whole night was a blur and there was a lot of alcohol that was being consumed. I can’t remember exactly when he became plastered but he ended up trying to sleep inside his car and I went after him to make sure he was comfortable inside.
Next thing you know it, his hands were around my throat and I was pinned down in the backseat. He eventually got off me after smacking him with a flashlight and I ran off. His friends were no help when I was crying furiously. “Oh. He’s just drunk.” They said. Not one finger was lifted but I still refused to go back to him after he kept calling out for me from the car.
Weeks after that incident, he again pinned me against the wall with his hands around my throat and again, I let it slide.
Since then, threats of laying his hands on me were always brought up especially after consuming large amounts of alcohol to scare me and show power. It was almost like I was his punching bag and I knew it was wrong, yet I didn’t know how to get out of it.
The emotional abuse was consistent. He had no problem reminding me on a daily how worthless I am, how other girls are prettier and how no one but himself can love someone like me. When he decided he wanted to be single for the night, his phone would be completely off and the waves of lies would pour in.
His profile on dating sites was brought into the light and even though he denied making them, I knew I couldn’t trust him but I still believed the good in him. The romantic gestures would then follow after arguing with me and this made it so much easier to forgive him every time.
Don’t misunderstand, relationships will always come with arguments and misunderstandings but it should never be so severe to the point where you feel like you’re being broken into pieces through words. I eventually became numb to his slurs and violent rages that when I’d hear about him taking interest in other girls, I didn’t know how to feel.
It took me a while to realize that I deserved so much more.
Although I was alone in my thoughts, I finally had the courage to say: I’m done.When I decided to remove him from my life, I also decided to remove his friends as well. I enrolled in a different school and a different program, in the year 2012 I finished getting my degree in Criminology.
I tolerated so much because I wanted this fairy tale to work out so bad that I was willing to defend him instead of trying to protect myself.
The truth of the matter is, this was nothing more but a blessing in disguise. And although it took years for me to let go and time for me to rebuild myself, without the pain and emotional suffering I would have never learned who I was, what I am capable of and what I will and will not put up with.
Rest assured, this post is not for self-pity, but to provide some personal advice and encouragement that no matter if you’re a female such as myself or a male – toxic relationships do nothing but harm.
However, no matter how bad a relationship can get you can always rise from it and gain the strength you never knew you had. Sure it may take some time and you can cry until your tears run dry but just know your prince charming still awaits you, you just haven’t found the right book yet.