When I decided after my last terribly abusive relationship that I was done being abused by men, I figured making the change from dating abusive men to dating normal ones would be as easy as flicking off a light switch. My life, until that point had been so dramatic that I decided to chronicle the journey in my book, I Know Why They Call a Shell a Shell: Tales of Love Lost at Sea. I’d planned on writing about my unbelievable relationship past and then write a very happily-ever-after ending based on what I foresaw to be my sunnier dating future. Par usual, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Though I made a conscious decision to no longer involve myself in unhealthy relationships, the rest of me still had to catch up with that thought. There really is a common personality trait in people who end up in abusive situations. A lot of these victims and future victims of abusive relationships have low self-esteem, but other personality traits can lead to this situation. Being vulnerable, too trusting, or not assertive enough can entrap you in a variety of unhealthy situations not limited to romantic, (also friendships and work-related scenarios).
During my final abusive relationship, it took me a while to realize I was being abused because abusers are very manipulative and often abuse through covert methods. How many times have you heard of a criminal being described as “but he was so nice!” or “but he was at church all the time- even taught Sunday school!” Exactly. Abusers typically abuse a select few, people that they are close to, such as lovers, partners, or children, even employees: people to which the abuser has some degree of control over the victim’s lives. Many people end up thinking the abuser is actually a nice person because typically he or she wears a very convincing and kind-hearted mask to the rest of the world. This is the type of guy I was with, the boy scout, always holding doors and helping old people cross the street, then when no one was around he screamed at me, made my life hell, and one night, he nearly murdered me.
So I was done with him and I wasn’t going to date anymore abusers, or so I thought. What ended up happening is I unknowingly accepted dates with a string of potential abusers, actual abusers, alcoholics, and drug addicts. I soon realized the key to breaking the cycle was to develop more emotional intelligence, to read the red flags sooner, to make judgements that I was not previously comfortably making, and most importantly cutting off ties at the first sign of unacceptable behavior. Though I went on dates with these men, there was no second or third date once I saw who they were. What made the difference is now, I knew when to get out rather than going along for the ride like I used to.
Another thing that helped was having good friends. While in the past other friends would’ve thwarted my instincts by saying I was too shallow and judgemental- that I should give him some time, another chance, I now had friends who could detect a creeper right off the bat. My instincts were never wrong, my “friends” were. It can be difficult to even have friends after going through an abusive relationship ot two. Usually, the person you are with eliminates your friends, or causes you to, over time. You are lucky if you have anyone to talk to when the relationship is over. This is why so many people stay- the abuser has made them an island in which he or she is the only company the victim has. Leaving is a good idea but if they leave, they will be completely alone. This is why I’ve stayed in a few bad relationships longer than I should’ve.
Every day your emotional intelligence improves. Everyday I get better at detecting jerks, abusers, and creeps. I don’t even end up having to go out on a date with them anymore to figure it out. The one thing about abusers is if you give them an inch they will take a mile. If I had one piece of advice to share with people who want to stop entrapping themselves in the cycle of abuse it would be this: Never give them a second chance.
Maybe you think I’m being harsh- well you’re right. In order to protect yourself you must act like a lioness protecting her cubs. There are no “well maybe it’s ok if I’s…” or “maybe I’ll let him come around again..” If a mother lion thought like that, her cubs would surely be dead or attacked in no time. It is yey or ney. You know what you need to do. When you are already prone to abusive relationships, the last thing you want to do is give someone a second chance to hurt and abuse you, because I promise you, if you’re doing that, I can almost gurantee you will give them a third, and a fourth, and a fifth chance too.