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What It's Like to Be in Love With Your Abuser

Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Have you ever loved someone? Like really — truly — been in love? Earth-shattering, scream-into-the-heavens, crazy-for-you, I’d-die-for-you love? I have. Or at least I thought I did.

I was head-over-heels, completely consumed by this supposed love. And it had started off innocently enough. He was my everything. He was my best friend and I confided all my secrets in him. He was the first thought in my head when I woke up, my last thought before going to bed and pretty much every though in between. Everything I did revolved around him and we were in constant contact, texting throughout the day.

But there were things that made him unhappy, so I compromised. Because that’s what love is, right? That’s what you do when you’re in a relationship? There’s give and take. So I gave and he took. And he took and took and he took and took.

“I don’t like it when you drink.”

OK, so I stopped drinking. Sure, that’s a reasonable request, right? We can have fun without drinking — he’s helping me improve and grow as a person.

“That junk is making you fat. You should eat healthier. Imagine how much thinner you could be if you stopped eating all that junk food.”

He’s helping me be healthier! Helping me be a better, healthier version of myself.

“You know, if you worked out a little more, your ass would be nicer. You could have a good butt, you just have to try. Have some discipline.”

We could work out together! That’s what couples do, right? Those who workout together stay together? He wants to help me improve and get healthy. How great is that?

“Why are you hanging out with guys all the time? They’re hitting on you. I stopped hanging out with my girl friends.”

That’s only fair. He stopped hanging out with girls on his own, so I should do the same. It’s only fair, right?

“You’re cheating on me. I know you’re cheating on me. Just admit it. Admit it. I am not talking to you if you don’t just tell me the truth. Tell me that you slept with someone else. Just admit it. Tell me the truth, I know you did it. Just tell me. I know you cheated on me.”

And so I did. I told him, even though I didn’t. I lied and made up a story. I made up places and names and things we did. I lied and lied and lied, just so he would talk to me.

“I slept with someone else. But that’s because you did it first. Now we’re even.”

It’s only fair, right? He had to even out the playing field, because he thought I had slept with someone else, and because I lied and “admitted” it, it reinforced the idea in his head. He was convinced it was true. And so he had to get even. He needed to hurt me so that we could be the same. That’s how it works, right? We have to be fair. It’s compromise. Give and take.

Except it took me a long time — too long — to realize that no, actually, that it isn’t how it works. No, this isn’t fair. No, this isn’t love. But I didn’t realize it at the time because he was my best friend. He was my favorite person. Every remark about my appearance, about me looking like a “slut,” was followed by a comment that it was just because he loved me so much that he wanted me all to himself. Which was also why I couldn’t hang out with my friends, male or female.

Every time he convinced me to have sex, even when I didn’t really want to, was so he could show me how much he loved me. He just wanted us to be close, to make love. We didn’t “fuck,” we “made love.” We were in love. That makes it OK, right? Even if I was tired or sick or on my period… but we were in love. And relationships are about compromise, right?

He was my best friend. I loved him. And we had so many great times. The good times were great — we went to parks and biking, went for dinner and had paint nights at home. He was my favorite person. In the whole world — the one I’d turn to on a bad day. The one who pet my hair when I cried myself to sleep after a big fight with my mom. The one who called me beautiful and smart and talented. He was the one who helped me through panic attacks and big life decisions, deciding what job to take or how to get through fights with my best friend.

So, what’s it like being in a relationship with your FP? What’s it like to be in love with your abuser? It’s confusing. And it’s hard and frustrating and you hate yourself. In my calm, rational state, I know deep down it isn’t right to be treated this way. But I also know ending it would mean I’d be alone. I believed him when he said he was all I had, that no one else would love me — that no one else could love me. That I’m annoying and insecure and clingy and dependent.

It’s fighting with your family and your other friends, turning your back on people that you love. It’s making excuses for him, making up stories, and lying to everyone — including your therapist. It’s forcing yourself to have sex even if you don’t want to, because deep down, you think they’re going to have sex with you regardless of it being wanted. Being in a relationship with someone who claims to be your best friend but only wants to control you is confusing. And after being isolated for so long, it is only that much harder to try and climb out of it.