Women Lead Pendidikan Seks
October 18, 2017

How Gaslighting Tricked Me to Stay in an Abusive Relationship

For five years she stayed in a troubled relationship, only to find out years later that she was emotionally abused all this time.

by Aulia Ardista
Prince Charming Men Love Relationship 62 Thumbnail, Magdalene

From the beginning of my past relationship, my intuition told me that he was not the one for me. Nevertheless, it took five years of emotional roller coaster with my ex-boyfriend before I freed myself from him – enough time to make me see emotional abuse as normal and worried that looking for help would defame his character.
So, how did I get in this relationship? It started with social pressure from my friends. My ex was a popular guy, so everyone wanted me to accept him as my boyfriend. One friend scolded me for being arrogant and another said that I was not worthy of being pursued by him if I played hard-to-get, since I was not that beautiful or fun. As far as I remember, nobody assured me that it was okay to say no if I did not want to be with him. Everyone was on his team. That was how I decided to be with him, with the hope that my intuition was nothing but poor judgment.
In the first year the relationship went well, but after that things began to change. Even as I was still struggling to love him, he expected a lot from me and  he would make me feel guilty for not fulfilling his expectations and for not loving him as much as he loved me. When I told him of my psychological problems, he accused me of making them up. That was how my self-esteem grew weaker and weaker.
I did not like myself when I was with him. Instead of becoming the best version of myself, I became the worst. I isolated myself and I felt like I was owned by him. He told me bad things about people and as an introverted person, I believed him. I believed that he was the only one that I could trust. I believed that I should not tell anyone that he threatened to do “something stupid” if I ever left him.
At some point, I met a friend and started an affair with him. I was confused with my feelings, but I saw a savior in him. From this guy, I became aware of the lies I had been fed by my boyfriend: that I was hard to love, that I would never find a better man, and that every relationship is the same. I had believed him that it was best to stay with him despite our problems instead of starting a new one, because it would not be any different.

I began to think what my friends had said too, and realized what they thought should not matter. They contributed in trapping me in this situation, and I would not miss my chance to “run away” from my boyfriend just to do what they thought was right. So I broke up with my boyfriend for good when I started my study abroad. I also did not continue my affair with the other guy, because he also had a girlfriend then.
Still, I had not realized that all the time I was in an abusive relationship until I talked my close friend about this a year ago. How strange that the idea that I was abused had never crossed my mind before. How could I be so blind? Maybe it is because I did not have a model of a healthy relationship. Maybe it is because I was stuck in the comfort zone – even if there was nothing comforting about it. Whatever the reason is, it explained my unconscious desire to run away from him and start a new life.
When my ex began to bully me again, this time online, my friend said: “Ignore him. He just tries to be a hero once again. He blames you but in the end, he will make you ask him to get back together with you. Of course, he will accept you. After that, he may tell everyone how forgiving he is and how ungrateful you are to hurt a boyfriend like him.”
Another advice was, “It is none of your business if he vowed not to have another girlfriend after you. He is a fully-grown man who should know what is best for him. I bet that he just tried to convince you that he is a remarkably faithful person.” It hit me hard and urged me to re-evaluate everything and gathered the courage to move on.
Now, even with my new boyfriend, who is also my best friend, I still feel uneasy sometimes. My trust issue makes me wonder often if I have made a wrong decision. I also read that women who previously had an abusive relationship tend to fall into the same loop. However, my psychologist said that it is unlikely for me because I am fully aware of my past issue. I do not deny it, I’ve learned from it, and I know what makes a relationship abusive or not.
I openly discussed this matter with my boyfriend and he said, “If you or your psychologist ever find me abusive, you can leave me.” Deep in my heart, I know that I will not leave him, but I find his words comforting. After all, I know that I stay with him because I want to. not because of the fear that I do not have any choice.
Aulia Ardista studied Cultural Policy in Scotland. Currently she is volunteering in farms/kennels across the UK, living her dream of a minimalist lifestyle in nature. She owes her life to Zen philosophy, animals, and Game of Thrones.