a note to those reading…

When I was nineteen, I entered a relationship with my coworker, a man ten years older than me. We were together for a year and he emotionally and sexually abused me for much of that time and after he broke up with me. It has been a long time – since we last spoke, since I’ve seen him, since we broke up, since I fell in love with him. Especially as I am viewing all of this through the new(er) lens of trauma and abuse, I am full of hurt, still.

I’ve held my tongue for so long because I blamed myself and didn’t want to knock him down even more than he already has been. I’m deeply aware of all of his hurt, trauma, and mental illness, and understand how that played a massive part in how he treated me and why the manipulation worked so well. But his trauma and mental illness can only serve as part of an explanation. They cannot be used to excuse further abusive behavior.

That is to say, I have spent years trying to understand this and I am just beginning to understand that I am not responsible for my own abuse, or for the wellbeing of my abuser.

Here is some of what I understand:

I had little to no power in the relationship, and our age gap and respective trauma histories were repeatedly used against me. At 19, he called me "mature for my age" as a justification for the relationship. I was mature up to the point I showed any negative emotion, especially if it was directed towards him. In those moments, during and after our relationship, I was made to feel and treated like a crazy, obsessed little girl; as if I pursued him relentlessly and there was simply nothing he could do but date me. He begrudgingly allowed me to stick around because there were things I had to offer, not because I was loved or desired. I was needed, not wanted.

My emotional openness was an asset to me in the beginning. It was what set me apart from others. It was part of what made me "mature for my age." In the end, it was that same quality that made me into the crazy, obsessed little girl. I was constantly bounced between being idealized and resented.

I was made to feel special because I was privy to knowledge about him that no one else had. Whenever he shared his trauma and inner feelings with me, it was prefaced with "I’ve never told anyone this," or "you’re the only person I can talk to about this." At the same time, this knowledge meant that I couldn’t share how I was feeling, especially about how he behaved towards me. My mood, relationships, and everything I did was predicated on his emotional wellbeing. He was the priority at all times, and my feelings - including depression, panic attacks, etc. - were a nuisance to him. I twisted myself up to do anything I could for him, but received next to nothing in return. There was no support, intimacy, or even kindness towards me, especially towards the end of the relationship.

Despite the way he treated me, I know he is capable of such deep kindness and I have so much compassion for him. But I don’t believe that is or was ever reciprocated. I don’t think he had genuine respect for my gender identity, sexuality, trauma history, or bodily autonomy. I don’t know that he ever truly cared about me or even viewed me as a complex, whole person.

He told me, often, that there were things I would understand as I got older. And now that I’m older, I know there are things I will never understand.



more to come soon...

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