He looked at me, watching me for some kind of read. I hoped I was showing that I had hardly noticed.
“You did this,” he said.
It felt like I had sprinted into a brick wall. I could practically feel the whoosh of the air leaving me simultaneously winded and blown away.
That was it. What the fuck did that mean? Did he read my mind? Is it that obvious?
He waited for a reaction, and I sat there and thought about how to react. All I could think was, “he’s right.” He said what I had been thinking only minutes before.
You did this to yourself. You knew exactly who he was, and you opted in anyway.
I mustered a smile that felt more like a grimace and gave a weak nod of my head. He let out a sharp bark of a laugh, and looked me up and down again. With a short shake of his head, he got up and left me to process on the couch.
What’s worse is we ended up dating after that.
What’s worse is I loved him.
What’s worse is it was abusive, and what’s worse is I believed I was the problem.
And you know what the truth is? I was part of the problem. Truth is, he was a little bit right.
I did do this to myself.
There were so many choices and decisions that I could have made along the way. There were so many times when I ignored the feelings in my body that told me to get out.
I could have ended it before it started.
I could have recognized the red flags before romance was ever on the table.
I could have opted out so many times in the early stages of our relationship, but I kept opting in, over and over again.
The red flags looked like opportunities for growth, and because of that, I found myself in a mentally and physically dangerous place.
I made choices that made me a victim, but I couldn’t see it until I was out.
It’s hard to see the danger you’re in when you’re in it. It’s much easier to set up boundaries before you ever even meet someone. It’s much easier to understand and know what you can and can’t handle before you have to activate that knowledge in real-time.
Looking back, I’ve learned a lot because of it.
I now know that someone disrespecting other people is a sign that they will disrespect me.
I now know that someone trying to convince me to bend my boundaries means they don’t care about the boundaries I’ve put in place to feel safe.
I now know that if they don’t respect my boundaries, they don’t care if I feel safe.
I also now know that if I don’t have clear boundaries, and don’t know my own boundaries, then it will be very easy to find myself in a similar situation all over again.
I’m learning that taking responsibility is necessary to grow and learn in all aspects of life.
It’s not easy to admit that I played a role in my own abuse, but recognizing my own role gives me back my power. I can recognize the choices I made that turned me into a victim, and I can choose to not make those choices again.
I do recognize that some things are not my fault.
Someone lying to me is not my fault. Someone threatening me, gas-lighting me, or making me feel unsafe–that is not my fault. Someone using me or saying the right things to get me into bed? That’s not my fault.
But going against my own best judgment or gut instinct? That’s on me.
Deciding to pursue someone who I know is emotionally unavailable, and carries burdens I can’t hold? That’s on me.