People Are Sharing How They Realized Their Ex Was Emotionally Abusive, And It's A Must-Read For Literally Everyone

    "It's been seven years and I'm still processing the trauma."

    WARNING: This post contains discussions of relationship abuse, self-harm, alcoholism, and suicide.

    Emotional abuse can be really difficult to recognize, which is what makes it all the more insidious. These relationships may start off great, with lots of love-bombing and an intense commitment right away...

    ...but things usually sour as your partner gets more demanding and controlling. Even if the abuse never becomes physical, a lot of the effects can be similar. Your partner will use intimidation, threats, promises, and manipulation to make you feel isolated, entirely responsible for their moods, and worthless.

    Because it's so difficult to recognize, especially when you're in love, we recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us when they realized they were being emotionally abused. Here are their stories.

    1. "It took a colleague (who will never know how much he saved me) to jolt me into the realization. I’d been manipulated into believing that my family and friends were all against him because of his race (whereas they actually hated him for cheating, controlling behavior, gaslighting, verbal abuse, etc.), so it took telling somebody on the outside that I respected. The sentence [was] 'He says he’ll be deported and that our son will hate me forever if I break up our marriage.' My colleague’s response was, 'That is emotional abuse.'"

    "We spoke at length about it and I think having that external wake-up call was what led to a chain reaction of realization about the rest of his behaviors. He confirmed it when I announced I was divorcing him — he made me and my son homeless, got abusive, made false allegations, threats, stalking. Now I’m free and living my best life."

    emmar4368873d2

    2. "We were at a sporting event and I went to get us both beers. As I was walking towards him one of the cups was wet and slipped from my hand, spilling everywhere, including on a stranger. I was mortified. The people around me reacted, handing me napkins, helping me clean. He rolled his eyes at me, took the beer I was still holding and walked away."

    "When I had finished cleaning and apologizing profusely to the person I had spilled on and found him, he ignored me. When I began crying from embarrassment (at least 50 people saw me spill and him walk away) he told me I was pathetic and refused to talk to me for the rest of the event."

    —Anonymous

    3. "I broke his TV on complete accident and immediately apologized and offered to pay for it and instead of accepting anything I said, he locked himself in his bathroom and continued to be hysterical."

    "I then tried to see myself out because he told me to get out of his house, and once I got to the door, he screamed at me to stay — and I think if I didn’t leave he would’ve gotten physically violent with me. The fact he was willing to scream at me over an inanimate object that I took full responsibility for breaking and fixing was beyond me."

    urfaveflop

    4. "There was ... a point in my next relationship where my partner dropped a carton of eggs, breaking a few, and I braced myself for an explosion — but none came. He just said 'oh damn' rather calmly, and cleaned up. And I just remember that being a moment of 'omg, that's a normal reaction.'"

    funwithwords

    Emily saying "I don't know what 'normal' feels like anymore" on Pretty Little Liars

    5. "I was the breadwinner and I used to have a commute that lasted about one hour. Every day, he expected me to leave promptly at 4:00. He would start texting me at 4:01 non-stop and would berate me if I left even a minute or two late. If a meeting ran late, I’d be internally panicking because I knew I was going to be 'in trouble.'"

    "Same thing with my drive home. If I came through the door even a minute or two after five, I was going to be yelled at. I would freak out the whole way home every day while I drove; praying there would be no accidents or any other issues that could delay me. This is honestly just one example. I was in a constant state of stress for the nine years that I was married to him. It’s taken me years of therapy, and I still apologize for so many weird things because I’m scared I’m going to be in trouble."

    —Anonymous

    6. I was in high school and lightly rear ended someone while driving to school. Everyone was okay and there was no damage to their car, but mine got a small dent in the front. Fast forward to the next evening; I go to see my boyfriend and he looks at my car and says very accusingly, 'Omg, what did you do?!' And I explained what happened, and his response was, 'Wow, you’re so stupid.' And that’s when it hit me."

    "I tried to speak up for myself and say it hurt my feelings and he said, 'Well I just care about you and got upset because you could have been hurt.' ... I wish I would have asked him if he really cared about me, why was his first instinct to tell me I’m stupid and not ask me if I’m okay? Unfortunately it took me a little more time to break up with him, but that’s when I knew he was a POS."

    mairerayburn

    7. "It was around Christmas and I had canceled my trip to my family because he 'needed me.' Well he got mad at me for something, blaming me for how I was acting or did something small wrong, and so I left to go see my family because I wasn't going to spend Christmas alone in an empty apartment. After being home for a few days and spending time with my friends in the city, I see his car parked out front of my parents' house and he's sitting in it, but ducks when he sees me. Turns out he drove seven hours to my parents' place and was tracking my phone, following me all over the city the past few days."

    "He told me his phone was dead and needed to borrow mine. I handed him my phone and he literally runs away with it, yelling that he knew I cheated on him and he was going to go through my phone to prove it. My whole family was in the kitchen and witnessed this. In that moment when everyone saw what I had been trying to hide for two years, I realized I didn't have to hide this from them anymore. And I wasn't ashamed anymore. His spell was broken in that moment. I wasn't even mad he stole my phone. I just felt free."

    —Anonymous

    8. "We had only been dating for three months. He called me between every lecture and wanted a run down to ‘prove’ that I had been there. I wasn’t allowed to study without him watching so he knew what I was doing."

    "Icing on the cake — my mum was concerned that I wasn’t focussing on uni enough so [she] said he could only sleep over four nights a week. He absolutely lost it when I told him over the phone — screaming at me over the phone, saying that I obviously didn’t love him if I wanted to be apart and yelling horrible things. Eventually the cashier at the store I was in reached across and hung up the phone, just saying ‘don’t ever put up with that’. I dumped him that day (he followed me home crying and stood outside my house for hours until my mum called the police)."

    —Anonymous

    woman looking outside from behind curtains

    9. "He cheated and ridiculed my intimate areas for showing symptoms of the bacterial infections he was bringing into the relationship. It took years of therapy and forgiving myself for staying as long as I did before I finally realized none of it was my fault. My body isn’t disgusting, and I am and have always been worthy of a healthy loving relationship."

    michellealex115

    10. "I was extremely depressed and spiraling down. We’d had a big fight and I went home and decided to end my life because I saw no way out. Thankfully, my friend who I’d been crying to called the cops and they came and took me to the hospital so I could get help (she definitely saved my life). I called my boyfriend from the hospital after I’d calmed down because in my irrational mind he was the one I wanted support from, and he basically told me I was crazy and it wasn’t his problem and I should be thankful for how much he’d done for me."

    "That was my wake up call. I never spoke to him again."

    luismismom

    11. "Whenever I did something to piss him off, he would threaten to break up with me. He'd hold it over my head for a while then use it to manipulate me into doing something for him, promising he wouldn't leave if I did xyz. He would also periodically block me on his phone so my texts or calls couldn't go through, again whenever he was pissed at me, as a dramatic form of the silent treatment."

    "There was all the physical abuse and cheating too, but that's a different question. All that it still took me until about a year and a half after getting out of the relationship to realize that he was abusive. He was a master gaslighter and I still struggle with blaming myself for things from that period of my life. Don't ever ask why someone 'didn't just leave.' It is never, ever that easy."

    frodofreaklotr

    12. "The very first sign was when I stopped missing him. He didn't have a job (of course) but he would often go out for a couple days and help at his dad's business and I would get so excited to be rid of him just for a day or two. Then it was financial abuse and I didn't have any money for basic necessitates. Last straw was when he, verbatim, said to me 'you stupid fucking bitch.' I left a couple months later."

    "It's been seven years I'm still processing the trauma."

    littleghool

    On One Tree Hill, Brooke tells Lucas she loves him but they go days without having a meaningful conversation and she used to miss him when that happened, but it never seemed like he missed her, so she stopped missing him

    13. "My boyfriend and I were slightly long-distance (by about two hours so it wasn’t that bad). And things were going well. He would text me about all the issues in his family. I was happy to be there for him. But one day, he got upset at the most trivial thing ever. And I thought it had a simple solution, but I had to calm him down first so he would listen. He told me to shut up and never tell him that again or he would snap (and yes, he used that word)."

    After that I gave him space, and brought up the next day how he hurt and scared me. And he told me that he doesn’t change for anyone — not family, not friends, not even his girlfriend — even if they were scared of him. So I talked with three reliable people who all have healthy relationships, and they said to block him. And I did because they were right. I didn’t deserve this at all. But now I feel so much better mentally about my well-being and personal safety."

    anamazingartist

    14. "He picked random times to ask me if I was 'mentally challenged' and how if I didn't do things exactly his way, I had something wrong with me. He could never define exactly what I did wrong or how, just that my way was different and different meant I allegedly had autism."

    tms2109

    15. "I think the worst point was when I found out my grandfather, who was my favorite person in the entire world, went to the hospital. I was crying because I was scared of losing him and he basically got mad at me for crying and I had to go into the other room to collect myself so not to ruin his mood."

    rugratfromspace

    16. "I was an overweight, physically disabled (but able-passing), depressed teen in high school. We met online. At first, it was all love. He told me I was pretty, which was the first time anyone ever did, and he showered me with the compliments that I’d wanted to hear for years. He coaxed me into a bdsm-themed relationship (I say themed because what he did doesn’t actually reflect the bdsm community) because he told me that it would be good for us and good for me to have an 'outlet.' I was nervous, but reluctantly agreed as long as there were no nudes. That was where I drew the line."

    "He always wanted to talk to me, and at first, I was happy about the attention. Slowly, the 'always' didn’t have a limit. He never wanted me to sleep at night; he just wanted me to call him to have phone sex. If I didn’t want to, then he got mad and threatened to hurt me or himself. If I gave in, he’d always accuse me of texting someone else while we were talking (I never was) and threatened me again. Once, I fell asleep at 4 a.m. after texting him for six hours straight, and he accused me of having sex with another man instead of him. Whenever I asked him to stop threatening me, he told me that it was part of the bdsm I 'agreed' to, and since he claimed I was old enough to 'make those kinds of decisions,' he said that he owned me. My 'punishment' was to send him the nudes that he’d constantly ask for whenever we talked. It was then that I realized that he had no respect for me whatsoever; he just liked that I was young and easy to manipulate."

    hollysmith3

    girl on phone in dark

    17. "I was having a panic attack while driving a car to my family’s house for Christmas vacation four hours away. He asked me how he could help, and I said the only thing that would help is not driving anymore. I eventually pulled over and we went into a restaurant for dinner. He told me that I made him feel like shit because I didn’t tell him how to help me during my panic attack and that I was being insensitive to his feelings."

    —Anonymous

    18. "It was so insidious. Every 'nice' thing he did for me was for his own manipulative ends. For example, on days when I was supposed to go out with friends, he would bring me a 'surprise dinner' (to subtly isolate me from them because I’d have to cancel plans) or purchase me gifts I didn’t ask for to dangle them over my head as leverage later on. He would call me pet names I found degrading, and told him so. He used them anyway (boundary testing, backhanded compliments). I started to notice him lying over the most trivial stuff (gaslighting). The classic 'I never said that,' 'it was just a joke,' 'you’re not mentally okay.'"

    Towards the end, he even tried to exert control over how I looked (“dye your hair dark, you know I love girls with dark hair”). I finally realized the cycle I was in, and left for good."

    —Anonymous

    19. "I dated my ex boyfriend for about three years. ... The first notion of his emotional abuse came when I got a second job because I needed to make some extra money. He got upset with me and made me feel bad because I now 'wouldn’t have any time to spend with him' anymore."

    "The ultimate sign of his emotional abuse came when I found texts in his phone between him and his best 'girl friend' saying that even though he was dating me, he often thought about her and wished they would work out one day. After confronting him, he gaslit me by telling me there was nothing there and that it was my fault I felt the way I did because I was reading what I wanted to hear. That’s when I realized he had been gaslighting me throughout our entire relationship and would dismiss and invalidate my experiences ... If you ever have said or thought, 'I wish I had a tape recorder to playback what you said' you may be dealing with gaslighting and emotional abuse."

    —Anonymous

    20. "I was with my abuser for over a decade. We have two children together. One year I scrimped and saved to take the children to Disneyland Paris for Christmas. While waiting in line for a ride, my son was showing me how he could count to 100 and my ex flipped about how annoying it was. He stormed off and told me to bring him lunch. I bought six different meals because I knew whatever I got would be wrong. That was it for me. I just couldn’t carry on always being on edge and 'in the wrong.'"

    —Anonymous

    Cher saying "Okay, so everything is all my fault? I'm always wrong, right?" in Clueless

    21. "The first signs were when I started a new job (because of him I might add — we worked together at his father's company so I had to move jobs because he didn’t like the way it looked for us to be dating at his dad's company). He texted me constantly and if I didn’t respond within an hour, he would get pissed at me. But the first real sign was when I went to get Jimmy Johns with a male coworker and this obviously came up in conversation when we were texting incessantly, and he freaked the fuck out on me and told me I should have asked for him permission first."

    rugratfromspace

    man saying "I don't need your permission"

    22. "He screamed at me in front of our friends, and continued to scream at me on the drive home. He manipulated me into getting in the car with him, drove drunk on the highway at 80+ mph and threatened to kill himself if I broke up with him, all the while gripping my knee so hard it hurt. I was terrified. We somehow got home safely, but after that I was worried he would physically hurt me or my cat, and I started to put the pieces together about things he had done or said in the past, and I knew I had to get away."

    "It's been 12 years since then and both me and my cat are happy and healthy. I'm in my early 30s now, and both hindsight and age have given me a lot of clarity on what happened and how — it's really difficult to see when it happens so gradually, until you reach that tipping point."

    funwithwords

    23. "My relationship started off beautifully. He was so attractive that I couldn't believe he wanted to date me. He always wanted me to stay the night at his place, go do things with him, help him cook meals, just generally welcomed me into his life. Eventually, the things we did together were only the things he wanted to do. We only ate food he liked to eat, we only stayed at his place, never mine."

    "Then he decided he didn't like all my friends, so I dropped them because getting time away from him to do things with friends earned me guilt trips that made me miserable. Nothing I ever did was right. If I suggested a meal or an activity or anything I wanted, it was automatically shot down, unless it was something he liked, which was rare. I couldn't make enough money at my job and that's why we couldn't live better. I'd find a new job for higher pay but then the hours weren't to his preference. I wasn't initiating sex often enough for him, so periodically he would make me feel bad about it. ... One day, he got belligerently drunk, my dog started barking and he picked her up and shook her while barking wildly in her face. I was terrified he was going to hurt her. I screamed at the top of my lungs for him to stop and he wouldn't. The next day, I called my family and planned my escape. I was afraid that he would do that to me next."

    dreadpiratejax

    24. "I was 17 and I had a boyfriend who always had to be right and be the best at everything. His opinions were always the best, he knew what was best for me, and I just needed to pay attention according to him. He wouldn’t even let me cross my legs in front of him because it was 'bad for my circulation.'"

    "We once got in a really dumb argument in front of my best childhood friend who’s basically a brother to me and my boyfriend just wouldn’t let it go and started resorting to name calling. ... My friend got so pissed at him for telling me I was wrong and stupid for having my opinion that he got in between us and yelled in my boyfriend’s face ... It took an outside point of view from someone who cared deeply about me for me to see how damaging that relationship was."

    —Anonymous

    25. "When I was 23 I had a partner who was 47. I was young and he was fun and adventurous...and come to find out, also a raging alcoholic. He would do horribly embarrassing and inappropriate things, ruining many a family or work event with his belligerence. When I tried to talk to him about it and express my concerns or feelings he would say that I had daddy issues or that I was being a b**** because I was on anti-depressants, so I shouldn't take them. He would tell me I treated him terribly and that no decent person would treat him so badly and that I was a sociopath...for trying to talk like an adult about my concerns about his alcohol dependence and behavior."

    "There's more but it was so traumatizing I still can't be around men when they are drinking without having a panic attack. I was so freaked out by the whole thing I literally moved to Africa and cancelled my phone plan. It's been 13 years and he still finds me from time to time and leaves me grotesque drunk dial messages."

    —Anonymous

    couple fighting

    26. "He attempted to hang himself because I was taking too long to calm down after a difficult counseling session (difficult because I was coming to terms with the fact that he was in all actuality emotionally abusive and it wasn't, as he'd repeatedly made me believe, my own fault that he was always so disappointed in me). He was looking after our toddler at the time, and I found out what he was doing when he messaged me to call me a c*** because he couldn't follow through."

    "He even had rope burn on his neck that was strategically in view for the next few weeks so I wouldn't forget — though the positioning, I was informed, was more in line with someone holding a rope against their neck and pulling tightly enough to bruise the skin, rather than actually cutting off the airway/bloodflow to cause death."

    —Anonymous

    27. "During one of our many breakups, my college boyfriend threatened to kill himself if I didn’t come over and talk to him when he knew I had a work event that I couldn’t miss. That was the last straw for me."

    —Anonymous

    28. "I've been with a few emotionally abusive people. The most recent one I realized after almost six months of dating when she tried to gaslight me and claim I never responded to her messages and told me I needed to apologize for leaving her hanging. I went back through our messages and could see that I always responded within a few hours, and would often apologize when it wasn't immediate. Looking back I can see how jealous and controlling she was, but it took that obvious lie to really show me how bad it was."

    —Anonymous

    29. "He would seek out the dumbest stuff and blow it up into a major argument. Everything was major — a single dirty fork in the sink would result in 4+ hour 'lecture' during which he would remind me of every single thing I had ever done that annoyed him. The conclusion of these rants was always that I didn’t care about him or our home or anything, and I was a terrible narcissist who took pleasure in making him angry…as evidenced by leaving a dirty fork in the sink."

    "He thought it was his duty to 'teach lessons' about how I should spend every second of my day. Of course, it didn’t matter what I did— he would always find something to criticize."

    —Anonymous

    man yelling and pointing at woman, who looks tired

    30. "It was a constant insult and manipulation of EVERYTHING. I passed my board exam? It’s because he made me flash cards. I wouldn’t give him money for the bar or drugs? I’m money hungry and greedy. I had a bad day at work and called him crying to vent? I have an attitude. I stayed quiet while he yelled in my face? I was being a stuck up bitch."

    "Constant belittling and constant gaslighting. It’s been six years since I left him and his insults are still as painful"

    —Anonymous

    31. "I didn't realize until they broke up with me. I was struggling with being alone when I began to slowly identify the ways I had been controlled. Being made to listen to their music. Watch their movies. Play their games. As I was now free to watch and listen to what I wanted, I began to recognize the way they'd been subtly insulting me via my tastes."

    "That was the first step to suddenly seeing the years of abuse, of gaslighting. It was over a decade and I had been blind to it the entire time."

    —Anonymous

    32. "It really started to show when my daughter was born — starting in the hospital. I was in labor for 21 hours and my daughter was born at midnight. I basically went nearly 48 hours with no sleep. I was exhausted. ... His family was with us in the hospital 24/7. I was overwhelmed and needed a break and he made me feel awful for needing that."

    "He would go out to eat with them and leave me with only graham crackers and bring me back a stale PB&J. I ended up with bad postpartum depression. He was not supportive at all and when he didn’t get his way he would text my family to complain about me. He also threatened affairs and divorce if I didn’t have sex with him right at the six week postpartum mark and anytime he wanted after that, even though it was painful for me."

    —Anonymous

    33. "It started about three months in, when she threatened self harm during a fight. Then it was hiding me from everyone in her life, telling me people hated me, manipulative tactics to keep me with her. Putting her trauma on me and when I didn’t respond the way she expected, [she] would get angry. When I came to her with any kind of feelings, she would turn the conversation around and make it all about her and say my feelings were wrong. I lived in fear of her hurting herself or disappearing."

    "Eventually, I had had enough and ended it all after I had set some hard boundaries and she crossed them, and then showed up to my work and asked me, 'are you sure this is what you want to do?' That was my last straw. I had spent months grieving the love I thought we had before it ended and now I’m rebuilding myself and not letting fear take over. People don’t talk about this type of thing in lgbt relationships, but it happens more than you think."

    —Anonymous

    couple arguing as one packs

    34. "My boyfriend gaslit me constantly. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. I literally thought I was crazy, imagining conversations and not sure what really happened. I remembered it one way, but he would say he didn’t say that, I felt like I lived in darkness. When I bought my first home at 30, he was the first one I wanted to tell. First he didn’t answer the phone. Once we did talk, he was not interested at all. When I said I thought he’d be happy for me, he said 'why would I be happy for you?' He clearly did not have my best interest at heart. I almost pulled out my offer because I thought I made a mistake. Only mistake I made was him."

    —Anonymous

    35. "There was one night I was so exhausted I couldn’t even move from the couch to go to bed. My dog was sleeping between my legs and was like a heater so I just fell asleep where I was at. Around 3 a.m. my dog woke up wanting to go to the bathroom, so I got up and opened the back door to let her outside. After she finished, I closed the door and walked back into the living room because I didn’t want to disturb him. He flies out of the bedroom and asks where I’ve been because he heard a door. I explain how I fell asleep on the couch, but the dog woke me up wanting to go outside. He doesn’t believe me and opens the front door and feels the hood of my car to see if it was warm."

    —Anonymous

    36. "I was married young to a guy who didn’t start showing his true colors until we moved 2,000 miles away from my family. It started with him talking extremely poorly of my mother (my only living parent) and taking away my phone during fights because he 'paid for it' thus cutting off my connection to my lifeline back home. ... The 'ah-ha' moment when I realized I was being severely abused for years was when my grandmother’s health was declining."

    "We were very close and she lived with us when I was growing up, so she was like a parent to me. She was receiving hospice care at home and he fought me to leave to go say goodbye. ... When visiting my grandmother, she asked me how he and I were doing and as to not upset her, I told her we were great. I lied to my dying grandmother. After she passed away, he texted me saying, 'When are you coming home? She’s dead now' and it hit me like a ton of bricks what a cruel and disgusting person he was. We divorced less than a year later. It has taken years of therapy and unraveling the mess he created but I am now happier than ever."

    —Anonymous

    37. "When I finally passed my driving test and got a car, I realized I could escape him and wasn't trapped at his house anymore. He knew when I was at his house I couldn't escape and I had tried many times when the abuse became too much. He "accidently" locked me in and left for the day many times and one day when I did get out, he got in his car, drove up and down all the streets until he found me and screamed at me to get in the car. So, the day I got my own car, I drove over to his house and ended it. I walked away, got in my car and smiled all the way home."

    —Anonymous

    Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.

    If you or someone you know is in immediate danger as a result of domestic violence, call 911. For anonymous, confidential help, you can call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or chat with an advocate via the website. Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386.

    And finally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.