‘He told me he was my master. He demanded complete obedience. He was always disappearing. He told me it was my fault. He told me I was crazy.’

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“I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship. I thought I was in love. It took me seven years, four breakups and two children. It took everything I had.

I was spoon fed lies and promises long before the first punch was ever thrown. My abuser slowly pulled me into the cage he crafted for me. He lured me in with uncanny wit and charm. He smiled at me. He noticed me. He made me feel important and made me believe I was loved.

Then the rug was pulled out from under me. Abuse doesn’t start with cuts and bruises and broken bones. It starts with low self-esteem.

I was pushed. I was hit. I was kicked and threatened. He told me I’d be nothing without him. He told me he was my master. He demanded complete obedience and total submission. He manipulated and gaslighted me. He exploited my body. He exploited my innocence and trust. He was always cheating on me. He was always disappearing. He told me it was my fault. He told me I was crazy.

@uglyduckang

But first he was charming. He was handsome. He was the man all the women wanted to be with and all the men wanted to be. He took me to expensive restaurants. He remembered my favorite wine. He let me spend the night…

The changes in his behavior were subtle and slow. The shameless flirting and flattery mutated into backhanded compliments and criticisms. If I ever questioned his behavior or cruelty he would dismiss my concerns and counter them with comments like, ‘I was just joking,’ ‘You shouldn’t be so sensitive,’ and ‘Can’t you take a joke?’

I was led to believe his behavior was normal and my reaction to his behavior was the problem.

He never lost his temper and he never apologized. I was poked and prodded to tears. My affections were constantly met with disapproval and rejection. I was always trying to please him while he was always trying to intimidate, bully and test me for weaknesses. When I would finally break down and cry, he would accuse me of over-reacting. He would say I was being dramatic. He would tell me I was stupid.

Then he would lure me back in with unparalleled wit and charm. He always had a trick up his sleeve and he always kept me guessing. He took charge of every situation. He dazzled every crowd in every room.

@uglyduckang

His cheating continued. His drinking got worse. His abuse progressed. He told me it was my fault.

I remained silent about the abuse and continued my attempts to win his approval. I didn’t want to be perceived as a failure. I didn’t want him to leave me.

Abuse victims will usually sing their abuser’s highest praises. From the outside everything will look perfect. We want people to see our relationships as perfect so we can feel better about ourselves. We want people to see our relationships as perfect so our abusers will recognize our value and worth.

He made me believe I wasn’t pretty. He made me believe I was boring. He made me believe I was weak and I needed him. He told me I’d be nothing without him. I spent all of my energy trying to intrigue and impress him, hiding the imperfections in our relationship, creating a picture-perfect life for others to gawk at and admire.

@uglyduckang

Abusive relationships are not normal relationships. Healthy relationships do not make you feel alone. Healthy relationships do not make you unhappy. I left for my children. My son was 10 months old and my daughter had just turned 2. I waited to leave until my son was old enough to walk. Leaving my abuser was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I didn’t want to break up my family. I didn’t want to be a single mom. I didn’t want to be alone.

I also didn’t want my daughter to grow up making the same mistakes. I didn’t want my son to grow up to be cruel. I didn’t want this life to be the example my children would grow up to follow. I wanted my children to grow up knowing they were safe, loved, valued and respected. I wanted them to grow up to be happy – so I left.

And it was the smartest decision I ever made.

Abuse is not love. It’s slavery.”

@uglyduckang

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ang of The Ugly Duck. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more empowering stories of women leaving abusive relationships:

‘I got a text from him saying, ‘What are you smiling at?’ And I froze. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Where was he?’

‘I spent nearly 12 years with a man I never should’ve married. He never touched me. We fought about my weight. I was immune to anything but pain. And then I met Adam.’

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