It was easy for you to blame me for all our issues. But really, I was the only one putting in any effort.
If I begin to describe my past relationship, I'm sure hundreds of people would stand up and say, "That was me!" But it wouldn't be an exclamation of pride. It'd be an expression of regret, a collective sadness over having stayed too long with someone we should have walked out on the first time they started playing their games with us. If I had mustered up the courage to walk out sooner, I wouldn't be struggling to rebuild my sense of self-worth right now. I think to myself, I'd be so much more confident in myself if I had had the sense to leave my partner the moment he started destroying my faith in myself. But the truth is, being broken and having to remake myself anew has given me a strength and wisdom that I can use to tell everyone in a toxic relationship that they're not crazy, they're just caught up with the wrong person.
I stayed too long with a partner who called me crazy every time I confronted him about his suspicious behavior. He made me feel like I was being needy, emotionally unstable, and too intense when I'd bring up the lies he told me and the disrespectful way he treated me. Every time I pointed out that he was doing the bare minimum to keep our relationship together, he accused me of being demanding and pushy. Every time I reminded him that I was doing his share of the effort, he accused me of being selfish and unappreciative. "I'm doing the best I can," he said as he asked me to be more understanding and empathetic.
I soon found myself painted as the villain in every scenario, and I realized that he was blaming all the issues in our relationship on me. I should have known then that he was using me and that I needed to walk away, but I was convinced by his sweet words and his promises, and I truly believed that he loved me. He was just feeding me what I wanted to hear so that I had a reason to give him and the relationship a chance. I hung on to his promises that he would change and that things would get better "Once things get less crazy at work," "Once I land that gig I've been working for," or "Once I finally get that promotion."
If I knew what I know now, I would have realized that things were never going to get better. I felt for him because I really believed that he couldn't meet my expectations since he was going through a tough time. But he wasn't really going through a hard time. He was just fishing for excuses to explain his inability to be a decent partner. He didn't want to admit that he wasn't willing to invest in me, so he lied to me to keep me happy. When his dream job came along, when he got that promotion, when he got the vacation he wanted, he didn't treat me any better. The problem was that I was in a relationship with someone who was manipulating me.
Don't think that I was completely oblivious to all these tricks. I knew what was going on. It's hard for a liar to keep up a charade with someone they share their most intimate spaces with. And don't think I didn't confront him about his bulls**t either. I brought it up with him over and over again because I owed it to myself to fight for my needs. What I didn't know was that I was fighting a battle I could only win by leaving. He accused me of being inconsiderate and selfish when I aired my grievances. He made me seem like the a**hole in the relationship for demanding what I deserved.
The worst part about maintaining my self-respect and fighting for myself was that he used my most admirable qualities against me. He accused me of being the source of all our conflicts, making me feel like I was a negative, bitter person for constantly bringing up his faults. He never took responsibility for himself, turning every argument on me and making me feel like I was wrong to bring up his unhealthy behavior. He had the nerve to pretend to be hurt that I was never satisfied with him. "You never see the good in me," he'd say, but he refused to acknowledge the fact that his good qualities never showed.
Perhaps the biggest mistake I made then was something I hope you never make. Instead of walking away from him, I started working harder to convince him to love me. I believed deep down that if I proved that I was worthy of his time, efforts, and love, then we could repair our relationship and be happy. But that's exactly what he wanted me to do. He wanted me to work hard to make him happy, never letting me onto the truth that no matter I did, I could never make our relationship blossom. We were doomed right from the start because I was with a manipulative partner.
I am ashamed to admit that he brainwashed me into thinking that I was crazy, jealous, needy, possessive, and bitter, and eventually I did get bitter. But my bitterness was a wake-up call that something was wrong. I ran out of second chances to give him, and soon I realized I no longer had it in me to forgive him for everything he did to me. I left in the end to protect my sanity, and that was the best decision I ever made for myself.
The moment I was free from him, I realized that I wasn't to blame for the end of our relationship. I wasn't the crazy, needy one. I admire myself now for every time I fought for myself, every time I confronted him, and every time I demanded what I deserved. Because that's the woman I'm holding on to now, the woman who had enough self-respect and dignity to stand up for herself when she knew she was't being treated right. And to anyone going through the same thing, I urge you to find the strength to walk away right now for your own sake. Trust me, you won't ever regret having taken a stand for yourself.