As a boudoir photographer, I see a lot of clients that suffer from low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, depression, self-image issues after surgery or a major accident. Today, I’m going to tell you my story about low self-esteem, and lack of confidence.
It took four tries. With each failure, I’d rehash what I needed to do differently. I’m talking about the number of times I tried to leave an abusive relationship.
I was 18 and I had grown up in abusive household. It didn’t take long before I fell into the abusive relationship I’d grown up with.
It started with him just “wanting to spend time with me”, and my friends complaining that they never saw me. And before long, when I wanted to go out and do things with my friends that didn’t include him, he’d say “Your friends are a bad influence.”
It later escalated to anger when I did attempt to spend time with my friends. I began to conceal visits with friends to avoid his wrath.
And then came my family. My mother immediately recognized the signs, and divorced my abusive stepfather when I was 15. Unfortunately, she was too late to stop the cycle of abuse.
L felt threatened. He knew that my friends and family didn’t care for him and his response was to isolate me even further from my friends and family.
I ended up moving in with him when my student financial aid was late and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get housing on campus. With that move, L was able to track my comings and goings. It got to the point that I was expected to come home in between classes if I had more than hour in between.
At first, when he got angry, he would take his anger out on inanimate objects. Mostly, those objects tended to be things that were important, or of sentimental value to me.
On one occasion, he ripped my math book to shreds because I was trying to study and not paying attention to him. It didn’t take long for the behavior to escalate to physical abuse. I stayed for the reason that every abused woman stays: low self-esteem.
L became jealous and insecure of even my schoolwork. I was a theater major and he didn’t want me to audition for anything that involved a love interest. I lost a role in an independent film because he insisted on coming to the set and telling the director what I could and could not do.
L enlisted the help of his mother to keep from leaving the first time. She had convinced me to stay, and he tearfully promised me he would be better. And things were better…for a few weeks.
Every attempt after that was met with him crying and tracking me down at my place of work, my school, or through my friends. I began to feel like I would never be able to get away from him, and in some twisted logic, I felt like if I married him, that he would finally get tired of me. We got married by a justice of the peace. My mother moved out of state and stopped speaking with me altogether. I had very few friends left to confide in.
It wasn’t until I had graduated college and started a new job where I had time away from L that I was able to get to know some of my co-workers. One of my co-workers said that she too, had been in a relationship like mine, and referred me to the attorney she used. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to afford an attorney since L controlled all of the finances, and she assured me that the attorney would allow me to make payments, and that I didn’t have to pay him in full every month.
Luckily, I still had my credit cards in my name and I was able to take a cash advance from them. I had managed to relocate my mother and started buying prepaid calling cards so I could call her without L knowing.
I was able to finally start planning what needed to be done: set up a PO Box, find an apartment, change my work schedule, and have him served with divorce papers once I was finally moved out. I asked my closest, and only, friend at the time to help me move, and my mother helped me with a down payment on another car once I finally left for good. L stole my car one evening while I was at a friend’s house, even though legally, I was entitled to one of the vehicles since Pennsylvania law splits marital property 50%.
I’m telling my story because if there are any of you out there who can identify with my story, then I hope by reading my story that you realize that you can leave.
Controlling, abusive partners can be identified by the way they to try isolate partners from friends and family. They often violate your privacy by checking your phone or emails, and are constantly paranoid or jealous. Trust is virtually non-existent in a controlling relationship, and they will ignore your feelings.
You know your partner will try to find you and lure you back. They will continue to violate your privacy, cry, and perhaps even threaten to hurt you or them.
Figure out your finances before you leave; have a place to stay and make sure your partner won’t be able to follow you home from work or friends’ homes. Get a restraining order if need be. Get a prepaid cell phone and see if you can alter your work schedule. Have a network of people that you can count on to help you through the process, whether it’s friends, family, or a clergy member.
I highly recommend the book Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. It was written by a former FBI consultant who learned the precursors to violence. An abuser will often fit many of those signs.
You deserve better. Choose yourself. Choose happiness and freedom. Life is too short not to.