How an Abusive Relationship can Destroy Your Self-Love
An intimate relationship is something that should be a partnership. It should be something that builds you up, not tears you down. Unfortunately, so many relationships that take the second form, especially when it comes to the entitlement many feel they have to comment on their "partners" bodies. Using words to cut someone down to the point where they feel they are worthless, especially when it should be someone you can trust to love you, is despicable. The impact these relationships can have on one's body image is something that is exceedingly difficult to recover from - after all, it is verbal abuse. It takes so much strength to leave a relationship like that, and even more to speak about what it was like. I am so grateful for Kenzie of Milk & Honey for guest writing this piece and sharing her story. I hope it brings some hope to those of you who are going through this or have in the past. You are not alone.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." That statement always confused me growing up, as words do hurt. Sometimes they hurt more than physical pain, sometimes those negative words linger with you forever.
I am sadly not inexperienced when it comes to emotional and mental abuse, especially in regards to physical appearance. I was bullied relentlessly throughout all of my years in school. As a young child how are you supposed to properly process being called ugly or a loser every day, when you don't even know how to tie your own shoes? I heard the same repeated words day in and day out, so I naturally started to believe them. When I looked in the mirror, I saw an ugly loser. I did not see a beautiful, funny and loving girl.
As I grew into my teens, I started to watch people get into relationships. I always thought that because I was a loser, I would never find a boyfriend. My friends were always surrounded by boys, getting asked out on dates. I secretly always longed to find someone, I was pretty much the original Mary Katherine Gallagher (except I didn't make out with trees, or sniff my nervous armpit hands). I had this mindset that maybe if another person loved me, I would be able to love myself too. I believed self-love would come in the form of a handsome man and that I would be able to talk to small woodland creatures. If I could go back in time, I would punch myself right in the face for thinking that.
I have not dated a lot of people but the few I have been in a relationship with, have all been very mentally abusive and I have been lied to more times than Sansa Stark. When I met my first boyfriend, I thought my fairy tale love story had finally come true. We dated for six years and then he cheated on me multiple times and left me for a girl he met on Instagram. Yeah, sayonara self-esteem and screw you Disney movies! Doesn't it seem so backwards that when someone is unfaithful, the victim always seems to somehow take the blame that they must not have been good enough? It took me a really long time to move past that and realize that the only problem was them.
I had another boyfriend repeatedly tell me that I was gaining too much weight (I gained 10bs in a year and I am a WOMAN WITH HORMONES YOU MOFO) and that he did not want an obese girlfriend. He actually scolded me once for getting a second taco but played it off that he was just "concerned for my health." He wonders why we stopped having sex as frequently, maybe it was because I was worried I would be charged with 2nd degree murder from crushing him under my "obese" body. All joking aside, those comments REALLY hurt my self-image and taking off my clothes in front of him was the last thing I wanted to do out of fear of judgment. Your partner should be the one person you always feel comfortable around and that was taken from me. This same boyfriend would also make passive aggressive comments if I wore my hair up because "it looks so much better down." Comments like that stung but because I wanted to always be deemed attractive, I never wore my hair up again. Well, that was until we broke up. I now wear my hair up all the time and whip my ponytail around like a horse swatting flies because F U.
There is one comment from an ex-boyfriend that still makes me feel weird when I think about it. Every time I have talked about it, it just doesn't seem real. He was going through some physical issues where he was not interested in intimacy and told me that having sex with me,was like the feeling of disgust you get when you see a snake. As a woman, no wait, AS A HUMAN BEING how the hell do you not let a comment like that affect your self-esteem?! It completely crushed me for a pretty long time, I had no idea what to do with a statement like that.
I want to say that I came out of all of the above stronger and wiser but that is not 100% true, or realistic. My self-esteem was worn down to the point of it being non-existent. I knew it was time to reach out for help, so I chose to go to therapy. I needed some sort of guidance to turn my self-hatred into self-love. I am proud to say that with A LOT of hard work, I am 95% of the way there. Every time I ended one of my sessions, there was always a common theme. Some people are cruel and the only problem that has ever existed, was allowing them in my life. I am kind, I am beautiful and I deserve the entire world. I think it's safe to say that everyone struggles with self-image, no matter who they are or what they have gone through. So don't beat yourself up too badly when you're having an off day because everyone is right there beside you.
I have a message for anyone who thinks they are entitled to bully, body shame or insult another person based on their appearance. In the wise words of D-Generation X, SUCK IT.