Often, women are silenced when speaking out on our experiences. If we aren’t being painted as “bitter” we’re being told to “get over it” because it’s “not that deep.” Scrap all of that. I want you to know that your experiences are valid. Each and every one of them. No matter how long ago they were. No matter how much they affect(ed) you.
We are living in a world where women are often blamed for the way men have chosen to treat us. Victim blaming is the number one tactic used to silence women. We hear things like: “Well maybe you should pick better men then,” or “you attract what you are.” As much as these statements do make sense theoretically, they are detrimental. The fact that no matter what damage a man does, women are still left to bear the responsibility of it shows the way society views women. It is harmful to blame someone for the way someone else has chosen to treat them.
No emotionally healthy person goes about their life wondering what they can do to have more control over others
Being in a relationship has its perks. Waking up next to a warm human being, having someone to talk about your day to, knowing that you have a support system; I mean, the list has no end. Relationships are amazing. But we forget that the most important relationship in this life is the one we have with ourselves. It creates the foundation for every other relationship we will come across. A lot of us yearn for romantic relationships but really, deep down, what we want is validation. And that’s okay. Validation is healthy when it comes from people who care about us. Where the pursuit of validation becomes toxic is when we seek it from people who don’t care about us. This forms the basis for an emotionally abusive relationship which often isn’t as obvious as one would expect it to be. We tend to attract emotionally abusive people when we are running low on self-validation. Having said that, the statement “You attract what you are” is damaging and at most times, untrue. Vulnerable people tend to attract abusers but does that make a vulnerable person an abuser? Of course not. However, in theory this statement does make sense in terms of the idea that your current state of emotional being reflects the scenarios you find yourself in but this is still dangerous because it justifies emotional abuse. Nobody has the right to take advantage of anybody, no matter what emotional circumstance they are in.
At this point, you might probably be wondering: “How do I know if I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship if it isn’t always obvious?” Well sis, here are a few signs to look out for:
The first one is manipulation. Manipulation comes in all shapes and forms – from emotional blackmail, to reverse psychology. If you’ve heard phrases like “Well maybe I’m just a bad person then” anytime you’ve tried to complain about something, that’s some good old emotional blackmail with a nice topping of reverse psychology! In response, you find yourself feeling bad and ending up being the one reassuring your abuser that they aren’t a bad person for doing bad things to you. Works all the time. Have you noticed that abusive people tend to attract compassionate people? This is how they are able to neglect you for as long as they like, then fake-balance it out with some selective kindness to confuse you into thinking that they’re just ‘damaged’ and need to be ‘fixed’ by you. It’s all an act to control you. People who get excited by the idea of controlling/having power over others are actually people who wish they had power over their own lives. It’s as simple as that. No emotionally healthy person goes about their life wondering what they can do to have more control over others. It’s borderline sociopathic and is a sign that this person has an unhealthy relationship with their self.
Another popular one is “I’m busy!” Yes, people have lives. Yes, people have commitments. But amongst those commitments, we still make time for what we believe is necessary. If someone you’re in a relationship with just can’t seem to fit you into their life yet somehow has time to hang out with their mates, watch their favourite footie matches and even possibly tweet for hours on end, they simply don’t want to make time for you. This becomes even more of a problem when they conveniently happen to ‘suddenly’ have time for you when it’s time for them to use you for their own personal needs. Yes, I mean exactly “those” needs. This is toxic because you eventually find yourself becoming excited over the little time they decide to set aside to be with you. You begin to put them on a pedestal and even start to obsess over them until you’re able to see them again. It’s a very common control tactic.
By starving you of validation, you find yourself trying harder to impress and please him but you eventually find that NOTHING seems to be enough
When a man you’re in a relationship with finds it difficult to not only compliment you but congratulate you, this is a sign that he is jealous of you (mainly because he probably feels emasculated by your self-sufficiency) and again, wants to control you. By starving you of validation, you find yourself trying harder to impress and please him but you eventually find that NOTHING seems to be enough; no matter how pretty your outfit is, no matter how great your work is, no matter how nice your perfume smells. Nothing. As a result of this, you catch yourself being far more excited than you should be at any slight sign of him validating your beauty or achievements. The funny thing about all this is that he is as aware of your beauty and greatness as you are but he fears that if you find out, he will lose his power over you. The pursuit of a weak man’s validation can leave you trapped in the most draining relationship. The only way to regain your sanity is to try your hardest to maintain clarity by not internalising the way someone else chooses to treat you. Remember: people can only treat you as well as they treat themselves.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting some space to figure out who you are.
Validation is important to us as human beings because we care about feeling accepted. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, biologically, we as human beings have a herd mentality (which is why we consciously and subconsciously follow trends) and if we feel out of place, this creates discomfort. A relationship should be a safe space that makes you feel comfortable, accepted and supported. If you are lacking in any of these, you are better off single. But try not to look at being single as being unwanted or being lonely. There is a great stigma attached to being single by choice and often, this stigma is created by heterosexual men who choose to paint women as angry and/or bitter for preferring their own company to that of a man. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting some space to figure out who you are. If anything, this is the most important and insightful period of your life because the more you take the time to know yourself without any distractions, the more sure you will be of exactly what it is you are looking for in a partner. This is vital because it is better to be single and aware, than to be in a relationship and lost. Being single gives you room to dedicate your time to your dreams without feeling guilty. Having said that, you can still follow your dreams whilst in a relationship but it can only work out if your partner is supportive and understanding because dream-chasing involves a lot of isolation and concentration.
Whilst waiting for someone else to fall in love with you, you must fall in love with yourself. You must. You deserve it. There is nothing more attractive and beautiful than a person who loves their self so much that they can’t help but radiate it. It’s infectious. In the same way, when someone hates their self, they can’t help but project it. Emotional abusers are a key example of people who hate themselves and don’t want to be helped. When you make it your aim to fall in love with everything from your stretch marks to your smile, you’ll find it easier to filter out those who don’t deserve to be in your space but if you are self-hating, this will make it easier for emotional abusers to capitalise on your vulnerability and before you know it, you’re in a bottomless pit of despair.
The more you get to know yourself, the easier it is to understand other people. The stronger your bond is with yourself, the more you’ll understand the importance of self-forgiveness. The more time you learn to spend with yourself, the less fear you will feel of being alone. A woman who knows herself is strong, resistant and clever because she is smart enough to know that whether or not she has a man in her life, her identity is all hers. If you are deficient in self love, you will be in danger of attaching too much of your identity to a man. This is terrible because you’ll find that if/when he leaves your life, you’ll feel a sense of loss of identity because you’ve spent too much time building yourself around his world instead of yours. Love yourself first, sis. The right man will respectfully align himself with your world when the right time comes because through watching the way you love yourself, he will understand that you are a woman of value who knows her worth regardless of his presence. Until then, love yourself like it’s your last day on earth!
Written by Chidera aka The Slumflower
Artwork by The Slumflower