“They look like knights in shining armours, but in reality they are just the opposite”.
Emotionally abusive partners can wreak a person's self esteem, and the sad truth is that even successful, smart and talented people aren’t immune to getting trapped in relationships with them.
Another thing, abusers never change, so giving a second chance to them is like willingly putting your hand in the mouth of a crocodile.
And so, the only way out of an emotionally abusive relationship is to just, “Run, Forrest, Run”.
This is Episode 4 of How I Dealt With It, a podcast series about heartbreaks, pain, and endings.
Shrutee Choudhary: I really didn’t know... I wasn’t aware that this was abuse.
Virali Modi: It was harrowing, and it was so troubling that I couldn’t fathom how someone could treat another person that way.
Shrutee Choudhary: These abusers isolate you in a corner where you see them as some sort of knights in shining armours, when they are actually exactly the opposite.
Divyani: Emotional abuse. It’s something that you have probably heard of, or possibly even experienced yourself. And those who know it first-hand know just how ugly it can get. This is Episode 4 of ‘How I Dealt With It’, a podcast series about heartbreaks, and in this podcast, we are going to be listening to real women who have been to hell and back after finding themselves with extremely unhealthy partners, who subjected them to emotional abuse. We are also going to be explaining the things that comprise emotional abuse and the different ways in which it can manifest itself. I am Divyani Rattanpal, let’s begin.
She loved him, and considered it her duty to please him, whenever he asked her to. But he? Instead of loving her body, voiced his disgust for it. When after pleasing him orally, she asked to be pleased in return, he would shout… ‘Ew, are you crazy? You have a f*cking catheter. I’m not putting my mouth near that thing!’
She was left aghast, but was too scared to say anything, because she believed that this kind of treatment is exactly what she deserved. That no one else would want to be with her, a ‘disabled’ woman.
You see, emotional abusers often try to pull their partners down, by establishing themselves as somewhat ‘superior’ people who are doing them (the one being abused) a favour by agreeing to be in a relationship with them. And this is exactly what this man did to his ‘disabled’ partner.
“You’re so lucky you have me,” he would tell her.
“Why would you say that?” she would ask.
“Look at yourself, you’re beautiful no doubt, but who would do what I do for you? Lifting you, folding your wheelchair, picking you up from your house. Who would do all that, hmm?” he would say with a smirk.
Divyani: If those words made you uncomfortable, the title of the story probably wouldn’t comfort you as well. It’s titled, My abusive ex made me believe that no one else would want a woman who uses a wheelchair.
When I read this story on Point of View, an online platform featuring stories of sexuality and disability, I felt a lump in my throat. This was emotional abuse, I told myself.
Virali Modi is the author who wrote this story from the point of view of her friend. Her friend had wanted to remain anonymous but also wanted her story to be told, so that others going through the intense experience of suffering from emotional abuse could relate to it as well.
Just a bit about Virali Modi. She is a motivational speaker, runner up of Miss India Wheelchair 2014, and a disability and gender rights advocate. Here's how my conversation with her went.
Q: Virali, what prompted you to write the story?
A: What prompted me to write this story was that it was very troubling to me and it was harrowing in the way that my friend described everything to me in grave detail which I haven’t even mentioned. It was so troubling that I couldn’t fathom how someone could treat another person that way.
I think something else that hit me really hard is the way that this man led her (my friend) to believe that she was worthless and that no one would want to be with her. Are people with disabilities or men, whatever your gender may be, and whatever your sexual preference may be, it doesn’t matter. An abusive relationship is an abusive relationship. But what is the limit? How far would a person go just to belittle someone? That is the biggest question that I have.
Divyani: Virali, possibly one of the reasons this could have happened....is because deep down, your friend possibly believed that she, as a disabled woman, should put up with all that brash, entitled behavior and just be thankful that at least she even had a man. After the relationship ended, is that something your friend has tried to unlearn from this experience?
Virali: She learnt a lot from that relationship. And she decided that she was not going to revolve her life around that specific relationship, and that she is going to date and meet people. She has realised that if people don’t want to accept her, it’s their problem and not her problem. But yeah, I do think that just because men and women think they are “flawed”, we do settle for bad relationships or get drawn into them.
Divyani: Yes, being told that we are bad, or unworthy of love is just plain horrible. Criticism is one thing, but being belittled because of the way you are, is something entirely different and most definitely accounts for emotional abuse. And you wanna know a sad truth about emotional abuse? That no one is immune from it. Even successful, smart, and powerful women have become trapped in such relationships.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon had opened up that she too had been in an emotionally abusive relationship. She’d been asked by Oprah what was the most difficult decision she’d ever made and Reese had replied: "For me, probably leaving an abusive relationship". And then, Reese added that she had managed to find the courage to leave when "a line got drawn in the sand and it got crossed." She added, “My brain just switched and I knew it was going to be very difficult but I just couldn't go any further," she said. "I was a different person too. It changed who I was on a cellular level - the fact that I stood up for myself."
Now I want to get the perspective of Meghna Pant, who is an established female author from India, and she too has been through emotional abuse and feels really strongly about the subject.
For those who don’t know Meghna, she often writes about relationships and is the award-winning author of books like The Trouble With Women, Happy Birthday and One And A Half Wife. She is also a popular columnist, feminist and TEDx Speaker. And now we will be listening to her.. but before I play that clip, I want to apologise to our listeners for a bad audio. There was a lot of noise when we met Meghna, and we possibly could not have avoided it.
Meghna Pant: You know it’s very interesting that women in abusive relationships don't even realise that they are being abused. And I am saying this because I was in the same state. The man that I was with, somehow convinced me that it was normal to hit a woman. And this process I realised much later, it is called gaslighting, which is somebody makes you not believe your own reality and your truth. So you know you will set up your living room in a certain way and when you come back, everything is upside down but the guy will tell you- No. It was always upside down. You had mistaken what it was actually like. We women are emotional beings. When we are in love, we are so hopeful. So when you are in an abusive relationship, the guy will make you question yourself, you will lose your sense of worth. I used to feel like I am not a good human being. I am not worthy of anything because that’s what he made me feel like.
Divyani: Now for those of you who don't know, gaslighting is a classic emotional abuser tactic. You see, abusers want to gain power over you. So even if you have legit concerns, they will tell you your issues are insane. So, if you say something to them, like … why are you flirting.. they will say, "you are crazy to even think I could be flirting". They can also withhold affection and make you feel terrible if you don't do things their way. Meghna would also like to advise women who want to get out of an emotionally abusive relationship.
Meghna Pant: The first step for any women is to acknowledge the fact that you are in an abusive relationship and this honestly is the most difficult to come to the realisation that the man you are in love with, is actually an abuser. It is a very difficult thought process to come to. But please be realistic, please be practical. Save yourself. If you have children, please get them out of the house. Don’t do it in front of him, because then he will get more violent. Quietly slip away, take all your jewellery, cash, credit cards. Ask someone for help. Ask a friend, ask your family, ask a therapist, go to an NGO if you don’t have anyone. But get out of his line of sight so he can no longer abuse you. And once you are out, take legal recourse. So I would say the minute a man raises his hand on you, it is an abusive relationship. Please don’t give him a huge bandwidth. Please don’t be kind. This is not the time to be kind. He doesn’t deserve it. He doesn’t deserve your love. Because he doesn’t respect you or love you.
Divyani: Mind you, getting rid of an emotionally abusive relationship is easier said than done. The emotional abuser is like a leech; he will stick to you, and just refuse to let you go. So even if getting out of such a relationship means involving all your friends, family, cops, you must do it.
And no matter how many lies or promises to change he makes, don’t listen to them.
Now, as I was searching for more women with raw truths to share about emotionally abusive relationships, I came across one by a woman, Shrutee Choudhary, who is an actor, writer and content creator. She found the courage to speak about her ex-partner after finding out that not only was he an emotional abuser, but also somebody who allegedly harassed and manipulated multiple women.
Shrutee Choudhary wrote that post on Medium and in the post she mentions how her ex-partner belittled her, made her doubt her talent, and called her a silly prude because she objected to him having multiple sexual relationships with women. Eventually, he ghosted her after feeding her lies that he will be with her after his divorce gets finalized.
In that post on medium, Shrutee had written, "You tried to break me then fix me then break me again."
Those words sound so violent, as if someone is picking you up, throwing you to the ground and picking you up again. It can wreak anyone's self esteem.
Shrutee: They actually attack your sense of self worth, your self esteem, your confidence in general, the way you perceive yourself. And I actually thought in that moment that this was the best that I could do, and that I was actually extremely lucky to have somebody like him.
The tragedy of it is that it isn’t who you are, but what they have broke you down into. They attack you, and it’s scary. It’s so damaging. I think any sort of assault/abuse leaves a deep impact.
Divyani: Another thing, thinking we can 'change' the abuser is one of the most dangerous lies we can tell ourselves. Honestly, giving a second chance to an emotional abuser is like willingly putting your hand in the mouth of a crocodile. Don’t do it. He won’t change. So even if he begs to have you back, don’t listen. Look the other way, because, darlings, the only way you can save yourself more damage from an emotionally abusive relationship to just, “Run, Forrest, Run!”
(This is Episode 4 of How I Dealt With It, a brand new series about breakups and heartbreak. But till the next episode, a jaadu ki jhappi to anyone going through this!)
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