I Believed Putting up with His Problematic Behaviour Was Healthy

But I learned, the first abuse is usually not the last.

When I got into my first relationship, I thought he was perfect. He was tall, had a car, and he was educated. He was well-respected by his circle too. I thought I hit the jackpot. Except for one thing — he was abusive.

He hurled curses at me, got irrationally jealous of my guy friends, and hated my girlfriends. He had no problem throwing an attitude in front of friends either. He considered sexual assault as ‘making up’ after a fight. He didn’t like me having a life outside of him.

I used to think, “This is normal in a relationship. There are just some things I need to get used to.”
I believed putting up with problematic behaviour was just part and parcel of a healthy relationship.
It was a weird thought for me to have, considering that my role models for love were my parents.

Theirs was a typical romance story; they were each other’s first and last loves.
And because I fell in love at 17, around the same time my parents fell in love, I wanted so badly for this relationship to last.

“I want my first to be my last too,” I thought.

I put up with the abuse for several years because I thought he would change. When I wanted to leave him, he would manipulate my father into thinking that I was the one going astray. He wanted to marry me so that he could help “get me back on track”.

I was scared of him. My parents never knew of his abusive ways because he behaved in front of them. But if I couldn’t handle him then, what made me think I could handle him many years from now?

The idea of forever with him made me shudder.

It sent chills down my spine. I had asked for a break-up many times before, and he never respected my decision. After three years, we broke up only because he asked for it. I think it was because he found someone else, but I will never know for sure.

We are always willing to spend a long time trying to make someone ‘The One’ for us.

Especially when we’ve spent years together with them. We try our best to make toxic relationships work. We put up with problematic behaviour because we believe they will change.

And abusers, they know how to make you feel bad, don’t they?

They will make you believe that you made them do it. They will tell you they’re doing it only because they love you. Sadly, we fall for it every time. Instead of leaving, we wonder what we did wrong and try to avoid upsetting them in the future.

Many years after him (and several boyfriends later), I met my husband. Never once did he try to lay a hand on me. He never raised his voice no matter how angry. He is always rational. He was never emasculated or insecure about me. Things with him were never complicated.

That’s when I realised that it actually doesn’t take very long for us to find out if someone is good for us. It just depends on how quick we acknowledge it.

I had a gut feeling right from the beginning that my ex-boyfriend wasn’t the one for me, but I was too caught up in my fantasy of wanting my first love to be my last. I purposely ignored the big red flag.

You cannot fully love someone who scares you. You will never be happy with a partner who requires you to tiptoe around them all the time. I wish I knew this right from the beginning. It would have saved me some trauma.

We make ourselves believe that the abuse will be isolated incidents. It’s time for us to face the truth: The first time they abuse you will not be the last.

This article was originally published on Fearless She Wrote.