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Harming Ourselves Through Our Relationships

I realized that my relationship choices had gone from bad to worse when I found myself sitting in a Relational Communications class learning about Verbally Abusive Relationships and realizing that was my life.

Harming Ourselves Through Our Relationships

Nobody asks to be abused – physically, verbally emotionally – and certainly nobody deserves it. However, since we are discussing self-harm this month, I felt it necessary to talk about how the relationships we choose can be used as a way to harm ourselves (even if it’s on a subconscious level).

I must first make a disclaimer: for the purposes of this post when I use the term ‘abuse’ I am not referring to sexual abuse, and, though physical abuse may apply, this post is primarily focused on verbally and emotionally abusive relationships. It is also important to note that not all situations in which this type of abuse takes place are situations of self-harm on the part of the victim, this post is simply a discussion in hopes of encouraging those who find themselves continually returning to these types of relationships to take some time to reflect on the whys behind their relationship choices. Who knows, you may be surprised what you find…

My relationship history is not one of Fairy Tales, Prince Charmings, and certainly not Happily Ever Afters. No, if one were to sit down and watch the story of “Lauren Bersaglio’s Love Life” it would probably be more along the lines of The Haunting, or, even more accurately, Scary Movie.

I realized that my relationship choices had gone from bad to worse when I found myself sitting in a Relational Communications class learning about Verbally Abusive Relationships and realizing that was my life.

How had I gotten to that place again? Each time a relationship turned sour and inevitably ended in an explosion of hurt it’s not like I decided “Hey, that was fun, let’s do it again!” – NO. I didn’t actually want that for my life. I didn’t intentionally seek it out. And yet I walked into the same situations over and over.

The pattern usually went something like this:

We’d hit the ground running > he’d come on strong, but sweet > I’d fall hard & fast > he’d start pointing out my ‘flaws’ > I’d start feeling bad about myself¬† >he’d start building up resentment towards me for said flaws > I’d start feeling worse about myself > His criticisms would become more frequent and aggressive > one day he would snap and it would be over, and I’d be left crying on the floor.

I’d be depressed for a few days/weeks/months and then he’d come back – or someone else – and the cycle would continue.

And each time the emotional abuse was worse.

It wasn’t until my most recent relationship ended (the textbook ‘verbal abuse’ relationship) that I finally thought: enough is enough. And I set out to figure out why this kept happening, why I kept finding myself in these relationships over and over – one thing I knew, it was no coincidence.

People always say when you don’t love yourself, you can’t possibly fully love someone else, and this may be true, but what I realized is that when you don’t love yourself, you can’t fully receive someone else’s love. More than that, when you hate yourself and you are in a self-destructive mindset, you don’t typically oppose anyone who helps you along with your self-destruction. And why should you?

I was butchering my body, I was verbally abusing myself, even if I could see what these guys were doing to me, why would I tell them to stop? It would be almost hypocritical (in a weird, twisted way). In some cases, it was almost like I was letting them do all the work for me.

And so I would show up, day after day, night after night, week after week, and let the abuse carry on.

No, I am not responsible for other’s behaviours, but I am responsible for whether or not I stand up for myself. And I chose not to. Just like when you see a friend being bullied in the parking lot, you can either stand by or you can stand up. I stood by. I stood by and I watched myself get bullied until my spirit was crushed.

And by returning to these same guys over and over, and allowing the same cycles to happen, and by sitting back and letting them talk to me like that, I was, for all intense and purposes, self-harming. Because I felt I deserved it. I hated myself, and letting them hate me gave me a sense of fulfillment – of satisfaction. No, I wasn’t taking a blade to my wrists (though I was doing this, too), and no, I wasn’t shoving my finger down my throat (though I was also doing that), but I was still harming myself.

And, just like with anything: eating disorders, depression, addiction – with self-harm, the behaviours are the symptom not the problem. The problem was I didn’t love myself. So the solution: work towards that self-love. (I talked about that in this post)

I encourage you, if you find yourself in the same (or different) abusive relationship(s) to look at the pattern as a symptom and to ask yourself if you are enabling someone else to help you carry out your self-harming. It is not an easy thing to swallow, but it is the only way to end the cycle once and for all.