December 31, 2016. As much as I’ve tried to erase this date from my mind, I won’t be able to forget it.
I was at a New Year’s party with my boyfriend, who at the time I had only been dating for about 4 months. He was uncontrollably drunk. I too, had a few drinks. We got in a fight. I started crying. We ended up inside his car to “chat” about things. And he hit me.
At least, I know he hit me. I haven’t truly opened up about my story, until now.
After the party, my conversations with his friends and family went a little like this:
—Let it go. He probably just got angry because he’s got so much sadness inside and doesn’t know how to express a healthy range of emotions.
At the time, I didn’t really consider the incident to be abuse. After all, I had never been hit before, and we were drunk at a party. Hitting someone is totally normal…right?
When he punched the wall at our apartment and broke a light switch; threw things that made marks in furniture; when he yelled after me down the street that time he fell, calling me overdramatic and crazy; that was just anger. And anger, I was told, is natural and normal. We all get angry.
When he joked about me having “daddy issues” because my dad passed away prior to us dating; that was definitely not harassment, but innocent, silly joking. Stop being so sensitive, I was just kidding.
There were so many other things that I struggle to verbalize, and that all sound quite tame when described as isolated cases. But sometimes he was so goddamn amazing that I forgot that he was ever cruel to me. Which has made the whole process of identifying my relationship as abusive incredibly confusing.
I’m still healing. And to me, healing means writing and talking about it. I still get asked the same question. Recently, a family member asked me,
—if this went on for so long and if you knew this from the beginning, why did you stay with him?
Which brings me to the second part of my story.
When I eventually confronted my narcissistic ex about his behaviour, he accepted some responsibility:
—I was definitely abusive, but I’m not an abuser.
Applying this rationale I’d like to ask; can you rape, but not be a rapist? I think not. You certainly can’t kill without being a killer.
The truth is that there are grey zones (being drunk at a party might be one of them), and there are levels of severity in all areas of abuse. The problem is that it’s often a slippery slope. The only way that abuse ever gets to be subjective, is from the perspective of the one experiencing it.