What Abuse Looks Like

The following was written by my friend JM who was in an abusive situation. Although not a pleasant topic, I think it's important for people, especially those in similar situations, to hear about someone else's experience. It can help them understand what's happening and get the help they need, especially because most people in an abusive situation, like JM, don’t even know that’s what it is.

It also highlights why the typical relationship advice doesn't work in these situations.


Today is my one year anniversary from leaving my narcissistic, emotionally, mentally, financially, every type besides physically abusive ex husband.

I wanted to originally post this to my page but, even though my boyfriend, friends, and family support me, a fb war between me and my ex or people that think he’s “amazingly awesome” is not what I want. He and I both taught at the same high school (I left), so he has a LOT of people who think he’s a wonderful human and I’m responsible and abandoned him. Lol.

So, here’s the post I was going to write, as well as a before after picture (about a 25 lb and a hell of a lot of happier difference)*


A year ago today I got the courage to leave my abusive marriage. No, he didn’t physically hit me, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t abuse. Some people have said afterwards, “it takes two to tango,” “there are two sides to every story” or “marriage is hard work, couples fight.” That’s not the case when you are with an abusive partner. It doesn’t change. I went to therapy 6 months BEFORE we even got married just to try to become happier when there were tragedies in our lives and his outbursts seemed to be getting worse. I blamed the tragedies. He blamed the tragedies.

In counseling, I learned new ways to think so that I wouldn’t be so down on myself when he would make me feel badly, called “cognitive behavioral therapy.” I made charts, I wrote journals, I drew pictures of his anger and abuse. I learned how to use “I” statements so that when I would try to bring up something that bothered me, he wouldn’t feel attacked, or blamed, or in the wrong, even though he definitely was. I apologized for everything, I took the blame for everything, because he made me feel as though I was the one at fault. Anytime he yelled at me I would get this retort, “Well, JM, I wouldn’t have to yell at you if you didn’t do...”

I did yoga to relax, tried to workout more to relieve stress, went on walks while listening to podcasts about happiness and better habits to try to figure out how to make him happy and not yell, belittle, or be critical of me, my friends, my family. All the while I was “selfish” for bettering myself or trying to make myself happy.

It seemed his favorite name to call me was a “terrible f... wife,” “a..hole” or the rare occasion I’d get “b...” even though he promised to never call me that or [the c word]. If I wasn’t those things I was “awkward,” my ideas were always “insane” or “asinine” and he couldn’t believe that “anyone could be so crazy or idiotic” to think the way I thought. When he wasn’t yelling at me or calling me names, he was threatening divorce. He was telling me my catholic background or parents make it impossible for me to divorce him or what would they think? If I had a thought he disagreed with or said something that upset him he’d say “your parents would agree with me,” “you don’t think our friends fight like this, you’re an idiot, of course they do” “you can’t tell your friends what happened, you’re going to make them have a terrible view of me,” “don’t tell our personal issues to anyone we work with, that’s my reputation and your reputation.”

Those that I eventually told a little bit to didn’t understand why I didn’t leave earlier or they would say, “well he’s a good guy did you try talking to him?” Or “I’m only getting your side of it”


There is no other side. I’m not saying this to smear his name, bash him, or do anything to him, no, I’m saying this because it’s not ok that people don’t understand the full scope of domestic violence because it isn’t talked about. Yelling at someone “f... you” over and over and over until they cry and then they say “oh there you go crying again and making me feel like the bad guy. Grow the f... up. How dare you make me feel like I did something wrong when you made me yell at you. You’re unbelievable. I can’t believe you’re my wife/fiancé/girlfriend.”

Yea. That’s abuse. That gave me and countless others PTSD. That gave me stress so badly that my nose bled once during a fight when he was screaming “f... you, you f... b...” at me after he promised to never speak to me that way again for the umteenth time. That made me lose so much weight that people would tell me I was looking sickly and “needed to eat a burger.” Even when I tried to put on weight I couldn’t. I went to doctors who even put me on Ensure. The only thing that actually got me healthy again was when I started ignoring him. When I went numb to his and his family’s constant abuse. When I began telling family and friends how he actually treated me. When I told them about the lying, manipulation, screaming, belittling, condescension, swearing, unwanted sexual touching, refusal to give up drugs and alcohol because it was me who “had the problem”.

It was when I finally admitted that he was abusive. That he was a narcissist that I started my recovery. When I left, he ran out of the house chasing me and screaming after me. He screamed countless “f*ck you’s” how he would “call the cops” on me if I didn’t give him his keys, how I was abandoning him, and flat out intimidating me. When I left, cheering that I actually did it, he called my dad and told him he couldn’t believe no one told him about the “mental issues” that I have and how dare he not confide that in him. He said that knowing full well it would crush my dad because he knew how much my parents went through when I was suffering through depression in high school and college. He had to find yet another way to hurt me and my family. That was also not the last time he or his family tried contacting my family and sending harassing, condescending messages. If you or someone you know is being abused, get help or do what you can to help them. It’s not as easy as just leaving. The abuser makes it very difficult to leave.

And no, domestic abuse is not just physical. Emotional abuse IS abuse. Financial abuse IS abuse. Mental abuse IS abuse. Sexual abuse IS abuse. Intimidation IS abuse. Don’t let someone say “at least he doesn’t hit you.” Trust me... I wanted him to hit me. I wanted him to cheat on me. I wanted a reason someone else would see as a good reason to leave him because then they’d also see he wasn’t the perfect guy everyone else saw. Everyone else saw his mask, the mask I saw when I first met and fell for him. They didn’t see what went on behind closed doors. Please believe victims. It takes a lot of courage to say something, to get out, to start over. Please don’t become another person that they don’t trust.

* excluded to protect privacy

If you’d like to learn more about how to detect abuse within a relationship, read He Hasn’t Hit Me, Is it Abuse?