Overreacted? No, I don’t think I overreacted. But then, you would say that I overreacted, wouldn’t you? What’s that? Go on, say it. I dare you, in front of all my friends – because they’re not mutual anymore. I can see it forming behind your lips, the b for bitch dying to get out and slap me across the face. But that kind of obvious confrontation never was your style. You’re so well suited to politics. You always find a way to make the other person feel responsible for the wrong you did to them, a way to pin the blame, absolve yourself, and hurt them twice. So of course you’ll say I overreacted.
I thought relationship abuse was violent. I thought abusive partners shouted, gave you black eyes, and forced you to have sex when you didn’t want it. I thought they beat you down, not wore you down. I never imagined that the most misogynistic man I would ever know would be the son of feminist and libertarian parents. I didn’t think that the man who would destroy me – utterly, destroy me – would play the role of the caring and supportive boyfriend so well I would completely fall for it.
You never shouted at me. Never hit me. Instead it was all these little things. Always the little things. The little comments designed to come off as compliments. Compliments that would make sure I kept liking you, loving you even, but were designed to manipulate me into feeling there was something I had to improve just to deserve you. Like when you said I was “reasonably attractive but not in most of the clothes you wear.” Or your favourite, that I was “near-equal intelligence” to your obvious genius. You wore me down. There were so many things I had worked so hard for. But I couldn’t do them for years after you left because I still had your gentle, calm, almost patronising voice in my head patiently explaining to me that I would never succeed. I just wasn’t good enough but you, out of the goodness of your heart, had given me a chance to prove myself as the perfect little Stepford wife. And you made me want to be that, for a while.
It’s all so clear now. You’re lazy. You know you’re not as clever as you pretend. You couldn’t bear the idea that a woman, especially your ten-years-younger girlfriend, would ever be more successful than you. The hardest thing is that the stronger and more successful I become now the less able I am to forgive myself. The more I look back on our farcical relationship the more angry I am that I ever allowed myself to be treated so badly. I can’t believe I just let it happen.
I know you were having sex with me when I was asleep long before and after I told you to stop it. I usually woke up but pretended I hadn’t.
Chin up. It’s only a broken nose.