I recently realized that a large part of my relationship with my ex-husband involved reactive abuse. I think a lot of people in relationships argue and sometimes attempt to push each other’s buttons. For me, having my buttons pushed was constant. I would endure, endure, endure until it built up into an explosion. My ex-husband used this as the perfect opportunity to convince me I was the abusive one in the relationship.
It’s important to share what I endured repeatedly before each explosion. It was a mountain of bullshit to be blunt about it. The name calling was at the forefront for many years. That was usually the first button to get pushed repeatedly. Crazy bitch was a very popular one but when he really wanted to kick it up a notch, it was cunt. For awhile there I contemplated having my driver’s license changed to my “official” name. (My sarcasm was never appreciated in this relationship.) Sometimes this would knock me out in the first round. Over time, I learned to endure the name calling. Unfortunately, this only caused more pushing on his part. He had to throw other things into the mix.
There were always complaints about how I did things, how I thought, my reaction to things. He would start picking at these things when I didn’t react to name calling. Often those complaints followed with a “what’s wrong with you?!?” His convinction during all this seemed so real.
The end result of all this usually ended in me sobbing, begging for him to please stop. I spent many evenings crawled up in a ball in my walk-in closet. But it’s like this only fueled his fire. Now enters the looks of disgust, shouting for me to grow up and get over it, or that I was weak. There were times that he would mimic my sobs, even try to mimic whatever agonized expression I had on my face. “Stop crying, it’s not like I’m beating you! You act like an abused wife!”
There were days where this would “beat me” into silence and other days where I would lash out. The pain was devastating and sometimes I would get this energy to throw back some hateful words or literally throw an object in his direction. You would think this would make him say, hey, wait, I went way too far, I’ve obviously hurt her badly, she doesn’t normally chuck a remote control at my head. But, no. This is the part where I would be told that I was crazy. How dare I throw things at him, how dare I say horrible things to him, etc. It was a fucking nightmare. A sick game of reverse psychology that was CONSTANT.
And when your soul is completly worn down and you’re told that you’re crazy for a long time, you start to believe it. I thought I needed therapy. (Granted I did but for completly different reasons.) I spent hours analyzing MY behavior in these situations and wondering if it was me that was mentally ill. It was always his expressions that would make me doubt myself. The “hurt” caused by my retaliating words always seemed so real. I would work ideas in my head on how to handle the next battle. I would tell myself well maybe if you do this differently, you won’t start this. I THOUGHT I WAS CAUSING ALL THIS DRAMA.
There were moments were I felt like my head was going to explode. I would try to run out of the house to my car to have the door blocked and my keys taken. Telling me to calm down and stop being crazy. That I would cause for the police to be called. When I was only running from the attack, just trying to find a moment’s peace.
This abuse made me physically ill. I would sob so hard sometimes that my head would pound or I would vomit. It exhausted me, made my stomach ache and took away my ability to concentrate. The pain caused by this behavior is such a real thing that not only does it manifest itself emotionally and mentally but physically as well.
It’s been over a year since I exited the relationship. I don’t get tension headaches 3 times a week, hey, or even sob anymore. I have yet to curl into a sobbing ball in my new closet. I’m pretty proud of that. Also, I sleep now. Real sleep! It’s pretty fucking magical.
I would loveee to hear about other people’s experiences with reactive abuse. I’ve found that it’s healing to hear that others have experienced the same craziness. When you’re caught in a relationship like this, at least in my case, you are humiliated to tell anyone about the awful details. Please share and thank you for reading!!