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But He Says He Loves Me: How I Finally Left an Abusive Relationship

But He Says He Loves Me: How I Finally Left an Abusive Relationship

Domestic violence, whether it be emotional or physical abuse, is always a difficult and controversial topic. I have spent months wondering how I would be able to write about this, as it is a delicate subject.

Everyone’s situations are different but after careful thought and consideration, I have decided to speak from my own experiences and my own perspective in hopes that someone that may need to read this, happens to come across this article. They may relate to it in their own way just when they need it the most.

When Will Enough Be Enough

“Where are you?!” I could hear him searching for me frantically, slamming doors as he looked for me in each room. I heard glass break and he screamed out for me again. His voice filled with anger, he was huffing, puffing and swearing profusely.

As I lay on my stomach under the bed, I held onto the knife tightly trying to hold my breath, scared he would hear me if I made a sound. I didn’t know what I would do with the knife but it made me feel a tiny bit safer. My body was shaking in fear, my mind was racing, “Is this really happening? What is this even about? Why did he have to come home drunk?”

I heard the back door slam, he must be searching for me in the yard. I quickly grabbed my phone and called the police. It felt like forever for someone to pick up, my heart racing, palms were sweaty and I was in a crazy state of panic. Finally, someone answered, “Please state your type of emergency.” I tried to speak quietly but I was so frightened I was speaking too fast.

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“What is your name and what is the emergency?” The voice on the phone asked. “Please just send someone to help me, my boyfriend is going crazy and I need help fast,” I pleaded. “What is your name, location and what is your contact number?” The voice over the phone asked. “I don’t have time for this, just come help me”, I pleaded.

I heard the back door slam again, he was in the house. My heart skipped a beat and I hung up the call almost immediately. I grabbed onto the knife while I lay under the bed. I couldn’t hear where he was, my blood was rushing through my veins as I used every ounce of my energy to hold my breath. I didn’t want him to find me. I was scared for my life. There was silence. Then I heard a bang, it sounded like he punched a hole into the wall again.

My phone rang, I looked at the screen and it must’ve been the police, I quickly hung up. My heart sank, “Oh my god, I hope he didn’t hear that, why on earth would the cops call when I have already told them my situation!” Next thing I knew, he grabbed my foot and was dragging me from under the bed.

Why I Stayed

Before him, I would’ve said that I would always leave if a guy were to hit me or even touch me in an abusive way. It wasn’t until I was actually in the situation, I finally understood why it was so hard for many people to walk away from any type of abuse. It started off small, little remarks and comments that undermined me and my character. Slowly, it grew into something bigger, by this point, I was invested.

When I first met him, I wasn’t interested in him. He was a charismatic guy that everyone in town knew and loved. He was known to be a bit of a “player” and I just didn’t want to get entangled with a “player.” I was a challenge to him. He was determined to get me. I wasn’t as easy to catch as the other girls were, so he chased hard.

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When I finally agreed to go on a date with him,  he did his best to sweep me off my feet. He wrote me cute notes, bought me gifts, wined and dined me. He treated me in a way I had never been treated before. He told me how special I was and he told me he loved me. This went on for over a year and I remember wondering how on earth his ex had ever left a guy like this. I was on cloud nine. Then we moved in together, got engaged and everything went downhill.

Every time I tried to leave, he promised he would change, he promised things would be different and I would end up staying in hopes that the guy I had met would come back. Every time I told him I had had enough, he would say, “You are never going to find anyone that loves you like I do. Your family didn’t even want you, they kicked you out of their home. You lost your virginity to several men you don’t even know, who’s going to want you? Every other guy is going to think you’re worthless.” He knew my past, he knew my insecurities, he knew how to use it against me and at the time, I believed him. After all, who would want someone like me? He says he loves me. I should be lucky he loves me because nobody else would.

How I Finally Left

As the old saying goes, people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. The universe knew I needed to open my eyes. I was back and forth, making up and breaking up with him and just couldn’t get the willpower to leave. That’s when someone that I call a “soulmate” walked into my life.

My soulmate inspired me to travel, to see what else was out in the world. He knew nothing of my past but he knew I was stuck in my own little bubble. He doesn’t know just how much of an impact he had on my life but because of him, I finally decided to take the plunge and booked a one-way ticket to Thailand. Little did I know that this was the start of a massive transformation and self-discovery journey.

What I Learned

Looking back, I had a part to play in that relationship. He was messed up and didn’t know how to deal with it so he lashed out. I too was messed up and didn’t know to love myself so I accepted that kind of behaviour.  Misery loves company and we were both two insecure souls that came together and made a recipe for disaster.

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I don’t regret that relationship though, I learned a lot from that. I learned what I didn’t want and it also pushed me into a path towards learning to get to know myself, my flaws, my insecurities and to discover who I really am and what I really deserve.

That relationship taught me that even though at times we can feel stuck and see no way out, there is always an answer. Most often than not, it is the simplest answer. Just leave. No matter how hard or impossible it may seem at the time, once we start to action what we know deep down is right, the universe will help you. It brings people, situations and light bulb moments to us in order to assist us in our paths.

I’m not saying that everyone should book a one-way ticket and leave but for me, it really did help. Completely removing myself from the situation stopped me from going back. It opened me up to a whole new passion, travel. It opened me up to the big, wide world out there and taught me that the bubble I was stuck in was actually a tiny fraction of what was actually going on in the world. It taught me that I did have control over my life and I did have a choice.

I will admit, that relationship left me even more messed up for a while but I’m definitely a stronger person for it. I wouldn’t know how to love myself the way I do now if I hadn’t experienced that lesson. Just because someone says they love you, doesn’t necessarily ring true.

Nobody can truly love someone else until they can love themselves. Even though he said he loved me, he didn’t. He didn’t love himself. If he did, he would never have treated me like that. I didn’t love myself either because if I did, I would never have stayed or accepted that treatment.

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I just remember having a moment while I was overseas, sitting on the beach, toes in the sand, watching a gorgeous sunset, a wave of freedom washing over me and I thought to myself, “Why did I not leave sooner?”

If you are in a similar situation or know someone that is, please know that there is a way out and it doesn’t have to be like this. I mean this from the bottom of my heart, no one deserves to go through this and no one deserves to feel stuck. There is a solution and there is always a way. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you are in Australia and need support please call ; 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

If you are outside of Australia here is a link for shelters, crisis centres and hotlines; http://www.vachss.com/help_text/domestic_violence_intl.html

Featured photo credit: medicaldaily.com via images.medicaldaily.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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