One of the deceptions you face in an emotionally abusive relationship is that you are fine. There are no broken bones, no bruises, not chipped teeth. After an attack the only visible damage is your reaction, when you are shaken, crying, frustrated or how ever it is that is manifests for you.
The aspect that is particularly damaging is while it is subtle, it is brutally destructive and emotionally painful. You learn you cannot trust your intuition, your begin doubt your worth as a human being. there is unexplained emotional pain. What's wrong? What is real? You feel so tired, beat up, hurt. Nothing happened, the only thing that appears to be wrong are your feelings. Is it you?
You, there is something wrong with you. Why are you so on edge? How does he put up with you when you have that miserable look all the time? You try to do you best to hide your pain and confusion, but it still affects your interactions in daily life. That reinforces your perception that your are the problem. You cannot be free and easy in the world. You can't understand why your are not happy. Perhaps you are suffering from depression, maybe you are mentally ill? You always feel uncomfortable in your own skin.
Your partner seems to be a loving caring and wonderful spouse. You are told how fortunate you are. Everywhere you go, people embrace your warm friendly partner. He is beloved. According to him, they tolerate you because you are attached to him. You are so lucky he puts up with you. No one else would right? He makes sure to remind you this, when ever he gets the chance. Without him you would be lonely and friendless. I cannot count how often I was told I wouldn't be happy until I was alone, because of how I drove people away.
This is the stuff no one sees. They see your reaction that you become withdrawn, distant. I specifically remember a time, my ex-husband and I were headed to meet my Aunt and Uncle at to slide at Winterlude. In the car on the way over I was berated for some infraction. When I got to the event I was understandably upset. My ex-husband got out of the car all smiles, warm and friendly as ever. I was on edge and needed to be alone. I couldn't muster any friendliness. I still remember my uncle, he didn't have to outright tell me that he thought I was being a bitch. It was clear in his demeanor and his face. And honestly, he has never treated me the same since. If I had gotten out of that car with a broken arm, I might of gotten some sympathy. But because no one could see the damage that was inflicted upon me I was judged.
It's perhaps the cruelest aspect of emotional abuse. Your abuser is very skilled at delivering their blows. If anyone notices anything, its seems trivial. When your husband made seemingly joking comment about "ah off to the second floor you " with a big smile (this is a reference to a movie where the second floor is the psyche ward). The people around you have no idea what he is really saying. How could you complain about something so minor, there are people in the world with real problems. You don't appreciate how good you have it. You will be blamed and criticized because you feel pain, the passive aggressive comment, well that obviously was just a joke. Man, you are so sensitive.
When I first started therapy, I was telling my therapist that I was unhappy very early in my marriage. But I didn't know why. I couldn't think of anything he did at the time that was a problem. I thought maybe I had caused the problems we had because of my early unhappiness. I thought my moodiness began a cycle caused him to withdraw and to be contemptuous of me. I thought I started the issues because I wasn't satisfied when things were good. It was my fault that wonderful man I first met turned into the cold cruel man I would be living with later.
I told her about how I desperately needed a break from the kids when he would come home from work yet he would never allow us to get a babysitter for the evening, and would insist on taking them everywhere with us. I told her about how I would desperately try to keep a budget but things used to just keep "happening" that would derail our financial plans. I told her about how the things that were important to me like further education and travel were out of my reach.
It was then she pointed out to me that my needs were not being met. This was the starting point. Wait a second! There was a reason a for my feelings. There was a problem, I did in fact have a valid reason to feel discontent. These issues were not discussed and my feelings were never validated. Your not allowed to feel disappointed. He wanted to spend every minute he could with the kids, that was the end of the discussion. My need to have time away was completely dismissed. How could any one argue with something so wholesome as wanting to spend time with their kids. His way was the only way, and I would have to suck it up. There was no acknowledgement of how this could be painful for me. I was a selfish bitch for needing a break.
There was never any compromise when it came to my dreams. These don't seem like a big deal. But the underlying message is, you don't matter. That is painful. The complete denial and gaslighting that is involved in this process, that is abuse.
In the past I always blamed his reactions on my behaviour, if he was not being a good husband it was my fault because I had upset him somehow. He told me if I changed my behaviour he would be a good husband, but I had to change. When he screamed me that he wanted to punch me in the face in front of our daughter, that was my fault. I drove him to it. It was completely justified that he treated me that way because I was such a horrible person. That's the only reason our marriage wasn't working out. He told me about how he always stood by me, backed me when everyone else was against me. I was so lucky to have a good honest loyal man like him. He loves you. This is really confusing when its this same man who is telling you that your inherent horrible nature is why you cannot get along with anyone, and your lucky he puts up with you. Your told that the things he is doing really are not bad, your exaggerating, overly sensitive. This all take a terrible toll, grinding you down.
And something I can tell you about all this. Within minutes of these things being said to me I couldn't remember most of it.
The only reason I can tell you about it now is because I recorded it. And later, when I listened to the recording, only then did I realize the horrible things he had said to me. He would deny saying many of these things. I was as shocked as anyone else would have been listening to that recording. It seemed I was hearing most of it for the first time. The trauma and viciousness of these attacks can cause your mind to forget. But you body doesn't. You still feel upset, you still feel hurt, frustrated and angry. The problem is you have no idea why. There have been other things I don't remember that others saw and told me about later. But all of those things did happen. They did hurt me.
I don't remember a lot of what happened. What I do remember is the pain. This is real, and you are not alone. Its not you, and you are not crazy.