Updated: Dec 2, 2019
A little while ago, I wrote an article about the ‘Me Too’ campaign. It explored what the term meant at that moment in time, as well as my own thoughts on what ‘counts’ in regards to it. The article became one of my most read articles. It has reached audiences worldwide, and I am still receiving messages and e-mails because of it’s online presence.
But a year on from that campaign - where are we now?
I feel I could write another whole article on my feelings on all of this. A book, even! Perhaps I might. I have spent a great deal of time studying and reflecting upon what is most effective in terms of aiding others to free themselves through the utilisation of the #liberté concept. And as a result, I am going to continue to work from the belief that providing tools with which to free ourselves is be the most effective method I can offer.
I have collected together 5 questions you can use as tools to ask yourself when faced with a situation that you feel might be abusive within a relationship situation. These could be in the circumstances of the first few dates with someone, within a marriage, or anything in between. Relationships come in all manner of shapes and sizes, just as we do, and these questions are non exclusive to any one type of circumstance.
Please note; these words are built from lengthy research of relating texts, content from the Women’s Aid website, and my personal experiences also. They are intended as a supportive guide to your thoughts. If you, or anyone close to you, is in a situation of harm then please contact a professional body or the police.
"Could I treat someone else in this way? Even if I was extremely upset?"
Sometimes it can be difficult to work out what counts as ‘overreacting’. In turn, it is a commonly utilised term by the other person towards you, to make you feel you need to accept the unacceptable. It might even be context dependant.
In these situations, I stop and ask myself ‘could I treat someone in that way?’.
If the answer is no, then this indicates that it is not acceptable. It’s as simple as that. It’s tempting to fill gaps with thoughts of ‘but they only ignored my messages because they were busy’ or ‘he only punched that wall because I really wound him up’. But these thought processes are how unacceptable behaviour become normalised within your relationship. And it can lead to far greater harm to you in the longer term.
I spent many years putting down my ex-partner’s behaviour to the fact I was at fault, or that perhaps he was going through a hard time. I explained away all sorts of hurt, both physical and mental, based on ignorance of what I truly felt was wrong. The implementation of moral compass for yourself in the asking of this question can be a great way of identifying what your boundaries are.
If it is not OK to you, then it is not OK. With this you can be sure.
"Do I feel comfortable?"
We all have diverse tastes, needs, and preferences. What makes you feel uncomfortable might be different to someone else. And that's fine!
In a situation where we might be being manipulated, it can be hard to hear the voice of our gut. Sometimes, as I have done, we might ignore our instincts because of our desire to stay with the person despite how they’re treating us. It might come from a feeling of what we believe to be love. Or it might fall to social expectation. But your inner voice is designed and present to protect you from harm. Hear yourself.
If the situation is immediate, such as in a situation of being in someone else’s home, try to go to a bathroom to take a breather and really see yourself in the mirror. Settle your thoughts in order to work out how you feel about what’s happening. If the situation is longer term, applying the same method of ‘time-out’ can be helpful. Perhaps turning your phone off for a few hours and taking a walk, or speaking to someone you trust with your thoughts could aide clarity. The main thing to remember, is that if you do not feel comfortable, then something needs to change.
It doesn’t matter how insignificant you may think it all is. Your thoughts are worth listening to.
"How do my friends and family feel about this person?"
During my lifetime I have had two serious relationships with two highly abusive men. In the first circumstance, the person was a charm expert. In this way, I was very much trapped by my own confusion at his Jekyll and Hyde switches between behaviour, of which the negative was always hidden from public view. People would congratulate me on having such lovely boyfriend, and this was the narrative I clung to. Ultimately, this made it all the more difficult to speak out.
The second relationship I had was differing in that immediately my friends and family identified him to be a negative presence in my life. They warned me. They urged me to leave him. But in that period of my life, I didn’t want saving. Eventually, I came to own my choices and made the move to exit the chaos. I can reflect that listening to those I loved at the time could of helped me. But I just wasn’t ready to hear their message.
I have done much self development and education work in the past few years and I am now very capable of identifying abusive men in early stages of dating. But I still ensure I am listening to those around me. We can often see a situation more clearly from the outside, and this is worth remembering in the moments where we might feel we want to reject what’s being told to us in favour of what our heart might think it needs.
Love shouldn't feel like something to survive. You deserve love of the greatest kind, I promise you.
"Do I feel like I’m being myself? Am I putting on an act of any kind?"
I think it is fair to say that we all adapt somewhat around certain friends and family. Different people bring out different sides of us, and certain situations will contribute to how we behave at any one time. Which is a wonderfully positive part of life!
But there is a difference between this, and trying to be someone we are not. If you feel yourself trying to be someone other than yourself in order to satisfy a significant person, then this is not something to ignore. In the later years of my abusive relationship experience I very often would pretend to be interested in one thing or another, or to be ‘OK’ with something I really wasn’t, just to appease my abuser. It became my coping mechanism, and in doing so I was losing sight of who I really had been in the first place. It wasn’t normal, it isn’t acceptable, and it wouldn’t happen if the situation was one that was healthy.
If your friends and family are noticing changes in your behaviour also, whether it's around this person or in a general sense, then this is worth listening to also. The key to abuse is manipulation. Manipulation is intrinsically how it abuse cultivates itself, and how it thrives. Hear your loved ones, and your own voice. Take a moment to hear what they might be telling you.
Be yourself. All of yourself. Without the need for permission.
"Is this person contributing equally to my life in the same way I am to theirs?"
I am a 'head over heels, do anything for you, write you letters, pick you up from work, and make you a sandwich at 2am' kind of person! I am more than happy to give generously, even if it isn’t always quite matched in return. This applies in my friendships, my work, and my relationships. But sometimes there comes a moment when you might start to realise that things have become imbalanced.
You might start to realise that you are routinely providing support of many kinds to this person, but that you are continually neglected the other way. It could be as simple as the fact that you feel you are always making more effort for a friend than they ever think to do for you.
You might be feeling that you are being financially manipulated to fund the other person. Abuse comes in many forms, which often don't fit typical expectation of what it can manifest itself as.
In a sexual context, it can feel very uncomfortable to realise that your role within the situation is always to please the other person, without thought for your care or needs. It’s important to approach the way you might be feeling with absolute validation for yourself. If you are feeling a certain way, and it is upsetting you, then that feeling needs examining.
Your voice is uniquely you. And it’s important to the world. Don’t let it fall silent.
Readers, thank-you for sharing in this article with me. It is the first time that I have created a research based structured article of this kind, to be used as a tool, and I'm so glad to have been able to do so with so much support.
I will reiterate that my cyber door is always open. You are welcome to e-mail me at anytime, or to reach out across social media to me. Furthermore, if any of the issues or concepts raised within this article have helped you to understand you might currently be in a situation of abuse then please do contact a professional body who can support you from this point. I encourage you, and I believe in you fully.
There is so much love in this world! You deserve the very best of it. Don't allow less than absolute freedom in your life, no matter what happens. Or who walks in or out.
# L I B E R T É