Abuse Without the Bruise: How To Spot An Abusive Relationship

I am an extremely lucky, privileged, and fortunate girl. On January 22, I got to board a plane with a one-way ticket to Amman, Jordan. I finally got to visit the country where I could apply my studies of Arabic and Islamic cultures. In this time, I’d drastically improve my Arabic, immerse myself in culture, and fall in love.

Within my first few weeks, I fell in love over and over and over again. I fell in love with the food (no falafel can beat Jordanian falafel), the language, and the sights of the city. I fell in love with my host family. And thanks to some Tinder magic, I fell head over heels for this beautiful Jordanian man.

But he had one major flaw– he is in the Jordanian army. Even worse, he specializes in counter terrorism. A month into dating, he was deployed with no return date in sight. Sad and lonely, I ended up spending time at my favorite bar, where my friend, T worked. It started innocently enough– he flirted and I ignored it. A month passed without word from the soldier. Then a week later, and a night involving five tequila shots… I found myself kissing T.

Those next four months after that night were some of the most emotionally draining months of my life. I saw my fairytale descend into my own personal nightmare. From the get-go, there were major red flags, starting with how he demanded I spend all my time with him and his friends– and that was just the beginning.

Looking back, it’s remarkably easy to see that T is an emotionally abusive, manipulative, and harmful man. I only wish I could have seen that sooner and escaped earlier. Unfortunately, I only wanted to see the good side of things and I was unwillingly to stare the truth in the face.

I wish I could have left so much earlier than I did. If I could go back in time, I never would have kissed him that night and I am so grateful I was able to remove myself from the nightmare.

I just wish I had seen the warning signs sooner:

He guilt tripped me and emotionally manipulated me.

He would frequently guilt trip me into spending time with him and abandoning my friends. Phrases like: “If you really love me, you’ll hang out with me. If you don’t spend time with me, then I know you don’t really care about me. I don’t get why you don’t want to be with me all the time when that’s how you show love.” His narratives made me feel trapped as he continually urged me to blow of my responsibilities in order to be with him.

Extreme paranoia.

He was jealous. Of everyone. He doesn’t trust anyone, even his friends or my friends. Every photo with a man lead to an inquisition. Any conversation with man lead to a detailed account of how me and this guy are just friends and nothing is happening.

He knew best.

At the grocery store, when I went out, anywhere. He did not trust me to make decisions for my life. He set how much I was allowed to drink. He set the plans for the day. My alcohol intake was constantly monitored and I was barely allowed to do anything alone. Any desire for some alone time was swiftly met with accusations of abandonment or infidelity.

He worked to separate me from my friends and family.

He surrounded me with only his social circle and ensured I was solely dependent on him and his world. I had no freedom.

He threatened to hurt himself if I did not do what he wanted.

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A common saying was, “Rashi, I’ll go crazy if you’re not there,” or “Rashi, I’ll hurt myself you leave me.”

However, I should have just trusted that I felt uncomfortable. I felt suffocated, isolated, abandoned, and dependent on someone. I should have known that I could have always left. I still get nightmares and flashbacks of hiding in the bathroom. I still see his bloodshot eyes in my sleep. I still feel that fear and crippling anxiety as I try to relax and the end of the day. I’m still healing, but I can always find peace of mind with the fact that I found the strength to leave.

The day I broke up with T he told me that he would go and hurt himself if I broke up with him. That he would get drunk and get into a fight, and it would be my fault. Later that night, he forced his way into my apartment and hurled insults at me for hours. He refused to leave until I called the police on him. According to him, his behavior was all my fault because I would not be with him.

I recognize that I am extremely lucky that I got out of this relationship and that I got out of it relatively unscathed. The CDC reports that more than half of female homicide victims were killed in connection to intimate partner violence. Two weeks after we broke up, I was able to board a plane with a one way ticket home.

I am an extremely privileged, lucky young woman because I got out. With the support of my parents and friends, I was able to get rid of the most destructive person in my life. I have a mother who would move heaven and earth to keep me safe. I have a support network who will always pick up the phone, no matter what time I call. I have access to therapists and self-care and love. I have safety in the fact that my abuser is an ocean and a visa process away.

Just know that nothing and no one has to be permanent. There is always a way out. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can always contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline for help.


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