Dear Readers - The following's an important cautionary tale:
I wrote you earlier about a problem with my roommates while living abroad for graduate school. You had good advice and recognized underlying issues with one roommate, "X," who'd turned from a good friend (I thought) into a domineering dictator.
Another reader wrote advice that I let people in my life know what was happening as someone may eventually need to get me out of the situation. This is exactly what happened.
Things got worse in the house with "X" and our other roommate "Y" forming an alliance against me, including a screaming rant at me from both one evening.
Due to school and finances, I couldn't move out for several months, but I purposefully made my presence in the house as small as possible. I ate in my room, washed my dishes immediately, did my laundry efficiently, and didn't leave ANYTHING in the bathroom.
Some of my dishes were broken, my food eaten, etc. "X," the leader of this pair, tracked down several mutual acquaintances and told them I was crazy and doing drugs (never true). Finally, after a number of verbally abusive encounters (including "X's" grandmother present, yelling attacks on my physical person up the stairs to me), the school term ended. I moved out while they were at work, without their knowledge, thanks to the help and generosity of a very good friend.
Ellie, I want people to know that abuse doesn't just look like violence and it doesn't just happen in romantic/family relationships. Further, it can happen to anyone.
I'm not easily pushed around, but I did what was necessary to keep the peace while I had to continue to live there, and finish my education.
People need to understand that bullies are in every walk of life and when you're a target, it doesn't mean you've done something wrong or that you deserve that treatment.
I spent a lot of time and energy bending over backwards to make no ripples and keep these people from going off at me again, but these are futile efforts when someone locks their sights on you.
Finally, it's important to look for warning signs. In retrospect, I can see a number of things that should've been red flags as to how quickly "X" could turn.
I'm an intelligent, strong, young woman at 23 working on a post-graduate degree and I still found myself in this situation, though I didn't think I'd ever be the victim like this.
In many ways, mental and emotional abuse is more difficult to recognize than physical abuse... and in some ways more difficult to counter, as there's little evidence beyond your words (I ultimately took to covertly recording every conversation).
What I thought was a good friendship was someone taking advantage, and I now see the number of times I was a friend and he was not. I know I'm not to blame and I didn't ask for the abuse, but I sure know what to look for, from now on.
I hope that my story can help others look more closely at the relationships in their lives to sort the healthy from the destructive.
Moved Out and Moving On
Many thanks for sharing this difficult personal experience, and your eventual surmounting of it. With readers from across the globe, living in a broad range of situations, many of different ages and circumstances could potentially find themselves targets of such initially subtle, then increasingly oppressive, abuse.
My husband of ten years is a dream spouse, but my mother disagrees. Though once close, I've realized she raised me with much that wasn't normal.
Almost every argument she and I have, she ends up disliking my husband, though he did nothing wrong. After not speaking with her, I can't resume a relationship with my husband not welcomed. It's not fun for him to sit in a car while I take our child up for a visit.
Should I cut her out of our life? I'm not inviting her to my child's birthday because she said she wouldn't come to our house again. And she refuses counselling.
It's about you, not your husband. She's jealous of your relationship with him, since clearly she never had, nor gave, the respect and love that you and your spouse enjoy. The only hope for a relationship is mother-daughter counselling together.
Tip of the day:
If experiencing escalating abuse, don't blame yourself; make a safe plan to leave.