This isn’t Love: Gaslighting & The Emotional Hostage

It happened again: the nightmare that my ex-boyfriend is holding me hostage. Although he never physically held me against my will, he wouldn’t let me go emotionally. Nearly five years after our relationship ended and I am still mending my scars. I try not to talk about it much publicly, because it’s really nobody else’s business. But I can’t keep quiet about this when other women are experiencing similar pain. Mutual friends that he and I shared don’t even know what really happened, but it seems like they still took his side. He tried to make me out to be a liar, but right now I’m going to share my reality. The honest-to-God truth is I was in an abusive relationship and I’m still trying to heal.

Abuse comes in so many different forms, unfortunately many people seem to only think that one form matters: physical abuse. They ask “Did he hit you? Did he touch you? Did he hurt you?” No he didn’t hit me. No he didn’t touch me. Yes he did hurt me emotionally, psychologically, and financially. Because people see no signs of assault they believe you’re making the whole thing up. And that’s exactly how my ex treated me, like our abusive relationship was a figment of my imagination. He gaslit me.

If you’re not familiar with the term, gaslighting is defined as manipulating (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. My ex-boyfriend would say cruel things to me and within moments completely contradict himself. When I would call him out, he would reply with “But why would I say that if I love you? ” The man would do or say something to belittle me and then act as if I was the crazy one. He would take and take and take, and then show an ounce of kindness as if to erase all the ill will.

To prove to myself that I wasn’t losing my mind, I started recording our arguments. Although I’ve written about this before for another online magazine, I’ll give you quick highlights of what my ex said:

I don’t have to sit here and try to micromanage your life. I never did that shit…
But you know what, you need it. If I did it that way from the jump, this shit woulda been way different. But you don’t like being talked to like that.
You met the best motherfucker in your life in the past five years and one day you’re going to understand that.

I couldn’t even bring myself to re-listen to these recordings for the sake of this piece (thank goodness I’d taken thorough notes). His voice is too haunting. My pain is too real. At one point he grabbed me to hug me and apologized saying that he loved me. How could someone who claims to love me want to hurt me so damn much?

How…because it isn’t love. He wanted to own me. He tried to alienate me from people I love, check my phone constantly to see who I was talking to, and tried to stop me from having my own money all to control me. This man even went as far to say that he wasn’t attracted to me because he felt like with my modeling career I was on display for everyone else. Funny thing is: he refused to let me go and let anyone else have me. I didn’t feel love. As soon as I recognized my own power, he tried to shut it down with physical force (and damaged property) which ultimately allowed me to get a restraining order. It wasn’t until I was sitting in the courtroom reading through pamphlets about help for victims of abuse that I realized I was a victim too.

Even years after our relationship ended, he still has a hold of me but it’s not for the reasons you may think. I’m not a sucker for punishment. I’m not weak. I am a strong woman who comes from a long line of strong women, and somehow I was overpowered. Before I can move on and forgive my ex for the pain he inflicted, I must forgive myself. Even though I was not the perpetrator somehow I feel at fault for my pain. Did I let my guard down and leave myself open for the abuse? No. What I did was try and be there for the one who claimed to love me. Ultimately it was the love for myself that got me through to where I am now. And in the end it is that same self love that will allow these nightmares to stop and these wounds to heal.

If you or someone you know is an abusive relationship, please check out One Love Foundation, Beverly Gooden’s campaign #WhyIStayed, or contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

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  1. Nikia, i follow u till the beginning thanks to Melody Ehsani. And what do you explain in this post, it’s clear for me. I was in the same situation and during a long time, i lost my confidence because of this abusive relationship. Nowadays, i’ve got difficulties to be proud of me, to be confident. But my aim is to blossom and i work on it. Thanks to express yourself, thanks to encourage our community. Blessed Nikia! Support from Paris IG: katiaangela (private) or ksaccessorize (blog)

  2. Wow. I’m going to share this testimony on twitter if that’s ok. The more people, men and women, who might can see that they are actually being abused, the faster they can get out from underneath it, if at all possible. All things are possible. There was a TV commercial here in UK to help young people recognise if they were actually being an abuser. Once you see it for what it is, that’s the first step. I’m glad it’s over for you, and never again. Thank you for sharing. I know this will help other people.

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