Should abusive families stay in your heart

Yes, one can get PTSD from staying in an emotionally abusive relationship

I wanted to go, but I didn't know how….

Please stop. Just stop asking why a woman is so stupid and weak if she stays in an abusive relationship. There is no answer that you would understand.

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Your judgment will only put more abused women to shame. It puts women like me to shame.

There have been no attacks on my first date with my ex-husband. This is not usually how abusive marriages start. In fact, my first date was probably pretty similar to yours: he was charming, he took care of me, and he flattered me.

Of course, the warning signs were there at the beginning of my relationship. But I was young and naive, probably like you at the beginning of your relationship.

Except that my marriage has taken a different turn than yours ...

Emotional abuse in a relationship takes time. It runs slowly and methodically and incessantly, like a leaky kitchen faucet.

It starts off like a tiny drop that you don't even notice - a clumsy remark that is "just a joke". I was told I was too sensitive and the remark wasn't a big deal. It seemed so small and insignificant at the time. I am probably a little too sensitive.

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Drip, drip.

I notice the drop, but it's not a big deal. A public joke made at my expense is just my partner going through the usual party life. If he asks why I'm wearing this dress or who I'm going with, it just means that he loves me and cares about me.

If he tells me he doesn't like my new girlfriend, I agree. Yes, I see how opinionated she can be. My husband is more important than a friend, so I withdraw and don't continue the friendship.

Drip. Drip.

The drop gets annoying, but you don't sell your house just because a tap is leaking.

If a playful push was a little more than playful, I tell myself that he didn't really mean it. He forgets that he is stronger than me. If I present him with another lie, he'll tell me I'm crazy not to believe him.

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Maybe I'm crazy ... I'm starting to feel a little crazy.

I'm starting to even out the drops in my marriage. I will be better. I will be a better woman. I make sure the house is clean and the food is always prepared.

And if he doesn't even come home to eat, I'll wrap it up for him and keep it warm in the oven.

One night when I'm pissed off, I feed the dog his food before he gets home. After midnight when he shows up, I don't feel so complacent anymore. I get out of bed quickly and go to the kitchen when he yells at me to make him dinner.

Waking me up from sleep becomes a regular occurrence. I no longer allow myself a deep, restful sleep. I always listen and wait.

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In the morning I'll keep the kids quiet so they don't wake Papa. We all start walking around him on eggshells.

Drip. Drip.

The drop is now flowing pretty strongly. I'm scared to put a bucket under it and see how much water I'm really losing. Denial sets in.

If I hadn't said what I did, he wouldn't have gotten so mad. It's my fault, I just have to be quiet. I should know better than confronting him when he drinks.

He's right - I really am an ungrateful slut. He goes to work every day so I can stay with the kids. Of course, he needs time to himself every day on the way home from work.

On the rare occasion that I meet up with my friends, I rush home before him. I never ask him to take care of the children so that I can do something in the evening. I am not allowed to bother him.

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We're trying marriage counseling. While neither of us is completely open about the reasons we are there, the advisors are open to their concerns.

We never spend more than one session with an advisor.

Drip. Drip.

I work so hard to be the perfect woman and have the perfect family that I don't take the time to notice water leaking on the floor.

I know what will do better here. I will be really active outside of the house, but of course I will still take care of everything in the house and never burden him. And I will never dare ask for help.

I work very hard to bring the front lines to a perfectly happy family. My children are involved in various activities, which of course I organize alone and for which I am responsible.

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I've started giving subtle pointers to the other mothers, but when they confront me, I firmly deny it. No, everything is great, I insist. I refer to all of the happy family photos that I post on Facebook.

I'm not sure what scares me more: the fear that others will find out my secret, or that my husband will find out that I was telling the truth about our marriage. I know that I'm scared of him now.

Drip. Drip.

And one day I wake up and find that the house is flooded. My head is under water. I'm afraid.

I also see fear in my children's eyes. Oh dear god what have i done How did we get here? Who have i become

The night he throws his cell phone at me and just misses my head, I want to pack the kids in the car and leave. That evening at the dining table when he gets up and throws a fork at me in front of the children, I want to go.

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Where should i go? And if I go somewhere what will I do then? How can I afford to live alone?

He's right - I have no way of surviving on my own. I need his money.

"What, do you want to go and whore around?" He yells at me. "I always knew you were a bitch."

He's a master of distraction. His actions are no longer the focus; I'm the one on trial now.

I'm no longer the woman I was on our first date. I have become anxious and weak in his presence. I feel defeat. I chose this man and gave birth to these children. It's my fault.

With every breath it is my duty to protect these children and to manage my life. It's the only life I've known for 20 years. Right now I don't know how to do anything else.

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I remain.

Drip. Drip.

The tide continues. My head shakes a second time.

On a typical aggressive evening, I say enough is enough and I decide to fight back. But even in his drunken stumbling, he's stronger than me.

I see the look in his eyes as he hovers over me. He is biologically capable of killing. That look in his eyes scares me.

"Go on and get out of here," he grins in front of me. "But the children stay here."

My retreat that night is all it takes to turn the tap all the way and force myself to step on the water, if not for my life, then at least for my sanity.

Despite my best attempts, my secret has been revealed. I can't just get up and leave like well-meaning friends tell me. It's not that easy.

I have no money. In fact, he found my secret bank account, where I had saved money for almost a year. I thought I was being so careful that no bank records would come into the house. He must have cracked my email.

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I should have known better. He always kept an eye on me. He hated when I accused him of spying on me, so I let him spy.

He made me so guilty and ashamed when I turned my secret savings over to him. I wonder what he did with the money.

I know it wasn't used for children's needs. I suppose he drank, played, or used it to impress another woman.

I am stuck. I remain.

Drip. Drip.

Dear God, please don't let me go down a third time. My family can no longer be saved, but please save me and my children.

…..

I am one of the lucky ones. I am no longer in the marriage, but my scars are deep.

Abuse doesn't always manifest as a black eye or a bloody sore. The effects of mental abuse are just as damaging.

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I entered counseling and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The psychological abuse kept me anxious, the depression and anxiety left me unable to take the steps necessary to get out.

Although I initially thought PTSD was a bit extreme, it has been almost three years and certain sounds or situations still trigger difficult memories for me.

One day when my male boss was angry and yelled at the staff, I became physically ill. Feeling like I was back to where I was years ago, I sat and crouched on the garage floor trying to calm the anger of a man towering over me.

I fear that not only did my daughters see a man abuse a woman, but that my son set a bad example of what it means to be a real man.

I stayed for my children. Well, I blame myself for the impact staying could have on them.

Why did i stay I stayed because I was isolated; I was financially dependent on him; I was deprived of sleep; I was told and believed that I was worthless; I was exhausted because I was constantly on the lookout for the next attack.

I stayed because I was more afraid to leave ...