"Was this relationship normal?"

Question

I have been struggling to come to terms with a relationship that ended 7 months ago. It lasted for 2 years and looking back I can't tell if the relationship was just unhealthy or if there was some very minor abuse going on.Everyone around us thought my partner was perfect, treating me with respect, and being " the perfect gentleman". They would by me food all the time, do romantic things, let me choose what we did for dates, did appear to get jealous when I hung out with guys. The thing is though that they put me on a pedestal which I hated. They told me I had no faults, that I was perfect, and this made me feel like a horrible person when ever I needed to talk to him about toning down certain things or when I complained about something they did( I will get to that). not only that, they refused to tell me when I was making them do something they didn't like.The other thing they did was they seemed to not respect me at all. They would constantly cling to me at lunch which made me feel super uncomfortable. I had asked them to stop multiple times, telling them that I simply don't like a lot of physical contact, and they would stop for few days then it started up again in a week or so. eventually I just got tired of asking them to stop, especially after one time they argued that they were just someone who loved to cuddle and it was just" who they were". When lunch was over and I went to leave they would grab my hand and not drag but would try to get me over to the side and ask me if they could get a kiss. If I said no on a certain day they would pout and beg until I either said fine or said no for.. maybe the 5th time? Anyways, the first few months they just hugged me and left after that and respected my no but, after a while if I was firm on my no they would just kiss me on the forehead even though I asked them not to kiss me. They also bought me food ALL the time. at first it was here and there, which I was alright with since I tend to forget lunch, but then he started doing it to the point of where if I had money and was going to get something he would race me to the line to be first so THEY could pay. If I ever asked them to grab them something they refused to take my money and if I put it in their bag or jacket secretly they would always give it back. I started keeping track of the money I owed them on my laptop and when They found out, they tried to delete it and I had to shut down my laptop to keep them from changing it. At the movies I tried to pay for popcorn and I had my cash out, and they forcefully pushed my hand away in order to pay.If I got a present, theirs had to be worth more or more expensive. everyone told me that it was sweet and I should just let them, but it really bothered me, and I had told them to stop and they wouldn't. Eventually they just ran me down to the point where I didn't care and relied on them for food at lunchI know a lot of this sounds petty, but it has been really bothering me and I don't know how to really process the relationship. It was so hard to end it too, I had wanted to end it for over a year but every time I was with them all of these problems seemed to vanish and disappear and I was happy. when I wasn't though everything felt wrong and off. I felt so guilty in the end for wanting to break up, everyone around me always talked about how they would love to have a partner like mine, how sweet they were, how great we were as a couple, but I wanted to yell at them that they could have my partner because what they were doing wasn't making me happy at all, in fact it was irritating me a lot.I have been looking to see if this relationship had some abusive characteristics because I just have these weird residual feelings that aren't going away. I feel like I am never gonna have it better then with them, that I was wrong, that all of this was normal and that this is how relationships are gonna be normally. At the same time though I feel like I'm not allowed to complain, because other people have had worse relationships and mine was good, they treated me like a gem and all I had to do was put up with a few things. Am I allowed to complain? was this relationship normal? was it abusive or unhealthy? please help

Answer from counsellor

Thank you for reaching out to talk about this. It sounds like you’ve been trying to work through your thoughts around this relationship for a while now, and the fact that these ‘residual feelings’ aren’t leaving has you wondering about if there was something more serious (like abuse) going on in the relationship while you were together. How do you feel things would be different for you and your process of working through all of this if you could label what you experienced as abuse, I wonder? Do you feel it would change how you’re able to process or reflect on the relationship? Moving On In general, emotionally moving on from relationships can be difficult and it can take time. Being involved with someone (especially for a period of as long as 2 years) leaves an impact on a person, and relationships like that can influence our growth as a person and our personal story. People don’t necessarily entirely ‘move on’ from their relationships, whether romantic or friendships. There are parts you will remember, parts that will impact future relationships in various ways (including in positive ways – how have you grown as a person, having been through this relationships? What have you learned about what you want or need in future relationships?) I’m not saying this to make you feel that you will never move past this relationship or to make you feel upset or bad in anyway (and I truly hope it isn’t!) but rather to check in around your expectations – if your expectation is that you will completely forget and put this relationship behind you, then you might be disappointed and might need to manage your expectations. The memory will get fainter and will come up less frequently, yes, but it might not entirely go away. Abusive and Unhealthy Relationships The main question you asked about was “Was my last relationship abusive or was it just unhealthy?” To answer that I’d like to talk about a few of the ‘flags’ that can exist and indicate an abusive relationship: - Physical violence or abuse such as hitting, spitting, hair pulling, pushing, or destroying your things when they are angry. - Being overly controlling and telling you things like what to do, what to wear, who to hang out with, checking on you all the time, going through your email or social media account without permission, using threats (for example to harm you or themselves) to make you do or say certain things. - Using pressure or ignoring consent to do things you don’t want to do or aren’t ready to do including sexual activity, kissing, and using drugs/alcohol. They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. - Verbal or emotional abuse such as intentionally putting you down, humiliating you in front of others, calling you names, threatening you. There are other things that aren’t in this list that can also indicate an abusive relationship, but based on this list I wonder what you think about your question… Does what you’ve experienced sound like any of this? When it comes to labelling actions as abusive one of the most important things is how you feel. One person might experience one of these characteristics and label their experience abuse; another person might feel they need to experience a handful of things to label it abuse. The truth is there is no comprehensive checklist you need to complete to be 'allowed' to label your experience as abuse. If you feel it was manipulative, coercive or abusive you have the right to label it as such for yourself. Healthy Relationships I know I asked this earlier but I really want to encourage you to reflect on it: What do you think you can take from this relationship that you can use in future relationships? What have you learned that you do and don’t want in a partner and what will indicate for you when a relationship is like that? What do you want from a healthy relationship and what would that look like for you? I want to encourage you to take some time to ask yourself these questions and to truly think about the answers. At Kids Help Phone we promote the idea that the basic signs of a healthy relationship are trust, honesty, communication, respect, equality, being yourself, support and safety. To learn more about these things (and if you haven’t checked it out already) you might find our “Healthy Relationships” section useful: kidshelpphone.ca/Teens/InfoBooth/Dating/healthy-relationships.aspx. I hope you find this response useful, and I really hope it helps to answer your questions. You are always allowed to vent and question and reflect on experiences you’ve had, and if you ever need support in those times remember that we are always just a click or phone call away (1-800-668-6868).