Hi, Carolyn: I was in a relationship from age 24 to 36. I’m now over 60. The relationship was abusive, but subtly so — or so it seemed to me. Lots of gaslighting, lots of picking fights at dinner (until it got to the point I’d lost 20 pounds), lots of, “Why aren’t you like this?” or, “When you did X, were you being obtuse or were you just being mean?” Even things like waking me in the middle of the night to discuss some point about my personality or actions that offended or hurt them, when they knew I struggled to sleep.
This person had been a mentor first, and my gratitude combined with an ever-disappearing sense of self kept me with them far too long. I finally did get out by listening to my friends who claimed the relationship was abusive, getting a therapist, going on antidepressants and making a pact with myself not to have any contact with this person again.
Although they tried to pull me back in, I never gave any response: gifts went into the dumpster unopened, letters were shredded unread and I changed my phone number. For the past 15 years, I have heard nothing and not even spotted them in public (we still live in the same town). I have been married for 20 years to a loving spouse. I am truly as happy as I’ve ever been in my life.