Was I Abused? Or Was I the Abuser?

My relationship with my ex-boyfriend was passionate and tumultuous. We fought often, and sometimes those arguments would get physical. Without hesitation I will say that this relationship was borderline abusive. He was definitely manipulative and emotionally abusive towards me, but I can’t say that I was a victim of abuse. I wasn’t innocent, my own behaviour was toxic and borderline abusive.

When it came to physical violence, yes, he would hit me. But that usually happened after I hit him, I was often the one provoking the violence. Even in the rare instances that he initiated the violence, I wasn’t an innocent victim, I would provoke him – sometimes subconsciously, sometimes on purpose.
Our relationship was toxic, we both acted like terrible people and there is no excuse for the way we treated each other.

It seems to me that almost all cases of domestic violence are placed into a neat little box – there is a victim and an abuser. However, I don’t think real life is that simple… I honestly believe that most cases of domestic violence involve abusive behaviour from both parties. Now, this doesn’t excuse abusive behaviour, especially not physical abuse, but I just hate how simply it is always put.
Like everything else in life, violence and abuse in a relationship works in shades of gray.

Let’s look at some examples from my relationship with my ex.
I was invited out to a friends house for a get together, I told him I would be home around midnight. This friend lived about an hour away from my house, I was having a good time and people stayed out later than I had anticipated, at 11:45 I started saying my goodbyes as I figured I should start heading home, I had a long drive ahead of me and I expect people to be true to their word. If I was home by 1am I figured that was close enough to around midnight.
I was in my car ready to start going home at two minutes past midnight, I pulled out my phone to text my boyfriend that I was on my way home. Just as I did so I received a passive-aggressive text from him saying, “I guess you aren’t going to be home by midnight.”
His message was shitty, and it’s aim was to make me feel bad for being out with friends while he was home alone. However, I should have messaged him earlier stating that I was going to stay a bit longer than I anticipated. In my relationship with my husband, we would be able to talk about this and move on relatively quickly, because we would both understand the others perspective.

A second example of my ex-boyfriends emotionally manipulative behaviour.
I woke up in a great mood, on a beautiful day, we decided to go up to the mountains and go on a popular hike. On the drive up, he got cut off on a narrow road – frustrating? Yes, definitely. However, he proceeded to be in a bad mood for the rest of the day and I had to walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting him further.
(This was actually the straw that broke the camels back and made me break up with him a few days later.)

Now, for an example that isn’t quite as clear.
We were having a disagreement (over what is irrelevant). Things escalated, he expressed his opinion and I disagreed. He asked to be left alone so he could process the information we were talking about and see if he could reconcile my thoughts with his feelings. I disregarded his request and continued to talk at him and tell him why he was wrong.
He tried to walk away. I followed him. He asked for space. I said no.
This went on for some time…. until he eventually broke and pushed me away from him. I took exception to him pushing me and I slapped him. From there, the fight was on… It was ugly.
Who is being abusive here? The answer… both of us!

It was shitty of me not to respect his request for time and space. At the time, I was too emotionally immature to give it to him, because time and space is the last thing I want when I am upset. My husband also often needs time and space to process things. I give it to him when he needs it, but it feels like it is killing me! I still struggle with it, but I understand and accept that his needs are valid even though they are different than mine.
He shouldn’t have pushed me, but honestly, I think that is a pretty normal reaction given the situation. He tried to get space… he tried to remove himself from the situation. He tried.

I wonder how often something similar to the above scenario plays out and the woman is simply labelled the victim, and the man the abuser. Especially in situations where there is a size/skill differential. I can hold my own in a fight, so when things got physical, I wasn’t overpowered and beaten easily.
Sometimes, I get accused of victim blaming. I’m not, no one should be subject to abuse…. but “victims” need to look at their own actions and see if they influenced the behaviour. Abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum…

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