What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by Misty. I want you to know that it didn’t start out as abuse. Let’s get real for a moment, shall we? Everyone puts their best foot forward when you begin to date someone. It is a gradual series of increasing abusive behavior. And in my specific case, I was already deep in love by the time the relationship took a violent turn. I want you to know that even in abusive relationships, there are often many good times. And those are the times that keep us there, or help us decide to go back. I want you to know that by the time the violence began for me, I had already been stripped of all self esteem, self worth and dignity. It was a slow, but steady increase in removing any love for myself that I had ever had. I had worse than low self-esteem; I had no opinion of myself at all. I want you to know that what I needed was not judgment, but someone to confide in. Not incessant questioning, but someone to listen. Not someone to tell me what I should do, but someone to tell me that they would help me when I was ready to accept it. I want you to know that it’s not as easy as “just leaving”. It’s not. You don’t have to understand why it’s not that easy, but it’s just not. There are so many factors that go through one’s mind when they are in this situation. And often, the thought of leaving is more terrifying than the next beating. Why you may ask? Well, I can only speak for myself. And in my case, I was terrified that when I was found, the violence would be twice as bad. I was terrified that I had no real place to go. I was terrified that leaving would mean I would have to admit to myself, and others, that I had been weak enough to allow someone to continually abuse me. And the worst of it all, I was terrified that no one would ever love me again. I want you to know that I would have rather the physical abuse, instead of the verbal and emotional abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse leaves bruises on your heart. It can leave bruises on your soul. And these bruises don’t go away in 10-14 days. These bruises can take years to heal, if at all. I want you to know that even many years later, I still have issues with someone being too close behind me. I still have moments in a store that I panic when I hear a man raise their voice. I will still flinch when someone raises their hand too quickly around me. I still have great difficulty accepting hugs from friends. I want you to know that even though he abused me, *I* had to mourn the loss of the relationship. *I* had to mourn the loss of the good times we had. That even though he gave me more than 100 stitches, *I* had to come to terms with it on my own. *I* had to make the decision to finally not go back. I want you to know that more than a decade later, I still have days when I have to remind myself that his decisions are not my fault. I have to remind myself that no matter how much I thought my love would change him, that only he can change himself. And even a decade later, I have to remind myself that it is ok to remember the good times, but to never forget the lessons learned from the bad times. I want you to know that someone can come out of a very abusive relationship and find happiness again. I want you to know that you are not doomed to repeat the situation. And lastly, I want you to know that although you may feel alone, you don’t have to be.