Hanging up

How to move on from emotional abuse.

Illustration: Emily Flake

Ask anyone who has gone through a painful breakup (or worse, a painful relationship) whether their significant other “affected their mental health,” and you’ll get a withering stare worthy of a teenager dismissing his parents’ ineffable uncoolness. Duh.

No one in the history of the world has been in love without some downs, but there’s a huge difference between some minor turmoil and then those relationships—you know exactly which ones I’m talking about—that cause serious mental distress.

Good relationships shouldn’t consistently make you cry. That this is so obvious belies the fact that people—smart people!—continue to stumble into partnerships that are, yes, just say it, emotionally abusive. Rare is the person who hasn’t been treated like total shit by someone—and then, inexplicably, gone back for more!

I spent the majority of the last six months being jerked back and forth in a pretty dysfunctional relationship. This guy broke up with me no less than four times, undermined my self-confidence, fooled around with one of my friends, said I would “never get anyone better” and generally made me feel like crap. Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me 17 times? Shame on me.

I still spent Christmas crying myself to sleep.

“I also cried myself to sleep on Christmas Eve,” writes reader Aja, “These self-centered, lying boys do not deserve women like us who give the relationship our all. Now that it’s a new year, I refuse to let anyone treat me like my ex did. We all deserve someone who doesn’t play games and would do anything for us, like we would for them. Trust me, once you meet someone new, you’ll think back on it all and realize that he wasn’t worth your tears.”

And then I found this e-mail in my in-box from a woman named Stephanie, and I vowed to reread it every day until I felt better.

YOU MUST WALK AWAY from this boy.


He will NEVER give you the time or attention you deserve.

Telling him your feelings will not give you closure. He KNOWS your feelings. He knows you care about him as a friend, he knows you will be there for him, he knows you are a good girl.

He is NOT interested in returning this. If he was, he would. Every day.

This man is NOT your friend. You have given yourself to him, you have reached out with kindness. He has not returned one-tenth of your energy.


If you see him on the street, DO NOT act like you guys are cool. You are NOT cool. It’s not cool how he’s treated you. DO NOT fool yourself.

Be good to yourself: Delete his number. Recognize this as a learning experience. This man has had 800 opportunities to reach out to you. He hasn’t.


Damn straight.

E-mail her at julia@timeoutny.com.

See previous Julia Alsion on Dating