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It happened, and I’m stronger because of it.

Kara and I wanted to show how emotionally manipulative partners in relationships control their partners similar to how puppeteers maneuver marionettes.

Kara and I wanted to show how emotionally manipulative partners in relationships control their partners similar to how puppeteers maneuver marionettes.

Kara Rieger

Kara and I wanted to show how emotionally manipulative partners in relationships control their partners similar to how puppeteers maneuver marionettes.

Kara Rieger

Kara Rieger

Kara and I wanted to show how emotionally manipulative partners in relationships control their partners similar to how puppeteers maneuver marionettes.

It happened, and I’m stronger because of it.

March 25, 2019

There came a point where whenever he’d embrace me, I’d grow tense. I never knew if he’d try to force me to do something I didn’t want to do. When I was in his arms, I felt trapped. I anticipated his next attempt to pressure me or move my hand for me. I was always on guard.  

I remember knowing I had to end the relationship. I couldn’t keep reassuring myself everything was okay. I couldn’t stand the pressure to do things I didn’t want to do anymore. I didn’t want to continue trying to guilt myself into believing I was wrong for suspecting something was off. And even though the relationship ended, I didn’t know how to feel.

After it ended, I unconsciously carried around this burden for awhile. At times I didn’t even know the situation was still weighing on me, but when I began pursuing another love interest the doubt hit me hard. I remember worrying I’d have to encounter the same unwanted emotional stress again, and I was afraid. I didn’t know what exactly was holding me back,  but I was wary of starting another relationship. I was wary of throwing myself back into a position of vulnerability.

 

It’s crazy, thinking that of all places, you’d receive a life-changing message on Instagram but that’s exactly what happened to me. A girl who followed me, who I didn’t know, sent me a paragraph text and in it was his name. She said she’d like to talk and mentioned the #MeToo movement. And that’s when the feelings and the nightmares came rushing back. I agreed to meet with her to discuss.

We met at the mall. Here I was face-to-face with a person I’d never talked to before, but I already felt I could relate to. She seemed nervous, so I told my story first. She stopped me several times because I was invalidating my own experience. I would, as I spoke to her, describe a moment and say “but nothing ever really happened” and shove away reality. Writing it off like it wasn’t a big deal. I defended him. I said I was the one in the wrong and speaking with her made me realize he was the one at fault.

Hearing a story similar to mine, I admired the girl’s confidence as she said what happened to her. She handled her situation with strength and wasn’t afraid to share about it. But the most defining factor of her story was that she knew what happened to her and wouldn’t let anyone tell her she was wrong.

Talking with her and thinking back, I realized never allowed myself to grasp the severity of the issue on my own. It took horrible looks and remarks from my closest friends when I told them about my interactions with him, for me to realize how serious my problems were. At the time, I was blinded by a feeling of a false connection. I didn’t suspect that someone who claimed they loved me would ever subject me to such turmoil.

She told me about her story with full details right off the bat. When I told mine, I censored my experience. I didn’t realize how much telling every detail does to the validation of the act in your own mind. But once I told someone, I felt a sense of liberation. I’d told someone and they guided me back to the truth: the pressure I experienced was not part of a healthy relationship.

I was pressured to perform sexual acts even when I said no, and that is not acceptable. But now I know if it happened again, I’d pay attention to that initial instinct that something isn’t right. I’ve experienced what it’s like to freeze because you don’t know what to do. And I’ll never say I wanted to experience the pressure that I did, but I will say that it happened and that I will not stand for it again. It happened, and I’m stronger because of it.

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