I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, even as a smart and successful woman

As a smart and successful woman, I never thought this would happen to me.

In 2017, I got into an emotionally abusive relationship with a romantic partner, who became involved in my business.

Photo credit: Tasha Cooney

Swept away by his grand, romantic gestures, I overlooked many obvious red flags.

Little did I know that over time, he would seem to take calculated steps to manipulate and disempower me, as he sought to take control of me and my company.

After this complicated, three year journey of heartbreak, growth, and healing, I feel a responsibility to share my story with you.

Because I know this isn’t just my story. It’s the story of millions of women who’ve been manipulated and silenced, afraid to speak their truth.

My hope is that by sharing my story, women in these situations will recognize the signs of abuse and feel less alone — and begin the process of reclaiming their personal power.

This may trigger a lot of emotions, so only read this when you’re in the right space for it.

Spring 2017

I received a huge round of applause. I was in a West Village townhouse in New York City, where I’d just finished speaking at a friend’s workshop. We were now moving into Q&A.

The attendees, sitting cross-legged on the floor, wanted to learn about how I’d built a seven-figure business. You see, five years prior, I’d started my educational training company to help inspirational entrepreneurs and experts, especially women, reach more people through the media.

This was my greatest passion: elevating the voices of people who empowered others to live their best lives and go for their biggest dreams.

During Q&A, one person’s hand immediately shot up in the air. He was lanky and geeky, with modelesque facial features. Let’s call him X.

I forget his question now, but I remember his eagerness to get my attention. After Q&A ended, he told me how much he admired my business. He offered to connect me to people to promote my next launch. After the workshop, he continued to stay in touch.

A month or so later, I was planning my five-year business anniversary party: a sunset rooftop celebration at the penthouse of The Standard Hotel. X popped into my mind. He seemed to be a big fan of my work and I thought, “I’ll add him to the guest list.”

About 80 people came to my five-year business anniversary party. The ladies wore cocktail dresses. The men wore suits.

Everyone had a blast as they sipped on champagne, while waiters came by with seafood appetizers on silver trays.

I remember taking in the sweeping, panoramic views of the city while laughing with friends and thinking, “Life is good.”

My business was successful. I had clients I loved and an incredible network of supportive friends. I felt like the sky was the limit!

Photo credit: Monika Broz

When I got home, I opened up my gifts. I was surprised to see an envelope signed by X. Inside was a $250 gift card to one of the best restaurants in New York City. I was impressed!

I sent him an email to thank him. I said I’d love to grab a meal and get to know him better.

What I thought was a business meal turned into something like a date. During dinner, X made it clear that he was interested in me.

While it was flattering, I was already convinced he was not my type.

But as we talked about personality tests (my favorite topic), I was shocked to learn that we had the exact same Myers-Briggs type: INFJ, the rarest personality in the world. Our love languages also matched perfectly.

It was exciting to meet someone just like me. Growing up introverted and shy, I never really felt like I fit in. Just before my 14th birthday, my family left Hong Kong and I was sent to a small, all-girls boarding school in Tacoma, Washington, where at times I felt totally alone.

In high school, instead of going to parties or chasing after boys, I poured myself into my school work. In particular, I was passionate about women’s studies. In my teens, I read advanced feminist texts and wrote countless papers analyzing male and female power dynamics.

Because of my academic achievement, I became high school valedictorian as well as the only person in my grade to get into an Ivy League college.

While I was successful, I always felt different and misunderstood. As a fellow INFJ, X seemed like a kindred soul. The similarities we apparently shared were uncanny!

After our dinner together, X sent me a screenshot of his Myers-Briggs test results as proof.

(Only later did I learn that he retook the personality test several times to get this matching result.)

While I pushed X away romantically, I started to find his persistence and adoration for me endearing.

One evening as I was feeling frustrated about something in my business, I let down my walls — opening up and crying on the phone with him. X listened so intently and compassionately. He offered me such thoughtful and helpful advice.

We talked for hours. I felt truly seen and understood. My heart started to open.

As X showered me with flowers, never-ending compliments and fun surprises, I started to fall for him.

He would drive me out of the city for weekend getaways, taking me to places I’d never been before. One time, he swept me away to a magical castle in Hudson River Valley with purple and yellow wildflowers. Other times, he took me to high-end restaurants where we enjoyed white wine and multi-course tasting menus.

At one point I noticed that he didn’t have many friends, but I didn’t care. I was completely head over heels for him!

I remember feeling giggly, happy, and euphoric. The intensity of our connection felt so exciting. Staring at him wistfully, I thought, “This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life.”

Fall / Winter 2017

X turned out to be my biggest fan. He joined me for work events and encouraged me to take bold moves to grow my business.

I remember him sitting at the back of a conference room, cheering me on as I got on stage to present.

Photo credit: Monika Broz

While X was my biggest cheerleader, he was also very controlling. Within the first month of dating, he was insecure and jealous about my past romantic relationships.

Three months into our relationship, I remember him complaining about how expensive my team was, threatening to leave me if I didn’t let go of certain people.

He saw my best friends and industry colleagues as “competitors,” warning me against spending time with them.

Later, he became suspicious of my male mentors and friends, suggesting that they had crushes on me and that I should keep a distance.

He would study my company’s financials and freak out, saying I was financially irresponsible and not acting like a proper CEO.

As a launch-based business, I was used to the ebbs and flows of cash flow. But this made him panic.

X stepped in to help with my business.

He told me he did this because he loved me — and because the team I was working with couldn’t be trusted. On a regular basis, he would point out things they were doing wrong.

He swore me to secrecy as he revealed a private conversation with a senior team leader of mine. He told me that she and others didn’t consider me to be a real CEO, along with other criticisms about me.

I recall him saying to me something along the lines of:

“Your team really doesn’t care about you, Selena. They bill you every month, but they don’t take any ownership.”

“They don’t have your back. They’re just looking out for each other. But I care about you and I’ve got your back. We can do this together.”

I started to become fearful and questioned who I could trust. So I let people go — and I reduced my business expenses down to the bare essentials.

Pretty soon, my bank account was overflowing with more money than ever. But I was exhausted and overwhelmed. With very little support and companionship other than X, I felt lonely and isolated.

Spring 2018

As I got ready for my biggest annual launch of the year, X criticized me incessantly.

He would complain that I was working all the time and should take time for myself. However, when I’d relax and enjoy a meal with friends he’d verbally attack me, telling me how dare I step away from work, especially when he was working around the clock for me and barely sleeping.

He took on roles in the company that I had much less expertise around. Half the time I wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing. He would find things to do, and then accuse me of taking advantage of him. He’d then say that I could never repay him for all the sacrifices he’d made for me.

While his words hurt me, I knew he was incredibly stressed. I also felt guilty that my business was the source of his stress.

I asked him to speak to me with kindness and respect, but that never worked during his moments of rage. Swallowing my feelings, I told myself I needed to be less emotional.

Yes, his words and tone were hurtful, but I felt that he loved me and was devoted to me, so I overlooked his flaws. When you’re emotionally attached to someone, it’s easy to make excuses for them.

And with so much at stake with my big annual launch, I didn’t want to rock the boat. We needed to get along. I told myself:

“I’ll deal with this later. It’s too complicated right now.”

“He’s just being dramatic. He doesn’t mean everything he’s saying.”

“I’m more mature. I’ll be the bigger person. I can take this.”

I remembered the sing-along phrase I’d hear my mom say when I was a little girl, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Summer 2018

For several months we’d been planning an epic adventure to Greece. I was so excited!

Despite the hard times I’d had with X, there had been a lot of joyful moments too. I thought this vacation would help our relationship, and I couldn’t wait to spend my birthday in Santorini!

Photo credit: Aleksandr Chaltcev

While it was a magical adventure, X was moody throughout the trip. When I was on the plane devouring the novel Crazy Rich Asians, he criticized me for not reading the real estate finance book he gave me.

When I explained that I didn’t have an interest in real estate, he told me that I was stubborn and had a bad attitude.

I remember waking up on my birthday in a quaint, white village house covered with fuchsia bougainvillea, when X asked me about the status of a webinar funnel he wanted me to build.

I couldn’t believe those were the first words out of X’s mouth on my special day! Exasperated and hurt but too tired to argue, I opened up my laptop and started writing.

You see, X pushed me to my limits and at times I hated him for it, but a part of me felt like it might be what I needed to achieve my full potential. My achilles heel was my drive for achievement and to be seen as number one — because deep down I felt like I was never enough.

Yes, X made me cry when we shot video, yelling at me when I didn’t do things perfectly. At the same time, he got me to break through years of shying away from the camera.

Yes, he infuriated me when he pushed me to secure more affiliates for my launch, but I did the work and secured 100 more partners.

Yes, I felt completely depleted after letting go of team members he felt were underperforming or too expensive, but there was no denying how much money I had in my business bank account — even as my own personal checking account dwindled. He’d insisted on limiting my personal take-home pay, as he tightly controlled my company’s finances.

In retrospect, it seemed like he was preparing my business for a sale. He refused to take a monthly retainer and ruthlessly slashed expenses, so my financials looked absolutely incredible.

I told him many times that I had zero interest in ever selling my business. I was a personal brand. My business was a unique expression of my purpose — a reflection of my heart and soul. I wanted to do things my own way, as the sole owner of the company. The last thing I ever wanted was to be controlled by someone else.

Paradoxically, as he positioned himself as the number one advocate for my dreams, I was letting him control me.

Numerous times, he suggested that I get a board of directors in place. Having seasoned advisors consult on the growth of the business would be invaluable, he explained.

After the Greece trip I reached out to a friend, J, to get her input on an idea I had for scaling the business. Even though J was good friends with a “competitor” that X felt threatened by, I knew I could trust her.

Afterwards, I was excited to share her thoughts with X.

I remember him texting me, furious with me:

“Wtf on earth were you thinking…. You made a massive mistake…. If you still don’t realize it, then why am I even working in this company. It’s a fucking waste of my time. Because the CEO doesn’t even realize when they make mistakes. Blatant egregious ones…. You disclose confidential information as a CEO of a company, the board fires you. Get it straight.”

“Don’t be wreckless [sic] when my future is also at stake… If you talk to J again about our program, I will unleash hell…. You violated my trust in such a massive way…. ”

He continued to go off on an uncontrollable text message rant. As he mocked my decisions as CEO of my company, tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t take it anymore.

This was the breaking point. Our business and personal relationship was over.

Fall 2018

Rattled and tender, I started to open up to a few friends.

This was big for me, because I’d been quietly suffering in silence.

You see, deep down I knew what was happening wasn’t right. That I was being mistreated and disrespected in a way I’d never experienced.

I was embarrassed about staying in the relationship, so I hid what was going on. I put up a wall and avoided conversations about my personal life, especially questions about how things were going with X.

I was afraid of people finding out and looking down on me — perhaps thinking, “How could she be so stupid?!”

After all, as a strong and successful female entrepreneur, I was a mentor and inspiration to many. Even as an introvert, I was a go-getter who made bold moves and pursued my goals, even in the face of fear.

But in my relationship with X, I completely lost myself. He became this authoritarian figure in my life. I became timid, fragile, and childlike.

Photo credit: Jamie Machin

While I distanced myself from X, he did everything he could to win me back. Most importantly, he started seeing a therapist.

Prior to leaving him, I’d sent him a Google Doc with all the abusive messages I’d saved from him. I wanted him to self-reflect. I thought maybe if he saw his hurtful words on paper, he would change.

X apologized effusively over text message. He told me he’d shared every one of those hurtful messages with his therapist.

He was taking a hard look at his fears and behavior. Once and for all, he was ready to make permanent changes.

He texted me:

“Thank you for being so devoted to me and for encouraging me to eliminate the anger and control. Thank you for being a great and beautiful woman and inspiration to me. I wish I could take back the negative and controlling things I said to you out of unresolved fear but they’re in the past. I can’t change past words but I’m in control to change the now.

My therapist says I’m really self aware and courageous and that most people never get this far to analyze and fix it. She says people can and do change and change is entirely possible.”

He opened up about some big things in his childhood, leading him to act the way he did. My heart broke for him. I could relate to what he’d gone through. No stranger to hurtful words and explosive behavior, I wanted to believe that change in others was possible, too.

He then reminded me of all the magical times we’d spent together. The intensity of his love for me. How much he cared about me and my dreams.

He said he was 100% committed to me and to changing. That the person who hurt me wasn’t the real him. He begged me to give him just one more chance.

I wanted to believe that I could help him get better. I wanted to believe that I could fix our relationship. I wanted to believe that we could go back to the way things once were.

So I went back to him.

Even crazier, I left New York and moved to Florida with him.

Winter 2018

I left New York without telling anyone, leaving behind my beloved city of 18 years. I did not want other people’s opinions, and I knew that I was ready for something different.

I was excited about Florida’s warm weather, palm trees, and slower pace of life. I was looking forward to a fresh, new beginning.

But within a week of moving into our new place, I knew I’d made a terrible mistake.

X was dark and moody. We continued to get into arguments. Therapy didn’t help; it only brought more confusion. We could never get on the same page.

Post therapy session, he’d recount something completely different than what I’d just experienced during our joint session, such as our therapist agreeing with his opinion that I was creating needless drama. I felt like I was going crazy.

In moments of anger, he’d revert back to his old ways and tell me, “I don’t need you, but you need me.”

To an outsider, this would make absolutely no sense. But as I’d isolated myself from my friends, scaled down my team, and moved to Florida — leaving behind my in-person support network — it felt like he was all I had left.

While I had the financial resources to leave the relationship, after several months of being criticized and belittled, my self-esteem had been broken.

X continued to push me to work harder, achieve more, and earn more, while simultaneously complaining that I was not giving him enough attention. No matter what I did, it was impossible to please him.

I remember one day saying to him, exasperated and in tears, “Do you really love me? I feel like you care more about my business than you care about me!” He insisted this wasn’t the case, but at this point I wasn’t sure I believed him anymore.

In November I connected with a guy named Mark. We were both affiliates for a colleague’s launch, and I noticed him in the affiliate Facebook group. He was the life of the party, always cracking jokes. And I saw that he lived in Puerto Rico with his girlfriend.

When we hopped on a Zoom call to get to know each other better, I told Mark that I’d fantasized about moving to Puerto Rico, but it felt impractical. Like a faraway dream.

I have to tell you, Mark is one of the best sales people ever. Because after an hour of chatting on Zoom, I’d decided that I was moving to Puerto Rico!

Not only would I fulfill my dream of living on a tropical island with white sand beaches and lush rainforests, but I would dramatically lower my cost of living. On top of that, the taxes were particularly attractive to entrepreneurs.

Within weeks, I’d filed the paperwork to move my business there, before ever stepping foot on the island.

X was not happy about this of course. We were living together, but I knew the relationship was over. I no longer believed that things could get better.

While a part of me was ready to extricate myself from this deeply painful relationship, another part of me felt like I needed his permission to leave.

Constantly walking on eggshells, I was afraid of his explosive anger. As a child, I’d learned to harmonize relationship conflict by staying quiet and waiting for the anger to pass. While at times X was unbearable, there was something familiar in the suffering.

Furthermore, when I looked at my work calendar, all I saw was back-to-back meetings. When would I even find the time to leave?

I had a to-do list a mile-long. My clients needed me. My team needed me.

Drowning in work, I’d tell myself, “I’ll figure this out later… maybe when things slow down and I don’t feel so overwhelmed.”

Yet again work came first, as I put my own needs at the bottom of my priority list.

January 2019

I was walking back to my apartment from Woodhouse Day Spa one afternoon, stopping by my nearby P.O. box.

I opened up an envelope from the government and I jumped for joy. I’d just received the best news ever — my Green Card had finally been approved! At that point, I’d been living in the U.S. for 22 years.

Happy beyond belief, I ran home, excited to tell X. Before I got in the elevator, I checked my phone and saw a text message from him saying, “We need to talk.”

My heart sank. I didn’t know what I’d done, but I knew I was in trouble.

A little nervous (but at the same time still very excited about my Green Card!), I opened the door and blurted out my good news.

“We need to talk,” he said.

“Can it wait?” I asked. “I have a podcast interview that starts in 10 minutes.”

X walked into his office and shut the door. As my interview was about to start, a new email popped into my inbox. It was from X. He was calling me a backstabber and liar.

Not exactly sure what he was referring to, I tried to regain my composure as I went on video for my interview.

Feeling shaky, I took a deep breath, held back my tears, and flashed a smile.

After the interview was over, X came out of his office. I learned that he’d gone through my private Facebook messages and emails that day. He saw that I’d been talking to Mark about moving to Puerto Rico.

When Mark had asked over Facebook messenger how things were with me and X, I responded with a voice note saying I didn’t feel safe talking about it but would call him sometime.

When X discovered this, he was enraged and blew up at me, saying something along the lines of:

“You betrayed me! You don’t know how to keep your mouth shut. You keep creating problems, instead of just talking to me.”

I forget how the rest of the conversation went, but I ran to the rooftop of the building. Hot tears streaming down my face, I called my friend Laura, one of the few people I confided in.

My body was shaking uncontrollably. It was screaming, and I was finally listening. It was saying, “Get the fuck out of there, as quickly as you can.” Even though there had never been any physical violence between us, I felt that I was in real danger.

When I went back down to the apartment, I felt scared yet determined and clear about what I had to do. I opened the apartment door. There was X, waiting for me. Without saying a word, I headed straight to our bedroom and stuffed everything I could into two big suitcases. I was finally leaving — this time for good.

I was surprised by how easy it was to leave once I’d made the decision. X didn’t try to stop me. Maybe he sensed it’d be useless to try.

As I left the building, I called a few local friends, but no one picked up. So I checked myself into a nearby hotel, eventually moving in with a friend for a few months.

April 2019

While staying at my friend’s place, I stayed focused on my work. The result? Another successful, million-dollar launch for my course. Woohoo!

Now I was ready to move to Puerto Rico and start a new chapter of my life.

Photo credit: Sydney Pfeiffer

I decided to move to a beautiful resort community with stunning golf courses, lush landscapes, and private beaches. A couple friends lived there, including Mark and his girlfriend, and I was craving community.

As my life slowed down in Puerto Rico, I started to feel…and it was excruciatingly painful.

You see, after I’d left X, I felt so happy, relieved and free! Then I went straight into launch mode, and I was singularly focused on making that a huge success. I wasn’t processing my feelings as I busied myself with work, my traditional coping mechanism.

From generating client wins to securing partners, my work life was something I could control. What’s more, it felt good. I got constant adrenaline hits from client praise and making millions in sales. This distracted me from uncomfortable feelings that were bubbling below the surface. With work, I felt successful. With my love life, not so much.

I remember one afternoon going to a party at a friend’s place, a gorgeous modern house at the top of a hill with an infinity pool. As people mingled around the pool, it seemed that everyone was married or in a loving relationship.

I went back home and felt a deep, intense sadness like I’d never felt before. From head to toe, every cell in my body literally ached with pain. The intensity of this aching weighed me down, pulling me into a crumpled mess on the floor.

Fall 2019

While I’d physically removed myself from X in January 2019, he was still a part of my life because he would continue to reach out to me — at first sporadically, then incessantly.

After some particularly threatening texts when I left him, which convinced me he was morally incorrigible, I decided to never communicate with him again — no matter the circumstances.

Therefore I was working with lawyers who’d respond to him, telling him he must stop. That didn’t work.

By the fall, X’s communications with me had escalated, even though there was complete and total silence on my end.

At one point, he created over 33 different phone numbers to text me incessantly. As soon as I blocked him, a new number would appear.

I blocked him on every social media platform and communications app I used, as he was reaching out to me on all of them.

I thought about changing my email and phone number. I feared he might discover my home address. Down on my knees, I prayed that eventually he’d disappear. I felt helpless and trapped… and a part of me blamed myself.

After all, I’d made some really bad choices by staying in this toxic relationship. Plenty of people would have left far sooner. Maybe this was the punishment I would just have to live with.

2020and flashbacks to 2019

Out of the blue, an acquaintance I’ll refer to as B messaged me. X had been telling her terrible things about me and at first she believed him. According to her, she and other women had scary and alarming experiences with him. She wanted me to know she no longer trusted him. She wanted to hear my side of the story.

This wasn’t the first time I’d received a message like this, but I didn’t want to engage with B and invite drama into my life. I feared that X might discover we’d talked and make my life even more difficult.

You see, in 2019 an ex-girlfriend of X’s reached out while I was leading a client retreat. She left him because the situation turned into a living nightmare, mirroring a lot of my own experiences with him.

Somehow X knew we’d talked, but initially neither of us could figure out how.

There were some suspicious logins into my Instagram account. Was that him?

If so, it certainly wasn’t the first time he’d broken into one of my private accounts, leading me to hire a legal team and security specialist. At one point, I wondered if he’d installed keystroke tracking on my computer, as he knew an awful lot about what was happening in my life.

Back to the ex-girlfriend who’d reached out in 2019. She recalled that he had access to her Apple iCloud account. “That’s it!” I thought. He must be tracking her phone calls.

When X discovered I’d spoken to his ex-girlfriend, he was enraged.

This initiated a torrent of many hundreds of messages from X. Every time I looked at my phone over those next few months, it was mentally distressing.

At times when I would try to sleep at night I would wake up, recalling his haunting messages.

“I’m fucking nasty…. You don’t want to mess with me.”

“You won’t get rid of me even with the best lawyer so don’t waste your time.”

“Are you afraid I’m going to sue you for a million dollars?”

Frozen in fear, I tried to keep my mouth shut as much as possible.

The cost of talking felt too great, even if I was helping another woman.

I just wanted to focus on my work — to help my clients and students. And then a flip switched. I realized… this was “the work.”

If I wanted to end this cycle of abuse, I needed to take a stand for myself. I needed to stop tolerating his behavior, blaming myself, and ignoring the severity of the problem.

It was time to prioritize my personal well-being. It was time to begin the path of healing.

2020

In 2020, I looked at how I became susceptible to this emotionally abusive relationship.

My weakness when it came to flattery. My culturally conditioned deference to male authority.

How I dangerously tied my self-worth to my success, achievements, and public image.

How I didn’t even fully appreciate my well-honed business acumen and long track record of success, as I quickly moved on to the next big goal and focused on where I was lacking.

How I unquestioningly took someone else’s anger or dissatisfaction towards me, even if it was completely unfounded, as a sign that I’d done something wrong.

How, when it came to people, I focused on the positive and minimized the negative, overlooking many serious red flags blazing right in front of me.

How I thought that intensity was a good thing, in business and romance. How I viewed X’s obsession with me and my business as a sign of how much he cared, rather than something I should have been very wary and suspicious of from the get-go.

How I put my business far ahead of my emotional well-being, staying so incredibly busy that I simply didn’t have the time or energy to address the things in my life that weren’t working.

How my upbringing — and frankly society at large — normalized emotional and verbal abuse.

How I learned as a young girl, growing up in Asian culture, to be obedient and stay quiet. That relationship drama was something you endured and kept private, to be handled secretly behind closed doors.

I realize now that violence isn’t just physical; it’s also emotional and psychological.

I realize now that being in an abusive relationship has nothing to do with intelligence or lack thereof. Abusers are often master manipulators who prey on women’s weaknesses and insecurities, at times leaving us completely blind sighted.

As women, we can take back our power by learning from our past. By recognizing the signs of abuse early on. By seeking help and finally healing the parts of ourselves that allowed us to tolerate this unacceptable and destructive behavior.

In 2020 I slowed down and turned inward. I invested in deep, continuous work with healers, coaches, and therapists.

I hired a physical trainer, working out five days a week to get physically and mentally strong.

I took Salsa dancing classes, discovering the joy of being out of my head and in my body.

Photo credit: Patience Manzare

I spent quiet time in nature — taking long, meandering walks on the golf course at the crack of dawn.

I wandered to the beach — picking up seashells, listening to the crashing waves, and submerging myself in the cool ocean water.

I deepened my relationships with a small handful of female friends who’ve consistently shown up for me. I trust these women completely, and their love and support nourishes me.

I adopted a cat, a sweet orange tabby named Tiger. He keeps me grounded and squawks at me if I spend too much time in front of the computer. He reminds me daily about the importance of play.

Photo credit: Cassandra Frey

As I prioritized having more space in my life to simply be versus do, I simplified my business and eliminated certain offerings.

I even did a boudoir photoshoot, as I was so disconnected from my body and sensual self — and wanted to reclaim my innate power as a woman.

Photo credit: Patience Manzare

For legal reasons, I can’t share much about what happened next with X.

What I can say is that I am safe, well, and happier than ever. In 2020 I finally summoned the courage to take the right measures to protect myself.

I took responsibility for my part. And then I did the hardest thing, which was to forgive myself.

2021 Reflections

As a smart and successful woman, I never thought this would happen to me — and yet it did.

In breaking my silence and sharing my story, I’m not just taking a stand for myself. I’m taking a stand for millions of women, including those of us who may even seem invincible. The truth is that this could happen to any one of us.

Our abuser may be our lover, friend or family member. Our abuser may be our colleague, boss or mentor. They may have helped or supported us in some way, leaving us feeling indebted to them. We may have a history with them — one that is imbued with happy and joyful moments, not just pain and struggle. We may even still love our abuser and see the humanity in them, in spite of their horrific behavior.

Many women deeply fear their abuser, who may be vengeful, litigious, or unhinged. Maybe they’re afraid their abuser will try to humiliate them with a lie or secret. Get them into trouble with others. Hurt those they love out of revenge. Or damage their reputation in an attempt to discredit them.

For women who are married or have children, or have limited financial resources, there’s a whole other level of complication to consider. I can only imagine how challenging and frightening that situation might be.

In this arduous process of escaping from my own abusive relationship, I recognize my financial privilege — from being able to relocate to a safe environment to hiring lawyers and specialists to advise and protect me.

As women, we hide and internalize our pain. We don’t want to inconvenience other people with our grief and our emotions.

So we put on a happy face for our friends, family, colleagues, and the public — but inside we may be slowly dying.

That’s why we need to be talking about this — and courageously sharing our stories.

I’m sharing my story because maybe someone will read this and realize they’re in an emotionally abusive relationship — and what they’ve been tolerating is not okay.

Maybe this will be the invitation they need to finally get honest with themselves — and wake up from the nightmare that has become the reality of their life.

Maybe they’ll feel inspired to get help, take a stand for themselves, or talk to a trusted friend or professional.

Because as challenging as it feels, now is the time to love yourself, forgive yourself and prioritize yourself.

Now is the time to take a powerful step in your healing journey.

Now is the time to liberate yourself from the fears that have been holding you back — and to reclaim your personal power that has always been there, deep inside of you.

Photo credit: Patience Manzare

*Thank you for reading this. If you feel inspired, please share this with someone who might be helped by this story.

*I have a trusted network of support that has helped me through this. I am not looking for new resources, recommendations of people to hire, or a diagnosis of my experience.

*If you are in an abusive relationship, here are some resources that may help.

https://www.womenslaw.org/about-abuse/forms-abuse/emotional-abuse

https://www.freefrom.org/

http://terricole.com/leave-safely

As founder of Impacting Millions, I show entrepreneurs and experts how to share deeply meaningful messages through the media. | selenasoo.com

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