Avid Love Island viewer or not, you can’t have escaped the media shitstorm that has taken over our timelines and news desks these past 48 hours.
The ITV2 show, which depicts ‘relationships’ between villa inhabitants, has come under fire for one of its contestants Adam’s treatment of his ‘partner’, Rosie.
I wrote an article for The Independent yesterday which detailed why Adam’s behaviour was so problematic. The organisation Women’s Aid also released a statement about emotional abuse and asked for us all to be vigilante towards the signs. But what are the signs?
Half of the population watched Tuesday night’s episode and couldn’t see what Adam was doing wrong – he just wasn’t interested in Rosie any more! Yet there were thousands of us who have experienced similar treatment and can now sniff a red flag a mile away.
So here’s my story of a relationship filled with emotional abuse and at the end, I’ll include the warning signs you should look out for.
The relationship started as they all do. You meet up for a few dates. You’re sure you like them but you just can’t gauge how they feel about you.
You try and arrange dates, but there’s always an excuse. And the only time they can see you is when you already have plans – so you change your existing plans because you want to make things work.
You tell your mates that this could be ‘the one’ and that you’re sorry for cancelling but this could be your chance.
On your dates, he tells you about his type. It’s the opposite of you. You start questioning yourself. If you were a little bit more THAT or behaved a little bit more like THIS, he might be keener.
He pays you back-handed compliments, like how you’re the right type of curvy – not too big. Or the ultimate compliment – that you’re the cool girl. He likes how you like to keep things casual. He appreciates that you’re not, ‘psycho’ like the rest. He can be himself around you as you don’t try to change him. He’d introduce you to his Mum one day – but not yet, she still gets on with his ex who was much prettier than you are. But it’s OK – he’s realised that looks aren’t everything, he wants someone fun and with a personality – that’s why he’s with you.
It’s 3 months later and you still haven’t met any of his family or real friends. And if you’re out and you’re spotted, he suddenly goes cold. He doesn’t like holding hands and finds PDA uncomfortable – but he’ll happily grab your bum as you walk down the quiet grocery aisle.
You know better than to ask, ‘what you are.’ Because you know the answer.
‘Why do we have to label things?’, ‘I thought you were like me?’, ‘I’m happy with the way things are – there’s no pressure!’ or ‘I knew you’d be like everyone else.’
When you pluck up a bit of courage to tell him that he’s mistreating you, or you’re not happy or you’re not getting what you need, he questions you. He doesn’t understand why you don’t remember the conversation you had where you said you’d never do this. He picks on something completely unrelated that you’ve done to annoy him. He deliberately confuses you with ‘facts’ and ‘quotes’ that you have no recollection of until your head is spinning and it hurts less to drop it.
At the end of this, he storms off – either physically or through communication devices. It’s an hour until you’ve heard from him, then two, then a day. And as much as your head is telling you to hold out – that he’ll come back, that he’ll see the error of his ways – your fingers move to your keypad…
‘Look, I’m sorry I went psycho on you, let’s just keep things how they are and see what happens.’
He’s back now. And you know never to bring up your unhappiness again for fear of losing him or being lumped in with that psycho ex of his.
It’s a year now – no plans under foot, no invites out with his friends or family – heck you may not even be friends on Facebook, because he ‘hardly ever uses it’. And you know by now not to post any pictures of the two of you on social media because, ‘one of his exes will go mad.’
You argue all the time. And every single time you’re made out to be the bad person. He’s had a shit day at work and you’re stressing him out. He doesn’t clean up after himself in the kitchen but you haven’t waxed your pubes for 2 months, so who is the messy one now?
The insults get worse. You’re not sexy any more. You don’t ever entice him. You don’t wear the clothes he likes or high heels which you know turn him on. You’ve put on weight and aren’t attractive to him. Your self-esteem plummets.
He tells you about Becky at work. She watches football with the lads. She dumped her last boyfriend because he was too serious. She wears nice dresses. She can deep throat a Kit-Kat – you used to be like Becky, why aren’t you any more?
So you try to make things work. You pull out the high heels. You offer a hand-job in the cinema. You stop checking his phone. You cook and clean up after him. You don’t stress him out.
And who are you left with? You’re now a woman with no self-confidence, who compares herself to every other woman in terms of attractiveness, coolness and least-psycho-ness. You’re worshipping at the altar of someone who won’t even tag you in a meme. But you’re too low to leave. It’s easier to stay. No one else will want the mess you’ve become.
He never lays a finger on you – but he doesn’t have to. The damage is done.
Wow, extreme Vix, sorry that happened to you but how is any of that like what Adam is doing?
I’ll tell you.
He made Rosie believe she was special by comparing him to his exes – that’s how they get you to fall for them.
He compliments her on her breezy and laid back attitude – that’s how they condition you not to demand more.
He went cold as soon as his eyes wandered and complimented Zara to her face – that’s how they make you feel like you’re second best and that you need to step up your game.
He ‘gaslighted’ Rosie by telling her things had been said or had happened that never did – that’s how they get you to question your own sanity and to ease off of them.
He withdrew all emotion and affection – that’s where they’ve really got you where they need you.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms and the biggest red flags (some mentioned above) to look out for are:
- You’re made to feel guilty for wanting basic fair treatment
- Negging – or giving back handed compliments or ‘banter’ insults designed to wear you down.
- Decision making without consultation – because you’re too hopeless to do what’s right.
- Lacking empathy or compassion – they don’t care about your feelings or how you’re hurt and they often don’t care about other things going on in the world.
- Financial abuse – they become controlling or judgemental over your spending.
- Undermining – they talk about you in a negative way or they go behind your back to make you seem incapable of something.
- Grand gestures – if they do something wrong, they can’t change their behaviour or offer a heartfelt apology so they’ll do something big like presents, holidays, flowers or promises of a future.
- Gaslighting – everything will be made to appear as if you’re at fault somehow.
- Stonewalling – inexplicable ignoring or blanking of you so that you question what you’ve done.
If you, or someone you know may be suffering from emotional abuse, there are many places you can get help. You can call Women’s Aid’s 24 hour helpline on 0808 2000 247, and the Men’s Advice Line can be phoned on 0808 801 0327.
This is a hugely sensitive issue and one I know that far too many people will be able to relate to. If you do, please reach out and my DMs are always open.