Hello again, everyone!
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been publishing some of your letters to Ana/Christian from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Tonight’s letter is written by our account co-runner, Emma. In her letter to Ana, she references her own experiences of sustained emotional abuse, so there is a trigger warning for some of the content.
Please do keep those letters coming in and we’ll post them on the blog!
You’re besotted with him, aren’t you? Christian occupies pretty much your every waking thought. You’ve never met anyone like him. You never even wanted to kiss anyone, until he came into your life. I understand that level of devotion towards your partner. I understand it, but I’m also a little wary of it. You see, I felt that way about my ex.
You were a naive virgin when you met Christian. I know you feel that your inexperience weighs heavily on you at times, when compared to Christian’s understanding of all things sexual. I felt similar. I wasn’t a virgin, but I had been single – and celibate – for a long time when I met my ex and I had only had one previous partner. My ex, like Christian, was far more worldly. And, much like in your case, my ex introduced me to experiences I had never had before. You came into christian’s world, not knowing anything about the kind of relationship he wanted to have with you. Similarly, when I met my ex, I had never experienced the kind of relationship he expected us to have. No, he didn’t want to whip me in his Red Room of Pain. He wanted me to be his “friend with benefits.” He expected me to be sexually available to him at all times – much like Christian expects the same of you – but he also wanted me to be fine with being pushed aside in favour of another girl at any given time. He wanted me to be okay with listening to him brag about his sexual exploits with others. And, just as you wrestled with your decision as to whether or not you could be involved in a BDSM relationship when you were so utterly unaware of what it would entail, I wondered whether I could possibly be okay with that kind of casual set-up with someone I was already falling so hard for (he didn’t tell me what sort of relationship he expected us to have until we’d been seeing each other for five months). And, just like you, I ignored my better judgement. After all, we share a common attribute – my self esteem has taken many knocks over the years and it’s fair to say that I was dazzled by the fact that a gorgeous guy like my ex wanted me. ME! Of all people! And so, in spite of my reservations, I stuck around. And I did so for a reason you’ll be familiar with…
You see, my ex was a lot like Christian in many respects. When he opened up to me about how he was abused as a child, I realised that I couldn’t walk away from him. He needed me! He warned me off him, told me he wasn’t a good man. But by that time, I’d seen evidence of how wrong I believed he was. He was funny, thoughtful and intelligent; why didn’t he see those positive traits in himself?! He needed me to show him. He told me he couldn’t help the way he behaved. And, like you do with Christian, I believed him. After all, he had no idea what real love was! He had suffered horrible things that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So of course he couldn’t help the way he behaved.
He couldn’t help it when he mocked me for being “stupid” or “pathetic.” He was just lashing out because I’d gotten too close to him and he didn’t know how to deal with it. He couldn’t help it when I tried to hold him at night and he physically pushed me away and told me I was “desperate and clingy.” He had no experience of what a healthy relationship was; he’d had no choice but to build up barriers around himself. He couldn’t help it when he told me he loved me and never wanted me to leave him, then, with his next breath, told me I was just a girl he happened to be f*cking. He was scared of admitting how he really felt; that’s why he followed up a compliment or declaration of love with a casual insult. He was trying to protect himself. He couldn’t help it when he made me perform sex acts on him, then told me afterwards that I made him feel physically sick and laughed at the idea of satisfying my sexual needs, before rolling over and warning me not to touch him. He needed sex as a release and then afterwards he felt exposed and afraid and would verbally lash out. He couldn’t help it when he deliberately wound me up to the point of tears and then smugly told me how unattractive and unlovable it was when I cried, or became frustrated and angry. He was so full of anger because of what had happened to him. He couldn’t help it when he humiliated me and talked down to me. He had never been treated any differently.
Except the truth is, of course he could help it. He chose to hurt me. He chose to abuse me, emotionally, psychologically and sexually. He made a CHOICE, Ana. And that’s what Christian is doing. You truly believe that his childhood made him the man he is today and he now cannot help his own behaviour. But look at him, Ana. Christian Grey runs a hugely successful company. He makes decisions, deals with other business people and manages his staff. He has employees at home as well as at work. You don’t get to where he is by being so emotionally crippled that you don’t know what is or isn’t acceptable behaviour. He has adoptive parents whose marriage seems to be a happy one. He knows how adult relationships work. He isn’t clueless, Ana. He’s very intelligent. And he has you excusing whatever he does, because he has chosen to allow you to believe that he knows no better, when of course that isn’t true. In other words, he has manipulated you, just like my ex manipulated me. Oh, I know what you’ll say. He uses up all his energy, appearing normal and healthy at work, then breaks down once he gets home. Even if that were true – which I can tell you from experience, almost certainly isn’t – you’re not his therapist, Ana. Neither are you his punching bag, verbally or otherwise. Everything he does to you, he chooses to do. Because he does know better.
He chooses to stalk you, no matter where you go. That’s not an example of his passion for you, or evidence that he’s so damaged that he doesn’t understand personal boundaries. It’s evidence of a man using his wealth and power to make sure you don’t escape. He chooses to ignore whether or not you’ve given consent, before he commits a sexual act. Not because he’s so overcome with desire that he can’t help himself, but because you are – as you yourself once pointed out – just a vessel to be filled at his whim. He chooses to bruise your body without permission, not because he is into BDSM, but because he is obsessed with controlling every aspect of your life and he genuinely cannot stand to see you make your own choices. He chooses to throw you off balance with his remarks, not because he doesn’t know how to talk to someone normally, but because he wants you off balance. That way, you’re much easier to manipulate.
I know you don’t want to hear this, Ana. Believe me, neither did I. If I accepted that he was choosing to behave the way he was, it would mean that he didn’t care about me as much as he claimed – how could he?! And of course I wanted to believe his declarations of love. Don’t we all? The thought of losing him was unbearable and, like you, I just wanted to try harder to make it work. I felt as though it was up to me to make everything better. I know you know how that feels, Ana.
You so often say that you feel scared, confused or alone. I know those feelings all too well, Ana. It’s not how a healthy relationship is supposed to make you feel. You need to listen to yourself. When you feel anxious or uncertain, that’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re in a bad situation and you need to get out. That little voice in your head, screaming at you that something isn’t right, is the only one you need to listen to. Not your “Inner Goddess,” or your very conscious “Subconscious.” Not even me, writing this letter. You need to listen to yourself. Believe me, I know how hard it is to force yourself to hear what your body is trying to tell you. I ignored the sinking feeling I had in my belly every time my ex pushed me away. I ignored the voice of doubt, asking me whether I was even really happy. All because I was so manipulated by my ex, that I believed that it was me that had the problem in the relationship and me that needed to fix it all, because he was too damaged and vulnerable to get by without me. He needed me!
It sounds cruel, Ana, but you’re not different to anyone else. You’re not the special, magical woman who will “fix” this man. Christian might tell you that you’re the one who’s gotten closer to him than anyone ever has before, but they’re just words. I remember them very clearly. It was only after I walked away that I realised that the words he spoke meant absolutely nothing. Because when someone tells you they love you and that you’re special, they back it up with actions. Not fancy, expensive gifts that you don’t even want. Real actions. They encourage you to be yourself and to spend time with your friends. They don’t try to shoe-horn you into an ideal they’ve decided is the only acceptable form of you. They want you to spread your wings and forge a career, if that’s what you want. They don’t buy your company so that they can control you in the workplace. They listen to your needs and they respect you when you say “no,” rather than trying to coerce you into coming round to their way of thinking, or forcing their desires on you in spite of your reservations.
You think you’ve found someone who loves and needs you. You think you will never love another man the way you love Christian Grey. You think that if you walk away, his world will shatter. Trust me, Ana. I thought the same.
He’ll find someone else to manipulate before you even realise what’s going on. He’ll show you his true colours and the scales will fall from your eyes. You’ve been blinded to his abuse, just like I was when I was with my ex. You’ve seen his good points and you cling on to the hope that one day, they’ll be ALL you’ll see. That that sinking feeling, that fear and confusion will evaporate. It won’t, Ana. If this relationship was healthy, those feelings wouldn’t have been there in the first place. And the longer you stay, the worse they’re going to get, because the worse Christian will get. Why? Because he’ll think he can get away with it, because you’re not going anywhere.
Prove him wrong, Ana.
I know how hard it is. I know you think you’ll never be able to cope without him. I know you’ll wrestle with feelings of guilt and you’ll wonder if you should have tried harder. You’ll blame yourself. I’m not going to lie to you; it’s not going to be easy. But you can do it. You can rebuild your life and live it your way. You can be free from control. You can learn to like yourself, without needing his approval. You have friends and family who will support you in entering a new phase of your life. And there are charities and organisations who will help keep you safe and who will make you see – more than I probably have in this letter – that what you think is “love” on Christian’s behalf, is abuse and you do NOT deserve it. Trust me, Ana. You’re only twenty one. You have the whole of your life ahead of you. Live it in freedom.
I wish you the best of luck.”