I’ve read a good deal of articles lately about women who have come forward about being in an abusive relationship. Some physical, others emotional. I am here to say that emotional abuse isn’t something to brush off. For a long time I was afraid to tell people what I thought about my experience in an emotionally abusive relationship. I was afraid that people wouldn’t take me seriously, or accuse me of over-exaggerating. I was also too afraid to leave the relationship for reasons I will explain later. I was tied to this person for almost 5 years, and in some ways it broke me. Only 2 people knew the inner workings of that relationship. Well now I have decided, after several years that I would put my words out there, whether people read them or not. I want to note that I did care for this person, and despite everything I hope he one day finds solace. So here it is.
For the sake of honesty I will start at the beginning, before we were together. My good friend at the time told me over coffee that she really liked this guy (who I didn’t know would end up being my boyfriend). Honestly I didn’t even really know who he was at the time, but a week later he ended up confessing his feelings for me and asked me out. I remembered the conversation between my friend and I and made the decision to lie and tell him that I had feelings for somebody else. This will come into the story later. If I had known then how much trouble this would have caused I would have just politely turned him down and gone on with my life.
This is the point where things start to get hard for me to write. I want to make sure that whoever reads this knows that it is not my intention to bring attention to my ex’s personal issues, or in any way discredit the feelings of other people with similar issues
While we were together I learned that he suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies. Often he tried, unsuccessfully, to hid his new cuts from me. I did my best to be there for him in any way that I could, and most of the time it worked. Then things got really bad. He would blame me for his “dark days” and his need to hurt himself. He became extremely possessive and controlling over most aspects of my life. I was told who I was and was not allowed to talk to. What I was allowed to wear. If I wore a tank top and shorts in the middle of summer he would call me a whore and hand me a jacket. All but one of my friends were on the “don’t talk to” list. He would often call me after 2am, telling me he had his parents gun and that “this time he was serious”. Sometimes I could talk him down and would stay on the phone with him long after he had fallen asleep. But more often than not I would throw on my shoes, take my moms car out and drive over to his house (while keeping him on the phone). I was almost 16 during this time. I wanted to reach out to my mom, or his parents but he repeatedly told me that if I told anybody at all that he wouldn’t hesitate or call me next time he felt the “darkness”. In hind sight I should have reached out to somebody, found somebody to get him help. Instead I stopped sleeping so I wouldn’t miss his calls and kept the weight of this dark secret on my shoulders every day, for 5 years.
Not long into our relationship the topic of sex became very prominent in a lot of our conversations. I wasn’t ready and he seemed to be understanding, which I appreciated and which made me feel very safe. But things change.
We were in the guest room at his parents house. They weren’t around much, so it was just us. Things started to get heated and I pulled away and told him that I wasn’t ready for anything more than we had already done, which involved some heavy make-out sessions and that’s about all. I remember him telling me that he needed this. That he was in a “dark” place and that I needed to help him.
I must have said no 20 times in the moments leading up to it. He was stronger than I thought. I asked to stop I think 5 times. Each time I did he would give a different response, all resulting in me not being heard; and all of which I can never forget. “I need you” “I love you” “It’s okay, we love each other, right?” “I’m in a really dark place right now, and need you to help me, this is how you can help me” “You can go if you want, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see me at school tomorrow”. The last one making me feel like if I left and he hurt himself, it was because of me. So I didn’t stop. But I cried while I drove home. I felt violated, and like it didn’t matter how I felt about sex. From that day on, I didn’t let sex have any meaning to me. It was just sex, something you don’t say no to when the guy you are seeing asks for it. I didn’t tell anybody that I had lost my virginity for over a year, not my sister, not my mom, not even my best friend. I was too ashamed at how I let myself be pressured into something like that, and that I let myself be used like that for so long.
Fast forward a bit, now it is worth mentioning that this guy would breakup with me every couple of months. It wouldn’t last long though, he would call me within the week begging me for forgiveness, and I would give it because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t. The time we were apart wasn’t far off from how it was when we were together. He would still call me in the middle of the night, with thoughts of suicide or self harm, or unwavering thoughts that I was with somebody else, and I would do as I always had and talked him down. At some point he put a GPS tracker on my phone so he could always know my exact whereabouts. I was to call him the second I got home and have a family member say something he could hear as proof of where I was. I didn’t have signal at my house so the tracker would fail the closer to home I got. I once hit some unexpected traffic and stopped for gas on the way home and was 15 minutes later with my daily “call” than his GPS estimated I would be. He was furious with me and was inconsolable. I didn’t sleep that night because I knew I would get one of the late calls I dreaded so much; and I did. He blamed me for the horrible thoughts in his head. Everything in me wanted to hangup the phone but I was afraid, so I listened to everything he had to say, crying quietly as to not wake my mom or sister.
As we got older his “darkness” ,as he called it, didn’t exactly fade; it transformed, he had become reckless. At the start of college we braved the idea of long distance. The kind of calls I was so used to receiving became less frequent, what I got instead worried me more. With college comes parties, fake ID’s, clubs, drinking, and drugs. All of which my ex took full advantage of. Many times he would call me drunk out of his mind accusing me of being with somebody else despite the fact that I was alone. He would never listen, often threatening that he would drive to wherever I was just to see for himself. Sometimes I would get calls from his friends or random people at parties asking me to convince him that he needed to call it a night, or if I could make the 2 hour drive up there to pick him up. He had developed a habit of driving drunk. He told me once, that when he started to feel like his life didn’t matter that he would drive somewhere to get drunk, and that he didn’t care if he survived the drive home. I spent a lot of nights before this one afraid of what he might do to himself but this, THIS scared me to my core. He wasn’t just putting himself in danger, but other people’s lives too. My grandfather was killed by a young drunk driver before I was born, leaving my mom orphaned. It sickened me to hear somebody I cared for so much be okay with the potential consequences of his new “habits”. We fought a lot during this time about his drinking problem. I’m not proud of it but I couldn’t console him about this. I was raised to be compassionate and help those around me when they needed it. But I didn’t know how. Most of the time I would just call his cousin who lived near by or send a cab to the bar he was at and call it a night.
The first winter we spent in college had its own challenges. We were on break from school and spent a great deal of time together. That is when we got the scare. My period was late. I took a pregnancy test. Positive. I was 19 and terrified, I thought I had been more than careful. I took another test. Negative. I had already had an appointment with my doctor coming up at the end of the week and knew I would get my answer then. They told me the result would be in by the end of the week. There was nothing to do but wait. I didn’t exactly get the response I thought I would from him. I thought he would hold my hand and tell me we would figure something out, not to worry because whatever it was we were in it together. Instead he headed back to school early. We didn’t talk for two weeks, except the brief phone call where I told him the results. (which were negative). He told me sometime later that he had cheated on me during winter break. After I told him I thought I was pregnant, Before I found out I wasn’t. He told me he was drunk and that it didn’t mean anything, that he loved me. That he couldn’t, and wouldn’t live without me. That if I left he would end it all. So I stayed.
The following summer, late one night, he called me. He told me that he was sorry for everything but that he wanted to break up. I don’t exactly know where I summoned the strength but for the first time I responded calmly, rather than in tears. I told him that “I don’t want to play games anymore, no breaking up with me only to call me a few days later asking for another chance. If we are done, then we are done.” I told him he should sleep on it and make sure this is what he really wanted but he insisted that it was. So we broke up then and there over the phone. He called the next morning in tears telling me that he had made a huge mistake and that he wasn’t thinking clearly and begged for “just one more chance”. I told him that I had said “If we are done, we are done…for good” and that I had meant it. I said my last goodbye and hung up. I did drive to his parents house at some point and told them about his episodes of depression and my fear for him if he didn’t find help. They hugged me tight enough that I couldn’t breathe as they thanked me. It was the summer of my 20th birthday and for the first time in five years I felt that I could breathe. I wore a tank top and shorts to lunch with my friends that day and wasn’t ashamed. I wasn’t sad because deep down I knew that I had lost the romantic feelings for him a long time ago. I wasn’t afraid. I found my voice again. I am now in a very happy relationship of almost 4 years to a man I love immensely, who was a friend to me during those difficult years. Who has helped me, in more ways than I can count. I have grown closer to my family and am no longer afraid to be myself.
In hindsight, I should have found help. But I was young and scared. I was a kid who was dealing with things I didn’t fully understand. I had become isolated from anybody who wasn’t him, including my family. I look back and wish I had taken comfort in my mom’s arms when she offered it because she knew something was wrong. I wish I had talked to my little sister more while we were still under the same roof. I wish I hadn’t watched from the sidelines at my family and friends going about their day while I held onto these painful secrets.
For any of you out there who are still reading at this point I want you to know that it took me a long time to find the strength to do what was right for me. It took me even longer to find the courage to tell my family or friends about what I went through. You are not alone out there and it is never too late to stand up for yourself. I hope this has reached somebody and helped them. I hope you find your voice, because you deserve to be heard.
A few words I live by: “Find your fight, and fight like hell until your battle is won”
For my ex: I hope that wherever you are, you have found peace in your life.