Hi. I’d like to share my story, as I am coming up on a date I never thought I’d see – the 10 year anniversary of leaving, starting over, and beginning to heal.
I met him when I was 17. He was 24. I had been dating another older guy before him, and he acted like he was my knight in shining armor, coming to pick up the pieces when I got my heart broken. He prided himself on being “man enough” to wait for my 18th birthday before we had sex (and that only meant that he abstained from actual sex, not anything else), because he “wasn’t like” the other guy. He was grooming me, lovebombing me. The day I turned 18, he was beginning to isolate me, insisting that I spend the day with him so that we could “finally” be together. It had been 3 weeks.
I had a small apartment, and he was there almost all the time. He degraded me, lying from the start, telling me stories of obscure but famous people who he was supposedly related to, telling me that pictures of old girlfriends on his wall were actually sisters that didn’t speak to his mom anymore – so I couldn’t ask her to verify that because it would upset her. Looking back it’s so clear, but I was so young, and so naive. He told me he smoked too much weed to get me pregnant, so he didn’t have to use a condom. I fell for it.
He humiliated me at every possible chance. When I got pregnant soon after, we went to a birthing class, and he made loud, rude comments and vulgar, sexual gestures the entire time. He decided that I would move in with him, at a family home he didn’t pay for, and insisted that my family didn’t love me as much as his family did, even though they really treated me terribly, and never respected my wishes with the children.
The story goes on, as you’ve probably heard many times before. I worked, he didn’t, at least not consistently. He’d have a new job every other month – and it was always someone else’s fault. But he also couldn’t be bothered to parent, or stay sober or clean. Every few weeks, he’d make a big deal about getting sober because of my nagging, my constant expectations, my desire to suck all the fun out of his life. It never lasted. We had moved into a new house and had two kids.
I read a book called Black and Blue. I don’t know where I got it or why I picked it up. But it opened my eyes and changed my life. Over the next few months, I couldn’t unsee things. I knew, now. When the day finally came that enough was enough, I somehow found the strength to call my mom and my best friend, and they came with my whole family and a uhaul. If they hadn’t come and packed up all our stuff, I don’t think I would have had the strength to stay gone. We worked for hours, till the middle of the night. Even then, even at the height of the situation, I remember making sure his clothes were clean and he had food in the fridge. I couldn’t bring myself to leave him with nothing, even though I felt stripped of everything I’d ever had.
The next few months and years were some of the hardest I’d ever faced. I learned to set boundaries, and to enforce them. I learned what is and isn’t my responsibility in regards to my kids and their relationship with him. I found love, and my life and my world expanded in a way I’d never dreamed.
When you’re in a DV situation, and the violence is subtle, it’s so easy to miss it. Maybe he doesn’t hit you, but every other box is checked, and you think… “It’s not that bad, because I don’t have bruises.” You don’t know what’s been taken from you, and it’s easy to ignore the warning signs and the red flags. It’s easy to ignore when it’s just you being hurt and disrespected and humiliated – not your kids. When the abuser’s voice is so loud in your head telling you that no one else will ever want you, he’s ruined you for anyone else, no one will ever love you again – you can’t hear everyone around you saying, “You deserve better,” you don’t know how many people truly love you. And then… something clicks, and it starts coming back. You realize what you’d lost – the friends, the room to breathe, your PEACE. Friends, I never thought I’d be here. There was a time, in the midst of narcisstic threats to come home, custody battles, and trying to untangle myself, where I couldn’t see 2 days ahead of me, let alone 10 years. 10. Years.
You have so much life ahead of you. You are worth it. Please, don’t stay. I won’t say don’t doubt yourself but I will say, push through the doubt. You are better. Freedom tastes so much better than whatever you dream of and aren’t getting from this relationship. I have found my peace. Yours is waiting for you. Chase it.