“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.”
-“The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis”
Until recently, I never really shared this information with anyone, not even my family members.
I was in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship for over two years.
My ex-boyfriend would constantly belittle me- my body was not good enough, my hair wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, nothing about me was ever good enough.
Of course, this was coming from an overweight thirty year old who did not have a good job, had poor oral hygiene, had never had a girlfriend or even had sex before me, and will likely spend the remainder of his lifetime living with his mother because he lacks any kind of ambition. He was the black sheep of his family, by far the least successful of his cousins, and the only one who did not graduate from college. But anyway…
I still to this day ask myself how I became involved with a person like this, when there were so many red flags telling me to run for the hills. I mean, when we first started dating, non-exclusively, I was casually seeing someone else. However, that fling eventually concluded, and I became serious with my eventual abuser.
Why did I remain dating him for two years when I had started to realize that I didn’t love him after about a year? Yes, I said the words, but in retrospect, I never really felt right saying them to this person. When I said the words to him, I felt nothing. The words just felt hollow. That is my fault.
Those are words that I have never had an easy time saying, and the only other man I have ever said those words to was my college boyfriend.
At first, the ex who eventually became my abuser was not verbally abusive- though, I guess they never are. He was funny, charming, and seemed to really like me. He spent a lot of money on gifts for me, which I never asked for, but seemed to want the same things as me.
Just put this relationship under the “boy, was I wrong” category of my life.
But it wasn’t long before him “teasing” me saying I was ditzy became downright mean. Everyone says silly things at some point in time, but he called me stupid, and began to insult my body. As if Heidi Klum or Miranda Kerr were waiting to get in his pants!
He also constantly wanted to have rough sex, would sometimes hit me on my backside hard, use his girth to his advantage against me (he was about a foot taller and outweighed me by over 100 pounds) and was always spending money on lingerie and sex toy crap that I did not want. This was all control for him, and he often threw in my face how much money he was spending on me. I kept saying to him, “Please, don’t buy this stuff. I don’t want it and it’s a huge waste of money. We could save money for the future.”
But no, Mr. Moneybags just kept spending money on things like unwanted corsets and sex toys, which I said I didn’t want. But, he would criticize me if I spent $5 on a frozen yogurt or $10 on a skirt at H & M. “All you do is spend money on junk food and clothes that don’t fit you,” he would tell me.
It wasn’t long before I found out that he liked to gamble, and always lost a lot of money when he went to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. No wonder he had no money and zero credit, despite having no student loans since his mother paid for his failed college career in its entirety.
In 2012, we went on a vacation to South Carolina. During that vacation, I found myself wishing I was at work instead of with this person, who acted like I was a nuisance he didn’t want around. Yet, still, we didn’t break up. Looking back, I should have just grown some balls and dumped him. I think I didn’t because I truly did like his family, including his mother, and many of his friends. In fact, I am still friends on Facebook with his cousin and aunt, as well as a few of his friends.
After dating nearly two years, you start to question where a relationship is going. He lived in one place, I lived in another, so I began asking (like any normal adult would) if we should move in together somewhere close to where we both worked. Rather than speaking like a mature adult, he snapped at me calling me controlling, annoying, and a whole bunch of other things. Meanwhile, I was the most passive person ever when I was with him. And when both his mother and I suggested he re-enroll in college and actually get a job with a future he screamed at both of us, saying we were ganging up on him. Not like he was doing much else with his life that he would have no time for school.
I believe my ex-boyfriend had been raised to speak to a woman this way. I never met his father, who had died, but the things he told me did not make his father look like Ward Cleaver. Apparently, his father belittled his mother throughout their marriage, calling her fat, dumb, and lazy. Meanwhile, his mother was a registered nurse in the ER who made a ton of money and his father was a stock room manager at Walmart. No disrespect to managers at Walmart but come on! Who sounds smarter, his mother or father? It’s not like you need very many skills to work in a stock room, where your co-workers are a bunch of boxes. Not unlike his father, my ex had a dead end job as a night manager at a creepy hotel, and spoke to his mother horribly. Not unlike the way he spoke to me. He didn’t learn that on his own. His father must have been the same way.
Yet, still, I did not break up with this person. Why??? Believe me, I have asked myself the same question many times over the years.
The worst part of this is that I began to believe I truly was fat, stupid, unattractive, and everything else he called me. Never once did he tell me that I looked pretty, or that I had on a nice outfit on a given day. Instead, he would tell me that my clothes looked tight, my hair looked awful, and why couldn’t I lose weight? When we started dating I was 110 pounds. Eventually, I began to gain weight and looked bloated. It’s almost like I made myself become what he was saying I was. I really have no explanation for why I did that. All I do know is that I was miserable at that time of my life. To this day, knowing how miserable I was at that time, I cannot look at pictures of myself.
During the time we were dating, the guy that I had been seeing when I first started dating my eventual abuser contacted me again. For the first time in my life, I seriously considered cheating on a boyfriend. I was extremely unhappy with my boyfriend, and thought “well, maybe this would be a nice reprieve from the shell of a relationship I’m in. It would be nice to have sex with a guy who doesn’t outweigh me by over 100 pounds for a change.” Ultimately, I decided against cheating. I often wonder if I should have just gone ahead, cheated, and then broke off the existing relationship I had.
The final straw came when he insulted my family. Insulted my sister for receiving counseling when she needed help. Meanwhile, this guy clearly could have benefitted from therapy. This was exactly the wake-up call I needed. Insult me, call me names, and say things about me, but don’t even try going after someone that I care about. I was pretty much done by that point, I just hadn’t broken it off for good yet.
One day after work I was driving to his house after work, I had a moment of clarity on the George Washington Bridge: “I do not want to be with Rob anymore.” That weekend, I don’t even remember what we did. But I do remember him yelling at me that I had no common sense because I let his dog run around the yard off-leash (which the dog did every day, by the way), and that I was just like his mother. However, comparing me to his mother, who is very successful at what she does and much smarter than her son, is really the best compliment he could have given me.
We got the dog back inside, and went to talk in his bedroom. I don’t remember anything that he said but I did say, “Let’s take a break from this.” As soon as I said these words, I knew it was over for good. His reaction? Surprisingly, the guy who called me so many names over the past two years cried that we were breaking up. He told me he loved me and wanted to be with me.
If he had truly ever loved me, he would never have spoken to me the way he did. I was just the first woman who ever gave him the time of day, and maybe he thought I would continue to put up with his behavior, his total lack of ambition, and lack of overall hygiene. I mean, his mother put up with how his father spoke to her, right?
But I wouldn’t. Not anymore. I was tired of it all by that point. Tired of trying to fight for a relationship I didn’t want to be in anymore. The last thing I remember doing is saying good-bye to his mother, shrugging off Rob’s tears about the relationship ending (it all just seemed insincere to me by that point), and driving away, not looking back.
I did not cry, not until much later anyway. And it had more to do with the actual act of finally breaking up than who I’d actually broken up with.
I never missed Rob once we were broken up. To be honest, I missed his dog (a very cute puggle) more than I ever did him. I miss having a boyfriend, I suppose, but I would much rather be alone than ever be unhappy like I was when I was with him.
Rob sent me a birthday card a few months after we broke up, so I sent him one. My family did sent a sympathy card when his grandfather died less than a year after we broke up (like I said, I did like his family). Cards were sent mostly to be polite, not out of any feelings for him personally. Other than that, though, we have had zero communication. We are not Facebook friends, I don’t know his email address (actually I’m not sure that I ever did), and I don’t have his phone number anymore.
It took me a very long time to finally speak to my parents, family, or friends, about how bad the verbal abuse actually was. My mother did say that she didn’t like the way he spoke to me, but I was an adult and she did not want to get involved.
A friend of mine recently told me that, had she known how bad the verbal abuse actually was, she would have intervened. But Rob put on a good front when we were around her. “I would have punched him,” she told me, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
She did say to me, however, that her husband noticed something wasn’t right about Rob after we had gone bowling with them. “I don’t like how Rob treats her,” he told her, “She deserves way better than him.”
He was right.
Well, it’s been two years since we broke up. I have been on a few dates, joined a support group, and been more open about my past to friends and family. It is just very hard, because they have questions I really have no answers to.
While most people would say I’m doing all right, I carry around a lot of scars inside. I may not have been physically abused, but my trust issues are at an all-time high. I worry that the next person I become serious will treat me just as badly, call me names and lower my self-esteem, and that I won’t have the courage or sense to walk away this time.
I also kind of see my body as contaminated because he touched it. I sometimes think, I let a guy like that have sex with me? Who else could possibly want me after that? It sounds strange, but I’m really afraid for another guy to touch me.
I blame myself in many ways. I should have walked away from this person much sooner, I should not have stayed with him for over two years. I mean, when I finally did walk away, I had no problems doing so. So, why didn’t I just dump the loser? I don’t know if I will ever really have an answer to that question.
I do have one regret about the whole thing: not confronting him with his unacceptable behavior. I fear for the woman, if there ever is one, who ends up with him because he probably thinks he never said anything wrong. His behavior may also one day escalate to physical violence, which is truly frightening to me. I just hope that woman leaves him before any of that happens.
All I know is that, while I am very far from perfect, I did not deserve the treatment that I received from my ex boyfriend. That is not love. I may have emerged from this experience with some invisible scars, but one thing that I also have is more important to me: freedom.
“The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are often not as obvious. In fact, even among women who have experienced violence from a partner, half or more report that the man’s emotional abuse is what is causing them the greatest harm.”
-Lundy Bancroft, “Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.”