His silhouette was dark in my doorway, my bedroom dark, the light of the hallway casting an amber aura around him. “Is there a reason why you can’t fully close the toothpaste cap?”
I laid there, half laughing, half in shock. “What?”
“Are you that lazy that you can’t even put the cap on the toothpaste? How much effort do you think it takes to do something so simple? If you can’t do these little things then how can I expect that you can maintain a relationship? A REAL ADULT RELATIONSHIP, JENN!”
I started apologizing profusely. He was right. I was lazy to not cap the toothpaste. I will do better, I will be a better person, I will make more of an effort. But that wasn’t good enough though… Nothing was.
We met in June at a rock benefit, but didn’t start officially dating until October; Unbeknownst to me, while he was with another woman. I was warned of his chronic womanizing, that he was a perpetual user, his “M-O” being that he goes from female to female for a place to crash, food to eat, and someone to care for him. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that he could be so evil, or apathetic. To me, he came off as overly caring and sensitive. He was highly affectionate and made me feel like I was the only girl in the room. He couldn’t be the same person that these people were talking about… Perhaps he just had a bad rep. We all have stories; perhaps his was just a bit longer than others. I should have listened though, because they were right.
He moved right in, manipulated his way into my life and the life of my daughter. The first few weeks he put me on a pedestal, almost smothering me. He wanted all of my free time and at first I thought it was cute, but then he began to give me hell when I would want to go out with my friends. If I even stepped out to get something to eat with friends I was given a massive guilt trip.
“Real adults stay home. Real adults shouldn’t have to go out all the time. If you want to be in a real adult relationship, then you should start acting like it, Jenn!”
I started to go out less and less, mostly because I didn’t want to upset him. He was right; I shouldn’t have to go out all the time. I should be home were I belonged, waiting for him. He wouldn’t abide by the same rules though because there were many nights where he just didn’t come home and would either attribute it to having to work late, or that he was staying with his friend. Those nights I didn’t hear from him at all, and if I so much as texted him “hello”, I was accused of being jealous and insecure.
I would often lie awake at night thinking “What have I done?” I don’t even know this person… How did I just let him move into my home-my life? Why was I so weak? I didn’t want him there, but at the same time I needed him. He knew my vulnerabilities and would play off of them often. The minute I started to question the relationship, he would become romantic, caring and sweet- The person that I fell in love with, the person that I initially started to date. The minute I felt comfortable he would revert right back to the person that made me feel insecure and unwanted. We rarely slept together, and If I even mentioned that, I was called needy, that all I cared about was sex and attention. I began to feel like I was a bad person for wanting to be intimate with my partner, so I eventually stopped asking. Aside not being intimate with one another, he wouldn’t even sleep in the same bed. He claimed he needed to sleep on the couch because of a previous back injury. That “back injury” texted him often.
At first I had no real proof that he was cheating, other than my instincts. When I would question him I would get berated, told that I was too needy, insecure, and that no one wanted a girl like that. Over time I was manipulated into thinking I was crazy, that I had “trust issues” and was far too jealous and insecure for our relationship. Even though I was right all along, he literally had me thinking I was crazy, even when concrete evidence was finally put in front of me, I still believed his lies.
My home had to be spotless or I would have to listen to the endless insults against my womanhood. If I dare leave a plate in the sink, or a bobby pin on the counter, I would hear how I was a terrible girlfriend, a lazy human, and not marriage material. There were nights when I would wake up at 2 in the morning to the smell of bleach and rubbing alcohol, he would be downstairs having a fit while scrubbing the floors. I didn’t dare go down, I made that mistake once. He glared up at me in contempt asking why I was up and out of bed, then demanded that I get back to my room so I can “Get my much needed sleep” while he “Cleaned up after me and my child”. He hated the cats and I often wondered what he was doing to them while I was at work all day. Most of the time he kept them locked in the basement; I wasn’t allowed to let them out at night. My oldest cat would urinate on the floor whenever he would approach him, which deeply troubled me. He would often joke about killing them, or “throwing them by their head down the stairs”. He also made the same kind of jokes regarding me.. .That he knew how he was ‘going to kill me’, by either chopping me up into pieces or by striking me with a hammer. He would often make these jokes with a smile on his face… I would smile back, but deep down was concerned that he just may be serious.
I would like to say things never got physical but that would be untrue. The first time he put his hands on me was after he had too much to drink at a party. He sat in the reclined passenger seat of my car calling me a whore and a poor excuse for a mother; His eyes on fire and hot spittle flying from his mouth as he screamed obscenities at me. I didn’t even know what I had done wrong to deserve his anger. When we arrived home, and I made my way into the house, him close behind.. He was in my face, I could feel the spit hitting my cheeks as he slurred and screamed.. He said it again-“whore” and I slapped him. He stood there for a second, drunkenly swaying; As if in slow motion I watched him cock back, and felt the sting as his hand met my face. My jaw immediately throbbing, I was on the floor. Sobbing, I laid there afraid that he would strike again. He glared down at me, called me a baby and told me to get up. He then sloppily threw himself onto the couch and passed out. At first I was too afraid to move, but then I quietly grabbed my purse and keys and snuck quietly out of the house to seek the words of a friend. The entire time my jaw ached, I had trouble eating M&M’s that I grabbed from a vending machine. I just couldn’t believe that he had put his hands on me. As scared as I was to go home, I knew I had nowhere else to go so late at night. I quietly entered the house as he snored on the couch and inched my way upstairs, careful not to make a sound. I eventually fell asleep. The next morning he texted me apologizing profusely claiming that he had no idea what happened, he didn’t remember hitting me. I finally accepted his apology, but it wasn’t until then that suddenly he remembered everything… He remembered hitting me, but he also remembered “why”. I hit him first. I “deserved” it. Once again, I was apologizing to him, I would be better, it wouldn’t happen again. I would like to say that that was the one and only time that it got physical, but unfortunately it wasn’t. There were times when he physically held me down because he wanted to take my phone from me since he owned the contract. There was also the time when he dragged me through the streets of Providence, my arms bruised and face streaked with tears and eyeliner.
I know many of you are thinking “Why didn’t she leave?” Well it was a lot more difficult than you think. Most of the times that I tried to leave; he would revert to someone almost human, someone loving and caring of the relationship; The human side of him would usually last for a few weeks, or at the most, a few months then he would go right back to the person that I loathed and feared. If the loving and caring side of him didn’t come out, he would scare me into staying by threatening to ruin me to my friends and family by making defamatory posts about me or by calling the police or the state stating that I was the abuser. Often, he would play off of my sympathies by saying that he was going to kill himself or that he was seriously ill, knowing that I would immediately coming running. The mysterious illness would always disappear when I would let him back in though, and he would be miraculously healed. The suicide obviously never happened. Scared of the threats that he made against me and himself, I ended up falling back into the relationship, and the abuse.
His presence dominated the apartment and I felt like a prisoner in my own home, afraid to enter any room he may be in, in case he was in one of his moods. Even if he was not present, I was afraid of him walking in and seeing me resting or doing anything other than cleaning because then I was once again deemed lazy and not appreciative of his being there. He isolated me from my friends and was beginning to do the same with my family. He made me feel like everyone was the enemy, and that he was the only one that had my side. I found myself going into deep depressions and violent rages, unable to control my emotions. My relationship with my daughter started to fail, making things rocky between my family and I. My daughter felt like I was always taking his side, when in reality I was just trying to keep the peace. I was completely losing who I was, who I thought myself to be. My identity became “His Girlfriend” rather than Jennifer. I slowly felt myself morphing into the Stepford Wife that he wanted me to be. Alcohol became my means of escape, and I began to drink daily to the point when I just didn’t care anymore. I didn’t want to feel the pain. I just wanted to be numb.
I finally sought therapy so I could become the quintessential girlfriend and wife that he envisioned. I felt like I was the problem in the relationship. That my insecurities and emotions were holding us back from becoming the couple I wanted us to be. I wanted nothing more than to be a good wife to someone someday, and under the pressure of Him I was told to seek help becoming such… This move would become my saving grace.
My therapist taught me that the relationship was not healthy, and even though he claimed I was, I was doing nothing wrong. With her help I was finally aware of the abuse and my esteem grew with each session. His attempts to control me started to fall onto deaf ears. It wasn’t going to happen any longer. Not on my watch. He began to get frustrated and angry. He accused my therapist of being a quack because instead of helping me, she was in turn making me “defiant” (in other words, I wasn’t adhering to his rules). I was no longer going to be a victim. I was going to rise above. He pleaded to make things work, he even stated that we were engaged, which I fell into for a bit. He bought me a cheap ring to symbolize “the engagement” and even changed his Facebook status to say engaged; all a ruse to gain attention on his end. He kept telling me that marriage was a business agreement, by then I knew he was just looking to secure his place. I knew his desire to stay in the relationship had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with his fear of losing his “comfort zone”. I finally gained the strength to tell him to leave. He took my cell phone from me, and my daughter’s from her which was fine truthfully. I let him keep them and I opened a new contract and stuck him with the cancellation bills. He was plenty mad about the bills, but even more so when he went through my phone and read a daily journal that I kept. It contained every horrible thing he did to me, and how I felt about him. My words were not kind in that journal. He deserved to read it.I got a new number and blocked him from contacting me unless it was in writing. He began to stay with a friend, and finally moved out by Independence Day weekend, both symbolic and ironic.
Since then he tried to re-enter my life, but I have learned to recognize the signs and symbols of his desperation. He will come off as human, but the moment he is shot down he will go right back to the controlling abusive person that he always was, which only gives me confidence in my decision.
Since then I can’t say that it’s been easy to trust or date again. I’ve decided that I need a lot of time to just stay alone and figure out who I am first. I still have nightmares, and I still see my therapist to help me work through the aftermath.
Writing this blog hasn’t been easy, but I need people to know the story, or shortened version of it anyway.
The next time you catch yourself judging your friend or relative for being in an abusive relationship, think before you judge. Perhaps your friend knows just what they are involved in, but they are afraid to make the move to end it. Be supportive; be there for your friend. Even if your friend cuts you out of their life, know that they will be back. It takes time to learn what they truly need to do. You can’t tell them what they need to do; they need to see for themselves… And when they do finally see, make sure you are there to catch them when they fall. They are going to need you to help them pick up the pieces; they will need you to lean on as they piece their lives back together.
For those of you in abusive relationships seek help- if not now, then when you are ready. The longer you stay, the more they can manipulate, and the harder it is to leave.
Lastly, remember- it’s not you, it’s them. Abusive people tend to come from abusive households, or are just plain sick. Learn from it and accept that it is NOT you. You CAN get past it, you CAN leave. Nothing is impossible; you just need to know you can. There are people that are out there that love and care for you, which will be there to help you if you need it, and while it won’t be easy, it’s certainly not impossible. Breathe. Your time will come.