(Here is my account of only a few of the incidents that happened during my one and a half year relationship with an abuser. I have a REALLY clear recollection of this time in my life due to running these events in my mind over and over when they occurred and even years later. I don’t think much about it anymore so in writing this I was blown away that I, Serena, could have allowed this relationship to continue for so long. I’ve grown so much since then and know I would never have put up with him if I were me, now. Does that make sense? This is another one of those moments I wish I could go back in time and slap some sense in to my young self.)
At the tender age of 17 (almost 18), I met a boy. A 21 year old tall, tanned and hazel eyed hottie. I was hostessing at Outback Steakhouse in San Antonio and he was a patron. After stealing glances at each other, he came up to me and asked me for my number. He was a charmer and I fell hard for this him immediately. Little did I know that this would be the start of a very toxic relationship filled with addiction and abuse.
He took me out to a nice restaurant on our first date and divulged information to me that should have made me run the other direction, but I stayed because 1. I was young and naively intrigued. 2. I felt like in some way this guy needed my help. That happens to be my strength and weakness; if you need me, I’m yours for life.
It was only after a couple of weeks of seeing each other every day and coming to my house, meeting my mom and sweeping me off my feet that he lost his temper for the first time. It was my birthday. We had never discussed how old I was; he never asked and I never shared with him. He asked me how old I was turning and I said 18. He threw my hand away from his and got up. I got up behind him and he turned around, push me with both hands on to the couch and slammed the door behind him. I ran after him and in the front of our place he caused a scene. Yelling at me and telling me what a liar I was to make him believe I was already 18. I felt horrible when he drove off making me feel that yes, it was my fault that he got so mad. I SHOULD have mentioned my age. I cried that whole day and called him multiple times apologizing. He came over the next day and said he forgave me and that now we could move forward. I was thrilled and so appreciative for that forgiveness. We never discussed HIS reaction. This was the start of the master manipulating that would take a year and a half for me to realize that HE was the problem, not I.
The first time I met his parents was a huge red flag. His step-dad was the nicest human being on the planet and a prominent lawyer in town. His mom was a tiny little thing and overly loved her son to where he could do no wrong when it came to others. He was upset with her about something small and started an argument in front of me right after we were introduce. Although she enabled him, she was a firecracker and they yelled it out, calling each other names until his mom left furious and in tears. Afterwards he told me about a few things from his past and because of my young age I felt sorry for him. His dad had died when he was very young and to my recollection it had to do with drugs. To me, THAT explained a lot of his behavior and that I could be the one to change him and make him have a happy life with me. He would bat his extremely long and full lashes to me and say he loved me. I was in too deep with him and allowed most of his antics to roll off my back.
Throughout our relationship, he cut off a lot of my friends. Any time I would want to hang out with them I got this type of response, “Oh. So you would rather spend time with them than me? I see how it is…and you say you love me?” He went so far as to follow me places and one time he waited for me to get home after I went to hang out with my girlfriends. When we arrived I saw him pacing outside of my place I shared with my mom and he was furious because I told him I would be home by a certain time and it was a few minutes after. He again caused a scene in front of them. They waited in the parking lot to make sure I was fine. I was mortified watching their horror as he called me every name in the book saying that if I loved him that I wouldn’t need to go out whoring around town with my friends. I was then ordered to no longer talk to them at all. So I didn’t.
After only a couple of months, he took me to a nightclub with all of my coworkers from Outback. I had a fake i.d, but had already learned that he loved to drink so I would need to stay away from alcohol in order to drive us home. When my coworkers arrived I had pointed to each one from afar and said, “That is so and so,” and did that for every one of them. Well the one that upset him the most was when I pointed and told him the name of a guy who happened to be attractive. He asked me if I liked him and that he could tell by the way I looked at him. He was insane. I said so and walked away once his voice started getting louder. He had had too much to drink and I started to walk out of the club. He followed behind me screaming at me to stop and when I didn’t, he yanked my hair back like a rag-doll and then pushed me out of the club door. I ran to the security and told them what happened. He then proceeded to tell them I was underage and gave them my fake i.d. The security officers did nothing, probably seeing this on a nightly basis. It was up to me to go back in and ask one of my friends for a ride home, but out of pure shame I let him drive me, with him yelling at me the whole way.
He came by my place the following morning, looking horribly sad. He said he felt awful and said he needed help with his drinking. I told him I would find some AA places for him and that I would attend them with him. Mind you, I am still 18. I never told my mom because I didn’t know what to say to her. My boyfriend is a raging lunatic who treats me like crap, yet I still keep him close because he manipulates me in to thinking it’s always my fault or the booze? I was too young to see things objectively, therefore I let him lead our relationship in to one I had to mature way too fast.
I went with him a couple of times a week to these meetings. I felt like a loyal, loving girlfriend sitting next to him. I just KNEW I could help him.
A few weeks in to the meetings, we went out again. We went to a club that was 18 and over with him getting a wristband that said he was 21 or older. He said he would only have beer and that beer didn’t make him go crazy. I thought that sounded like a great compromise. After I could tell he was getting a bit drunk, I offered to drive us home. He refused and said he was fine to drive. I insisted, but he gave me the psycho look so I got in the passenger side door not wanting to get him riled up. He was enraged with me and said I was embarrassing him and called me stupid and countless other things. When he pulled over I was so scared not knowing what he was going to do in the middle of a dark street. Little by little he started to instill such fear in me and as I look back I realize this was another way to get me to stay put, besides deflating my self esteem. He just looked over at me and punched his windshield a couple of times, causing a crack. As he started screaming in pain, he was telling me what a horrible human being he was and how effed up his life was. He drove me home and so the cycle continued. He acted crazy. He apologized. I took him back. Things would be wonderful. Over and over we would do this. This type of relationship wasn’t one I grew up witnessing. My dad didn’t treat my mom this way. It was all new to me and I didn’t know what to do and had already started feeling ashamed that I kept going back, so I didn’t tell anyone.
My sister came in to town with her husband and young son. We walked around the Riverwalk and had a great time. That night he asked me to go home with him to hang out. I didn’t want to leave my sister who was only visiting for a couple of days, but he said something (I don’t remember) that made me go. He had been drinking beer all day and so he was in his “mood”. As we sat on the curb he said something horrible about my sister and her husband so I got up and said that he had crossed a line and that I was going home. I drove off in the car and he ran up alongside it, screaming for me to stop. For fear of running him over, I obliged. He banged his fists in to my windshield and broke it. As I drove off further, he fell in the street and screamed in searing pain. I thought I run over his foot or something so I got out of the car, ran to get his parents who were inside and as they came out I saw that some of my things had fallen out of my car when I had abruptly got out. I was hunched over picking up my things when he stood up, ran over to me and kicked me like a football right in the stomach. His mom screamed, picked me up and carried me down the street. I stayed there as she ran back home. She picked me up in her car and took me to the catholic church down the street. I cried in the pew and wondered where my life had taken me….I’m not sure how I got home and the rest of the night. I was devastated and in pain.
We broke up.
After a few days, he called me telling me his sweet grandmother was sick. He used her as a way to get back in my life because he knew I had grown very fond of her. I went with him to see her….that day we got back together. I can’t answer why I got back. Until you experience the daily manipulation and deterioration of your self-esteem, you will never understand the weakness one feels in a relationship like this. It’s not always as easy as, “Just leave him.”
New Year’s Eve (dating 6 months at this point) was the worst he had ever gotten. He “surprised” me with a huge jug of Carlo Rossi white zinfandel. What a big spender. That wasn’t all he surprised me with. He shared that he had gotten some pornography that he had wanted me to watch with him. No thanks. So after we rang in the new year with him having finished all but the one glass I had had of the “wine”, he wanted to watch the video. I was not having any of that stuff, plus he was sloshed and I found him to be repulsive. He had started to disgust me. I said I was tired and he responded that I was crazy, no fun and proceeded to verbally abuse me. I was so angry with him for all that he had done to me thus far so I hit him on the back with a closed fist. And he beat me in to a corner, went and grabbed a knife and paced in front of me for what felt like hours as he contemplated what he was going to do next. I escaped mentally. I don’t remember when he left, but he didn’t hit me any more and I crawled in to my bed and cried myself to sleep.
He came by my house the next day and begged for forgiveness. He said he didn’t think he could live if I didn’t get back with him. That there was no telling what he would do. It was frightening to say the least. I didn’t want him to do something to himself! How could I live with myself if he did?!? We moved past and continued.
It was already so shameful that someone I loved treated me like this so often. His verbal abuse and manipulation was so frequent that I kept apples in the freezer to place on my eyes in the morning before I went to my college classes because chances are, the night before he would do something that would make me cry so much my eyes would swell. I didn’t want anyone to see my sad eyes. He encouraged me to quit college several times because it took too much time away from him; all of the studying was ridiculous to him. If he only knew half of the study groups that I had to hide from him because he was so obsessed with where my time went when I was not with him. He had me quit the steakhouse and had his mom get me a job working at a day care. He needed control and being around peers and and environment like Outback was causing him to question my faithfulness to him constantly and he got afraid I would divulge this secret to someone. It was just easier to find another place to work rather than deal with the endless 20 questions after my shift every night.
Then, my mom had decided to move us back to Albuquerque to be near my sisters once I finished my freshman year. I was excited to think this was the clean break I needed.
I had finally told my mom that he had a bad temper. I did not share any details, just that I was hoping to break up with him. She was happy since she wasn’t his biggest fan anyway and knew that he had made me cry on more than one occasion and had followed us to the mall one day when we were going to see a movie. I think that was a red flag that he was controlling, but she probably trusted that I would share if there was more to it.
Closer to the time we were to move, it was another “honeymoon” phase. He had said something about wanting me to be the mother of his kids and how great it would be to have babies together. I thought that was sweet, but knew I wasn’t ready for that any time soon. He was on his best behavior and treated me so nice. He said he was making changes and would be the best man and treat me the way I needed to be treated. Then he proposed. I was still only 18 and he was now 22. I was thrilled to know that he loved me THAT much and accepted. I know, I was a brainwashed fool.
He said he would move with me to Albuquerque and things would be wonderful for us. And that’s what we did. My mom was devastated. We moved in to our own one bedroom apartment, he quit drinking, at least around me, and I continued my schooling at UNM. Things started off great until he met a neighbor friend who became his daily pot smoking buddy. I was once again totally grossed out with his inability to just be clean. With my family around I started to feel a little bit stronger. He didn’t allow me to talk to them on the phone for longer than 5 minutes at a time, but I found times when he was at work to talk with them or visit them. I started to visit my sister, Natalie, every day on my way home since she lived right by me. I started to share a few things with her and told her I didn’t love him anymore, but how I felt guilty that he uprooted his whole life for me. I felt stuck.
He started going out with coworkers to have drinks or go to strip clubs and my thinking was, “PLEASE JUST LEAVE ME! Find someone else. Cheat on me!” Because if he did that, it would make the decision so much easier. But he didn’t. At least not that I ever knew about.
His parents came out to visit us one week and the whole time I had to hear from his mom how I wasn’t giving her son the attention he required. I spent too much time on school and going out with friends. Apparently she was getting misinformation. She called me a bitch on her last day in town because I moved my schoolwork from the kitchen to the bedroom so I could have some quiet as I studied. I was over it all and slowly feeling empowered with confidence because I was doing well in school.
One evening after work, we went to help my friend move out of her apartment she was sharing with her boyfriend, who became her ex. My boyfriend had picked me up from work totally stoned out of his mind and I was again, disgusted. I didn’t talk to him the whole ride and when we were meeting my friend for something to eat, he yelled at me in the parking lot. He called me every name in the book, yet again. My friend was appalled since she had no idea he was this way. She looked at me in pity, grabbed my arm and said for me to come home with her. In the car she said I could live on her couch until I found a place. I never looked back. I moved my bags worth of stuff in with her and lived on her couch for about 2 months. Then I got my own studio apartment. He tried to make an appearance at my work, but I told him he should go back to San Antonio and that we weren’t good for each other. He told me he had a box for me with all of my yearbooks and memorabilia that I needed to pick up. When I went to get it the next day, he had moved and left a note that said the box was now at the dump. I was devastated over those yearbooks and to this day resent him for doing that.
I moved on.
I met another boy who was nice, getting ready to enter medical school, came from a great family, Christian and would never raise his voice or a hand to me. He was what I needed to see that I deserved better. After a year and a half together, we broke up but on somewhat decent terms. I had fallen in love with someone I met in Las Vegas during our “We Turned 21” girls’ trip. This man would be the man I would soon marry. Someone who has always been respectful, kind and the most wonderful husband/father to our kids. We are now going on 11 years of marital bliss and I have to thank my ex for showing me what I NEVER wanted in a relationship again.
Since our break-up 16 years ago, he found me on Facebook and wrote me a long letter of apology. It might have been a step towards finally making right with his past. I had already forgiven and forgotten. From our brief Facebook friendship I knew he was married, had a new baby boy and had started a thriving business. It makes me very happy for him that his life wasn’t going to be wasted by anger. I hope he made the necessary changes to be able to hold a non-toxic, loving relationship with someone.
Life takes you through some pretty difficult challenges, but in the end, it all tends to work out as long as you realize your own worth.