He grew on me. I never expected that he would, but he did.
I felt his gaze from across the yard. We were at my stepbrother’s barbecue. The man who looked upon me was his friend. “Hi, nice to meet you,” I smiled, formally. He nodded. I had seen him before, at random get-togethers. We had never spoken before that day. Even then, there was no spark, no chemistry. He was not good-looking nor was he charismatic. We were simply at the same place, at the same time.
We bumped into each other again a few weeks later. Our random meetings were becoming more frequent. He was nice enough. We began talking – intermittently at first – then more steadily, until I was speaking with him daily.
We spent endless hours talking about our values, hopes, dreams and expectations. I was young, inexperienced, naïve – he was a street-smart guy with many vices and a complicated past. The two of us – as unlikely as we were – were falling in love. For me, he was my first boyfriend, my first touch, my first everything.
Falling in love is a funny thing. All of the habits I had once considered unacceptable – like smoking, drinking and cursing – became ‘not so bad’. I thought he was good. As far as I was concerned, he needed a little guidance, a little acceptance, a little love. I would give it to him, because essentially, I believed he was good.
There was a reason every person who cared for me hated him. They despised my relationship with him. They thought I was too good for him. I fought with them. I told them they were wrong, that they didn’t know him like I did – but in my torn heart, I knew they were right. I knew I could do better.
He wasn’t able to control his temper. He was possessive. As our relationship progressed, he became increasingly jealous about my interactions with anyone other than him – even with my family. When he was angry, it was bad. Bitch, slut, whore – he called me names I had never been called before. He screamed. His body shook violently. It was never a fight – always an attack. Like an angry Pitt Bull, restrained by a precarious tether, he would spew hateful words my way. My adrenaline pumped, my heart raced and my skin felt like it was on fire. Somewhere in my soul, I feared that the flimsy tether that held him back would break, and he would unleash his full wrath upon me.
It never happened. He never hit me. Still, I was broken. I was a shell of a person. The man I loved had successfully isolated me from my friends, family and loved ones. He convinced me that he cared about me more than anyone else in the world. He drilled into my mind that the only reason he acted so angrily towards me was because I pushed his buttons. I hated myself. I felt terrible. I talked to no one. I stopped taking pride in my appearance. I let myself go. My self-worth, in its entirety, was connected to him. When I thought about leaving him, I couldn’t imagine my life without him – his drama, his love, his anger, his hate, his affection, his protection, his jealousy, his generosity – him.
My family intervened. I fought them tooth and nail. I defended him relentlessly. They would not give in. My personality had withered away in such a dramatic fashion that they instinctively knew something was wrong. They did not give me ultimatums, nor did they show their anger. They talked to me, day after day after day, until my walls broke down.
I had built a strong dam around the girl I was, in order to protect her. When the dam broke, that repressed girl came pouring forth. I finally spilled my secret –that I hated the man that I loved. He mistreated me. He cursed at me. He isolated me. He made me fearful. He made me feel badly about myself. He chipped away at my self-esteem. I hated what he was doing to me, and still, I wanted to protect him from pain.
My loved ones knew. The cards were on the table and I no longer felt the need to portray a happy image. I broke it off. As you may assume, it didn’t go well. He became what everyone told me he was the whole time. It wasn’t until I broke up with him that I realized who he really was. As painful as the experience was, his ruthless behavior toward me helped me realize that I had refused to see him for who he really was.
He had shown me, on several occasions, that he was not reliable. He was not trustworthy or capable of loving me the way I deserved to be loved. In fact, he told me exactly that. It was me, who refused to acknowledge the truth. His violence was escalating. My strength was weakening. It took me three years to finally leave my first love. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I had wished for so much, with him. I loved him so much. He, despite his flaws, loved me too.
Today, almost ten years later, I know what it means to love and be loved. My husband showers me with praise and admiration. He has never so much as uttered a negative word toward me. Yes, we fight sometimes, but when the argument is over, I still feel whole. He does not make me question my worth, my capacity, my purity, my character, or anything else that I hold in high esteem. He encourages my relationships with friends and family.
There was a time when I hated the man I loved. Now, I simply love the man I love. It doesn’t hurt to love anymore. I know now, that when love hurts, it’s wrong.
[box]Ladies, if any part of this story resonates with you, please, DO SOMETHING. If your man demonstrates uncontrollable rage, it will ONLY GET WORSE. These things escalate, they don’t get better.
When a man loves you, he will want you to grow, blossom, flourish and thrive. He will want you to be surrounded my your loved ones. He will not isolate you. When a man controls you – when he isolates you from the people you love, he is cutting you off from your lifeline. When he calls you by a disrespectful name, he is hitting below the belt. He has, in that moment, and in his mind, dehumanized you. You become, to him, a bitch, a slut, or what have you. Don’t let an abusive man redefine who you are. You ARE NOT what he labels you. He is breaking you down so that you are too weak to leave him.
If you feel yourself shutting down, shying away from family and friends, feeling alone, hating yourself – stop! Get out of the relationship. Turn to the people who have always loved you, your family and friends. Trust that they will help you rebuild your courage and your commonsense.
Leaving a man that you are emotionally and physically connected to is extremely difficult. Sometimes, the void that is left behind is almost as unbearable as the pain of being involved with an abusive man. The difference is, the abuse will escalate, the void will get better.
Acknowledge the fact that being alone feels lonely. There will be tear-filled nights and lonely days – but it will get better. When you muster the courage to leave an abusive relationship, you have taken your first step towards the kind of love that doesn’t hurt. [/box]