I realized I didn’t really know what abuse was…

I will never tolerate abuse again, from anyone.

We met at a concert we were attending. After approximately one year of dating, I moved in with this person, and married him after three years of dating. I realized after I left and after much assessment/acceptance/processing of the relationship that harm in some form occurred throughout. I identified major red flags of the emotional/verbal abuse variety happening after I moved in. I was able to ID the presence of stonewalling and gaslighting before I moved in, as well as either an inability or an unwillingness to talk about his past/upbringing.

While we were living together, and before our marriage, he also exhibited impulsive behaviors that tested our relationship (for example, unrestrained anger toward a co-worker resulting in loss of his job). Otherwise, I considered him very charming, with some eccentricities that I found endearing. We had a lot of common interests and he had interests/pursued activities I wanted to know more about. In turn, he seemed very supportive of my activities both at the time and of ideas I had for future pursuits.

As time went on, and especially after our marriage, the abusive behaviors increased in intensity. If he behaved recklessly or unpredictably, I was unable to question him. He could fly into a rage or completely ignore me, sitting stone-faced, not uttering a word if I attempted to talk to him about our relationship. The first time a violent event occurred, he picked up a wooden cup and threw it at a wall, breaking it in two. It was in the middle of an argument we were having, and though it wasn’t thrown at me and didn’t happen in the same room as me, it effectively ended any verbal exchange that evening.

Some time had passed before the next violent episode. He had taken a day off from work and told me he was feeling sick because he decided to try a random prescription pill a co-worker had offered him. I asked him a few questions about why he would have chosen to do it. After some heated back and forth, he lunged at me and grabbed me around the throat, slamming me into the refrigerator behind me. It all happened very quickly. He let go and I pushed him away, shocked and confused.

There were two other “major” incidents of note during our relationship; one was a marital rape. I had refused sex one night, telling him I was very tired and that I wanted to go to bed. In response, he gave me a look – it was a look I had seen on his face before when he was enraged. From prior experience, I knew I couldn’t test him, so I gave in. The remaining incident was the last straw for me and preceded my leaving the relationship by a few months. We were about to head home on public transportation – it was nighttime and the trip would take about an hour and a half. As we were waiting to board, he angrily asked me if I wanted a divorce. This question came out of the blue and I was completely unprepared. I started to ask him what was going on and he began yelling at me, ranting loudly in front of the other passengers. He continued to verbally attack me throughout the trip and continued to do so after we disembarked and got into our car. I could not reason with him or “connect” with him on any level. For a few hours, he continued yelling at me, driving a short distance, parking the car, yelling, driving to another parking lot, parking the car, yelling. At different times throughout the night he threatened to abandon me at the station and at a hotel, both a half hour drive from home. He finally drove us home around 2:00 AM. On the way, he told me I needed to start packing my stuff and to get out, and I began packing when we arrived. The sun was coming up when he told me to stop, and that he had changed his mind for the time being and we should go to sleep.

During all of this, I felt many emotions – unstable, threatened, scared, adrenaline rush – mind racing. When the rape happened, I felt something die inside, like a light being extinguished. After the relationship ended, I still felt unstable, and also uncertain and powerless.

I left the marriage and got divorced in 2015. With the help of hindsight, research, and therapy I am on solid ground today. The events of this marriage led to a massive unearthing and examination of ALL of the relationships in my life. As time went on, I found common threads leading back to my relationships with my parents. I discovered that the groundwork had been laid as I grew up to believe that treatment like this was normal and acceptable. I know now that it definitely isn’t. I will never tolerate abuse again, from anyone.

The most influential/helpful resources for me beginning my healing process were my local women’s shelter and a therapist I found there, who was exactly the person I needed to talk to at that time, plus group therapy sessions, and the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I realized I didn’t really know what abuse was and definitely didn’t know the mechanics behind why it happened. I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks they might need an eye-opener. I plan to share more of my story and what I have learned in the future as I find my voice-I believe this is the logical next step of my healing progression.

To anyone experiencing abuse… When I was in my abusive relationship, I didn’t know much about abuse – what it really was, or why it happened. All I knew was that the situation I was in made me feel awful, that it was getting worse despite all of my efforts, and I was willing to take whatever steps I could to leave. I would advise others to listen to their own insights and to pay attention to the red flags. Sometimes our internal scripts/software will tell us to ignore and overlook these things-they make us feel bad for a reason.


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