I always just blamed the abuse on myself…

We met my junior year of high school, and things were amazing at first. He was everything I thought I wanted in a boyfriend. He was a year older and much bigger and older looking than the other guys at school. He had a reputation of cheating on his girlfriend, but convinced me that it was a one-time thing and that he was a different person. However, there were some red flags in the beginning that I chose to ignore. His ex girlfriend of about six months was extremely jealous and hurt by our relationship. She claimed that they had been rekindling theirs when we got together and that he basically left her for me. He denied all of this and called her psycho/crazy. I just dismissed it as a jealous ex and continued in the relationship. About one month into our relationship his ex randomly texted me and said “I hope he never hits you or cheats on you because that’s his tendencies.” I didn’t respond, but these words haunted me. I couldn’t understand why a girl that was constantly pining for him back was claiming that she had been abused in their relationship. I was young and naive and ignored this as well. Things continued to go well in our relationship and I was happier than ever. At this point, I was 17 and still in high school.

Things began to change about two months into the relationship. We only hung out with his guy friends or went on double dates with one other couple. I had a childhood best friend that I did EVERYTHING with. She was my person. However, once I started dated him we slowly drifted apart because I wanted to spend all my time with him. Once she confronted me about it and I tried to make time to go spend with her and he began to bad mouth her and all the other girls we would hang out with. He would call them immature, party girls, sluts, bad influences, gossipers, and bad friends. This hurt me, but it was easy to accept the idea that the reason we weren’t hanging out anymore was because of them.

I began going to his house every night and spending almost 24/7 with him. Any time that I would try to go out shopping alone or with a friend, I would have to snapchat him pictures the whole time of what I was doing because he would claim that I was cheating on him or seeing other guys. He was also very insecure of my guy friends.

I have always had a lot of close guy friends and he did not like this at all. He would accuse me of liking them or flirting with them and threaten to break up with me. I would convince him that they were just friends and he would go back to being very affectionate. Throughout our relationship, I was contacted by multiple people telling me that he was cheating on me with other women. When I confronted him about it he would get really angry and tell me that they were trying to break us up and that I was stupid/crazy.

About 6 months into our relationship, he started becoming more and more cold towards me. At this point, he had graduated and I was going into my senior year of high school. I was IN LOVE. He was the first boy I had been with and I thought he held the world in his hands. He would often tell me that he felt like I didn’t love him or that I didn’t do enough for him. He started to nitpick everything I did. If I ate any type of junk food or even just craved it he would call me fat or say “fatty you don’t need that.” (I was 5’8 and weighed 123 pounds and worked out nearly everyday). If I wore something tight, revealing, or even just trendy, he would call me a hoe, wh*re, sl*t, etc. These things hurt my feelings but I always just blamed it on myself and would try to fix it. I often found myself telling him “I’m sorry, I’ll do better.”

I wasn’t allowed to drink in our relationship because he didn’t drink. Going into college and out of high school I missed out on so many social experiences because he didn’t “let” me go out with people. I once took a SIP of alcohol at a party with him and he snatched my hand, took my keys, and didn’t talk to me for two days. He was EXTREMELY controlling when it came to partying.

About halfway through my senior year, one year into our relationship, he decided to join the military. He met with the recruiter and started the process of joining. I was the most supportive person in his life at this point (he had a rough relationship with his parents). He often told me he was having second thoughts about going because he felt like I couldn’t handle him being gone, I was going to “hoe around” with other guys when he left, I needed him too much for him to leave, and implied that I wouldn’t be able to function without him. I continued to support him, but these thoughts began to weigh down on me. Could I make it without him?

He did not show much emotion throughout our relationship and would tell me it’s because he did not have any. He would say “I am not an emotional guy, I really don’t feel or express things like that.” I tried every day to get him to show some sort of sign that he loved or cared about me. He would usually respond to this with things like “you need me” or just saying a simple “I love you” and unfortunately, that was sufficient for me.

He would also get these angry spurts throughout the two years that we were together. If we were in the car he would jokingly (?) say he was going to crash the car if I didn’t shut up. He would then drive reckless and speed up really fast when he got mad. He once went 100 in a 55mph zone because he was mad at me. I was begging him to slow down and I had to close my eyes I was so afraid we were going to crash.  If I was confronting him about things he would grab my arm or wrist so that I could not walk away. He also started to get into the habit of hitting me in the leg and laughing it off. This was his way of “messing with me.” It was a way of flirting, like in elementary when we were told “boys hit the girls they like.” Except now these hits were harder and left bruises on my thighs. If he didn’t grab me, he would give me the silent treatment. We never argued. He would just refuse to talk to me until I apologized or took back what I said. Often times, I was apologizing to him for things that he had done wrong to me.

There were also sexual boundaries in our relationship that crossed the line. I would not classify them as abuse or assault, but he could not take no for an answer. It was never anything forced, but he would often try and do things that I had already expressed discomfort about and I would have to yell stop at least three times and push him off the best I could before anything would actually stop. He once had his hands around my neck and tightened them. I was fine, until I couldn’t breath. I began hitting his hands trying to tell him to stop, but he did not stop until my eyes were rolling into the back of my head and I was seeing dark spots. I fell backwards, still conscious, but scared. The look in his eyes when he had his hands around my neck was the most chilling thing I have ever seen.

He joined the military and left home for a year. I was happier when he left for basic training and when I had no contact with him. Once we were able to be back together he was colder and meaner than ever. He started calling me names like “hoe” more than three times a day and started to trust me less and less. I was being completely faithful to him, even isolating myself so that he had no reason to accuse me of anything, but he still did. Meanwhile, he would often not talk to me for hours – days at a time, and when I questioned him about it he told me I was crazy, clingy, overbearing, and distrusting.

I loved him and continued to do everything for him. I spent thousands of dollars to go visit him and was met with no emotion and was forced to spend almost all day in our hotel room while he mostly slept. I knew that our relationship was going down, but even after all the mean things he would say to me, I still wanted it. Also this whole time I was still being contacted and told that he was cheating on me. When we were together he would hide his phone from me and turn everything on do not disturb. I did not understand why he stayed with me when he wanted to live the single life. I later found out that he even had a Tinder account while we were together.

He made me feel terrible every time we were together. According to him, I never did anything right, I wasn’t as pretty as other girls, I was too big, too small, too flat, too tall, I was dumb, I was a know it all, I was fake, I was a hoe, I didn’t love him, I didn’t appreciate him, etc. I finally decided I needed to break up with him when he came back home. A  year and a half into our relationship I brought all of his things that I had over to his house and explained to him how he made me feel and how I didn’t thing we should be together anymore. He grabbed me and hugged me. This was the most emotion I had seen from him since the first six months of our relationship. He begged for me back, told me how much he loved me, and how amazing I was, and how he swore to be a better boyfriend. I was in awe and still in love with him so I believed him. We stayed together for another six months. It did get a little better for about 3 months, but his same tendencies came back. The same mean words and insecurities, the aggressiveness, the crossed boundaries, all of it came back.

The sad part is I would have stayed with him as long as I could and all of this would have escalated. But thankfully he met a new girl. He broke up with me by telling me that I needed him too much and that he couldn’t live up to what I wanted of him (to just be a nice person) and that he needed to experience the single life. (*he got a new girlfriend two weeks after we broke up). I was devastated. I was now a freshman in college and losing this two year relationship was like losing a part of myself. The night he broke up with me I went to my mom sobbing. I told her almost everything about how he treated me and the things he did. She made me realize that I was in an abusive relationship. I didn’t consider it abusive because he rarely got physical, but the mental hold he had over me was one of the strongest things I’ve ever had to break. He isolated me, bashed me, broke me down, and took away every passion I had in those two years. Nothing was good enough. I hated myself.

It has been a year since we broke up and I cut off all contact with him. He has had a new girlfriend since then. When they broke up, he began harassing me on social media because I refused to respond to him. I had to block him and his friends on everything. He then wrote me a letter and mailed it to his mom. I was very close with his mom and sister and they invited me over for Christmas that year. They tried to tell me to come back and that I was their favorite, but I used that time as a day of closure with them (he wasn’t there at the time). Two weeks after that I got a text from his mom telling me she had something for me and to stop by the house. I was on good terms with them and I thought this was possibly a gift. Instead, she handed me a four page letter from him. I brought my best friend with me to read it and it was like all the emotions of our breakup came back. I read it a few times and cried a few more times. I realized that he wrote everything in that letter that he thought the old me would want to here. “I know how to be a good boyfriend now. My girlfriend after you didn’t support me like you did. You treated me so good.” etc. It was all about how HE felt. He even admitted in the letter that his girlfriend after me broke up with him because he was extremely controlling and then he went on to say that she was “crazy” and that it was “BS.” I can confirm that she is correct and I am so glad that she got out of that relationship.

I never responded to the letter and I am still getting requests from him and fake accounts or his friends accounts that I have to block every time, but I know I will never go back to him. I still get scared thinking about what he might be capable of and how bad our relationship could have gotten. I’m grateful that I got out when I did.

All that time during our relationship, I felt in love, I felt protected by him from other people, and I felt like he was the only person I had. Sometimes, too, I was scared of him. Often I felt terrible about myself and unworthy of any sort of love. I felt like if I lost him, I would never find anyone.

After we broke up, I was severely depressed. The first week I cried so much that tears were just streaming down my face during every day activities. I laid on the couch without moving for long periods at a time. I lost all motivation. I felt ugly, fat, depressed. I didn’t want him back though. I knew how horrible he was to me and how much better off I would be. I felt stupid for allowing it. I just had to start healing myself.

Now I feel strong. I am gaining back my confidence everyday. I do not let him or anyone intimidate me or talk down to me. I trust my gut. I know how to look for red flags. I love myself and practice self love and positivity everyday. I am still healing my mindset, but it gets better daily. Sometimes I am afraid of him, but I have an amazing group of supporters around me. I read a lot of things about domestic abuse, narcissism, sociopaths, cheating, gaslighting, and emotional, sexual, and mental abuse. I defined what my relationship was and wasn’t. I began dressing how I wanted to and did every thing I loved again without being judged. I slept when I wanted to and went out when I wanted to. I did everything for me and lived for myself. Talking about the relationship and abuse helped a lot too. Having my feelings validated was the biggest healing process. Realizing and accepting that I was in a verbally abusive relationship with someone who never truly loved me was eye opening. I had to teach myself that what he showed me was not love, it was never love, and it was never going to be love.

To anyone experiencing abuse… You have someone in your corner. Your feelings are valid. You are not crazy. Your story does not compare to anyone else’s. It is unique and it has hurt you in unique ways. You are not who your abuser makes you feel you are. You deserve better. It is not love. Your abuser is/was acting out of hate. You have done all that you can do for this person. It is not your responsibility to make them better. You cannot fix them, no one really can. You do not need anyone, but yourself. You are worthy of love and self love. None of this is your fault.

Do the things you love. Be around people who make you happy and DON’T be around people who don’t bring you joy. You don’t owe anyone, anything. If you’re afraid or alone, get a dog (I promise they’re amazing healers). Read what you can about your abuse and empowering stories of other people. Human beings are resilient. You have the power over your own life.

Also, there is no time limit on healing. It is okay to be hurting 5, 10, 15 , 20, or even 100 years later. It is okay to cry and to feel sorry for yourself. Do not blame yourself. You can learn from this experience and use it to grow into an even more amazing person than you already are. You are always stronger than you think.