When I first met him, I was immediately smitten. He didn’t like me though. He liked my friend. I’m not even sure he realized another person was standing there as he chatted her up. They exchanged numbers and I remember watching him as he walked away. I wished it was my number he’d taken. In hindsight, the universe was probably doing me a favor. I never thought about that until now.
A few months passed and for whatever reason the two of them never hooked up. It didn’t seem to bother my friend—she had lots of guys interested in her. Then one day while on a date, I saw him again. This time he walked right up to the guy I was with and shook his hand. They had gone to school together. I thought what a small world. The feelings I’d felt when I saw him all those months before came flooding back. My heart ached—my belly, full of butterflies. It was the worst and the best feeling. My date introduced us and as he reached out to shake my hand I knew I’d met the man I would marry. At least that’s what I was hoping.
Better be careful what you wish for. That’s what my grandmother always said to me.
After that night, I ran into him again. This time, he approached me, asked if I was still going out with so-and-so. I shook my head no and felt my heart racing. I tried to act cool so he wouldn’t think I was complete lunatic. But I was crazy about him. And I didn’t even know him. I didn’t know that behind that smile was an insanely jealous, possessive, verbally abusive sociopath.
Not until it was too late.
He called me the next day. I was over the moon with excitement. On paper he was perfect. He had an outgoing personality, he was beautiful, he was smart, he said all the right things…
People loved him. He was popular and well liked, the life of the party—in public. My best description of him now? A snake charmer.
It wasn’t long before I saw glimpses into his dark side. Any time another man so much as smiled at me, it must have been because I wanted to sleep with him. He began to control me—told me what to wear, what TV shows I could watch, whether I could answer the phone when my mother was calling.
I get angry now when I think back at my life then. HOW did I let this happen? WHY didn’t I pack my bags and run as fast as I could in the opposite direction?
The answer is I don’t know.
After a few months of dating we moved in together and things got worse quickly. He was no longer handsome to me. He was ugly and hateful and most days I wished he would die. I fantasized the police knocking on the front door and telling me he’d been in a tragic auto accident and that they were sorry but he didn’t survive. I remember practicing in the bathroom mirror my facial expression upon hearing the news. I had to be convincing—I had to make them think I was saddened by what they were telling me. I couldn’t let them see that they’d released me from my prison.
But that never happened. He came home every day at the same time without a scratch.
After an especially awful weekend of him berating me and telling me I was worthless and stupid and how no one else would have me, I decided to finally leave him. I was going to load my things in the car after he left for work and leave a note on the kitchen counter telling him I was never coming back. The very thought of it terrified me.
And then, Monday morning I realized I was late in getting my period. I begged God, “Please don’t let me be pregnant. “ But I was. It was the worst news I’d ever received. I was pregnant and 23 years old and beat down to the point that I thought I had no choice but to stay with him.
Girls can be so stupid.
The next day I told him the news and he seemed happy about it. He even treated me nicely for a few days. The name calling stopped, he doted on me… He even said I looked beautiful pregnant. I thought maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. Maybe having a baby together would change him.
But the niceties didn’t last long. Soon he was back to his abusive self—telling me I was stupid because I didn’t finish college, calling me names like “fat ass,” questioning every penny I spent, monitoring my daily routine.
“What’d you spend $7.44 at the convenience store on?” He asked once.
“Um, I think I bought a Coke and a Snickers bar.”
“So you think that’s a smart idea? You know they jack up the prices at the convenience stores. But I guess since you’re stupid you wouldn’t know something like that. DON’T DO IT AGAIN!”
I apologized and then locked myself in the bathroom and cried. I cried a lot.
I couldn’t let him see me though because that would just make things worse. He’d get angry, tell me I was a baby, and throw things at me.
I shut down.
I built walls.
I moved into self-preservation mode.
I focused on my unborn child. The one I vowed to protect.
We got married. Because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you find yourself pregnant out of wedlock? But I knew at the reception that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. During our “first dance” I said something like, “Let’s really work on getting along. I know we can do this.”
And that’s when I saw it. There was evil in his eyes. He pulled away from me, grabbed my arms really hard and said, “Why’d you have to ruin a perfectly good moment?”
I cried. Right there on the dance floor with 100 people looking on. I couldn’t stop.
My life sucked.
I lost most of my friends after I got married. I didn’t and I don’t blame then. I wouldn’t have been friends with me either. They couldn’t stick around and watch the horror unfold before their eyes. I felt alone in my prison cell. The only thing that kept me going was the growing fetus inside me.
I wasn’t allowed to find out what I was having. He went with me to every appointment to make sure of that. I wasn’t allowed to use disposable diapers even though I would be the one changing them. I couldn’t go to lunch with my friends. I couldn’t spend time with my family. I could go to work and that was it.
I know what people are thinking. “Why would you go along with this? Why didn’t you leave? Why would you let someone treat you like this?”
And the answer is simple. When you’re told you’re worthless and stupid long enough you start to believe it. I didn’t feel I had permission to do anything, say anything, be anything, without his approval.
After another year, I got pregnant with our second child—a second daughter. And things only got worse. He shoved me a couple of times. He pinched. He grabbed. He mocked. I still wanted him dead, but no longer in an accident. I wanted to kill him myself. And when I started having those thoughts I knew I had to get out. I had to find a way to be strong enough for me and my two young daughters to say “you know what? This isn’t OK.”
Remarkably, miraculously, I did just that. One day I DID load up the car and I DID leave a note saying I wouldn’t be back.
And it was the most liberating day of my life. I took control. I found me again. And you know what? I’m awesome. And I’m strong. And I’m smart. No one would ever tell me differently ever again.
He didn’t make it easy for me. But it didn’t matter. I could do anything. THIS was easy compared to the hell I’d been living. It was the hardest year and a half of my life—getting the divorce. But I did it. And I never looked back. And I never will.
Does it make me sick now, thinking back to how my life was then? Absolutely. But, I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not gone through this experience. That’s not to excuse what he did to me –not at all. But you know, he was a great teacher. I learned a lot about myself during those three years. Mostly, that I love myself too much to let someone treat me poorly. I was abused.
There, I said it. It was mostly verbal, but the punches left deep scars and tender wounds.
They’re mostly healed now. And I’m a better wife to my new husband (well, 8 years new) and my four children because of it. That may sound a little strange that a person would be better after an experience such as this, but it’s true. It’s my reality.
And I will never again be the girl I used to be.
-The author wishes to remain anonymous.