‘I mentioned I had dated men of different ethnic backgrounds. He lost it, screaming, yelling, cursing.’: Woman leaves abusive relationship after being ‘berated’ for how she ‘shouldn’t date outside my race’

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“I used to think how could any woman ever stay with a man that abused her? It wasn’t until I was in an abuse relationship that I realized how hard it is for women (or men) to leave. I dabbled in online dating off and on for a few years. I was a young professional who traveled a fair amount for worked and at one point had lived overseas twice. Once I was officially done traveling for work I decided it was time to have some fun. A simple fling, possibly something more – someone to go out with on the weekends, explore the city and just have generally a good time. So, I signed up for match.com and decided I would give it one month. One month is all it took. In that time, I met my abuser.

Courtesy Amy Lemmon

As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of wine, I was immediately intrigued by him and his knowledge about different wines. After some back and forth of communicating online we set up a date. Our first date lasted six hours. SIX FREAKING HOURS and boy was it fun. Our relationship continued to progress over the next few weeks. I was falling and falling hard for this person that he made himself out to be. I was told everything a you would wanted to hear – from how beautiful I looked to my drive, ambition and personality. You know, all the mushy gushy stuff. I was stuck in this honeymoon phase of the relationship while red flags were silently being lifted. You know how owners can put blinders on horses, so that they only look forward? Yea only I was the horse and he was the owner.

I was in deep, so deep that I had quickly started staying at his house every night and this occurred very early in the relationship. The first red flag came a few weeks into dating. I knew he was conservative but didn’t know the level of conservativeness. We had been talking about previous relationships and I casually mentioned I had dated men of different ethnic backgrounds. He immediately lost it – screaming, yelling, cursing – the whole works. He berated me on how I shouldn’t have dated outside of my race. I had never felt so embarrassed about myself like I did in that moment. And here’s the thing, each of those men that I had dated were nothing short of amazing. I’m a firm believer in that you love who you love, no matter what – and that includes skin tone, background, same sex, etc. Love is love and everyone deserves to be happy. That made me question what I was doing, as my values clearly did not align with his. How could I be with a person who doesn’t care about another person’s happiness? Then came the abuse – and it came in all forms. Concealer became my best friend as it hid the bruises and dark circles from sleep deprivation. At one point he held me hostage in his house all the while screaming at me to leave. Not long after those incidents started he tried to choke me as I was sleeping. And at that moment I started plotting my way to get out and it took months. I didn’t dare tell a single soul about what was happening out of fear.

Courtesy Amy Lemmon

Fear because he was so unstable, that he would hold me hostage again and would eventually seriously injure me or kill me. The day I left, I gathered all of the important things and quietly packed my bag in the morning as he was sleeping. I ran out of that house like I’d never see freedom again and jumped in my car. I remember shaking the whole way to work terrified he was following me. Once I left though, I never looked back. At that point I didn’t care if I had lost everything – my life and my happiness were the most important things.

In the end, he broke me down. He shredded my self-esteem, told me I was worthless and so much more. Now I’m sure everyone reading this is thinking, why didn’t she leave sooner? And there isn’t a simple answer to give. You get caught up in the what ifs – what if he’s having a bad day? What if I’m in the wrong? Maybe he’s just stressed about something.  Sometimes the writing is on the wall, loud and clear and other times its subtle. So subtle that you are in too deep to get out easily.  Each predator is different and employs different tactics to keep a partner hostage, mentally or physically. Every day I’m thankful I had enough in me to leave but every day I also think about the women and men who haven’t made it out of an abuse relationship.   It has taken a few years to build back up what he stripped away in a matter of a few months.

The topic is still raw and at times still struggle with self-loathing and guilty thoughts. Since then I’ve gone on to find a healthy relationship with my soulmate and we are currently planning our wedding for later this fall. He makes me feel loved and joyful, he lights a fire in me that I never had before. He’s patient, understanding and we keep each other grounded. But most importantly, he makes me feel safe. He saved me when I couldn’t save myself. I learned that life and happiness are precious. For those who haven’t been in an abusive relationship the best advice I can give you is to be there for your friends, your family or for your person, whoever that is. And for those that are in an abusive relationship – there is hope. You are more than what is being said to you.  You are worthy of happiness and love. Your person is out there waiting. And when you make the decision to leave I’ll be there to cheer you on.“

Courtesy Amy Lemmon

[If you need help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to live chat with someone 24/7. Help is out there and you are not alone.]

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amy Lemmon, 31, of Kansas City, Missouri. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.

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