“Growing up, I was raised in a home where we were all far from perfect, but we loved one another and were taught to love others deeply with all that we have. My parents were and still are business owners, successful, kind, hardworking people who love one another and value the input of each other’s thoughts and opinions. I didn’t grow up with my parents cussing or yelling at one another. I never witnessed any form of violence from either of them. My parents have been happily married for 21 years, and that is what I wanted for myself and for a family of my own. My mom’s famous words growing up were ‘Don’t half ass anything, especially love.’ That really stuck with my younger sister and I. I still think about those words as I am sitting here, 8 months later, embarking on my first real relationship since my ex-husband.
I met who I thought was the man I would spend the rest of my life with back in 2015. I was 21-years-old with a 1-year old daughter. I didn’t have much time to myself, being a young single mom. But one weekend a month I would have fun while my daughter was in the safe hands of her grandparents. It was a sunny summer day in July floating the river and there he was, this man. He was loading an ice chest with our friends. I had never met him, or even heard of him prior to that weekend. We hit it off immediately, he was everything I thought I needed and wanted in life. He was successful, driven, funny, and not the least put off I had a very young daughter at home. 3 years later, he would take over my life and leave me on the bathroom floor, crying after he had just finished choking me. I never thought this would be my life, I never thought I would have to explain to people I was abused. I never thought I would be the person who was divorced, with two kids, all before I was 25-years-old, but here I am.
The biggest questions I’m asked 8 months later is ‘Why didn’t you just walk away and never look back when you started seeing red flags and the verbal abuse started?’ ‘Why did you go back to him after the first time he hit you?” ‘Why is it so hard for a person in your position to leave?’ This is the best response I can give: it’s hard to leave because you’ve seen your spouse have ‘good days.’ You see the potential they have, even if it’s just a mask. You cling to the fact they can be sweet, kind, and thoughtful. I became consumed with wanting to ‘fix him.’ You tell yourself ‘if I do this, or quit doing this, or change this about myself, it will get rid of his anger and outbursts.’ It’s not true. The first time I saw him ‘snap,’ I should have run for the hills and never looked back. But I didn’t. I stayed, I tried changing myself to keep him happy.
He told me I wasn’t the same person I was when he met me; now I look back on that, and he was right. I wasn’t the same person he met. I had changed because of what he was saying and doing to me. He made me feel so small and completely beneath him. The light in my eyes was gone. I loved him in a very dark and twisted way, but I also feared him.
His favorite lines were ‘If you wouldn’t have done that, these things wouldn’t have happened to you.’ And, ‘I won’t ever apologize for something you deserved.’ Those two lines rocked me to the core, and I will never forget the tone of voice he used, or the way he looked at me, or how his posture would change, and how his shoulders seemed to broaden by 6 inches. I became convinced I was the problem, and I was damaged goods no one would ever want. ‘No one will ever want a single mom with two kids, by two different men. I do everything for you and all you are is an ungrateful spoiled rich bitch.’ Ouch. That one was said regularly. And now, as I embark on this journey with a new relationship, those words still haunt me. I still think those things about myself, because it was beaten into my head. That I was unworthy of someone because I had two kids by two different men, one of which being my ex-husband.
After we got together, I moved in with him. He desperately wanted a child of his own. He was nine years older than me, and he wanted to build a family. Like I said before, I thought he was it. I didn’t realize at the time, that his want for a child was going to be his way of keeping me with him when he finally showed me who he really was. We got pregnant, and things were good for the first 6 months of the pregnancy, rainbows and unicorns.
One day I woke up and everything was different. He quit touching my belly, quit kissing me, quit showing any form of affection period. I made the mistake of asking him what was wrong, and that was the first time he snapped. I have never, in my life, been called such mean, horrific things. Never have I felt so belittled by someone, nonetheless someone who claims to love me. I marked it all up to him being stressed, he had a very intense job, and I chose to blame the outburst on that. I wiped my tears and told myself to let it go. He apologized a few days later and came home with an early Valentine’s gift to make it up to me.
My life flipped upside down after that first episode, nothing was ever the same again. The first time I left was when our son was 3-months-old. I stayed away for about 3 weeks before I returned, and he had convinced me he would change. He promised he would quit drinking and smoking, and a list of other things he blamed his outbursts on. After I went back we had a few good weeks, or even a month or two in-between episodes. Those were my favorite times because he was the man I fell in love with. He would help with the kids, love on me, and make me feel like I was special. In the back of my mind, the fear was still there. I was waiting for the ball to drop.
It was the little things that triggered him, things you would truly never think to be an issue. Texting or calling my parents was a big no no. Outfit choices were a huge issue. Not wearing what he wanted, or not wearing my hair the way he liked, or hugging our male friends to say hello or goodbye. I had to be directly by his side in public, so he could always have his hand on my back or arm. This was not done in a loving way, or as a form of wanting to be close to your loved one. It was done as a sign of control. Not following his rules would unleash what I began to call, Satan. I began consulting him on anything and everything, like my outfit choice and hair style, to try and avoid a fight.
We went on to get married in July of 2017. On the day of our wedding he told me he didn’t want to marry me, and the only reason he was going through with it was because everyone was there. I STILL WALKED DOWN THE ISLE TO HIM. That’s the type of control he had on me. He knew he could say the most hurtful things possible, on what’s supposed to be the most magical day, and I still wouldn’t leave him. He knew I feared him.
A week, to the day, after we got married is when the physical abuse started. We were fighting over my mother’s texts to me about wedding decorations and what to do with them. He snapped. He grabbed me by the arm and threw me 8 feet across our bedroom. I hit the door frame to our bathroom; I went to stand up and he struck me for the very first time. I thought I could handle the verbal abuse, but when the physical abuse started, I was on a whole new level of broken and betrayed. I could not believe my now husband was physically striking me, his wife, the mother to his children. I could hardly walk or stand up straight. The next morning, I ended up going to the chiropractor when he went back to work and had to lie about what happened. I told the chiropractor I fell at CrossFit during an intense workout. I blamed myself for what happened. He convinced me if I hadn’t had been talking to my mother that night, nothing would have happened to me. I believed him.
After the first incident, he had parental locks put on my phone, like I was a child, his property. He would check my phone records when he was at work, and if he saw I had been talking to my mom too much while he was gone, he would shut my phone off, or block my parents’ numbers so I couldn’t text or call anyone but him. His goal was to isolate me and he succeeded. I finally got the courage to leave him again, two months after our wedding. I had made dinner like I did every night, but this meal was not exactly to his liking. He threw his plate full of food at me and proceeded to slap me across the face in front of my two children. I picked myself up off the floor, cleaned up the mess, re-made his food and told him I was going to leave him and go back to my parents’ home two and a half hours away. He looked at me like I had lost my mind. I told him with tears streaming, my face still burning from his hit, I wasn’t going to be married to someone who controlled my life the way he did. He went outside and unwired all of our vehicles and broke my iPhone in half. He bent the top of the screen down to the back when he saw I was trying to contact the police.
I ran to our neighbor’s house, which was quite a distance from us, to call the police. By the time I got there, my husband had already called the neighbor and told him I was drunk, and to not open the door and that I would eventually go home. My neighbor never answered the door. I went back to the house to find I was locked out with my two sleeping children inside with my husband. I sat outside by the door, bawling and at this point, begging for him to let me back in. Eventually, he did, after making me sit outside for over an hour. My kids and I left the next morning, after he rewired my Jeep and let us walk away. I filed for divorce, and got a police report and an emergency protective order the morning I arrived back in my hometown. I gave the police print outs of our messages, and details of what had been going on. The judge issued the protective order within 15 minutes of turning it in. I didn’t feel safe, I always felt he was watching me and following me. Four weeks later, he violated the protective order the day before court, and threatened to drag me out of my parents’ house by my hair if I didn’t drop the protective order in court the next day. I filed another police report that night for the violation and had a patrol car monitor my house the rest of the night. The protective order remained in place with the modification that he could contact me if, and only if, it was directly about our son. I ended up going back to him, again, after going through everything in March of 2018. The reason why is something I truly cannot explain. I don’t know if it was out of fear, his control, or love. I don’t know.
The event that finally broke our vicious cycle occurred nine weeks after going back the final time. He chased me through our house and threw me onto our kid’s bathroom floor. He climbed on top of me and choked me, all while telling me I would never leave him again, or take his kids away from him. After he let me go, I grabbed my kids, left the same night, and never looked back.
I called a dear friend of mine who had also experienced abuse in her past relationship. I showed up at her house around dawn the next morning. We immediately went and filed, yet another, police report. I called my attorney to get my divorce papers ready to sign.
When I saw my life flash before my eyes, I knew he was fully capable of seriously hurting me, or worse. I knew right then, without a doubt, I could no longer put myself or my children through that. I didn’t want my kids to grow up and see that kind of relationship and think it is healthy and normal. I didn’t grow up in a family like that, and I surely wasn’t going to let my kids.
I won’t lie, I am damaged. I am scared to let my walls down with someone again. I was deceived by who I thought he was. I am, however, seeing real potential with the man I am seeing now. He is real, pure, and has a heart a mile wide. He is a breath of fresh air, and makes me feel like my true self, which is such an amazing feeling. I don’t want to be guarded in my new relationship, but my past haunts me. His words haunt me. I still have nightmares of the abuse, and I wake up crying, thinking I am back on that cold bathroom floor.
One major thing has changed; I have control over my own life again. It is the best feeling to let happiness, instead of darkness, consume my life. I have an amazing job, good friends, and a drive to succeed I thought was long gone. Most importantly, my children are happy, healthy, and thriving. That is all a mother can ask for. The past few years have been a journey to say the least. I can finally say I am genuinely happy again. I have my giddy personality slowly resurfacing, and the twinkle has returned to my eyes.
I share my story in order for people to understand what goes through the mind of a victim of abuse. It is hard to wrap your mind around abuse in general, and what it is really like to live through it. If you know someone, or suspect someone is in a situation like this, please don’t give up on them. My parents never gave up on me when I pushed them away. They had their arms wide open, with a safe place for my kids and I to go when I finally had enough. Spotting abuse is hard. The marks can be hidden with clothes, makeup can cover the bruises. In public, you are trained to act like you are so happy, most people don’t notice something isn’t right.
If you are being abused, please reach out to someone. Even if you are scared. The world doesn’t have to be dark, scary and twisted. You deserve happiness, everyone does. I can finally say, I have found it in myself, and I have never been happier.
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