Questions I will never have the answer to

Note: This is a real story, written by a real person. Please be aware of potential triggers in this important piece. To share your story, click here.

I grew up in a good family with parents that were in a loving relationship and two older brothers that were very protective and kind. I was strong. I was smart. I was loved. So how and why did I end up in an abusive relationship? That’s something I may never understand. What I do understand is that ending up in that type of relationship is not my fault and does not make me weak.  

When I was 17 I moved away from home to attend college. I fell for a guy in my dorm. He was attractive, we had a lot in common, and could talk for hours. He started off as very sweet until he progressively started to get controlling by asking who I was texting and yelling at me daily for the smallest most mundane things. I tried numerous times to break things off but he would cry hysterically and apologize and tell me that things would change or he would threaten to kill himself and tell me that it would be my fault. Needless to say, I stayed with him. I can’t explain why, I just know that I felt like I was no longer making my own decisions and I didn’t know how to make it stop. About 9 months later, I found out that he had been cheating on me the entire time with another girl. We got into an argument that quickly escalated to him grabbing me by the throat, pushing me against the wall, and screaming in my face. He made it seem like I was wrong for confronting him. The school intervened and made us sleep in separate dorms for the remainder of the school year and ordered us to not contact one another. 

Roughly four months later, he contacted me and apologized for what he did. He sounded like his sweet old self again… like the guy I fell for in those first weeks of school. I had my guard up but continued to talk to him. For reasons I still don’t understand, he had some sort of hold on me and I wasn’t quite ready to have him out of my life. We connected in ways that I’d never connected with anybody and I wanted so badly to believe that he was sorry. Eventually, I let my guard down and we began dating again, although this time it was long distance. I didn’t tell my family that we were talking nor did I tell them when I was traveling hundreds of miles to go see him regularly because I knew that they would be angry with me and tell me to stop seeing him. I wasn’t quite ready for that. After some time, he turned into the controlling, aggressive, berating, version of himself that I once flew from. This time, he had more ammunition to keep me around by threatening to tell my family what I’d been keeping from them. Not only did he threaten me and yell at me like he had before, but now he wasn’t afraid to lay his hands on me because we weren’t in the dorm rooms but instead were in his studio apartment. There was one time in particular that we got into a really bad fight and I kept trying to leave but he wouldn’t let me. When he went into the kitchen, I grabbed my keys and my bag and tried to make a run for the door but he heard me and came running into the room before I could get all of the locks undone. He threw me across the room and onto the bed. He got on top of me and held a large knife to my throat that he’d grabbed from the kitchen and told me I wasn’t going anywhere. I always wound up apologizing to him just to calm him down and diffuse the situation. Needless to say, this just added to his mindset that he could do whatever he wanted to me and get away with it because he knew I was terrified of him telling my family. 

Because the yelling and pushing around wasn’t bad enough, he manipulated me into having sex with him on numerous occasions even though I wasn’t comfortable with it anymore. I didn’t care for him anymore and didn’t want to have sex with someone I didn’t care about. I tried to talk to him and ask him if we could try not having sex for a little while and just try to reconnect but that just made things worse and would give him another reason to either threaten me or threaten suicide. I was scared so I always ended up giving in and was left to cry by myself in the bathroom. I felt used and violated. After a couple of years of this, I eventually told myself that the guilt that I would feel from my parents being disappointed in my decision couldn’t possibly be worse than what he was doing to me and that if he committed suicide it wasn’t my fault but was his own decision. I spoke to his father to let him know that his son was threatening suicide and told him that he needed help. I felt that by passing along this responsibility it was no longer under my control. I ended it. Finally, I was free… or so I thought. I was constantly scared that he was going to track me down and make my life a living hell. Well, he didn’t track me down but he did call my parents late one night, drunk, and told them that we’d been seeing each other behind their backs. They asked me about it and I didn’t have the heart to tell them the truth because I was ashamed. I knew better. They still don’t know the truth to this day… nearly 10 years later. 

How could I have not made smarter choices? Why was I so gullible? These are questions that I will never have the answer to. I’ve come to terms with not knowing these answers and have instead decided to use this life experience to make better decisions moving forward. I no longer allow people to control my actions and remind myself that I deserve to be treated with respect and deserve to be with someone that knows my worth. I am now married to a wonderful man and have a son that I intend to raise to respect women. 

I am telling my story to encourage others to ask for help. Anybody can end up in abusive relationships regardless of how you were raised or how strong you are. Sometimes these relationships can creep up on you or sometimes people threaten or manipulate you. No matter what the situation, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that there are ways to get out of these situations. You may not be able to do it on your own which is not something to be ashamed of. Asking for help is the first step to regaining your strength and taking your life back.