The Secret of Abuse
A lot of people experience abuse of various forms and never say a word about it. Had I known this fact, I wonder if I’d have gotten out of my abusive relationship faster.
The thing about abuse is, someone (likely someone afraid for their life, and for good reason) is enabling it. Not in a sadomasochistic sort of way, either. Simply by staying in the relationship, we somehow convince ourselves that things will change when other parts of life do. From experience, the best decision you could ever make is to implement that change before it catches you off guard.
One night, I met with my boyfriend and two friends at a local pub where they had billiards tables and people smoked inside. I arrived last, and by that time they were well into a game so I just observed. I watched my boyfriend flirt with my friend, but this was nothing new. In fact, I’d convinced myself that this very charm was what I liked most about him. The evening passed and it was time to go home. On the walk to our cars, my boyfriend and my friend were playfully throwing karate chops at one another, and just having a really fun time. Jealous to not be apart of that, I simply said,
“Are you guys just going to flirt right in front of me?”
This set-off a chain reaction. My friend stormed off to her car in the parking garage. My boyfriend might have laid into me right then and there, but we were still accompanied by another friend. We walked silently to the garage, as I counted the seconds left of impending doom before I’d get what was coming to me. I knew I’d fucked up.
I found out later, my boyfriend at the time was so jovial because he’d also popped a Xanax and drank on top of that. For those of you that don’t know what the combination results in: you black out. When I say you black out, I mean you don’t remember ANYTHING. It’s very unsettling and can cause you to act without any inhibitions.
He began berating me as soon as we arrived at the car; as soon as we were alone. He was screaming at me from the passenger seat of my car while I drove. At one point, he forced me to pull over (into the turn-lane in the middle of a four lane road) so that he could drive. I let him because part of me felt like he would just grab the steering wheel and kill us both if I didn’t. He drove us to his apartment in a fit of fury and when we arrived, he pulled up the E-brake and glared at me.
From here, it gets blurry. I know at one point he attempted to rip off my passenger side visor, unsuccessfully. This pissed him off so bad that he yanked my rearview mirror off, cracking my windshield (or maybe that part had happened a previous time). What I will never forget is realizing I’d just been punched in the face. This faggot actually squared up at me, his girlfriend, and punched me in the mother-fucking eye. Now of course, as I write this I am enraged, but at the time I felt hopeless. He and I walked into his apartment and he quickly fell asleep, while I texted one of my lifelong friends. I didn’t tell her what had happened, only that I needed somewhere else to live.
The Morning After
I woke up the next morning to a text from my lifelong friend saying that her spare room was mine. Now for those of you who’ve never been with an abuser, it’s difficult to describe such a feeling. Certainly there was some relief in having a place to go that wasn’t back with my parents. How the fuck could I explain this to them? I knew I’d have to leave this person that I thought I loved and it was all because of him losing his temper. But it was my fault.
“If only I could’ve fixed that temper.”
“If only I could’ve done things differently, this would’ve never happened.”
When my ex woke up, he seemed shocked at the sight of my shiner. This was when I learned he’d taken a benzo- to accompany his alcohol. It was almost as if he had no idea what had happened, and that was because he didn’t. He held me and apologized and honestly I believed him. Still, I wasn’t going back on my plan to move out because I knew this time was different.
I had to call out of work for the week. I told them I was ill. I had to wear sunglasses to pick up a rental, as that was the very week I sent my car to the shop for repairs from a wreck I’d previously been involved in. Aside from that, I stayed locked in the room of his apartment so none of his roommates would see me until the swelling went down (at which point I could cover it with makeup). When I returned to work, however, you could still see a busted blood vessel in my eye. I told my co-workers that was because I had coughed too hard one day while I was away sick.
I arrived at my new home on my 26th birthday, but it wasn’t the end of my relationship with that guy. Over the course of months, “friends” would contact me to tell me his whereabouts. I pretended to not care but with every message I received about him flirting, holding hands with, or kissing other girls, I broke a little more each time. After finding out he’d found a new girl to date, I inserted myself back into his life. I couldn’t stand the thought of someone else being chosen by him, and I needed to be sure that I was the only one worthy of his attention. I played my stupid game and I won the stupid prize. Back with my abuser, who assured me he had changed. Or did he…? I may have imagined that part in my delusion.
The Final Straw
I ended up moving to Texas with my ex, as he was a welder and my corporate job transferred anywhere. We lived together for nearly three years in an apartment in the Entertainment District of Arlington. There were many drunk nights, some ended with me being choked-out for not shaving my legs or something trivial like that. There were car rides where he would force my face into my lap by grabbing the hair on the back of my head. He called me a moron nearly everyday, and I was certainly not allowed to talk to other guys. Eventually, I was also not allowed to talk to my girlfriends either because “they weren’t good people”.
The process of getting a grip on reality when you’ve been gaslit for years can be overwhelming. Almost everything I had been conditioned to think was built on lies. I have a feeling that this very realization is what leads people to not leave an abusive relationship. I often felt I was making things up because I’d been told I was a liar. Which I couldn’t argue with, I just wasn’t aware my little white lies weren’t the real problem. It took several months of isolation and a really blunt INTJ to make me realize how deep I was in the hole of suspended disbelief.
I wrote in detail about my escape in this post, but the final straw came when he was headed home from a contract job up in Michigan. He was driving drunk, screaming at me over the phone, because I was trying to explain a political viewpoint to him. Instead of calmly asking for more information, he became enraged by his own ignorance. I’ll say it again, his final words to me at that point were “We’ll see if you still have those balls when I get home”.
It’s been eleven months to the day since I wrote that post about leaving my ex in Texas. It’s been over a year now since I completed the mission. I still have no regrets, but I am starting to notice that abuse is more prevalent than I’d originally thought. I thought I was a dumbass for having spent so many years fixing a relationship that was never meant to last. Talking about abuse makes people uncomfortable, especially those that experience it or have experienced it themselves. That is because an abuser can make you feel like they know what you are thinking. In fact, they sometimes can tell just from body language and nervous ticks. However, sometimes they are noticing symptoms of general discomfort for being around someone that is unhinged. They also can convince those that they abuse that if word were to get out, they’d be locked up in jail or an asylum. Now you wouldn’t want to do that to them would you? It’s interesting, isn’t it, how an abuser’s most powerful tool is using guilt? The very thing they should feel themself which they project onto others. That’s just how the subconscious mind works, I suppose.
I now live with an abuser, again… or at least in his backyard. It is pretty hairy to talk about because he is my grandpa. He also has dementia. All of his stories involve him “kicking someone’s ass”. After a recent incident where he squared up to punch my mom, stories from my grandma came out about how he’d been aggressive with more people than just bar patrons. Who the fuck was I kidding trying to pretend like I couldn’t believe it? Its very obvious that if he doesn’t get his way, there will be hell to pay. Its always been like this; when he is finished eating, its time to go, just as one example.
The common consensus on dealing with patients with dementia is to be kind and make them as comfortable as possible. If you are not seeing why I take issue with this, you haven’t been paying attention. I tried very hard when I first moved in to conform to the way my mom and grandma have lived for years with this man. He sits in his recliner and has things brought to him. He interrupts people when they are in the middle of something because he “needs ya for a second”. The world, in his mind, revolves around him. He was trained to believe this was the case because, frankly, my grandmother allowed it. Sure, she left a few times too when things got really bad, but just like me, she went back. She gave him second and third and fourth chances, and at some point I am certain he realized her threats were hollow.
This is not meant to be a victim-blaming post. This is intended to empower anyone that finds themself in an abusive relationship. You are not stuck. You are not alone. This is not your fault. You have the power to change your life with one decision. You will not find happiness with someone that does not treat you with love and respect. In fact, you are hurting them just as much as you are hurting yourself.
My grandpa is completely helpless without my grandma. He is like a child that can’t handle any discomfort in life and that is because he never had to learn from sitting in it. It seems difficult, trust me, I know. I was worried about my ex killing himself, all because I had worked myself up with stories that were not even true.
Abuse does not have to be physical, in fact, most of the abuse I’ve experienced was psychological. Our mind can play amazing tricks on us. If we aren’t careful, our desire for pleasure can completely hijack the system. Someone in an abusive relationship has to decide what is not acceptable. This isn’t a question of “What behavior is acceptable enough that I am willing to endure it to be with this person?”
The question is all-encompassing: In life, what am I willing to endure and what do I consider to be unworthy of my effort of serving my greatest self?
It may help to really think about your dreams and aspirations, free of opinions from all others. What does that look like? What would it take to get to that image in reality? What inevitable grievances will be worth it once you’ve achieved your goal? If you never set your boundaries, you’ll never know, nor will anyone else. They won’t know your goals, they won’t know your boundaries and you’ll be left wondering why you are so misunderstood.