He met me at a time when I was extremely vulnerable. He was strong, tall, and extremely handsome, with the occasional modeling gig here and there. At the time he was just a great friend, someone I could rely on; whenever I felt helpless he was there. Eventually, he was there so often that one thing lead to another and he just stayed.
I have to admit that even though I really, really liked him, I was not ready to be in a relationship yet, but upon his persistence I gave in and told myself it was time to be 'happy' again after just having gone through my first real breakup.
Where were the warning signs? Were they there all along? Was I just blind? Did I cause him to become so...nasty? Controlling? Possessive, jealous, angry?
I don't think I did. I think the signs were always there, but I was too broken to recognize them at the time. My friends were hesitantly supportive when we first started going out. I say hesitantly because even though they were happy to see me give love another chance they watched him very carefully.
I still don't quite know when it started to escalate, but we suddenly began arguing about unimportant things and he started calling me names, nasty names I had never been called before in my life. He went through my phone, threw furniture around, and continued after I said stop and tried to fight him off night after night. It has taken me years to talk about this, and even now I feel scared. I feel scared that people will judge me, that they will pull back from me because it’s too much to handle.
Months into our relationship, I was completely isolated from everyone because he didn't like my friends. They avoided inviting him when they wanted to hang out with me, but since he was always there I had nowhere to turn.
In the pit of my stomach I knew that this was wrong and sick, but he had reduced me to nothing. I’d come to believe that this was what I deserved.
We broke up several times. Each time he would persuade me to give him another chance...and another one and another one. It was a terrible battle that my friends mainly watched from afar, reassuring me that they would love me no matter what I decided.
In retrospect I think they did the right thing, though they kept their distance. But at the time, I had secretly wanted them to tell me straight to my face that this person is poison. And eventually they did, but that was when I had already made up my mind and understood my own worth.
He didn't trust me, maybe because our relationship was built on his coercing me into one when we both knew I wasn't ready yet.
Occasionally, I felt like he properly despised me. The only time I recall us being happy was when I was broken and in need of comfort. But one doesn't stay broken; as I healed from my past pain, he began to resent me.
When I finally broke up with him, the harassment didn't stop. On the contrary, it escalated.
He waited outside my school for me, which caused me to hide in the bathrooms until they closed the building for the night. He threatened to wait outside my apartment, which made me wander the streets of New York until I knew he must have taken the last train back home. Since I had been so isolated before, I couldn't really talk to people about what I was going through. I didn't feel like I could ask anyone to walk me home. It was my mess, and I was going to suffer through it alone.
The only way I could stop this was to block him on every social media platform I had, which led to him contacting my friends. I was so embarrassed. I felt destroyed.
It took me over a year to get over what had happened and let someone else back into my life. Unfortunately this experience had left its marks, and without even realizing it, I ran as fast as I could at the slightest sign of affection. The second someone wanted to get close to me, I got scared.
There's a lot of long-term damage that could have been avoided if I had been able to recognize how toxic our relationship was. I'm not saying I haven't gotten over it, but it sure has had an effect on me.
Toxicity and abuse go hand-in-hand, and what I’ve learned and am still learning is that no matter how bad things get, everyone has their highs and lows.
Blaming your partner for what they have done in the past is a no-no. It doesn’t help and only creates problems the partner can’t fix.
My ex used to blame his outbursts and anger attacks on me, saying that I should take his jealousy as a compliment because he ‘loved’ me. Or that I’d given him reasons to be upset. I was scared to even smile at a cashier for fear that it would escalate into a giant argument with my boyfriend.
Every time he did something nice, he made me feel like I owed him something. I was living in constant distress, never able to satisfy him.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, it’s important not to keep quiet. It’s important to realize that these are not special occasions that can be excused. In my case, it was all empty promises—almost like a game to him.
Toxic people always like to test their limits. It’s important to call them out the second you notice their unhealthy behavior. Set boundaries, and don’t ever doubt your worth.
It might feel like when you leave them, you’ll be all alone and unloved for the rest of your life. But I promise you that isn’t the case. It’s going to take some time to heal, but it will happen.
Just because something like this has happened to you, it does not mean you are a victim. You are a human being, and you deserve respect, kindness, compassion, and your own freedom.
You are not alone.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233