I was eighteen years old when I was offered a job as an office administrator for a local small business.
My responsibilities included helping to represent the company at sales events and festivals on the weekends. My supervisor often came to help me. It became clear he was interested in more than a professional relationship with me. He began to bring gifts to work for me and to ask to take me out. It became very clear he was trying to woo me.
He was quite a few years my senior, and he was my boss. But he knew how to say all the right things. I had such low self-confidence at that time in my life, his interest in me made me feel beautiful and important. Against my better judgement, I finally caved after a few months and we began dating. He made me feel like the most important girl in the world, something that I hadn’t felt before. Everything seemed so romantic.
A few months into our relationship, he asked me to move in with him. He stressed it would be more convenient for both of us, especially since he lived right next to our office. My lease with my current roommate was about to run out, so it seemed practical. He wanted me to share his home with him. I thought this gesture proved his commitment to me as well. I had always believed it was important to wait until you were married before moving in with a man, but I thought I was in love and nothing in the world sounded better than living with him.
I was going to school full time, working at my boyfriend’s company, and now living with him. I felt so accomplished! I felt like I was starting to become the adult I wanted to be. I was excited to show my commitment to him. But his romantic attitude toward me soon faded. I felt like I had become his secretary at home as well as at work—except I wasn’t paid for the work I did for him at the house. I would grocery shop, cook dinner, clean the house, and pay all the bills except for the mortgage. But even there, it was my job to take the mortgage payment to the bank each month.
I still would tell him how happy I was to be living with him. He would always respond by saying that living together wasn’t that big of a deal for him, that he had lived with a girlfriend before. He would share how he didn’t intend on changing our relationship status to anything more anytime soon, because he made enough of a commitment to me when he let me move in.
We shared a house, but it wasn’t really our home. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but by moving in with him before we were married I gave him no reason to pursue me. He got all the benefits of being married, without any of the commitment. After living with him for about six months he actually told me that I had given in too easily. He said I showed him what I was worth by agreeing to move in with him without demanding a wedding ring.
The worst part was that I had intertwined my entire life with his. When he began to call me names and cheat on me I felt like I couldn’t just leave. He was my boss, so he had direct control of my income. Even worse, his dad owned the company we both worked for. I had invested so much time in our relationship that my friendships had deteriorated. He made me feel guilty when I would leave him to spend time with anyone else, further isolating me from my friends and my family. The control my boyfriend exercised over my life was already bad, living together made it worse. I felt like I couldn’t just call it quits. I felt trapped.
One day, he shoved me so hard during an argument that he left bruises on my shoulders. I had never been so terrified in my life. I ran out of the house. He threw all my belongings on the front lawn. Since the house was right next to the office, my coworkers witnessed me being kicked out. It was traumatizing.
I found another place to live, but but my boyfriend soon begged me to move back in with him. He told me he loved me! He said he overreacted in the heat of passion. He tried to woo me back by leaving gifts and love letters on my doorstep, emailing me every few hours, and calling me at least once a day. But it didn’t work this time. I had learned my lesson. I stood my ground and stayed away. My decision to move in with him was a big mistake, but it was no excuse for the way I was treated. And I’m thankful I didn’t look back.
As traumatic as it was, my live-in relationship taught me some very valuable lessons. Looking back over the two years we were together, I can see that he felt like he owned me. In a way, I had allowed him to gain ownership over who I was by changing my standards for him. And by letting go of my standards, I had let him change who I was. I resolved to never let that happen again. I deserved faithfulness and encouragement. I knew that I would never let anyone change my core values again. Thankfully, I did find someone who shares my values, and we did get married. I know now that I am worth way more than my ex-boyfriend’s treatment of me reflected, as is every woman.