When I was sixteen I thought I met the man of my dreams. But our relationship slowly turned into a nightmare.
I overlooked so many of the early warning signs. I was naive, and it happened so gradually that it took me time to see how bad things had gotten.
Most of my friends and family thought we were a cute couple. But in hindsight, he showed controlling tendencies in small ways early on. Instead of breaking it off, I appeased him. I think I just wanted the approval of a guy, even if that guy wasn’t treating me the way I deserved. I just wanted someone, anyone, to notice and like me.
Looking back, the first thing I started to lose was my free-spirited personality. I was a friendly and bubbly person., He thought I should be a quiet, submissive, and obedient woman. He was embarrassed by my fun-loving personality and would scold me for it.
As time went on he started to get more and more aggressive. I remember once when we were eating out at a restaurant, the wait staff came out singing with a cake. Many patrons began to clap along, including me. My boyfriend slapped my hands down and told me how that’s not how to behave in public.
His controlling methods made me feel stupid, childish, and unimportant. He would grab my wrist or arm if I walked in front of him and pull me back, telling me that a woman is supposed to behind her man. He would criticize me constantly, making me feel that what I thought and felt didn’t matter.
I should have run away. Instead, I just tried more desperately to please him.
Once we both got to college our relationship became very volatile. He became extremely controlling and angry. He made sure we spent all of our time together. When I started to make friends in my classes, he would tell me that I shouldn’t hang out with them because he would miss me. He would even ask me to leave study groups so I wouldn’t have other things taking up my time from him.
I realize now that one reason I stayed was because I felt isolated from everyone but him. My social life was his social life. I felt alone even when we were with his friends, because they were just that—his friends, not mine.
He was already controlling my life, then he began to act like he owned me. He would pay for my dinner and then tell me I “owed” him more. He would lock the doors until he got what he wanted.
By this point, I felt as worthless as he told me I was. When he was displeased with me I would beat myself up thinking I had done something wrong again and obsess over how I could make it better. I believed I wasn’t good enough. I feared no one else would want me.
But then I started to hang out with a good group of girls who really helped me to see how unhealthy my relationship was. Hearing about how the men in their lives treated them opened my eyes.
I started to stand up to him. it seemed like we were constantly fighting. He wanted control and hated that I was finally taking back control of my life.
When I finally ended our two-year on-and-off relationship, I had realized several things.
- I did not want to be with a man like that for the rest of my life.
- If a man already treats me poorly as my boyfriend, I could not expect him to be better as a husband or father.
- I deserved better.
I felt like I had to be with him because no other guy would want me. But after months of torment, I didn’t care—I had to leave.
I stayed in that relationship because my self-worth was attached to what that boyfriend thought about me. I learned that no matter what he did, said, or thought about me, it does not define me. I did not need a man to make me complete. What I had with that boyfriend was not love.
If I could go back in time and tell my younger self in that abusive relationship anything, I would tell her to get out as soon as she can because he’s not worth it. I would also tell her she would meet and marry a man who would be worth it, who would love her for who she is.