There is an overwhelming number of women who have suffered through some sort of abusive relationship. We all have stories and we all know someone in our circle of acquaintances or friends who has been through such a relationship. Tonight, we invited one of our own friends to share her story . . .
“You’re beautiful!” That’s all it took for my intelligence to fly out the window. Ridiculous, looking back on it now, but at the time, it was everything I wanted to hear. It started as a random Facebook message from a guy I knew in high school. Who could’ve known that in six short months, I would be lying in a hospital bed in the Psych Ward wondering how the heck this could have happened to me!
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call my ex “Barry.” I was on Facebook one night at like 3:00 a.m. because I was having one of those love hate relationships with a book I was reading. I posted a status that said as much and suddenly I had a message from someone that I hadn’t seen in 10 years. I started to not answer, but I didn’t want to be rude, after all, he had only asked me what I was reading. So we had a little back-in-forth exchange about books for awhile and then suddenly he tells me that he had a crush on me in high school. Now, I’ve never been the type of girl guys get crushes on. I was always the “best friend” or “friend with benefits” but never the “dream girl.” I called BS but he was totally persistent in making me believe it was true . . . down to telling me outfits that I used to wear to school. (Yes, I know, totally creepy but hindsight’s 20/20).
He spun this super convincing story about how he was totally crazy about me, but was too shy to talk to me or say anything at the time and he’d always regretted it. I ate it up. I was lonely, stuck being used in a “friends with benefits” relationship with a guy I had loved forever, and I had insanely low self-esteem. I thought I wasn’t worth loving or being with. In other words, I was an easy target for a psychopath that was bored and looking for someone to manipulate.
Barry asked me out on a date and I accepted. He had no car or money, so of course, I had to come to him and we just hung out at his friend’s house. He said all of the right things, “You’re beautiful . . . I can’t believe how lucky I am to be on a date with you . . . I’ve never felt like this before about anyone.” After one weekend together, I thought I was head over heels in love! Then . . . I find out about his wife! He said they were separated and not together anymore, but still legally married because they couldn’t afford a divorce. Now, I have to say this gave me pause. I have NEVER been the type to mess with another woman’s husband. That is not how I was raised! After talking to his friends and relatives who, of course, confirmed that he and his wife were split up and she was a horrible person who cheated on him with his best friend and, of course he was at no fault whatsoever, I caved.
He introduced me to his mother, all of his family, and all of his friends. This was something I had never had before; in my prior “relationship” I had always felt like a dirty little secret. Being out in the open where we could be seen in public, post pictures on Facebook, call him my “boyfriend” . . . all of this made me feel incredibly special. I know that is sad, but I had let my self-worth deteriorate to a place where I didn’t feel like I was good enough for all of that.
My introduction to his addiction problems and criminal life started out slow. I trusted him, so while I was at work during the day, I would let him use my car. I also gave him my debit card to get gas and things. He started asking if he could use it to get cash out of the ATM and I, of course, let him. In my mind, doing these things meant I was earning my keep. I felt that this was what I had to offer him. He needed money, I had it. Shortly afterward, he started taking money he didn’t ask for and overdrawing my account. I got furious with him and demanded to know what he was using the money for. I pointed out that there was no need to take it when I had given it to him so freely in the past. He could have just asked me. He then told me that he was using the money for drugs and he knew that if he had asked for money for that reason, I wouldn’t have let him have it.
He apologized, cried, told me he was so sorry, it would never happen again, he couldn’t stand the thought of losing me . . . yada, yada, yada! I am a forgiving person by nature, so of course I forgave him. I blamed it on his addiction and made excuses for his behavior. He was in the military and supposedly had PTSD. I still don’t know if the things he told me that happened over there are true because he was a pro at spinning a sob story. He told me he needed me. I was the one that kept him calm and made him want to go on in life. He couldn’t lose me, it would kill him.
He would run off for days at a time with no contact. He created all kinds of crazy stories about motorcycle gangs, criminal activity, running from the cops, how he had deals going down that were going to make him a ton of money and we could run off together. I now know all of it was BS, but at the time, I had romanticized the idea and believed it all. He eventually got sent to jail for two weeks, during which time, I spent an insane amount of money on telephone calls. After he got out, he went into a treatment program. That was when his using me hit its high point. I paid for all of the things that he needed before he went. I provided him with cigarettes and anything else he needed while he was there. I thought that I was being a supportive woman, standing by her man through adversity.
At this point, all of the emotional ups and downs had taken its toll on my body. I was constantly a nervous wreck. I threw up every single day. I had dropped 30 pounds and cried at the drop of a hat. I literally felt as if I was losing my mind. Shortly after entering the treatment program, he tells me that he feels like he needs to work things out with his wife but he wants me to still be his friend. By friend, he meant everything I was doing before, providing financial and emotional support but without the romantic attachment. I was so deluded by my love for him that I did it. I convinced myself that I was being a good friend. I had never turned my back on anyone and I wasn’t starting now.
Here’s where it gets a little complicated and a little hard to follow but it’s pertinent to my story so I got to keep it in. Remember a couple of paragraphs before, I mentioned his wife had cheated on him with what was supposed to be his best friend (or so I was told)? Well that was sort of true but not completely. His wife did cheat on him, but he failed to mention that he had cheated on her numerous times before, and was physically abusive to her and was in no way a good husband. At the time he was in treatment, I just so happened to become friends with the man with whom his wife cheated, Jesse. I of course did not tell Barry this. I did not want to make him mad, he was no longer my boyfriend but I still knew that he would see my friendship with Jesse as the ultimate act of betrayal.
Secrets never stay hidden long and he found out. To say it wasn’t pretty is an understatement. He told me I was the one person he had trusted implicitly and I had betrayed him in the worst way. He never wanted to see me again. He hated me. He made me feel like the worst person alive. The culmination of the previous six months had gotten me into a head space that was toxic. It was like I felt the only reason that I existed was to please and serve him. That was my sole purpose and if I couldn’t do that, then why was it necessary for me to be alive? That’s when I tried to kill myself.
Luckily, my father found me before I had a chance to harm myself really badly and he and my mother took me to the hospital. I had a 72 hour stay in the Psych Ward, during which time I started to see clearly for the first time in months. I would like to say that after I got out, I cut off all contact with him but that’s not true. I still fooled myself into thinking that we could be friends; that was a short-lived endeavor and I eventually told him to get out of my life for good. Jesse was my rock during that period of time, he stayed at my house, held me when I cried, listened when I needed to rant and was just there. He never once took advantage of me, he was my true friend, which is one of the reasons I fell in love with him and married him.
I know this has been terribly long, but there is a point. If I had known my own worth, I would never have let myself get into that situation. Never depend on someone else’s opinion to determine how you feel about yourself. You’re not beautiful because someone tells you that you are, you’re beautiful because of the light inside of you. You’re not useful just because someone needs you, but because you are unique and bring something to the table that no one else brings. Love yourself, that way you have no desire to bend over backwards trying to make someone love you. If they don’t, you’ll know inside yourself that it is their loss and you can move on without a second glance back.