A massive topic.
No one wants to be the first to talk about it publicly. Nobody wants to say “I have been there.”
The fear, the discomfort and the shame are all difficult subjects to broach. I don’t even want to mention my ex by name, still. I don’t doubt for a second that he will be upset if he ever reads this. I don’t even think he believes that he is an abusive partner.
But all actions have consequences and reactions. These are my experiences too. I will share them because they happened to me. I know many women have experienced so much more than I have. But I also know it’s so much harder for them to talk or even think about.
This is my story of my ex.
I swore I’d never have an abusive partner. After seeing such relationships in my family (and that’s a whole other topic), it was the LAST thing I wanted for myself. But before I knew it, I had one. And I honestly could not see how I had found myself in that situation.
I know many people ask: why do women put up with an abusive partner? Well… to tell you truth, it’s not like the men start out that way.
Mine was wonderful. He was shy and cute and he thought I was the world. He made me feel so beautiful. So desired. Like he couldn’t live without me. He’d buy me flowers, call and text me constantly. He’d say I was beautiful, sexy, gorgeous. I’d never felt so loved in my life. I’d never been treated so well. Never had I been so cherished.
In hindsight, maybe there were some warning signs. He’d get insecure, jealous and very attached, I just thought it was evidence that he loved me.
Looking back, I can’t even pinpoint when I started to notice that things were terribly wrong. A warning bell started going off when his ex wouldn’t stop calling him. He was evasive about that. Another when he kept acting irrationally.
He’d leave me for a few weeks and then beg me to take him back. He’d tell his friends differing things about me. That I was: “just a friend”, “my girlfriend Karlla”, “this is my girl.” While to me he’d say that he wanted to have babies, stay together forever, live on his property. It was confusing and scary and a little offensive.
The scariest morning for me was the morning he broke down. I had never seen a grown man this way. I had never before in my entire life seen a man so broken, so lost, so out of control. It remains to this day one of my worst memories in my life. Me holding his face while he sobbed into my lap, gripping my arms til I had bruises, saying: “Please don’t leave me alone Karlla, I think I will kill myself.”
When I finally gathered enough courage to ask what was wrong (a pretty inadequate way to to try and help, but what else could I say?) he told me he was severely addicted to several substances and he was trying to stop. This was shocking to me, but really, I should have guessed. I knew he had an addiction to marijuana but the rest? I must admit I was completely ignorant.
When I asked: “What do you mean everything?”. He listed drug after drug (some I’d never even heard of before). “Everything Karlla. Except Heroin. I haven’t done that. I won’t do that.”
What could I do? Leave, you might say. But (even though I’d never spoken it aloud, never acknowledged it to him) I loved this man. So much. How could I leave when he needed me so much? So obviously? So I stayed. Even though he’d already left me three times by this point in our relationship. Even though I knew I would probably regret it, I stayed. He kept saying I deserved better, and maybe he was right. But the truth was, I didn’t want better. I just wanted him.
So I stayed. I put up with his fear of being alone. His suicidal phone calls. His erratic mood swings. His jealousy. His gratitude. His love. I even travelled on a hour’s notice almost 2000kms in a car with him. I had 3 pairs of clothes. 3 pairs of underwear and one pair of shoes. I had a toothbrush, a hairbrush and a razor.
I lived on impulse with him. Relied on strangers (his friends, and later mine) for kindness and somewhere to stay. I had never lived like this before in my entire life. I felt like I was someone else. I failed 2 of my uni courses because he made it impossible for me to study, to sleep. There were nights when he couldnt get to sleep, so he would sit up in bed and shake me awake too. This was massive for me. I had never failed before at anything academic in my life. I was sick at the thought of that failure, and I began to see that his problems were now mine too.
While I made new friends, I think those weeks I spent with him, so far from home, were the worst of my life. He was far moodier. I was completely isolated from my friends and family. He even threatened to leave me in the middle of nowhere with no way to get anywhere. (I can’t drive). He screamed at me in the middle of the city. He forcibly thrust me into a car with people looking on. He yelled at me in a bar because I had a conversation with another 20 year old man. He screamed at me in a Caravan Park. He glared at me for 3 hours during a party. He shook me and slammed me into a wall. He stood over me and screamed at me. He continually grabbed my arm that had been badly burnt (in a separate unrelated incident). He smoked marijuana with his friends in a small enclosed room while I was asleep in it. Thought it was hilarious when I woke up high. He bruised my arm by holding me too tight. I had to endure awkward questions from his friends about how he treated me. He left me as the only sober person at a pub hotel, while he and his friends got high, took ecstasy, ate hash cookies, smoked pot and snorted coke. A man came to my room that night and banged on my door, I thought that he would hurt me. I was so scared.
Why the hell didn’t I get out of there ASAP? Well he also: apologised profusely, cooked me dinner, bought me gifts, loved me, kissed me, made love to me, took me on dinner dates, left me love notes, drew me romantic baths, made me laugh more than I have in my life, told me I was beautiful, told everyone proudly that I was his good girl, stood up for me, and told me he couldn’t live without me.
I lived with the hope every day that I’d wake up and it would be a good day. I wished and hoped that he’d finally stop having mood swings. And I loved him through it all.
The sad thing is, even though I left, even though I flew away on a plane, I wouldn’t have if he hadn’t physically picked me up, shook me, threatened to choke me, or threatened to put an axe into my head. I probably still wouldn’t have left after he said those things, if he hadn’t driven me to the airport in tears himself. I wouldn’t have gotten on the plane if he hadn’t thrust my suitcase at me, tears rolling down his face saying “stay away from me Karlla. I’m no good for you. I will never be good enough for you. Find some bloke who deserves you, coz I sure don’t”.
I would have even taken him back a month later after he apologized, if he hadn’t decided to give up on me and get himself a new girlfriend.
And that’s why I am ashamed. Not because I loved him. I will always love him. (Just a little). I’m ashamed because I loved him so much that I would have let myself be so mistreated over and over again.
When it all came down to it, I stayed because I loved him.
I wasn’t scared to be alone. I wasn’t scared to leave him. It wasn’t that I lacked self-esteem. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do better.
I stayed because I loved him.
And I tell you what, that’s what hurt the most. Because he broke up with me in the end. I thought I was not good enough for HIM. And that made me near suicidal. I wasn’t heart-broken. I was heart-smashed. I felt as though a had a gaping hole where my heart had been. I have never been so depressed in my life. I didn’t eat. I was underweight. I weighed 51kgs and I am 168cms tall. My hair was brittle. I was so frayed and strung out and stressed out that I felt my brain was fried. I couldn’t concentrate at uni, I would burst into tears in public all the time, and I think I called my mum every single day for nearly 3 months. I went to Counselling and nothing really felt like it was helping. I really didn’t want to be here anymore. I could not stand myself.
While this was my most shameful, painful break-up, this was the fourth time I had been dumped, and I was seriously convinced that I wasn’t good enough for anyone.
About 6 months had passed since the plane trip home and I was still unhealthy and depressed. And he called me. He wanted me to talk to him, he was coming back. He wouldn’t stop texting and calling. I’d gotten a few abusive calls about a month after we’d broken up, but this was different.
I freaked out. I moved. I got away. He still called for a while.
Hell he’s called me just a few months ago.
And still I care.
And you might all think I’m stupid for being with him. Some of you may even think that it was nothing, that the way he treated me wasn’t abusive. You’ve heard worse. Been through worse. Seen worse. But it was abusive. Having gone through it, I can say, I will never let anyone treat me like that again. But I had to go through it to realize that.
The point of this post was to give you some insight on how women find themselves in these situations. On why they stay. If you think you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, be there for them. Let them know that it’s not ok. Let them know that they’re not alone. Tell them how much you love them.
If I didn’t have my family and friends around me, I don’t think I would have gotten through my depression.
I wasn’t just depressed about my break up. I was depressed because I felt that I had failed. I was depressed because I knew my ex was back on hard drugs. I was depressed because I felt I had wasted a large chunk of my young life.
I now know it wasn’t wasted. It wasn’t pointless. It was invaluable. I now know how I should be treated. I now know what I don’t want. I know deep down in my stomach that if it hurts, then it’s not true love.