When I was sixteen, I began dating a boy who had been deemed “the nice guy”, which was surprising to me and to those close to me considering my prior dating pattern. He convinced me he would never hurt me like others had in my past, and I begged myself to believe him.
Six months into our relationship, I stumbled upon texts between him and another girl. He came onto her and she asked if he had a girlfriend, to which he replied that it did not matter. When confronted, he pulled out the waterworks, showering me with empty phrases like “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, and “never again”. Shortly thereafter, he began projecting his insecurities and guilt onto me. If I spent time with any of my male friends, he assumed I was cheating with them. If I went to a party, he called me a whore. If my shorts were too short for his liking, he claimed I was “asking for it” from my male peers.
Months passed and the bad only became worse. If I waited an hour to text him back, he would track my location and immediately decide I was being unfaithful. He would scream at me and provoke me outside of my friends’ homes or even my own home that neighbors would make noise complaints. He did not understand why I had to spend time with my friends when I could be with him all of the time, or why I felt the need to socialize and attend parties on the weekends. When I went on vacation with my friends, he followed me there. He tried to completely isolate me from my life. The screaming and swearing and overburdening was so terrible, that it made the good days that much better. I became addicted to those moments of bliss: the apologies after threats, or the big hug to make up. The words “I love you” tasted so much sweeter when they followed “you mean nothing to me.” I never thought I would find myself in the middle of this relationship, but does anyone?
Attempting to maintain this “love” once I left for college was the hardest part. He was at home, unable to control my every move. He soon became the antithesis of the person I thought I knew almost three years prior. He was colder, angrier, sadder, and more paranoid than ever before. My academic and social performances suffered, and my relationships with my family members and friends were challenged when I would disregard warnings and concerns. When I finally tried breaking up with him, knowing that the relationship was only hurting us both, he threatened to kill himself. Every time he hurt himself he made sure I knew it was my fault. I found myself spending nights during my Freshman year of college trying to talk him down. When I finally returned home to see him, I found out he had been cheating on me the entire time.
This news was painful, of course, but I was finally able to let go without the guilt that I was being selfish, or the emotional burden of someone’s life on my shoulders. It was difficult not to feel broken, but I never realized how strong my support system was until I had to come face-to-face with the aftermath of this situation. I joined Alpha Chi Omega, a sorority which avidly supports the Fight to End Domestic Violence. The girls I met in this organization are amongst the strongest out there. Their stories of overcoming various forms of abuse have touched me and led me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be. When I first opened up about my relationship to my mom, I told her that I felt broken, to which she replied “he’s broken, not you.” I never forgot this. When mistreated, it is so easy for young women to blame themselves and wonder what could be wrong with them, but it is imperative that we remember that people reflect their own insecurities onto others. I never want anybody to feel the weight of a human life in their hands.
It was difficult for me to open up to those around me about the toxicity of my relationship. This has a lot to do with the fact that I was still trying to justify it to myself. Posting pictures of my boyfriend and I looking happy, or of myself with my girlfriends to convince people that I was still having a perfect college experience was my way of making myself believe I was happy. Emotional, verbal, and mental abuse is far too often swept under the rug, and it is important to shed light on an issue which, since leaving my own unhealthy relationship, I have seen far too many times amongst my peers and even my closest friends. The first time I shared about this struggle, I received messages from multiple girls opening up to me about their own similar experiences. I was touched that my story could make others feel less alone, or maybe make somebody realize their relationship may be heading towards a dark place.
Through my personal journey, I have learned so much about myself and about how to love. My overriding message is that control is not synonymous with love, verbal abuse is not justified, and just because they apologize does not make it okay.