Trigger warning: domestic abuse and violence
My entire life, from the time I was a precious little girl, I wanted one thing: To love and be loved. I held a heart far too big for a world that seemed to reject girls who wore their hearts on their sleeves.
I would dream of my wedding day, but where most girls dreamed of a dress, hair, and make up, I had a one track mind on my Prince Charming. I wanted a huge storybook event with a giant cake and 500 people who would have all eyes on us, or an adventure in the middle of the night that consisted of just the two of us sharing a cupcake—a secret to come home and tell. As long as it was the love of my life, it didn’t matter to me.
Some things never change. I still have a heart for a someday with someone who loves me. I still believe in happily ever after. I believe that I will have exactly what I’ve prayed for in a man. He will have kind brown eyes. He will dance with me on our back porch, and he won’t be anything like him at all.
We all have our version of “him” from the past. Maybe you have one in your present. He’s the guy who did more than break our hearts—he broke our spirits. His departure, when it finally happened, left us questioning everything.
We questioned our worth and if we were just truly unlovable. If we wanted to face this life anymore. We questioned what was so fundamentally wrong with us that he wouldn’t stay. We questioned why loving him more than ourselves didn’t mean anything to him. We questioned why everything we had wasn’t enough for him.
Once upon a time, I met a charming man. One with blue eyes, curly brown hair, and a yearning for something I just couldn’t seem to give him. We all have a version of this story.
This, however, is where I pray mine differs from yours. I secretly endured years of abuse—emotional, mental, and physical. And it happened often.
I lived in a world of secrets and lies as I covered up for him. I was trapped in loving him. I say trapped because I was the only one in love. He knew it. He played me like he played acoustic guitars on Friday nights in smoky bars full of women he’d get drunk and cheat with. But he always came home to me, and that’s what mattered to the sick woman I once was.
One night he came up to the hotel room I had booked for some alone time after his show and wanted to sleep with me. When I refused, he calmly excused himself to the bathroom. I knew better. This was the calm before the storm. The calm before he lost his ever-loving mind, and we would have another screaming match that he’d win. And I’d apologize.
He came back, and I prayed he had calmed down, but my heart knew him better than that. I didn’t look in his direction. Something about me infuriated him. I was so careful to make sure that our eyes didn’t meet.
He slapped me as hard as he could with a handful of bodily fluids after taking care of himself, since I denied his request. He washed his hands, and left without a single word to me. I cried. I took a long shower. And I waited for his call that didn’t come before I caved and reached out to apologize.
Accidentally spilling a little too much of my heart has always been my weakness. If he wasn’t responding in a manner that made me feel validated, I’d say kind things and talk and talk and talk until he told me to stop—or more specifically, told me he wasn’t going to have a “Hallmark moment” with me.
There was another time that he didn’t get his way, so he met a girl. But this time he bonded with the girl. She lived oceans away, but she was in town for a show. She was also a musician, and he became obsessed with her. On one of our many bad days, he told me that when I died, he was going to piss on my headstone and bend her over it.
He would tell me I was ugly, worthless, fat, impossible, difficult, and that he couldn’t trust me to be there for him. I will spare you all of the ugly accounts that haunt my memory.
I lived for the making up. It was the only time I felt validated and affirmed, both of which were very important to me.
I was raised in a performance-based environment where perfectionism was praised. If I got a B, it was okay, but we needed to focus on how it could have been an A. God forbid I ever come in second place. It wasn’t worth bringing home. I was used to my best never being enough, but for some reason, the people pleaser in me still tried. This was fuel for him.
On top of our rocky relationship, he suffered with bipolar depression, and he told me he suffered multiple personality disorder, which I later found out wasn’t true. These were the things I used to justify his behavior. I made the mistake many of us make in thinking I could change him. Or fix him. Or be the savior he needed.
Eventually, I became numb, and he became bored. He used to scream in my face that my tears didn’t move him. Now they didn’t move me either. My self-worth was depleted. I was a person that no one recognized anymore.
I would leave work early if he needed to talk to me and it wasn’t yet my break time. I would panic if my phone died. I couldn’t go anywhere that he wouldn’t be able to reach me. He was the only person who meant anything to me. Nothing else mattered anymore.
There were nights that I’d try to rekindle what was once a passionate connection that mere words could never justify. He was once my very best friend. He was my very first love. I thought I loved men before him, but this was serious. I was no longer a teenager. I wanted to spend forever in his arms. I wanted to see a future with him. I was just another girl. Just a heart for him to toy with, something consistent in his wild life. Something predictable and safe.
To this day, I don’t think he ever intended on us becoming as serious as we did.
Then came the day he left me. I called him out about faking a mental illness to be mean to me after a conversation with his mother. I gave him an ultimatum to talk to me, to let me in his world or I’d walk. His pride wouldn’t ask me to stay. So I lasted three entire days without speaking to him before apologizing. He didn’t apologize, but he did say that we both tried to hurt each other. That comment hurt me, because I tried so hard not to. This was the mental game he played. We both knew I tried so hard. We both knew I’d invested so much emotional equity.
Things went back to normal, but he trusted me even less and I felt more guilty. I earned more scars. He continued to use me as his personal punching bag. Some men hand picked flowers, he handpicked his most hateful words just for me.
My family and friends started to see a change in me. I was never happy. I was always anxious. I couldn’t spend weekends at home anymore. I had to go be with him. We lived in different states, I would drive six hours alone so he’d pay attention to me for once. If I was too tired to go, he’d tell me I didn’t support his dreams.
One day, he told me he didn’t love me anymore. We didn’t break things off for good, but it really hurt me this time. I still remember every detail of that day like it was yesterday and not two years ago now. He told me over the phone. I was so broken that I reached out to my best friend, and for the first time, I was honest about us. I was honest with her and I was honest with myself.
She, of course, was very angry. She wanted me to end things right away. It was at this point that the stupid girl in me came to her senses and defended him relentlessly. I explained to her how I was somehow to blame. To this day, I don’t see myself as his victim. There were so many red flags from day one.
I later came clean to my friends. They all reacted similarly. I still couldn’t see it.
He became undeniably more violent and mean. He started to leave physical evidence. It became really stressful to defend him.
One day at work, my friend was crying. I left my desk to see if he was okay, and he told me about his cousin who was in an abusive relationship and was killed by her boyfriend. She was only a few years younger than me. Her boyfriend was angry. He put her in a vehicle with him and drove them both into a tree.
This was a turning point for me. Watching someone I loved so much cry over losing someone to a similar situation opened my eyes. I never wanted my family to cry over me. There were so many times that he’d drink and take his medication and drive. He’d drive crazy when he was angry. He wouldn’t give up the keys, and I wouldn’t let him go alone. Her story could have been mine.
I didn’t know her, really. But she was a kindred spirit. I had to do this for me and for my family, but also for her and her family.
The day I decided I was done, I made some big moves. I screenshotted mean things he said to me and posted them to my Facebook page. I pleaded in a lengthy post that if anyone saw me communicating him, they should remind me that this was what was going on behind closed doors. I went public. Very public for the sake of accountability. The response was shocking.
Things that I considered minor made others cry. Some suggested I get into some counseling. Others recommended I involve law enforcement immediately, as he threatened my life on multiple occasions in writing.
This is where a story like this should end, right? The girl gets out and doesn’t look back again because she has support. And people have told her what she’s worth. And she knows how loved she is. And she lives happily ever after, right?
There are still days that I miss him. There are still days that I want him back. A part of me will always be the girl sitting on the floor, waiting for him to hug me and tell me we are going to be okay.
It’s not that I love him. It’s that no one else loves me yet. This is how he told me it’d be. He’s moved on. He’s in love. He doesn’t resent her.
Being damaged goods feels as though your secrets are written across your face. Who wants to love someone with baggage? That’s too much work. You weren’t worth it when you were whole, to him, so why would anyone want to fix what they didn’t break?
Then there’s the empath in me that is both a blessing and a curse. I want to know if he’s okay sometimes. I want to know if he’s medicated. I want to make sure he still believes in his dreams as much as I do. I want to hear the new songs he’s written before anyone else. I want to feel important and needed.
That’s what I once did with all of my time. And now it’s gone. Freedom has come at a cost. On some days, I think I’d trade the sound of my head hitting paper thin trailer walls for the deafening silence.
Abusive relationships isolate people. My friends were there, but I hadn’t been the friend they once knew in a long time. Our bonds were broken.
There’s another part of me, a wiser part that knows better. I know that I’m not genuinely seeking him back. I just want to give the Fairytale back to the little girl he stole it from. I want someone to prove him wrong. I want someone to come in and erase every hurtful word. I’d like to be beautiful to someone. I would like to be their favorite person to be vulnerable with. I’d like to get heavily invested in their dreams. I want to make them laugh so hard that their sides hurt. I want to give it all again.
I understand that we are responsible for our own happiness and self-esteem. I’m aware that codependency is typically viewed as unhealthy.
But I’d like to invite others to be real with themselves. To go through this and not around it, to know it’s okay to still feel weak after years have passed. It’s just not okay to act on it.
The truth became important to me. I vowed to never have such big secrets again, to never withhold my heart when it means hurting myself or others around me. And my truth today is the following:
I am forever a hopeless romantic, I just need to love and to be loved.