A friend once told me a story of how she’d gotten messed up in an abusive relationship in her early 20’s; I sat there listening in total disbelief as she recounted being choked and slapped by this monster who she claimed to have loved. I didn’t understand how such a strong woman could ever tolerate such deplorable behavior, and I was sure that I’d never let anything like that happen to me.
Then I met Adam.
I’d never met anyone like him — He was immensely intelligent and charismatic with this air of confidence that drove me crazy. Our chemistry was undeniable, but he also proved to be quite careless with my feelings. For our first date he was three hours late; when I expressed my disappointment, he made me feel horribly guilty as if I was the one who ruined the night.
From the beginning, the red flags were abundant. Adam was a master manipulator who had an eerie power over me; a simple raise of his eyebrow could make me melt into a spineless little girl. While I despise conflict, Adam could turn a simple exchange into a full-out verbal brawl. I knew he was bad for me from the start, but he always knew exactly what to say to keep me from leaving.
Many nights at around 10 or 11, I’d receive a text from him inviting me to come over. Curled up warm and safe in my bed, I’d politely decline. Adam was well aware that I had to wake up every morning at 6am, but that didn’t seem to matter. The tirade to follow would be something along the lines of:
“You always do this! Why are you so hot and cold? Is it so wrong I just want to be with you tonight? We don’t even have to DO anything!!”
I’m not stupid. I knew this was completely off the bullshit scale, but Adam knew how to work me. He knew that if he badgered me enough, it would eventually wear me down. And even though it made me feel weak and pathetic, giving into his childish demands somehow seemed easier than facing the alternative.
While he could be very sweet when he wanted to, Adam had an explosive temper and a scathing tongue. Out of nowhere, he’d start screaming and cursing at me. It would usually end with him saying something hurtful, I’d cry, and then he’d beg me to forgive him. This was our pattern. I knew not to take it personally, that he had unresolved issues of anger and abuse from his childhood, and I just happened to be in his line of fire.
Adam was also insanely possessive. Even though we weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend and I had no obligation to him, he didn’t see it that way. I’d be out with friends or on another date, and suddenly I’d be inundated with texts from him demanding to know where I was and whom I was with. He’d tell me that he needed to see me and that he’d come and pick me up wherever I was. I didn’t want to upset him, so after a while it just seemed easier to submit.
One Saturday I was at his apartment, and we were lying on his bed. I made an innocuous joke, and Adam got annoyed and called me stupid.
I sat up and just stared at him. “What did you just say?!”
He got up and walked into the other room casually shouting back over his shoulder, “You heard what I said….”
His tone was dripping with contempt. Without even thinking, I ran into the kitchen after him. My blood boiling and fists clenched, I screamed right in his face, “DON’T YOU EVER FUCKING SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT AGAIN!!”
It was the first time I’d ever stood up to him. The sound of my own shrill voice was terrifying–never in my life had I felt such blind rage.
Adam started snickering in his dismissive way, which infuriated me even more. My heart pounding, I started running around the apartment feverishly grabbing all of the clothes that he’d flung off of me early that day. I wanted to punch him, but I knew if I did I’d break my hand. And then he’d probably break my jaw.
I opened the door to leave, but he immediately slammed it shut and whipped me back with such force it felt like he pulled my arm out of its socket. From the look in his eyes, I thought he may actually hit me this time. Running on adrenaline alone, I managed to pry myself from his grip and sprinted down the stairs. Like a madwoman, I ran into traffic and grabbed the first cab I saw.
Over the next few weeks, Adam texted and called me multiple times a day. I’d desperately want to pick up the phone and curse him out, but I knew it was safer to cut all ties completely.
Adam never physically harmed me, but he also never made me feel good. He had his own special brand of abuse, and I understand now that someone doesn’t have to give you a black eye to hurt you. After the dust had settled, I made a promise to myself to never let anyone treat me like that again. But now I see how it really can happen to anyone.