Today’s post was written by Anitra, one of our peer advocates. She has bravely chosen to share her personal experience with the hope that it will help others recognize the signs of an abusive relationship.
Abusive relationships are tough situations that can happen to anyone. Relationships that seem healthy and positive can quickly take a turn for the worse and before you know it, you could be in over your head. This is something that happened to me.
A few years ago, I was in a relationship that started off really positive. We met through friends at a birthday dinner, and he seemed nice. In the beginning, he was fun and seemed to want to get to know me. I thought the relationship had a lot of promise.
Soon after the relationship began, he started to criticize me on my appearance and the way I dressed. He would say that “real girlfriends” should dress and look a certain way, and the way I looked wasn’t good enough. I tried not to let it bother me and to let his comments go. I also tried to make it clear that he would have to accept me for who I was. I didn’t realize he was already showing signs of controlling behavior.
During the week, I would spend a lot of time with him. I would work and then we’d hang out. When I wasn’t with him, he would text me all the time, call me, or ask that I FaceTime with him. He would say how he missed me or he was bored and just wanted to talk. Again, I didn’t think anything of it.
On the weekends I would hang out with my friends when they came into town. At the time, they were all in college so I didn’t get to see them often. At first, my boyfriend was fine with me hanging out with them and never said anything about it. But after a few times, he asked if he could come too, or if we all wanted to hang out with his friends. I didn’t see this as a problem because to me it was everyone I wanted to see all together! Then he started saying things like, “Real girlfriends would rather spend time with their boyfriends than with their friends” or “Why do you have to hang out with your friends all the time? You act like you’re single.” We then began to fight about this constantly. He was happy when my friends weren’t around but would get really upset when I wanted to hang out with them.
The relationship started to take a serious toll on me. I felt like we were always arguing over the smallest things. Then I realized his controlling behaviors were starting to get out of control. He would go through my phone and read my text messages, check my call logs and social media sites. I would tell him that he had no right to go through my phone, and he would say if I had nothing to hide then I should be fine with it. I felt like I didn’t have anything to hide, so I let him do it. Then he would question every guy’s name that he saw in my phone. He would say that the messages with my guy friends were “inappropriate”, which they weren’t. When I told him that some of the guys I was texting were actually family members, he would accuse me of lying and say that I was cheating. Everything was a fight!
There were many times when I would tell him that I wanted to end the relationship. I was always a fun and outgoing person, and the relationship had made me miserable. Everything I did was wrong. He made me seem like I was crazy, and I was the cause of all our problems. He would tell me all the time that he knew what was “best” and how “adult relationships” should go. He would put me down and make me feel as if I didn’t deserve someone like him and that I was lucky to have him. However, every time I would threaten to leave him, he would apologize and say that he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings and would change. So I stayed. But eventually things took a drastic turn and I knew I had to get out.
One evening, he and I went out for dinner during one of our rare “good days.” I had left my phone in the car. After dinner, we returned to the car and I made a comment about how I had left my phone and picked it up to see if anyone had called me. He immediately took the phone out of my hand and saw that a male friend of mine had called. He got upset and asked why this friend would be calling me at such a “late” hour (which was 7 pm) and what did he want. He then accused me of cheating with this person, which was not true at all. He demanded that I call the person back on speaker phone so he could hear what he wanted to tell me. When I refused (because it was now very late in the evening) he accused me of being a liar and hiding things from him. I told him I could no longer deal with his obsessive behavior and I wanted out of the relationship. He pulled the car over, got out, came over to my side and opened my door. He then grabbed me by my arm and told me I had to get out of his car and walk home. He began yelling in my face and telling me that he wasn’t going to put up with my cheating and selfish ways. I couldn’t believe what was going on.
I grabbed my purse and started walking off. Things only got worse from there. He grabbed me by my arm again and slammed me against the car. He told me that I wasn’t going anywhere and he knew that after I walked off I was going to call my “other boyfriend”. I told him he was crazy and to let me go and he had no right to treat me this way. Eventually he said he would take me home if I got back in the car. I was far away from home with a dying phone, so I did.
Instead of taking me home, he took me back to his house. I had some things that I had left there, so he said I should go get them so he could take me home. I thought that he was finally being rational. I was wrong. When we got inside he said he wanted to apologize and asked if we could talk about what was going on. I told him I didn’t want to talk; I just wanted to go home. My phone started to ring continuously; my friends were asking me to come get them because they were stranded at a party. He immediately became upset again. He accused me of lying and cheating and saying that I was trying to go meet up with my single friends and other guys. I told him that was crazy and I wanted to go home. When I attempted to walk out of his room, he slammed me into the door. I tried to scream for help because I knew his mother was downstairs. He grabbed me by the face, slammed my head against the door, and told me to shut up or else. At this point, I knew I was in a dangerous situation.
When he finally let me go, he said he was going to change his clothes and then we would have an “adult conversation” about my behavior. Once he stepped into his closet, I took that opportunity to run out of his house. He chased me down the street and I was unable to get away. I screamed for help, for anyone to come help me. But no one did because it was too late at night and everyone was asleep. He told me he wasn’t going to put up with my childish behavior and that he was going to take me home if I agreed to come back inside. I knew he was lying to me, so I refused. At this point he was physically restraining me and trying to drag me back into his house. I screamed for help again. Finally his younger sister came out and asked what was going on. I told her to go get her mom so she could help me. He was outraged and said I would not involve his family in my dramatics. He ran upstairs, got my things, and said he would take me home. I told him I would rather call someone to come get me, but he wouldn’t give me my phone until I got in the car. Reluctantly, I did.
On the drive to my house he repeatedly criticized me and told me I was the reason that he acted this way. He accused me of not caring about him and only worrying about my friends and my phone. He said if maybe I would make an effort to care about him, he wouldn’t have to act that way. He tried to make the situation my fault. Meanwhile, I was texting my friends to let them know what was going on in case anything else happened. I was telling them that I was afraid and wasn’t sure if he was taking me home. At this point, he became upset I was texting, snatched my phone and threw it out the window. Without any outside contact available I became afraid for my life.
I begged him to take me home and even threatened that if he didn’t I would call the cops immediately. I even threatened to jump out of the car. He finally took me home. When I was alone in my room, I just allowed myself to cry. I was so overwhelmed and had no idea where to go from there. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents what had happened. They had already expressed how they didn’t like him and I was too ashamed to hear “I told you so” from anyone. I felt like I would be blamed and no one would want to help me, so I didn’t say anything.
I ended the relationship with him the next day. I knew that we were only spiraling down a dangerous path. You should never have to be afraid of the person that you are with. You deserve respect from your partner at all times. It took me a while to learn this, but I realized I deserved better than that relationship. I made my happiness and safety my top priorities.
It is important to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship. Your partner does not have the right to go through your phone or invade your privacy. Healthy relationships are built on trust. Your partner shouldn’t want to change the way you dress or appear. They should respect you for who you are. Your partner doesn’t have the right to try to control who you hang out with for any reason. These are all red flags for controlling, unhealthy and abusive behavior.
It’s also important to try not to be afraid to talk to someone about what is going on, whether it’s friends, family, a counselor, or even an advocate from loveisrespect. Abusive partners can be very manipulative, and that alone can be overwhelming and hard to get away from. There is someone out there willing to help you. And always remember: love doesn’t hurt.
Do you relate to Anitra’s story, or do you know a friend who is in a similar situation? Call, text, or chat with one of our peer advocates. We are here to support you!