I would first like to start off by saying that people make mistakes, the person I am addressing in this post is not an evil human being.
Nick (named changed) and I met when I was sixteen, I was a little immature for a sixteen year old at the time and found him interesting because he was older and so independent. When he came to pick me up for our first date he waited out in the truck and honked his horn; my mother was less than thrilled. She made me sit next to her at the counter until he got the hint that he needed to come inside. This should’ve been a red flag I suppose but I was so young and dumb.
It all first started with just a little jealousy, I had a lot of guy friends at that time and we shared a lot of the same friends in general. His demeanor would change whenever I brought up another guy, he’d ask me specific questions about certain guys who I had talked to and would get frustrated if I couldn’t remember exactly how our conversations went. He wanted to know every detail of my interaction with other guys down to the way they looked at me. And these were all things that I needed to remember to satisfy him.
“I just don’t feel comfortable with you around these guys, I know how they think. I love you and I don’t want anyone to disrespect you.”
I never felt like I was being disrespected, but I assumed he knew them better than me. They were his friends too, maybe they had said something to him I didn’t know. I started to see a pattern when Nick had a falling out with this whole group of friends we were in over something I’m still not quite sure about, and I had to make the choice: him or the group. I blindly chose him because he was the one telling me that they were bad people, they made bad choices and would drag me down with them eventually (update: none of them are bad people, I have since been in contact with some of them and they’re all doing well). The worst thing though was exiling my best friend. She and I had been best friends since we were 12 years old and had always been inseparable, he told me she was a bad influence and that he didn’t want me around her. At first I ignored him, saying that I knew her so well I knew she wasn’t bad. Over time when I still wouldn’t listen to him he started making things up about her to make sure that I would hate her.
“I watched her steal money out of your wallet”
I didn’t really care about that, maybe I owed her some money and she was just taking it since I forgot to pay her back, we had that kind of relationship. When I asked him why he was at my car when I wasn’t there and if he confronted her he was vague and angry that I just didn’t believe him. When I still wouldn’t budge he resorted to making me chose.
“Who do you think is really there for you? She’s doesn’t even care about you, or that’s how she acts anyway. I can’t believe after everything I’ve told you about her you still would rather hang out with someone like that. I thought you loved me, I thought you respected my opinions. Obviously not.”
Then we didn’t speak for a while, I had a real choice to make. At this point in my life he had exiled me from most of my other friends, he made it seem that they wouldn’t want to hang out with me again even if we did break up. I had no conflict with any of them other than the fact that Nick felt “disrespected” by them. I made a hard choice and I strayed away from a six year best friendship that I could’ve so desperately used at that time.
Nick and I went to different schools, so after that he chose new friends for us to have. A girl that I was kind of friends with immediately became my best friend because I had lost everyone else.
Fast forward two years, I’m in college now. I went to school two hours from my hometown and spent the first semester coming home every weekend to stay with Nick and spending week nights watching movies with my anti-social roommate. Nick made it clear to me that we were not the kind of couple that went out on the weekends. We did not drink alcohol or smoke weed, I wasn’t to have any male friends even if they were gay or had girlfriends.
“If you really love me and want to make this work you will respect the fact that other guys around you just isn’t okay. Girls that have guy friends while they’re in a relationship are sluts.”
I wanted to make it work, I loved him despite all the bad. I felt comfortable around him, like he would always take care of me. I had never had anyone take care of me before and I liked it. But it was getting to a point where he was smothering me, when I would bring up the fact that people have platonic co-ed relationships all the time he didn’t believe me, he had never heard of something so untruthful. I was eighteen at this point, my only real relationship experience was with him and I was under his thumb still from two hours away. My roommate was my only friend and sometimes when she went home for the weekend she would bring us back a few wine coolers and we’d drink them in our dorm room, I never told Nick this for fear that he’d be angry. I had tried to argue and disagree with him before but somehow he always made me feel like I was wrong, he twisted my words and forced me to think that I was doing something wrong just because he didn’t agree, even if it was something as simple as drinking one wine cooler in my college dorm room.
“You don’t need to be drinking, people who drink do stupid shit and end up cheating on their boyfriends”.
I felt like I was rebelling against my parents (who didn’t care if I drank). I decided to transfer schools, I was now three hours away from him which he did not approve of but this new school was the only one that offered the major I was pursuing. He was still in my hometown with all our friends and I was far away making new friends. None of my college friends knew much about Nick, he never came to visit me and I rarely talked about him. We were doing the bare minimum for long distance. He started hanging out with this group of people I knew but wasn’t really friends with, especially this girl who he got very close to. I am not the jealous type, so I was happy that he was hanging out with people instead of constantly checking up on me. The school I transferred to was a huge party school and the friends I made liked to party, so I fell into that stage of going to frat houses and drinking. Most of the time I lied to him about it because he was so disappointed in me, but Facebook pictures didn’t lie and eventually I came clean about it.
“So you’re basically dressing like a slut and drinking at all these parties where guys are probably hitting on you. It’s like you don’t even care about our relationship.”
He made me feel guilty, but being apart so much had made me gain a little confidence, I fought back and we argued for months. I brought up that he was now going to bars every night I was gone back home with all these other friends (I wasn’t 21 so I couldn’t go out with them).
“The only reason I was going out and drinking with them was to show you how it feels when your significant other gets drunk and acts irresponsible”
I told him that I didn’t care if he wanted to go drink and he shouldn’t care if I did either. The conversation ended with me agreeing to come home, I transferred again the next semester and moved back in with my mother. He didn’t want me to move in with him because he still lived at his parent’s house and he said I had a lot to change about my “habits” before we lived together (such as leaving the bedroom door open and not doing the dishes as often as he liked).
When I transferred home we had been together for four years. Moving back home not only made our relationship worse, it made me stressed out all the time. At least when I was away at school I wasn’t under his watchful eye all the time. Everything made him upset, if I said something he didn’t like he’d isolate me. If we were out with friends and a guy tried to hit on me it was somehow my fault because I was standing too close. He decided that he still wanted to go out and party and I sat at home and waited for him to come back. I’d text him and say “so-and-so is having a party I’m gonna go”.
“I’m out with our friends that you know and you want to go to some guy’s house that I don’t know and get drunk?”
He hated all my friends except for the ones he chose for me, he hated my whole family. Eventually he wanted me to move in with his parents so he could always keep an eye on me. I was almost done with college and wanted some independence so against his wishes I moved in with some girl I barely knew in a house in the middle of the woods, 45 minutes from him. He was not happy about this for many reasons. 1. My roommate’s boyfriend was one his friends that he did not trust me around. 2. He didn’t like my roommate. 3. This house was 5 minutes from a bar a lot of my friends hung out at.
I was in my senior year of college and by this time I was tired and worn down. I was so unhappy in our relationship and he didn’t seem to think that anything was wrong. If I tried to talk to him about it he’d get defensive.
“Out of everyone I know we have the best relationship, we have the strongest relationship and we are the happiest. I don’t know why you’re always trying to cause problems that aren’t there. Just be happy.”
I had gotten pretty depressed at that time in my life and was so anxious all the time. I knew that I could break up with him but it just seemed so impossible, he had me so stuck. We were closing in on our six year anniversary and he seemed to think that everything was great. He would get really angry if I slept at my house when my roommate’s boyfriend was there. One night I had worked second shift at the hospital I worked at and was driving home around midnight. My roommate knew the controlling tendencies of my boyfriend and warned me ahead of time that her boyfriend would be staying the night. My options were go home anyway and sleep in my own bed despite the fact that Nick would probably flip out, or drive all the way back to Nick’s house which at this point was at least a half hour away. It was midnight, I had to work the next day. So I said fuck it and went home. This was the beginning of the end for us.
That next morning I woke up to a text asking why I didn’t come to his house if my roommate’s boyfriend was there. I’m still not sure how he knew but this ensued a huge fight, I wasn’t even planning on telling him. He was angry and demanded to know why I didn’t value his feelings and did things against his wishes. I didn’t see the big deal (and still don’t) because we were all friends.
From that time on I began distancing myself from him, he worked a lot and so did I, I was still in school and just focused on finishing and moving on with my life. One of my favorite bars was right down the street from my house, I started going there with friends I had made that Nick didn’t know. I lied to him about what I was doing and made up excuses as to why I didn’t want to drive to his house.
One weekend in March, right before I graduated college we went to go visit our friends new baby. As we were leaving I was quiet, I wanted to break up with him so badly but I didn’t feel like I could. I honestly didn’t feel like I was allowed to do that without his permission. On the drive home he asked me what was wrong with me. I just shrugged and made up some excuse about being tired.
“As long as you’re not mad at me then I don’t really care then.”
I remember thinking “if only you knew…”
The next morning I woke up in his bed. I stared at the ceiling for twenty minutes before I got up. He didn’t try to cuddle me or speak to me, I got dressed while he was asleep and I kissed his cheek, before I closed the door behind me I took one last look around his bedroom and I knew then that it was the last time I’d ever see it again.
I drove home and I went through my room. I had a notebook of letters I never gave him that explained everything I had felt over the last few years. I wrote up so many pages asking him to listen to me, asking him to pay attention to the fact that I was depressed. I wanted to make it work, I wanted him to be the one for me. But I was drowning and he didn’t care, I had begged him so many times to give me something to hold on to and each time he let me down.
“You know I love you and you know you’re pretty, you don’t need to hear it all the time.”
I had become a mouse, I hated who I was because she had let someone break her down so far. I allowed myself to be manipulated and controlled and I was so tired of it. I took the entire notebook filled with my wants and hopes for our future and I burned the entire thing. One page at a time, I sat on my porch with a lighter and I watched the words go up in smoke and tumble as ashes across the driveway. This was a symbolical cut of the ties, I knew then that this was the end. The feelings I once had for him were smothered by his actions.
I wrote him one last note. When I texted him and asked him if I could give it to him as soon as possible he acted annoyed, as if he didn’t have time.
“I don’t want another one of your notes just blaming me because you’re unhappy, so if that’s what it is then save it.”
I took a deep deep breath. “I need to give this to you now.”
“I’m busy” he responded. I began to feel so small again right after I had just built myself up so far. I was questioning if I could go through with it, would I change my mind? I had tried so many times before to break up with him but he just wouldn’t let me. He’d say we were too good to give up on, he loved me more than anyone else ever would. I thought of the ashes in the driveway.
I took a picture of the note I wrote on a piece of notebook paper and I sent it to him. Then I held my breath awaiting his response.
“I’m in the process of buying a house so that we can live together and you can move out of [your roommate’s]”.
That was his response. I was confused, I exhaled, I had never expressed wanting to move in together or move out of where I was living. I couldn’t believe that the only thing he could think to say was still about somehow controlling me. But then the flood of texts came in.
“Why? I don’t understand, we are doing so good. You’re just going to throw away six years of true love because you’re confused? We can fix this, this isn’t what you really want”.
I stayed so strong, I expected him to call me to change my mind but he didn’t. I’m not sure if I could’ve done it in person because I knew he’d change my mind somehow.
I cried, but not because I was sad. I cried because I was relieved and because he didn’t see it coming. I hurt him so badly but the moment he acknowledged the break up I stood a little taller, my life started over, I was brand new.
So many people told me over the years what the relationship was but I didn’t want to see it. He was my boyfriend, he was the one who said he loved me. The thing about mentally controlling relationships is that the only way to get out of them is to take your rose colored glasses off. I never thought I was in an abusive relationship despite all the things he’d say to me and the ways he made me feel. If anyone tried to tell me the truth he’d say “well that person is this or that and they don’t know”. There was always a reason, always an excuse.
It’s hard deciding to give up on something you thought was good. It’s harder trying to see bad relationships for what they truly are, but once you leave it’s easy to become who you were meant to be without the judgement and strain of someone controlling all your choices.
This was almost three years ago. We are both in new relationships and I can’t say I know much about anything he’s doing. When I started dating my current boyfriend he texted me enraged about how I was disloyal, which was not and never had been true. About a month later he started dating someone new and now they’re engaged.
The bottom line is that I didn’t have a strong sense of self worth, and the only strong foundation I had was in the friends that I pushed away. It’s important to be able to recognize things for what they are, despite how much you love someone. Abuse comes in all shapes and sizes and the greatest piece of advice I cant give to someone in a controlling relationship is follow your gut. I knew something was wrong but I doubted myself because he was all I had. Deep down I knew who he really was, but I chose to ignore it.
If this sounds like you, don’t ignore it. There is so much love and happiness in the world, one person cannot be the only thing that matters to you. You should matter the most to yourself.
Love to all those who have suffered through abusive and controlling relationships.