“Grief does not demand pity; It requests acknowledgement”- Judd Gibbs
This story may come as a surprise for many of my friends who know me and my past relationship. Why would it be a surprise? Because I have barely told anybody about it even years after it ended. Why have I not told anyone? One, because I am embarrassed. And two, because most wouldn’t understand anyway, so why bother explaining, right?
Yet, after growing and battling through my demons over the years, and with much deliberation with those who love and care for me, I think it’s time to share My story. So here goes nothing.
Who am I? My name is Lauren, most call me Lo. I am a senior in college pursuing my dream of theatre and the arts. I am a normal (well, I wouldn’t say exactly normal), quirky, happy-go-lucky type of girl who has lots of family and friends who love me. I am constantly busy but you will never see me complain about it because I love the hecticness. I am a coffee and sushi addict but I do my best to actually attempt to cook on my own every now and then. To you, it may seem like “Wow, there isn’t anything wrong with this girl? She is totally fine.” And yes, I would agree. I am fine. It has taken me a long time to get to just that point. But I definitely used to not be. And that’s where I want to start.
As I write this, I really am trying to decide the best route or course to go about telling this story. Actually sitting down and writing this out is sort of a battle in itself, because my thoughts and memories on what happened kind of jumble up together and it takes time to differentiate the moments from others. After over a year of coping with the aftermath and also suppressing the memories to a large extent…I find it difficult now to gather my thoughts in a cohesive manner. So I guess the best place that all scholarly writers will recommend is to start from the beginning? I’ll try that. Just as a consolation to myself, the name of the person will never be said. If you know who it is I am talking of then right on, maybe you will see something you didn’t before; all you others, I am sorry but I can’t bring myself to do it. I am too kind and wouldn’t want harassment on this particular person, no matter how much damage they caused me. Okay, now that that has been established, let’s start from the beginning.
It was a high school sweetheart scenario like any other. The type you watched in movies, read about in books and goo-goo-eyed over in magazines. (At least at the time, it seemed that way.) We made it through high school together and although there were some rough patches like any long-term relationship would reveal, there was nothing that was noticeable, or overly concerning. We loved each other. And the first two years were blissful, dream-like, perfect.
Rarely any fighting, very little jealousy, lots of support, lots of adventures, and lots of love. We were going to take on the world together. (I am sure you heard that a million times in your life, huh?) Approaching our third year together, I was beginning college. He had already been for a year and after going a year of long-distance (not particularly that long, but long enough), I decided to betray my family’s advice of following him to the same college and went anyways, thinking that we had endured enough time apart and this would not only bring happiness to my life individually, but would bring us closer together (literally and emotionally.) This was all an illusion of course. I now look back on it and realize I was that stereotypical girl who just totally lost herself for a boy. That girl that everybody knows at some point in their life. But we will get more to that in a bit…
Anyways, we were back together. It was going to be perfect just as it was before, right? I lived on campus, he lived in a house 3 mins away, I could stay with him whenever I wanted, we could see each other every day… Again, perfection. Every couple’s wish. The school year began and we did all of those things, ALL of that happened. As well as so much more.
He changed. At least that was how I saw it.
People have asked me if I remember the exact moment it all changed, the exact situation, conversation or incident where I realized something was off; not only with our relationship but with him. To be honest, I have no idea. I am not sure if it was such small changes that it took a long time to realize it, or if the change was so drastic that I either couldn’t comprehend the change or ignored it. (I would go with the latter…) I guess you can say that love truly is blind. Since I can’t remember the exact moment my world was altered, the best way I can explain it is how it changed through scenarios that occurred.
It all began with how he would react to things I did or didn’t do; either in a conversation with him, an argument, or something that was never even affiliated with him at all (a.k.a. Something that happened between me and other people.) At first, the reactions were slight: he would be annoyed by something I said, something that I didn’t even notice would be a big deal. For example, I would say “So today I had to start a project in class, the three other guys in my group were….” And before I could even finish my sentence, he would abruptly stop me and give me a look of disgust.
“3 other guys? Back up. Does this mean you have to meet outside of class with these other guys??”
First sign: Obscure jealousy of other guys.
“Yeah perhaps, why does it matter, baby?”
No response. Pissed off look. Subject change.
Other incidences would occur as follows:
All of our friends would be going out and doing fun things with their weekend, but he would want to stay in, just us. Which, usually I wouldn’t mind, but school was stressful and I wanted to have some fun with others too! (Not unreasonable, right?) Here is a situation that began to happen far too often…..remember, I am still veiled by love at this point to notice.
Second sign: Possessiveness.
“Hey babe, so my friend Ginny invited me to come visit her in Columbia and see a theatre performance and then just chill. I think I am going to do that.”
“You’d rather go all the way to Columbia than stay here and hang with me? When you’re so busy? You want to give all your time to someone else?? You selfish bitch. I let you stay here whenever you want and you repay me with this bullshit? Yeah, go. I don’t want to be around you this weekend anyways if you’re going to be this way.”
Be what way? What? What does me staying at your house have to do with anything? Did he really just call me a selfish bitch when I have been at his house every night for 2 weeks? What…?
All the thoughts that would go through my mind when he said this. Why would he be so hateful? Of course, what would result in me crying because he called me a selfish bitch…which I would learn later wasn’t even close to the horrid name calling that would come.
Third sign: Anger at my emotions.
What would follow is harsh language in response to my emotional state. Cussing, me on the floor sobbing out of pure confusion as to why he is acting like this, him throwing things, him sulking and giving me the silent treatment until I agreed to stay and convinced him enough that, Yes, I really would rather be with him that weekend instead of my friend; mainly because I just couldn’t handle his maltreatment.
This is the point where I realized I would say absolutely anything to get some remnant of his old, sweet self again.
From this point on, things only got worse. I was walking on eggshells just to please him. All day every day I was trying to watch what I said, attempt to not anger him, and when I did, grovel and do anything to please him. And when I mean anything, I mean it.
Then started the sexual abuse.
At the time, I didn’t see it as sexual abuse of course. I just thought of it as “Oh it makes him happy, I’ll do whatever he wants whenever he wants just so I don’t piss him off today.”
The sex got rough. Not that I didn’t like a little foreplay before, but now it was just harsh. To the point where it wasn’t fun for me anymore, but I kept on. It got the point where it was 4 or 5 times a day, if not sex, some other form of pleasuring him. And it was only him. I never got anything in return.
He would say, “This is pleasure for you too, isn’t it? Why would I need to do anything extra to you? This is all you have ever wanted.”
It then continued, even after I had a double shift at work and I was exhausted; I had to give in. Even if I had to be at school for 17 hours a day because of my theater; I would have to give in. He made me feel like this was the norm. That every girl gave in this much for the man they loved; and that if I didn’t give in, I didn’t love him. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to anymore, all I wanted was just to please him, make it so he wasn’t mad at me for the day, and then move on. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
After a long, long time of this, I began to try and say, “Babe, I am really tired tonight. I don’t really feel like it.”
This would lead to either 2 scenarios:
He would look at me with such hatred, such pain as if I had just shot an arrow into the heart of each of his dogs.
He would then say a combination of the following:
“What the fuck?”
“What did I do to deserve this horrible treatment?”
“I give you my love and you just give me shit!”
“You fucking selfish whore” or “you cunt” or “you fucking bitch”
“Fuck this shit. Fuck you. Fuck this fucking shit!”
Then would come the yelling in my face. The punching of a wall. Or the storming out and locking himself in some room in the house.
He would pitch a fit like a 2-year-old, cry, sob, ball up on the floor and say that I didn’t love him. That I was a horrible girlfriend, that I never did anything right, that he does all this for me and I don’t do this, this, and this.
Could lead him to punching walls again. Or even a wall near my face. Or running out into the rain in the middle of the night and walking off to God knows where which would result in me trying to follow him or him not talking to me for 3 to 4 days to punish me.
You would think I’d get the hint at this point, huh? Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple.
After these episodes, it would result in a huge makeup, passionate promises, and 2 to 3 weeks of absolute bliss. Perfection once again! Oh, how I longed for these few weeks he would throw at me. Any little crumb of his love I could get, I would crave and long for it.
But if you can guess, this never lasted. The cycle would repeat.
Then it would get worse. Much worse.
Months pass, and this continues. Then one fateful night, was the first time he laid his hands on me.
It was late. A huge fight ensues, and I follow him out into the rain (not the first time of course.) I’m crying, he’s yelling, and to this day, I couldn’t tell you what it was we were fighting about. I follow him in the streets, lightning strikes nearby and as I sob, I am begging him to come back inside. He continues walking and I couldn’t help it. If you don’t know me, I am the kind of person who just wants to let things go, move on as quickly as possible, and not dwell on something. He, on the other hand, would brood about it for days; make me feel horrible for it. Tired of fighting and just wanting to make it better, I ran up to him crying and hugged him as tightly as I could; Professing my love and telling him we can work through it and it would all be alright.
He pushed me. To the ground. On the asphalt. Then proceeded to walk off. Thunder all around, scraps on my hands, and the quiet cries I made so he wouldn’t hear me as he kept going. To this day, thunderstorms bring back horrible memories.
I was going to be strong. The fucker pushed me! But after 20 mins and realizing he was actually going to continue walking, I knew I had to find him. Thus I drove until I picked him up on the side of the road, we sat in my car for 2 hours, saying nothing, smoking, until we could muster up going back inside.
Nothing was ever said about that night.
Time passes. The cycle continues. With each passing day, I am more drained. My parents notice how I am acting; I am not the same girl I once was. I was defensive, standoffish, secluded from friends and family, never home, and when I was home all I did was stay in my room with him. My parents would tell me how crushing the relationship was, how much I had changed. This caused me to become defensive, scream at my parents, cause giant fights with them, and continue to deny there was even a problem. Because, whether you believe it or not, I still had no idea. He was my world, and I was its protector. I was going to stand up for him and us no matter what it cost; because he “loved” me.
Then came the outbursts in front of my family: it would be dinner and I would say something that would make him storm off to my bedroom. Weekends we would drive home from school to visit and he would ignore me all weekend, cuss me out on the phone with them overhearing, him canceling plans with my family and me, or him even just not speaking to me for the weekend because of “something I said.” One weekend, I had had enough. He cussed me out on the phone; for what reason? I have no clue. To the point where he said the following:
“You fucking cunt! I can’t even fucking stand you anymore, who are you?”
“Fuck you, you fucking whore. I don’t even know why I put up with you anymore, all you ever do is disappoint me.”
“Shut the fuck up, you can’t say I don’t love you. I loved you when no one else would! And look what I get for it? Nah fuck you, I’ma do my own thing tonight.”
He’d hang up.
Then a bell finally started going off in my head: Ding! Hey Lauren! You’re done with this shit! Do it! Show him!
So I did. I was supposed to pick him up in the morning to drive us back to school. I didn’t. I texted him and said he would have to find his own ride home; I was done.
I am sure all of you are screaming “YAY! SHE DID IT!” Am I right? Well, don’t get too excited.
After two weeks of being broken up, getting letters and phone calls and messages dropped off at my dorm with a Toothless Build-A-Bear, countless tears, showing up at my classes, and long, LONG, professions of his love for me: I took him back.
Yes. You heard me right.
For 2 months, it was peace. Like it had been when we first met. I couldn’t have been happier. Our time had come. We were past all the bad times and we were finally working together to make things work. He began to treat me better, we spent time with friends, he didn’t seclude me to his house and him…it was as it was supposed to be again. My heart was so lifted; he really did love me! He changed and was turning it all around for me!
Then, I started telling him that I was thinking about transferring schools. I wanted to pursue theater, which my family had all been against because they wanted me to “do that sort of stuff for fun.” But I really felt it was my calling. Unfortunately, the college I was attending didn’t have a large program and I wanted to test out USC or Clemson. When I finally opened up to him about my goals, all hell broke loose.
I was betraying him. I wanted long distance again. I wanted to not see him every day. I was selfish. I didn’t love him. How could I ever do such a horrible thing to our relationship? Fight. Fight. Name calling. Anger. Tears. Explanations. Dreams. Misunderstandings…….
2nd time he lays his hands on me.
He didn’t understand my dream. And unlike most significant others, didn’t support me in doing it because of how it would affect him. He was possessive over me, and anything or anyone who would take me away, he had to cut off. By cutting me down.
After weeks of trying to get him on my side about going to Clemson, it turned out to be one of the biggest fights we had had up to that date. The words that were said evade me now. To this day, I don’t recall how it led to where it did. But I do remember one thing.
I am crying on the bed; unable to hold back the tears I know he hates. With such confusion and pain, I sit in silence as the barrage of language I couldn’t believe was being said pour out of his mouth. His face is red. His breath is hot and it makes it hard to breathe between the gasps I am trying to get for air as I sob. I only know the feeling of his breath on me because his face was less than a centimeter from mine; screaming profanities one wouldn’t dream of. Finally, I reacted.
All I remember next was a firm, painful grip wrapped around my wrist. He dragged me off his bed, across the floor and slammed me as hard as he could against the wall outside his bedroom. Sitting in shock, he proceeds to throw all of my clothes, shoes, makeup, books, backpack, and any other remnants of “me” he could find until he slammed the door and I am sitting alone outside his room. I gather my things, walk to my car, and sit.
I am numb. My wrist is bruised from his grip, and I can’t bring myself to drive off.
After 3o mins, he comes out, we go back in, make up. Repeat. I mean, he loves me, right?
Eventually, he says he is okay with me going to Clemson. (At this point I was going to go either way, I had completed the application behind his back because he hated it so much, and was determined to get my way on something.) So whether he really agreed or not, we moved back home. He went to the technical college, I went to Clemson. We both moved back in with our parents, but he came back to be with me. This must mean he cares! But as one can expect, things only got worse from here on out. Every day for me begins to become miserable. We would see each other most days after school, switching off which house we stayed the night at. But per his forceful request, mostly at his house. I would have class from 8am to 5pm with little to no breaks and would come over to see him when it was all over hoping for a bit of relief and support; but what I came back to was spite. Spite for everything. Spite for my long hours. Spite for my time spent on homework and not him. Spite for the fact I was going to a different school than him. Spite that I forced him to live back with his family. Spite for my attempt at making friends. Spite for how tired I’d be after the day was done and wasn’t completely willing to give myself to him whenever he pleased (Which he usually took anyways.) Spite for sometimes wanting to take a shower alone. Spite for pretty much anything you could think of that of course I wasn’t doing right.
This went on for months. Although he never physically abused me again, the sexual and emotional only continued to show their might. I was slowly being secluded from my family as time went by; and when they brought it up, I’d get into blowout fights with them defending the man who I still saw the glimmers of hope in. Rifts are now forming between me and my family because of this. No matter what they would point out to me, on how badly he was treating me, I wouldn’t see it or accept it… This continued. Until the day I did in fact finally see that this was all wrong.
Christmas rolls around…
And usually how it went was he came to spend time with me and my family on Christmas Eve, and I’d go to his on Christmas day. We had done that every year since we got together. As Christmas Eve came around, I hadn’t heard from him since that morning, when on the phone he got mad at me for something or another and hung up on me. I had texted him several times afterward about when to arrive at my house later that night, but no response. The evening’s festivities commenced, without him. He never showed. I somehow held it together the entire night, being bombarded by my entire family asking where he was. He finally called, late that night with no explanation for why he didn’t come, saying it was because of what I did earlier and that he was justified in all ways to not come. This was the final straw. This was the big wake up call for me. He didn’t care for me or anybody other than himself. I hung up on him and turned my phone off for 3 days. He’d done it to me countless times, so why couldn’t I?
These three days gave me the strength and the insight to see what had been going on all along. I knew I needed to break up with him, but how? I couldn’t possibly do it in person. It would just end in a big blow out fight, possibly result in him getting angry enough to hurt me. A phone call or text wouldn’t work either. Yes, I wouldn’t get physically hurt, but I would be berated with name calling and I am sure other means of insult. The only alternative that made since, was to write him a letter and have my cousin drop it off at his house when he is at work. This would decrease the chances of any of this happening, and I could just turn my phone off for a while. This was done, by the day my cousin planned to drop off the letter, he was home on lunch break. He came out, confronted her, and began to get in her face. Yelling profanity and getting close enough that made her worried for her safety. She was able to get into her car and drive off. After all this, I turned my phone off. It was over. It was finally all over…
Unfortunately, when it comes to abusive relationships, we know it’s never actually over when the person gets away from their abuser. This type of thing carries on with the victim for the rest of their lives; something I am realizing 3 years later, as I attend intensive outpatient therapy 3 times a week, hoping to deal with the trauma I pushed down years ago. Now I didn’t post this and share my story for pity. I shared it because I needed to for my healing to begin, and to hopefully impact others who might read this and think “That sounds similar to what I am going through” or to just better understand their friends and loved ones who might have gone through something like this. This blog post has taken me two years to finish. I started it years ago in hopes to help cope with what I went through, but found time and time again I wasn’t strong enough to finish it. Now I am, and my only hope is that by being open about my story, it will help open up the lines of communication and awareness for domestic abuse. That’s where this part of my story ends, and my next begins My Time in the Psychiatric Hospital and the Discovery of My Depression; which will be my next post coming soon!