I’ve seen multiple reports that indicate that domestic violence claims have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people are being forced to stay quarantined with their abusers. Domestic abuse can be committed in a variety of ways, and if you suspect that you or someone you know is being abused, please know there are resources available to you. I share my story for those who are dangling by a thread, hoping that something will come along to give them the inch of hope they so desperately need to escape their living hell. Names have been changed for privacy purposes.
April 28th, 2017
It will forever be the day that my life changed for the better and for the worse. It is the day I met Chris, the person who I would soon begin dating and eventually be engaged to. Our relationship started off great as so many do. He would bring me cold and flu medicine when I was sick, and unclogged my pesky shower drain. By mid-October, he had moved into my apartment. I thought I had found the one and was ready to take these next life steps together. He had about a year and half left to get his BBA, and I was working full time and going to school for my Ph.D., which meant that a majority of our expenses fell on my shoulders. This should have been a red flag.
I soon discussed with him that I had been sexually abused as a child by an older person close to my family, and it was especially hard on my mom. I hid it from my parents for 10 years, and we have grown from it together. The conversation with Chris quickly turned into him saying he would never be able to have a relationship with my mom. I fought and cried over this to him as I can’t imagine a life without my mom. This is the first time he walked out and left me for about 45 minutes. He finally came back and agreed to have a relationship with her. This should have been a red flag.
Then came the endless nights of fighting over our intimate life. I could never be enough in that realm for him because in his mind (partially due to his porn addiction), he had a distorted view of what an intimate relationship looked like. Our intimate relationship was then distorted into his “love language.” Being intimate with your partner is not a love language. Physical touch, such as holding hands and cuddling, can be a love language. I never enjoyed our intimate relationship but was forced to do so in order to serve his love language. This should have been a red flag and is a form of sexual abuse.
We decided to get a dog together, a sweet rescue that we named Nala. Training a puppy is not easy, and it became evident that Chris would be the enforcer. He became very harsh with her, and excused it as wanting to train her. He would punish her for chewing on something in the apartment or going potty inside, and she would cry for the next 90 seconds as he shoved her head into the floor. She would try to get away from him, but a 6’3 man is always going to overpower a 30-pound puppy. I would turn away, hold myself and wince as I shared her pain. This should have been a red flag.
As we continued our life together, it soon became apparent that there were things wrong with all of my friends, and even my sister.
“They don’t have their life together.”
“They aren’t a good influence on you.”
”You know we will make more money than them.”
“She doesn’t seem to be a good friend and is all about the show.”
By negatively framing my close friends and sister, I began questioning what I should reveal to them. I questioned them and myself. If the most important man in my life feels this way about them, surely, he is right. To my sister and all of my friends, I cannot apologize enough for ever doubting you. This should have been a red flag.
We were ready for Chris’s last year of school. We had just moved into a two-bedroom apartment. I knew Chris smoked weed, and it was a major obstacle for us. We agreed that he would stop when he graduated and got a job so that he could “fully enjoy his college experience.” Him smoking always bothered me. He soon went on a 3-day bender, and left me and Nala. We barely texted, and when we did talk on the phone, he screamed at me. He finally came back, and it seemed like things went back to normal. I continued to find out when he would smoke, and it always came back to his college experience and that I had taken so much of it away from him by us living together. This should have been a red flag.
This was a stressful time due to finals for Chris and myself. We went out to grab some fast food one afternoon, and somehow, I messed up. It turned into him screaming at me in the car, and me crying my eyes out. He ate his meal at our kitchen table as I balled my eyes out in our bedroom with him never coming to console me. This should have been a red flag.
New Year’s Day 2019
We were at Chris’s parent’s house for a few days. He indicated that we would be engaged in 6-8 months, making my heart excited beyond measure. He then told me that he had been on Tinder over the holidays to ensure his love for me was real, and he said him being on Tinder confirmed that I was the woman for him. This should have been a red flag.
We went to Washington, D.C. as a mini-vacation. Chris proposed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and I was happy, but there was a little piece of me that felt like something was off. I ignored it, and we continued with our trip. The trip that was supposed to be about our future was soon transformed to be about weed as it is legal in D.C.. When we arrived at the airport to leave, I was shocked to find him shoving edibles down his throat. I cried through both flights back, and of course, when we got home to Lubbock, the screaming began. I should have been overjoyed as we were engaged, but I looked at the beautiful ring on my finger, and felt nothing. This should have been a red flag.
As we began our journey of planning our future and wedding together, Chris was often disengaged and left all the wedding decisions to me. Sounds like a dream, right? Wrong. I was soon told that I was controlling the wedding because he had no say.
We shouldn’t get married in my hometown (as is customary in the South).
Why are these people on the invitation list?
Are you sure you want those people to be your bridesmaids?
Why can’t we do the registry from the couch and not go to the store?
I can only talk about the wedding for an hour a day.
These were all phrases I commonly heard. Shouldn’t a partner be somewhat excited about their wedding? This should have been a red flag.
Soon, the yelling and control escalated. I was at dinner with my former college roommate, and when I got home, Chris told me he had driven by the restaurant to make sure I was actually there. He then failed his last class to graduate, and I paid for him to retake the course during the summer. His actions of yelling and throwing a tantrum were often blamed on his shame for failing a class and not going anywhere in life. He often told me that he was afraid of me leaving him, which then caused me to constantly reinforce the idea to him and myself that I would never leave. This should have been a red flag.
If one thing went wrong in his day, it was all over. He would begin yelling that he hated me, hated our life together and that he could leave me at any time if he wanted. The names and derogatory terms I was called are endless.
I’m a b*tch.
He looks at me and wants to hit me.
He looks at me and sees rage. He hates me.
I make his life miserable.
I need to leave and not return to our apartment until he says I can.
I don’t dress like an engaged woman.
I’m an over glorified assistant at my job (I’ve had 5 promotions in 4 years).
I have no leadership skills and will never go anywhere in life.
I recorded him yelling these words at me, and it is gut wrenching to listen to today.
This should have been a red flag.
Following our break up, I was in counseling and had the counselor listen to the recordings. She indicated that there was no apology in his words, and one day his threats of wanting to hit me would turn into actions.
One day, he punched a hole in the wall because I didn’t send him a document quick enough while at work, and then proceeded to yell at me on the phone that I was an idiot for 30 minutes. The hole was haphazardly fixed and covered with a wall decoration, but it is evident as seen below. In the midst of this, we took the most beautiful engagement pictures, and if you look close enough, you can see a tint of sadness in my face. This should have been a red flag.
I was traveling nearly every weekend for my job, my PhD. related work, wedding things or to see friends. Chris would often become depressed when I would leave, and would say that he could not function for a few days or more without me. This soon got turned into him having suicidal thoughts because I was never around. When I traveled, I was often checking in with him every hour to make sure he was okay, meaning I was not focusing on my trip or those I was around. For instance, when I was in Montreal, my walks around the city were us Facetiming, not me taking in Montreal for what it is. Not being around your partner for three days should not bring a person to fall into a depressive state, this is a controlling technique. This should have been a red flag.
The yelling and control continue. We are still engaged, but my mind often wandered and questioned if I was doing the right thing. I had a guy friend from college who would randomly DM me saying that I looked beautiful in my Instagram pictures, that he wishes he had his chance but is happy that I am getting married. I often thought that if he can be so kind after all this time, why am I with a man who yells horrible things at me regularly? He shall remain nameless, but his kindness carried me farther than he will ever know. This should have been a red flag.
Mid August 2019
I go home to DFW to take care of wedding planning and another wedding dress fitting. After my dress fitting and knowing that I was not small enough for him in the form fitting dress. As you see in the picture below, I was plenty small. I then go to Bed, Bath & Beyond with my parents to work on the registry. I have a mini panic attack as I don’t know what cutlery and plates to choose for our registry without upsetting him. I try to explain how overwhelmed I am to him, and am met with yelling as he doesn’t understand what is wrong with me. I go back to Lubbock the next day, and things seem to be back to normal. Later that week, I am able to leave work a smidge early, and decide to go home and have fajitas ready for when he got home. He walks in and immediately starts accusing me trying to control his night with dinner. After yelling at me for 10 minutes, I follow him to the apartment gym, where the yelling and fighting continues. The apartment manager pops her head in and sees if we are okay. On the elliptical, I stare and hope that she calls the police for a wellness check to take me out of my misery. She didn’t. This should have been a red flag.
We go to his parent’s second home in Florida for Labor Day. His stepmom indicates that she knows that Chris blows up on me, but blames it on the fact that this is how his biological mom raised him and this is all he knows. I internally question this, and it makes my heart feel off. We decide to leave Florida early due to the hurricane, and quickly head to the airport. Sitting in the Tampa airport over a plate of cold nachos, Chris says he doesn’t want to marry me. I weep across him from as people around us stare. I ask why he says this now, and he says because he wanted to control my reaction. This conversation should have taken place in a private space, but he wanted to control the situation and remove my ability to try to talk about it. This should have been a red flag.
We come back home, and the second round of hell begins. The yelling continues, and the level of disrespect grows daily. We don’t talk about our relationship because he is “processing”. He comes home one day and threatens to leave me. I go to my former college roommate’s house for 5 days for him, and we did not have any communication so he could have a clear head. I lost 6 pounds during this time even though I was eating as I normally did. I came back home 5 days later, and he still does not know if he wants to marry me, has been active on Bumble and is still smoking weed. This should have been a red flag.
The distance between us grows, and he still doesn’t know if he loves me. On the morning of Friday, October 4th 2019, I found him smoking weed before work, and he explains that he likes weed and is never going to stop. I go to work frustrated, and happen to come home for lunch at the same time as him. He still will not talk to me, and as he eats his lunch, I ball my eyes out in our bedroom. He decides to go back to work, and I chase after him. He drives off in my face, and leaves me crying in our apartment complex parking lot. This should have been a red flag
I went back to work, and one of my coworkers has someone in their life who has struggled with drug addiction. I break down in their office, and we talk about mine and Chris’ relationship for the next few hours. This coworker, who shall remain nameless, encourages me to get myself out of the relationship if he can’t have a real conversation with me. They state that marriage is tough, and if we can’t talk now, we are destined for failure. I leave work early and go home feeling empowered enough to escape my living hell. He comes home, and I ask if he can talk. He says “no”, and I, in the bravest moment of my life, respond with “then pack your bags.” He looked at me shocked and began packing. I soon call my parents, who immediately pack their bags and drive to be with me.
As my parents drove 5 hours from DFW to Lubbock, I did what any girl would do in this situation. I turned my attention to our bedroom closet. I moved all of his items to the guest room closet and rearranged my bedroom closet to where my clothes took up both sides of our elongated closet. I knew that if I was going to make it through this, I wouldn’t need a reminder every time I went to get dressed. That night was a blur as I cleaned the rest of my apartment and called my best friends to tell them what had happened. My parents finally arrived in the wee hours of the morning, and I successfully slept 4 hours that night. I cried off and on throughout the weekend, and I decided to redo my entire apartment. I needed the space to be mine, not mine and Chris’. New bedding, rugs, plates, blankets, decorations, towels, all of it was new and I could not be more grateful for TJMaxx, Hobby Lobby and Target.
My dad had to leave Saturday afternoon to be back in DFW on Sunday, and luckily, my mom was able to ride back to DFW with some of their friends that were in town on Sunday afternoon. My parents truly are some of the best people in the world. It still brings me to tears knowing that they dropped everything and came to my side when I needed them most. I cannot be more thankful for them. I knew once my parents left, it would become real. I was all by myself with Nala in our “new” apartment, and life was completely different than it was 72 hours before. I took the picture below after my mom left to remember how far I’d come in the coming weeks. If that doesn’t look like rock bottom, I don’t know what does.
The next few weeks were a blur. Trying to go back to work, how to care for Nala when she cries for him every night, only sleeping if I took melatonin and had half a bottle of a wine for dinner, figuring out how Chris would pay me back the thousands he owed me, trying to figure out how he was going to get all of his things out of the apartment, friends coming to spend the weekends with me and trying not to lose more weight.
I took off a day of work, and Chris came to pack up the rest of his items from the apartment. I took Nala to a friend’s house as I couldn’t risk him taking her. I made sure my apartment looked and smelled amazing as isn’t that what you do when your ex-fiancé is coming to get the rest of his things? After he packed up his things, we talked about our relationship for the next two hours. However real his sentiment and sadness seemed, I don’t take it seriously. He proceeded to tell me that he proposed because that is what you do, he knew in April that we would never get married and was trying to save enough money to leave me by Christmas. He knew all of these things while my parents and I continued to put our time, effort and finances into the wedding.
We had the perfect look together. I was a Ph.D. student with a full-time job, and he had been training his whole life to partner with his multi-millionaire entrepreneur father. We looked like the couple that this would never happen to. I look back at pictures of me during our relationship, and see the strained look in my eyes. I have never regretted my decision to kick him out and end our engagement, I’ve always felt relief. I have never missed him, but have missed the life I thought I was about to have (getting married, buying a house, etc). I would only be at this point due to the encouragement and support from my friends and family. Chris did eventually pay me back the thousands that he owed me, and there is nothing connecting us anymore. My living hell ended the day he paid his last payment, and I became 100% free of his influence.
Today, my professional and academic careers are thriving, and my personal life and relationships are stronger than ever. Is there a bad moment sprinkled in among the good times? Absolutely, but that is a moment for growth and reflection. To those who think you will never date again after a broken engagement, you will. I have been dating someone for a few months, and shockingly, he is nice to me and puts forth true effort. It is still fresh and who knows where it will go, but it is good.
Domestic abuse does not discriminate against skin color, age, gender or financial situations. It can truly happen to anyone, and I never thought it would happen to me. I do know that I am stronger today than I have ever been and am a survivor of sexual and domestic abuse. Truly, if you or someone you know is being abused, please know there are resources available. You can overcome this, and if this is the inch of hope you need to have the courage to escape, run and don’t stop running. No one deserves to be treated like this, and you are destined for so much more.
United States of America’s Government Office for Women’s Health to find resources by state.