If you have to tell yourself something isn’t “that bad,” then it really is worse than you think

By Catcall Contributor

I couldn’t help it; I fell in love.

And when I fell in love, there was a part of me that became him. I didn’t think of it as a bad thing, after all if I’m spending all my time with someone and talking to them every day, it would be hard not to mesh into a single being, to some extent. He was older, successful, and absolutely beautiful. He always said he hated being the center of attention, but I think he knew that’s where he thrived. He was a natural born leader and made everyone look up to him with the highest regards. He truly seemed like a great man.

But things aren’t always what they seem. I got to know him better and he told me about his troubled past full of being adopted, bullied, anger management classes, manipulative relationships, and lies. He told me that he would never do anything to hurt me because he knew what it was like to be hurtbut then the lies started.

Photo by Luis Galvez

He lived across the country from me in the city that never sleeps, New York City. Things felt perfect at first, but then he started lying about who he was going out with, what he was doing, and who he was talking to. That is when the manipulation started. He would get blackout drunk then call me into the hours of the night,mumbling the truth to me about where he had been. If I confronted him about his lying, he’d start yelling, telling me that I don’t know what he’s doing, he meant to call another girl not me, and to get off his back. The next morning, he would see hurt texts from me on his phone without a clue as to what he had said. According to him  it was my fault that he got mad, because I was insecure, young, and didn’t understand where he was in his life. He placed the blame on me.

You’re probably thinking, why didn’t she see the signs earlier. The lows were low, but the highs were the highest I’ve ever felt. I had never been in love, and I swear every time I saw him my heart jumped out of my chest. We met at a Mathletes vs. Athletes party my sophomore year of college. Dressed like a nerd, I saw him across the room, walked up to him, and in a moment of bravery said, “Hey! We’re dancing later.” I had walked away with a grin on my face, and a look of surprise left on his. Needless to say he found me later.

After he graduated, he moved back to New York and away from me. The first time he came back to visit, he surprised me the night before he was supposed to be in town. He called me as his mom was driving him from the airport and told me that the stars were so bright tonight, and even though we weren’t together, we should both look up at the stars. I was already up in my bunk bed hoping to get rest before spending the entire weekend with him, so I was stubborn at the idea of going upstairs and outside. But, I did it anyway, because I would’ve done anything he asked of me. The moment I saw him standing there outside, waiting to surprise me, was the best moment of my life. I hadn’t asked anything of him, yet he showed his love in a way that was not only a surprise, but came from his heart. He gave everything he had to me that night. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like that againthe beating of my heart, the look in his eyes, the wind in my hair, his arms around me as he picked me up after not being together for so long. I will forever remember that moment.

We were long distance, so those moments when I did see him were scarce. It was great at first. We would go out and have a good time; I’d meet his friends and roommates and family. Every time we were together again I thought we’d be okay. I forgot about the drunken phone calls yelling in my ear. I forgot about all the lies. Instead, I saw him with hearts in my eyes. I thought he’d start treated me like his equal, that things would change. I didn’t know the worst was yet to come.

The first time

It was Christmas Eve at his parent’s house when he was texting another girl. He had gone to the shower and left his phone in the room. A message popped up on the screen saying how he knew how much she like him. I confronted him about it and his reaction was not what I expected. He got so angry and forcibly grabbed me and threw me on the floor. He said I invaded his privacy just by looking at the home screen as it lit up. He told me not to be so dramatic and that I knew he only wanted me. I sat in bed next to him after that as he told me how much he loved me and how he had overreacted. I sat, shaking, through the night, Christmas Eve night, which was supposed to be filled with happiness and love.

We didn’t go back to what we had been before, something had changed between us. There was hurt, but it also felt like we had been through something that brought us together. We went through the next six months still long distance and semi-rocky, but just as full of love. I got an internship in NYC but didn’t have an apartment right away, so I moved in with him for a few weeks. We were out drinking with some friends in Manhattan my first week in the city. The evening started out innocent, but I caught him in a lie about snapchatting a different girl, again, and everything blew up. We got into a huge fight, and he stormed out of the bar. I followed after him and we continued arguing, yelling back and forth about what was really going on. Suddenly, he grabbed me by the throat and pushed me up against a building in the shadows of the skyscrapers. It completely took me by surprise. With anger in his eyes, he hailed a cab and told me that I would either get in with him or never see him again. Inebriated and unwilling to face my fear of being without him, I got in the cab.

Our fight raged on as the cab hurried out of the city. He threatened that he wanted to kill me, and I believed him. When the cab arrived at his apartment, I ran out, while he paid, with the hopes that I could use my personal key to his apartment to put a locked barrier between the terrifying man I thought was my caring boyfriend. With my heart nearly pounding out of my chest, I got into his apartment and managed to put the chain on the door. But he raged through it, tearing the trim off the wall that the chain was attached to. He leaped at me, his hands outstretched, and wrapped his fingers around my throat, choking me until I couldn’t breathe.

My memories after that began to blurred. I remember running up to the roof, looking down, and thinking that if I jumped it wouldn’t be worth it because I would just be injured, not dead. I was lightheaded, scared, and completely lost. I eventually fled his apartment without shoes on, running down the street barefoot and terrified. But he followed me and used a sudden sincerity to convince me to come back inside with him. He professed his love for me and told me the only reason he got so upset was because I didn’t trust that his love was only for me, that I needed to put my faith in him. He said I needed to understand that his love had no bounds.

The next day, I moved out of his apartment with the bruises of his handprints on my arms. Our semi-rocky relationship had turned into the likes of a tiny boat beating up against the rocks during a storm. We had gone from living together to me avoiding a conversation with him. He was relentless, constantly apologizing. He begged for the opportunity to apologize in person so I could see just how sincere he was. It didn’t take long before I gave in and invited him to my apartment; after all this was a man I still loved.

Sitting uncomfortably in my bedroom, I asked him the question that had been burning on my mind.I wanted to know why he wanted to hurt me so badly. I needed an explanation, and I begged him for one. He told me he didn’t know why he had hurt me, sincerity in his, but I kept asking. If I searched through the depths of his mind, I knew he would figure it out. I pushed him into finding a reason why, relentlessly asking for an answer. He had never liked when I pushed him to do anything. He snapped, becoming so outraged that he grabbed me by my shoulders and yanked me forward before banging my head backwards on my wooden headboard. I told him to get out of my apartment and leave me alone as my head throbbed from the recent crash. He did for a little while.

I sat sobbing in a stage of deep depression for weeks, only getting up to go to work. I couldn’t understand why someone would want to hurt the person they said they loved. He told me that we should break up so he wouldn’t hurt me anymore, but I begged him to stay. I had become reliant on the man who turned into a monster. I drifted through the rest of my summer in a state of cloudy movements, still committed to this man that spoke of his love, but didn’t show it.  

Trying to find myself

We spent another four months in a long distance relationship after that summer. The separation helped me seek out a therapist, but the distance made my trust in him stretch thin as well. We were in a constant state of being on a break with the hopes that this distance would help us find ourselves. I tried, I really tried to find myself. I tried to find myself through the troubles of newfound depression and anxiety. I didn’t realize that I would never be able to find myself when the man opposite of me demanded that I give all of myself to him. I was still holding onto him, too, and I couldn’t let him go. Our love was like a once-in-a-lifetime love, he said.  How could I cope with the thought that I would never be in love again? I became sick when I pictured him with anyone else. I moved back to NYC, back into his life. I convinced myself that if he ever hurt me again, I would leave him for good. He promised it would never happen again. He claimed he  was a changed man and was growing every day. Unlike me, he said he was finding himself, too. But none of that was true.

It happened again. Afterwards, as his handprints once again changed into bruises on my body, we sat on my bed and he asked me if I was going to call the cops. In his eyes, he didn’t think he was the type of man who deserved to be turned in. He wasn’t like those other men that abused women, he was different. I now know those were lies. No man who puts his hand on a woman is worthy of her in any way Something clicked in me after that. We didn’t break up right away, but we kept fighting. Deep inside I think I knew that the only way I was going to leave him was if I pushed him away from me; I didn’t have the strength to leave him on my own. He made me believe that there was never going to be anyone else for me. He made me believe that he was the only one who deserved my love.

I won’t deny that he was charming. Somehow I was convinced that he was the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with. In my heart I thought we were soulmates, and he did, too. On a clear night in Cinque Terre, Italy, overlooking the Sea, he got down on one knee and promised me that someday he would do the same thing again and not just promise the world to me, but give it to me. I still wonder if he just told me that to have control over me or if he really believed it. I wonder if he told me that so I would feel like there wasn’t anyone else in the world for me, anyone that would treat me better. I wonder if he told me that so he could do whatever he wanted to me, and I would still fear walking away.

I did fear it. I was scared every day of losing him. I am still terrified of a life without this man because part of him is a beautiful person. But I don’t know anymore if that beautiful person was truly him or just a con. He stole my heart, he believed in my dreams, and he wanted some of those same dreams too. He was my everything, then he took advantage of me.Before all of this happened I always saw myself as a strong, independent woman, but somehow I lost myself in love. I lost myself in abuse. I lost myself in manipulation. I lost myself in a man. I gave everything to him for two years without giving anything back to myself. Admittedly, I still dream about having a future with him, one where we didn’t fight and he never laid a hand on me, but I know I’m strong enough now to never enter into a relationship that’s not balanced. I can dream about that future, but I know now that it isn’t real.

I’m on the journey back to finding myself. It’s not easy, but I know that every day I go without him, I become a little bit stronger. I know part of me will always love this man, but I learned that love sometimes holds the darkness of the world instead of fostering light. Look for the light, and if you ever have to tell yourself that something isn’t “that bad,” then it just might be worse than you realize. Take a step back, breathe, and make sure to put yourself only in situations that will spread your light. Because, in the end, your light is stronger than any darkness, and nothing should hold that back.

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