Sarah's Story: Feigning Love in an Abusive Relationship
I still look over my shoulder when walking to my car. I still scan every bar and restaurant I enter to make sure he is not there. I still fear his presence when I do see him.
Three years (or was it four?) are lost to me; I cannot quite remember how long I was with him. A daunting, nebulous cloud looms over that part of my life. Maybe it’s my mind protecting me; maybe I do not want to remember it completely. Whatever the case, it’s a dense mass of antimatter, sucking everything in and leaving no light. This black mass moves within me. Sometimes it’s in my head; other times, it’s in my heart. On the worst of days, it consumes me entirely.
I met him right after I left a long-term relationship. Looking for casual companionship, I set my sights on him. I wanted nothing more than a rebound, knowing I was not ready for anything serious. However, we worked together and inevitably feelings grew. He wanted to be a part of my life and the relationship began as any other would — cute messages, nightly meetups, walks in the park, all that gooey drivel that eventually led to us moving in within a couple of months and then marrying after about a year.
The abuse began verbally, disguised as support. He wanted me to be the best version of myself, so long as the “best version of myself” was what he envisioned. Anytime I went against his word, we would argue. I had to blindly oblige if I wanted us to move forward, always thinking “this isn’t worth a fight, so I’ll give in this time.” This thought cycled through my head almost daily until I ultimately burst. One day, I decided to not back down, to stand my ground. He came charging at me from across the room. My instinct was to cower but, at that moment, I staunchly decided that I would not fear my spouse, so I yelled, matching his negative energy, hoping he would back down as I had so many times. I realized I was sorely mistaken as he slammed my back into the wall and began screaming in my face. I frantically apologized just so he would let me go.
Things began to snowball after this initial physical encounter. It became easier for him to charge at me, to raise his hand in a threatening manner, his mask quickly fading to show the nefarious being that lay beneath. A month would float by, then like a hazy morning, once the fog lifted, I would garner strength once again and voice my opinions, and every month the cycle began again. Dishes were constantly broken out of rage, doors slammed, walls punched. His go-to move was to push me against the walls, leaving mild bruising that was tender to the touch. Once, when we were in the throes of a typical “discussion” — the term he used in an attempt to normalize his abusive responses — he said, “Every relationship has these moments.” I lost myself, saw red. We were outside and I hit back. I swung for his face, wrapped my arms around his neck, and brought him to the ground. He jumped on top of me, pinned me to the ground by sitting on my hips as my back lay on the ground. He held my hands above my head with one of his and then struck my face with his other hand. I couldn’t look at him. I kept my head turned and thought, “If my head is turned my cheek will break instead of my nose.” With his teeth-gnashing and spit flying, he commanded I look at him or he would hit me again. I was frozen. He repeated his demand, this time hand raised. I quivered as I mustered up the strength to face him.
I do not recall what words were exchanged after that. This is a blackout spot in my memory. Somehow, I entered the house without being slapped again. Once inside, I locked myself in a separate room, smoked a copious amount of marijuana, and downed too much NyQuil in order to survive the rest of the night. I knew then that I needed to get out.
Over the following months, I devised a plan. I lived in a different state than my family at the time and knew I needed to go home. I made plans to move back, began looking at rental properties, put my notice in at work. This took about two to three months to come to fruition. During the interim, if I wasn’t working, I was at home, high and sedated. I turned to harder drugs for the especially rough days, acid was my go-to when I needed a true escape. I mainly stuck to sleeping medicine combined with weed and alcohol, it being the perfect cocktail to form a shell, to not care.
The day finally came when I moved back home, moving in with my parents and beginning the divorce process. As this progressed, he became possessive, followed me, watched me, always lurking around the corner, an ominous presence, to the point where I needed to request a personal protection order. I stood strong and never looked back. With every unnerving action he took, I knew I made the right choice and I dug my heels in deeper. I am now almost a year removed from my prison and every day the black mass grows smaller — still a piece of me, roaming inside. Though I’m unsure if it will ever completely dissipate, I am able to coexist with the foreign entity.
I am able to live.