Written by: BTSADV Survivor
I was only 17 years old when I met my ex-boyfriend whom I would later find out was emotionally abusive. I was in my first year of university living in the dorms, and I had sworn to myself that I wouldn’t get into anything serious too soon.
And then he came along. He was sweet and funny and everything I was looking for in a man at the time. He was 19, just about 20, and I was two weeks away from turning 18. Everything happened pretty fast. We met and then three days later, we started officially dating.
We would spend so much time together, and he used to do little romantic things for me. He was my first boyfriend, my first love. Everything was picture perfect for about six months, and then, suddenly, that changed. His grandmother passed away, and it seemed like the boy I fell in love with was a wilting rose, once beautiful but now dried out.
I had ditched all my friends so I could spend more time with him. It seemed like the right choice at the time, but I started becoming more and more dependent. He started to pull away from me, and I didn’t know why.
A couple of weeks before our seven-month anniversary, he FaceTimed me and told me that being with me was too much. He said that I was too codependent and broke up with me. I was devastated, crying in my room. Three hours later, he called me back saying he made a mistake and being the type of person who is easy to forgive, I took him back.
A couple of weeks later, he told me that the reason it happened was that he stopped being sexually attracted to me but didn’t know how to tell me. I had noticed that he was withdrawing himself from being intimate with me but didn’t think much of it. He had been watching porn a lot even though I told him it made me uncomfortable. But he convinced me that it was normal, that I shouldn’t feel self-conscious, and that it wouldn’t ruin our relationship. But, slowly, it did.
After that, nearly every time we had sex or any time I initiated, he would tell me that he couldn’t because I wasn’t sexually attractive enough. He then proceeded to tell me it wasn’t me, that it was him and his own problem. But I didn’t believe that. I thought it was my fault, and I thought it was the way I looked. That went on for three more months.
Nine months into the relationship, he broke up with me again because he wasn’t feeling happy in the relationship anymore. He felt nothing was going right. We were in my car at a beach look-out, and he made me leave him there. I drove away crying as he threw the promise ring I gave him into the ocean. A day later, he told me that we could make it work and that he wanted to be with me. I took him back again.
The problems continued. We saw each other every day. I had no friends, and I was still told every day that I was sexually unattractive. Then we went back to school. After the first day, we were lying in bed getting ready to sleep when he told me he missed being single, but he wasn’t going to let that come between us.
The next day, I pressed him to tell me why he was thinking about that, and he told me that part of it because he wasn’t happy with me anymore and another was because I was restricting him from watching porn. I gave in and told him he could watch it, that I wouldn’t stop him.
I dropped him off for his class later that day and was supposed to pick him up a few hours later so we could go to a mutual friend’s going away party. I ended up staying at the university and went down to his classroom about ten minutes before it was scheduled to end, but the classroom was empty. I was calling him and having an anxiety attack, and he finally called me back. He had gone home an hour and a half early to watch porn. I was furious.
I picked him up so we could go to the party, but I screamed at him the whole way there. And then he got mad at me for reacting the way I did. He made me drop him off a couple of blocks away and told me that I shouldn’t go to the party. So, I drove away, and the next day, we broke up. For good… or so I thought.
A month later, after he had removed me from social media, he texted me telling me that he had a month to think about things and that he wanted to try again with me. So, I gave him that chance. Before this, I had seen therapists and talked to friends about possibly being emotionally abused by him.
About a week after getting back together, I told him this, and he automatically became sad. His father was labeled the same way, and the last thing he wanted for himself is to be his dad. After two weeks of being back together, he ended things with me because he couldn’t be with someone who said such awful things about him, ignoring the fact that I said those things only to my closest friends out of hurt.
A week went by, and we were still talking here and there, but he decided to block me. After that, I had finally told myself he wasn’t worth it, and when I saw him at work (we worked together), I walked right by him without looking back. That night, I had a date with another boy, and during this time, he was texting me telling me that he was sorry for blocking me.
When I got home, he asked to talk to me, and we caught up. I told him about my date, which he got angry about. He was angered that I had moved on so fast. He started guilting me with his words, and I felt bad for him, so asked if we could meet up so I could hug him. We did, and then we got back together again for about ten days. He broke up with me again because he didn’t think he loved me anymore.
We remained friends for a few weeks. We would always talk, and then he realized that he appreciated me more because he had the time to know me as a friend and asked me to come over at three in the morning. We had sex, and it felt like he was sexually attracted to me – which was a win for me. We were together for a week, and then he broke up with me again because he still didn’t think he loved me. He did this over text.
After that, we stopped talking. I quit the job we both worked at and got a new one. As soon as he found out, he texted me and wished me luck. I was done with him at this point. I was ready for a world where he wouldn’t be in it anymore. But a week before I was done at my old job, he texted me and asked if he could call me – for closure. I agreed, but I was going to keep my composure and not let him back in.
We ended up talking for a couple of hours, and I broke down telling him how terrible he had made me feel. He told me he had changed, that he wished I could see him the way he was now. That made me think. Maybe he was ready to be with me. So, I gave him an opportunity. I said that if he was ready to put in the work, maybe things would happen between us.
Originally, we were going to wait a few months to work on ourselves before getting into a relationship. But, when we met up, as friends, we decided that it was unhealthy and got back together. It seemed like the real thing this time. He got lost in my eyes, and he gave me roses (when I told him I wanted a sign of commitment before I had sex with him). One night, a week in, he told me he loved me. The next day, he took it back, saying he wasn’t ready to say it all the time, but that the feelings were there. I tried my best to understand.
But every day, I was getting anxious. When he didn’t text me back or was being distant, I thought I had done something wrong, and I thought he was going to leave me again. But he promised that he would never leave again. He said he couldn’t leave. Not that he didn’t want to, but that he couldn’t.
One night, we were out late, and my car broke down. We were talking about how I had tickets to a local drag show (he couldn’t come) and how I had invited my gay friend to join me. He instantly got jealous and asked if I was sure my friend wasn’t bi. I sold the tickets, not just because of that, but because he told me that if I went, I would be out late, mess up my sleep schedule, and then our relationship would perish.
Apparently, we had unhealthy habits, and because of my schedule and us hanging out at certain times, he was suffering, too. But he continued to tell me that he wouldn’t and couldn’t leave.
The next day, he was distant. I had finally convinced myself that he wasn’t going to leave this time and that everything was fine, so I told myself that he was just busy. That night, he texted me, telling me that being with me was deteriorating his mental and physical health. I tried everything I could, even owning up to my anxieties and thinking that they were the cause of it. He was bothered that I always had to text him and always had to tell him everything.
Before he could end things with me, I ended things with him. He wouldn’t meet me in person, so everything was done over text. I asked him why he kept coming back to me, why he kept putting me through this. He told me that it wasn’t because he wanted me or because he loved me, but because I was his safety net for when he felt like nobody else could love him the way I did. The next day, I sent him a three-page letter telling him how it made me feel, and he blocked me.
That was a few months ago. Since then, I have changed my number, blocked him back, given him his stuff back, and swiped left on his profile on Tinder. I’m still finding it hard to heal, especially when my therapist and everyone around me tells me I was emotionally abused. But it gives me hope that one day, I’ll find someone who actually loves me and wants to stay.
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.
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