The first time I fell in love, I fell deep and I fell hard. Which was most likely the reason the first time he got mad at me over something very trivial -and screamed at me asking if I was “eating retard sandwiches”- I brushed it off. I thought maybe it was stupid of me. He was 12 ½ years older, he probably knew better than me. I was only 19 after all.
There was good in him, and the good was really good. He was romantic and charming, and I was infatuated with him. We had so much in common. He would take me to a lot of secluded outdoorsy places where we would drink and hang out. We had lots of fun. And he always made sure I knew he was older and therefore understood things I did not.
So when I introduced him to my friends, I apologized to him shortly after for spending too much time talking to them and leaving him out. As he said, he barely knew them and I was being rude spending so much time talking to them; selfish even. He was talking to them too so I didn’t think he minded. But he did mind, so much so that he wanted to leave. I left with him because I didn’t want him to be mad at me. He yelled a lot when he was mad.
It only took a few such encounters with my friends to learn it was best if we didn’t go see them. It would always make him mad for one reason or another and apparently I ignored him too much. I didn’t want to be a bad girlfriend and make him upset. Plus he embarrassed me when he would make a scene in front of them, belittling me. I didn’t like how it made me feel. I didn’t really need them anyways. I had him and we had lots of fun together.
However it wasn’t always fun because he was extra mean when he was drunk, and unfortunately he was almost always drinking. I learned to make sure to be very agreeable around him when he was drinking. Agree and humor. Do what he says and don’t make him mad. Otherwise he might break my things again, or punch the wall next to my head. I really hated when he would do that. When he got upset he would get this look in his eyes that meant I better just do or say what he wanted.
He was very protective of me which made me feel safe and special. He would never let anyone hurt me. He told me often how we were meant for each other and how much he loved me. That was probably why the line between protective and possessive was so blurry and hard to tell apart.
He didn’t feel comfortable with me going many places or hanging out with many people. He did know so much more than I did. I wanted to be a good girlfriend that he could trust. I wanted to keep him happy. I learned it was always my fault when he got mad so I tried my best to be how he wanted me to be. When I messed up he was right there to let me know just how stupid I was with lots of not nice names and scary yelling.
Sometimes when I drank with him it was harder for me to behave. Drinking made me less afraid of making him angry. But I usually learned my lesson after he’d put his hands around my throat or throw me to the ground. He didn’t really mean it. He said he didn’t know his own strength. And when he threw that full can of beer and I thought it broke my rib, he really didn’t mean for it to hit me. He told me so. I cleaned up the spilt beer to try and keep him happy.
The problem was nothing kept him happy, not for long anyways. And through those few years of madness trying to be perfect and constantly getting told I was a piece of shit, I lost a huge part of myself. I forgot who I was and that I had a voice. I forgot I was worthy of real love. I forgot I had a choice. And most importantly, I forgot that none of it was my fault.
Fast forward to over a decade later and I reclaimed most of what he stole from me. I know my worth. I also know there are men, like my amazing husband, that make compromises not rules. That show appreciation, not constant criticism. I learned love is not given with impossible conditions.
Yet there are still times a small voice in me tells me to apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong. Or tells me I should ask permission before doing things that do not require consent. The voice tells me not to make my husband mad lest he yell or hit me (even though he NEVER has). I only hope over time that voice gets quiet enough for me to squash it completely.
But you know what I hear louder than that voice? MY voice. And my voice is saying, ‘you have no power over me for I am free and have already won.’
Never stay silent.