Does This Black Eye Make Me Look Fat?

227234_10150189647514153_1184052_nI recently spent a week-long vacation with a gaggle of gays, mainly made up of coupled friends. Among them were probably two of the most negative Nancys I’ve had the displeasure of spending time with.

Donny and Bo’s verbal venom seemed to be targeted at everyone. However, it was Bo that the most to say at any given moment. It was as if he thought he was on stage and needed to have a bitchy one-liner aimed at each person in the group. The only problem: I didn’t realize I was signing up for a 2 drink minimum show that wasn’t even funny.

I did my best to avoid them and bite my tongue during the trip. Over the course of the week, I noticed that even Donny wasn’t immune to his rants. If he didn’t get his way, he would go from 0 to crazy bitch in a flash, lashing out at Donny. In turn, Donny would simply become subservient.

I found myself walking on eggshells in order to avoid becoming the target of their flying insults. I could only imagine how Donny must feel being in a relationship like that. It made me think of a relationship from my past.

It had been a few years since I last heard from Jim. The last time I had seen him was that ill-fated holiday party.

One night, while packing for my move from Chicago to Orlando, my phone rang. Though, I don’t generally answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize, something told me to make an exception.

I got chills when a familiar voice greeted me. Jim had heard I was moving and was desperate to see me. After some resistance, I agreed, hopping in a cab and heading to his apartment on the North Side of the city.

As I stepped out of the cab, he was there to greet me at the curb. He instantly hugged me and I could feel my heart race. I had to stay in control and not get caught up again.

We went for a walk on the beach and I listened to him talk about what he’d been up to for the past few years, what he’d learned and finally, the reason he wanted to see me.

“I know it seems like it’s taken forever for me to get here, “ he began. “Erik, you’re The One.”

I felt just like Carrie Bradshaw in the last episode of Sex and the City. So, of course I began to cry, as did he.

“But wait –“ I said. “I’m supposed to be moving. My lease is up. I quit my job.”

“Well, I know it’s not the most orthodox thing, but we have pretty much been together for three years…give or take,” he smirked.

He had a point. And I didn’t want to lose him again. So, instead of moving to Florida, I moved in with him.

So, what happens after “happily ever after?”

Less than a month later the abuse began. It started small – a tiff here or there. I just figured it was due to us moving in together; change and adjustment. But then, the violent outbursts started. If we were arguing or he was simply unhappy – which seemed to be often – he would throw or destroy things. As the months wore on, I realized how obsessive, introverted and insecure Jim really was. I did my best to compromise and be compliant.

Then other aspects of my life began to be affected. When I would go out or try to spend time with my friends, who he hated of course, my phone would be bombarded with calls and texts.

“Who are you with?” “When are you coming home?”

Out of fear and annoyance, I found myself cutting my plans short or even cancelling. That didn’t help. When I would get home, I was faced with intimidation and one accusation after another.

I realized he was the text book batterer; he was taking control of every aspect of my life, socially isolating me, belittling me and even my friends. He felt I should instinctively know how to please him and if that didn’t happen, he lashed out.

Erik Fact: If nothing you ever do is right by him, that’s a good indication that you’re his chump or his punching bag.

On one occasion, I’d had enough and tried to stand up for myself – defy him, if you will. Before I knew it, he had hit me. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the only time. Why did I put up with it, especially after being raised in a household where my father used to beat my mother?!

I always vowed that I would never do nor put up with that behavior, yet I now understood all those talk shows about battered spouses and why they stayed. I made excuses and covered up the abuse with lies and make-up.

Although Jim was consistently uncontrollable, when his rage was exhausted, he would turn around and shower me with apologies and affection which yes, involved sex.

His control over me even extended to how I dressed, how to handle problems at work, what cologne to wear; basically, how to do every single thing in life – and what a pathetic fool I was if I didn’t do it his way. It was a life of nagging and being put down.

It wasn’t until I was out with my best friend D and he was telling me how I’d changed and happened to notice my latest poorly covered black eye, that I knew I had to do something.

“Oh my gosh, Erik,” D said stunned. “I knew something was off. You have definitely lost “Erik.” You need to get out.”

He was right, I had lost me. And how dare I allow someone to take that away?!

I wondered how I got into this mess. As Carrie once pondered on Sex & the City, “Do modern day singles need modern day myths to date? Do we need urban relationships, if you will, to get through random and sometime unbearable relationships? In Greek mythology, mortals were given a test and the way they responded dictated whether they found paradise or would be tied to a big rock for eternity.”

Jim was definitely my big rock.

Deciding to make the exit is just as painful as getting dumped. For weeks, I agonized, talked myself out of it, hoped things would change. I was wracked with guilt knowing that I was going to put someone I cared for through great pain, despite the pain I had endured. I was on edge, trying to figure out just how to accomplish this nasty business – and how to do it without him finding out, not knowing what he might do if he did. I waited until he went to work one morning then called my mom, friends, whoever was available to help me move. I couldn’t just leave, so I wrote him a three page letter, explaining why – even though I was sure he already knew – and walked away.

I felt I was leaving with a clear conscience. Despite how hard I tried to make it work, Jim never really owned up to his behavior or coped with conflict and disagreement. He didn’t see me as an individual human being, but instead as property. The cycle of abuse wasn’t going to end.

Tips that you may be heading into unhealthy relationship territory:
-He’s terrified of being abandoned and panics when you’re not there.

-He sees your differences, including your friends and interests, as a threat and is constantly possessive and jealous.

-Due to his low self-confidence and fear of failure, he has few friends or separate interests outside of the relationship.

-He’s threatened by fully revealing himself.

-Instead of growing together, you drag each other down.

-He’s so desperate for the relationship that he’ll do anything to control or stay with you, including dishing out emotional and sometimes physical abuse.

Erik Fact: The next time you meet a fixer-upper, save yourself a whole lot of time and find someone that’s in ready-to-move-in condition.