Rachel, Day by Day
Me (on the left) hanging out with college friends while dating him. I’m pretty sure he kept calling that night.
With everything going on this year regarding sexual harassment and abuse, I thought I’d tell you my story. I’m going to write about something that has been difficult to talk about for about 10 years now. It might be good to finally get this out in writing since I’ve never done it before. I’ve always been scared to share this story, thinking you would judge me or think less of me. I’m not asking for sympathy or for you to feel sorry for me. I just hope you can learn something from this if you are in a similar situation.
About 10 years ago I was hurt by my boyfriend at the time. I was about to be a junior in college when I started dating him, and we broke up at the very beginning of my senior year. Besides having a brief boyfriend in high school, he was my first real relationship that lasted a while.
When we started dating over the summer, he was nice to me and gave me lots of attention. Me, being only 20 at the time, liked the attention. He took me out to nice restaurants, wanted to spend time with me, and actually paid attention to me. It was new and exciting for me.
When I went back to college that junior year, our relationship was still pretty new, and it became long distance. That’s always hard for a new relationship. But we’d call each other a lot and visit on weekends.
At first our phone conversations were sweet, but after a while he would call over 10 times a day, which felt like he was just checking up on me. He’d ask, “Where were you earlier? What are you doing now? Who are you with?” over and over again. With that many phone calls, it’s hard to come up with exciting things to talk about, so he’d start telling me I’m boring and don’t have anything smart to say. I remember one early conversation I brought up my dad, who passed away about 5 years earlier, and he said something like, “Who cares? I’m tired of hearing about him.” We hung up later and I cried. I thought maybe it was a one time thing and he was crabby.
After a few weeks, he told me he loved me. I was flattered and excited, but couldn’t say it back right away. I was still trying to figure out how I felt. But he kept bringing it up and got angry, so one day on the phone I just said it back. He was thrilled, but I wasn’t sure if I fully meant it.
As time went on, he got more jealous and paranoid that I’d cheat on him. It felt like he was calling every hour to make sure I wasn’t with someone else. If I didn’t answer, he’d scream at me and I’d have to explain over and over again I was in a class or doing homework. If I went out with friends, he’d call even more and try to get me to go home. He bashed my family and friends so I’d only want to see him. He was very manipulative.
To him, one minute I was amazing, beautiful, and smart, the other I was stupid and fat. He had random moments of kindness that made me wonder if he’d change. Being a girl with low self-esteem, I believed all the bad things. I thought this was what I deserved.
When we were together, I slowly started noticing the physical abuse. He’d randomly punch my arm if I pissed him off and say, “Oh come on, wimp, I didn’t hit you that hard.” This kept happening more and more throughout our relationship. He once pulled me by the hair and threw me out of his house, all because I didn’t want to play tennis. Yes, tennis. But if I started to yell back at him on the phone, he’d hang up on me, call me later, and act like everything was normal.
I stuck with it for almost a year because he said he loved me and no other guy did. And he made me believe I was nothing, so I thought he was all I deserved. He kept telling me he’d change. And I kept hoping he would.
Our relationship officially ended one night when he almost sexually assaulted me. I was extremely lucky and got away. He kept calling me after that begging me to get back together with him. I definitely didn’t, but I decided to answer his phone calls and treat him like crap, the same way he treated me. I’d scream at him on the phone and tell him what a horrible person he was, and he stopped calling maybe two weeks later since he couldn’t handle it. I had some great times yelling at him, though.
I thought about getting a restraining order or taking him to court, but I never did. I never wanted to see or think about him again. Looking back, I think I should have gotten a restraining order. I’m lucky he never came after me again. Not everyone gets that lucky.
My family and friends, especially my mom, brother, and college friends, helped me through this difficult time in so many ways, and were so supportive during and after. I know they were worried the entire time and wanted to protect me, and they did everything they could. I ignored their occasional plea for me to leave him, like most people do in this kind of relationship. To quote the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” But I’m glad I eventually listened to them and got out.
I saw a social worker years later. Many years after my relationship with him, I thought I was completely stupid for getting in that situation. But she told me I wasn’t stupid at all. So many women go from one toxic relationship to the next and never know how to get out of them. She told me I’m not stupid because I got out and learned from the relationship. And my low self-esteem has gotten slightly better over time.
Ten years later to today, things are way better now. I have a loving family, friends, husband, and child. I now know what I really deserve. My husband showed me what real love means, and I thank him every day for that.
I hope you learned something from this story. And if you are in a relationship like this, I hope you get out.