For many, the words “I love you” express emotion toward a romantic partner. For victims of abuse, these words sound more like, “Don’t leave me.” Rather than keep her secrets under wraps, one woman* had enough and left her abusive relationship. She came forward and opened up about her toxic relationship. This is her story.
Q: How did you meet your toxic ex and what attracted you to him?
A: We met at work. First time I saw him I just felt an immediate attraction. Purely physical because we had never even talked and I knew nothing about him. He just fit “my type,” I guess. When I saw him he was in the kitchen at work. I only saw his face and that was enough for me.
Q: When did you first notice problems? Can you think of a specific time?
A: Things were fine until we got closer to being together for a year. Things got worse and never better…When I got a new job things went from great 99 percent of the time to awful. Before that we didn’t fight. After that, it was 50 percent of the time we’d hang out, we’d argue.
Q: Were the things you would fight about different in any way from the arguments you would have with past significant others? Can you give an example?
A: I only fought with one other ex; those were jealousy issues. With this ex we would fight about anything and everything possible. I remember on our anniversary we had a great time and went to the beach. On the way home I was driving and he touched the radio and I asked him not to and he got upset. From there we argued an hour the rest of the drive. When we got home I wanted nothing to do with him.
Any small trigger could cause hours of other arguments…We’d end up screaming and eventually me kicking him out. We would argue over what to cook for dinner. He didn’t like when he’d ask me something and I said, “I don’t know.” We could never resolve anything. I held onto the anger and he wanted to ignore all our problems. Either way nothing got resolved.
Many times he would refuse to leave and I could not physically remove him and he definitely wouldn’t listen to me or anyone else. He would use the excuse of “I’m too drunk” to leave every time as well. One night we broke up and my roommate let him sleep in a different room. At some point in the night, he made it in my room and I made him sleep on the floor. He wouldn’t quit talking to me. I couldn’t take it and just left.
Q: Was there any mentally, emotionally or physically abusive behavior?
A: Mentally I could not take the stress and constant fighting. Constant. It got to the point of every single day. Emotional would be when we’d argue but he’d make it personal, make really really low blows, call me a dumbass and other names that I’m not ok with. Physically, he never hurt me. One time, the very last time I saw him he did push me. I was asking him to leave and he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t let me sleep. He kept calling me. I would put my phone on do not disturb.
The record for one night was 65 missed calls when I woke up. He called when I was at work. Over and over and over (over 20 times). I answered to say, “I’m at work, can’t talk.” He replied with “If you’re really at work why are you picking up the phone?”…I couldn’t even do anything on my phone because I had to keep rejecting calls.
Q: Did you confront your ex about the way they treated you? How did they react?
A: I made the suggestion of trying to work things out and maybe seeing in a month if things were better, if not calling it quits on good terms. He said no, he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to make things work and not break up. I mentioned many, many times how unhappy I was and how this wasn’t working for either of us. He always agreed, but never “let me” break up with him. He always said we could work it out.
Q: Did he try to convince you to stay?
A: Yes. He would say, “I love you. I don’t want to break up. I want to fix things.”
Q: Did anyone else know what was going on? What did they say?
A: Not at the beginning. Later when I noticed things weren’t changing, I reached out to friends. They listened, but got tired because I wouldn’t heed to any advice and kept going back to my ex every time I would say “I’m done.”
Q: How did things come to an end?
A: Well, one night we were arguing like we always do. It got so bad I asked him to leave like I always do. He wouldn’t leave just like he never listens. I can’t even remember how many times I asked him to leave. I called the cops. That’s what it took.
Q: What is your relationship like today and how has your experience with a toxic relationship changed you?
A: We still talk. Things are still awful. We both think we can be friends, but we can’t stop arguing. Even though we don’t see each other anymore…Hopefully this was a one time lesson I can learn from and not something that I will have to encounter in every relationship.
*The name of the interviewee is kept private for safety reasons.