He hits you — “Fuck that shit!” — you leave —fresh start — shiny, wonderful things — the end.
Oh, if only walking away were so simple. I should know, I spent a collective ten years in abusive relationships with two different men. The first five years were spent with someone who got off on physically torturing me, while the other five years I invested into someone who verbally and emotionally assaulted me as part of his daily routine. Both men were equally toxic, both relationships lasted too long, and yet leaving each when I finally did has never given me the peace I dreamed of, and here’s why:
1. They can always find you.
It may not be the sweet taste of security that you were ready to hear, but let’s face the difficult truth head on, shall we?
Unless you manage to go all covert, “Witness Protection Program” for the rest of your life, your abuser can find you, and will find you if they feel like it. Let’s assume your abuser isn’t stupid, and as much as it hurts to admit that they aren’t, it will benefit you to proceed as though they have a fully functional brain.
Why your ex would want to find you can stem from any number of motives, but it can happen without warning, even years after you haven’t heard from them. Abusers are often times mentally unstable, and it is their instability that makes it so difficult to cover your tracks. Sadly, your sense of security will always be the price you pay to be able to leave.
How to protect yourself:
- Block not just your ex, but their friends and family on all your social media.
- Document EVERY incident and encounter with the police.
- Take a self-defense class. This one is free for women each Tuesday & Thursday, and I strongly recommend it.
- Get in shape: Self-defense doesn’t work unless you practice it and are able to exhibit it at a moment’s notice.
- SPEAK UP: As painful as it is, you need to tell your closest friends and family what this person has done to you. They’ll be more inclined to help provide the protection and privacy you need.
- Change up your routine and your schedule as much as you can.
While people may have more suggestions on further precautions to take, know that it’s okay if their recommendations are just too drastic for you and your lifestyle. The least you can do is leave a paper trail with the police. Your safety needs to be the priority, and if you wait too long to inform authorities, the clock may have run out to get the law on your side when you need it most. As a general rule, when in doubt, document.
2. You’ll have to pay for that.
An aspiring musician who’d managed to verbally attack anyone who ever wanted to be a friend to him, I was the sole survivor in the wake of people who’d grown tired of my ex’s bullshit. While it’s true, he never laid a hand on me, he did beat the crap out of my apartment, and subsequently, my wallet, and he made sure I knew I was a “selfish cunt” in the process.
Don’t feel like going to work today? That resulted in a curtain rod being ripped out of my bedroom wall. Frustrated that his phone kept glitching? Throw the phone through the glass door of the sun porch… Oh, that happened twice, just as winter was approaching. Trying a new hobby at painting water colors? Breaks my bedroom lamp and smashes the watercolor palette on my living room wall, and the list goes on, and on. Reimbursement on damages over the course of five years: $0.
Of all the bruises my apartment took, the grand finale was that of the payments of his brand new phone on my phone line.
It’s been almost a year since I broke up with my ex, but after exhausting all options that my ex needed to play a part in, there is nothing that the phone company can legally do. So, I am now the proud owner of a $400 (remaining) phone that is not in my possession. Ain’t life sweet?
The phone company used to have a cancellation fee of $200 years prior with my first ex, which I managed to dodge by finding a savvy employee with a gripe toward their employer. But I ask, where is the clause in the favor of the abused that wants nothing more than to get as far the f*** away from their abuser?
“Just pay for it, for your peace of mind.”
From hundreds of dollars to thousands, everyone you know will utter those pedantic words…And that, my friends, will become the true phrase that pays. You’ll hear it from everyone, because sadly, unless you’re willing to pursue small claims court, you’ll have to financially regret each day longer you spent with your abuser than you had to. Your ex didn’t care about your well-being, you think they give a damn about what financial burdens they’ve placed on you?
It’s frustrating as hell, it’s absolutely infuriating. But this is why, when you get your first wake-up call that you’re with someone who is absolutely no good, you need to LEAVE. Save money on your self-preservation by getting out of there.
3. Dating will never be the same.
I still toy with the consequences of the guys I date knowing the extent of the abuse I’ve endured. The physical kind seems to be more palatable somehow, easier for my potential new guy to swallow by assuming I just stumbled onto a rare breed of asshole. Even then, they prefer to imagine an occasional slap in the face to the kind of torture I actually suffered. The emotional and verbal type of abuse I lived with is usually warped into me having “thin skin”. I tend to forego the details at that judgement because what’s the point in being invalidated by someone who doesn’t know me? Whichever way my date takes the information provided, all comes to fruition once I react the way I’ve learned to as a result of dating each of my exes.
My first ex gave me the gift of flinching. Innocently intended sudden movements, even in a gesture to touch my face during a kiss, are met by my body’s flight or fight response. Sometimes I can suppress it, but most times I can’t, and each time makes me feel like I will forever be at the mercy of my abuser.
My other ex granted the gift of anger. Since he never knew how to effectively manage his own, one of my biggest fears now is being in the vicinity of a new romantic partner when they’re angry. I relive episodes of my ex losing his temper on a daily basis since I still reside in the same apartment with the same walls that witnessed his belligerence.
Dating requires care when your trust has been damaged so deeply. Your first date doesn’t necessarily need to hear about all the baggage you bring, but when trust is emerging with someone you really like, let them know if you’d like to be open with them about it. The doors don’t have to swing wide open, a little sharing at a time will suffice, and only when you’re ready to share.
4. You’ll want to prove them wrong.
As a repeat offender of dating abusive men, I was hell-bent on proving to my friends and family that I was capable of finding a Prince Charming. I needed to show them (and myself) that there wasn’t some childhood-gone-wrong reason I kept finding men who would treat me like garbage, and that they need not worry about me landing in another nightmarish situation.
About a month after my break up, I met a swoon-worthy man. The epitome of tall, dark and handsome with ambition, money of his own, smart, funny- practically everything I didn’t know I could find in someone. It took me three months to accept that a man like him would want anything to do with me (hello to broken self-esteem), but at the end of each day, he did. And so I finally allowed myself to think that being with someone so great could be in my cards.
Five months in, and the shoe drop I had been waiting for finally arrived. Prince Charming wanted to focus on his budding career, and he’d only seen his time with me as casual fun. No matter what words came out of his mouth, all I kept hearing were the voices in my head telling me “You idiot, you know damn well you’re not meant to have a good man. Give it up, this isn’t for you.”
I can finally look back on that relationship as everything it was and it wasn’t, but one of the things it truly taught me was how desperate I was to prove to the world that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had made in the past. You may not get the hang of screening shitty individuals immediately, and that’s okay. It’s imperative to take the time, even speaking to a professional, to make sure you don’t grab onto your next date by their ankles and hold on for dear life. You have nothing you need to prove to anyone, including yourself, except to learn from your mistakes as best as you can, and surround yourself with loving individuals that you can turn to for support.
5. They’ll continue to live the life you made for them.
I’ll never forget after leaving my ex how many of not just his “friends”, but even his own family members admitted that they had only been communicating with him thanks to me acting as a buffer. I initially felt so sorry for him, but then I realized, I really had helped filter out the best version of him that they could see while losing myself in the process.
Many abusers are extremely manipulative, and getting people to like them is a skill they flaunt in an effort to gain what they need. I’ve seen my ex lose his cool on so many people who’ve eaten out of the palm of his hand on the same day, it’s really quite a marvel if you view it in the realms of human psychology. But as tempting as it is to “out” my ex to the people I see fending for him as a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing, they’ll have to discover it on their own. It hurts to know that I can’t protect others from the very guise I helped to manifest, but my self-preservation has to come first.