It started with a cigarette burn.
He enveloped me in an embrace, and the next thing I felt was the searing pain of his lit cigarette. He swore it was an accident, but when I looked the next day, there was a perfectly round hole in my back surrounded by red, swollen skin. He smiled when I showed it to him, again promising he hadn’t done it on purpose.
It was early in our relationship, during the honeymoon phase. Surely it was an accident. He was so charming and said such nice things that he wouldn’t have meant to burn me. He even said he loved me. I clung to his words like a life raft. After my divorce, he was the only one who told me I was beautiful. I wanted so badly to believe him.
I married him, putting aside the burn and the new unkind words that were becoming more frequent. Nobody else would have wanted me, and I believed it because he told me so. I was a divorced woman with two young kids. Frankly, I was lucky anybody wanted to marry me and make me a wife again.
Developing A Pattern Of Abuse
I was his wife the night of the Shiny Toy Guns concert in Fort Lauderdale when I stormed away from him after catching him chatting up another woman. He chased after me and grabbed at my arm, causing me to fall down a flight of stairs.
“Are you okay?” a random man asked me at the bottom. I nodded my head and dusted myself off and walked over to the nearest security guard. The staff escorted my new husband out of the club, and the guard walked me to my car as my husband watched with his eyes narrowed and his mouth angry as I drove away.
We lived an hour away, and my intention was to leave him to find his own way home. I got as far as the highway entrance before I turned around. After all, maybe I’d just lost my balance and wasn’t actually pushed down the stairs. We didn’t speak all the way home, and after a while the concert faded into our memories. There was no need to bring it up again and start an argument.
There were bruises like the ones on my leg shaped into fingerprints from where he grabbed me and squeezed. I showed them to a friend who told me to call the police. It seemed a bit drastic, so I waited for them to fade and told nobody else. It wasn’t like I was an abused wife or anything. He didn’t mean to leave those bruises. He was just trying to stop me from walking away during an argument. No harm, no foul.
The verbal abuse was the worst part, anyway. He called me a loser and a crazy person and a liar and a manipulator. I had no frame of reference to disprove him with, so I wore the labels he gave me. I believed he knew me better than anybody else. That’s what he told me. I was lucky he put up with me.
When Enough Is Enough
The last incident was in our little apartment in Lake Worth. I found out he was stealing money from me, but really it was one of many reasons for me to leave him. I grabbed a plastic grocery bag from under the counter and filled it with toiletries and makeup, and he came in and yanked it from my hand.
“You’re not leaving,” he demanded. He threatened to kill both me and himself as he stood menacingly in front of me, blocking the exit. I stood there shaking and wishing if he would hit me that he’d just get it over with. By that time, I’d had enough of both of us.
He crumpled up the bag and threw it to the ground, moving over so I could leave the bathroom. He followed me into our bedroom, where I’d gone to finish packing, and repeated his earlier threats. He grabbed me squarely by the shoulders and shook me as I screamed for him to stop. He then shoved me down to the wood floor, jumping on top and pinning me.
“You can’t leave me,” he repeated as I yelled for him to get off. After a minute, he released his grip and allowed me to stand. I headed immediately for the front door and slammed it behind me. I was scared by how quickly things had escalated, not realizing our whole relationship was leading up to this point where he would physically hurt me. There was no way this time was an accident.
I can look back now and see the pattern. The events that led up to that day weren’t accidents. They were preparing me for a lifetime of abuse if I’d stayed. I have no doubt it would have gotten worse. Maybe he would have punched me next time or tried to kill me, but I didn’t wait around to find out.
Physical abuse never deescalates. If my self-confidence was better, I would have left after the first cigarette burn. I can say today that what he did to me mentally was a lot more hurtful than physical pain, but they often go hand in hand. His promise to kill both of us would have likely been fulfilled if I let the relationship continue. Things would have never gotten better.
Today, I know what I’m worth. I’d never let anyone take advantage of me again. I’m able to be objective and see what friends and family saw the whole time we were together. He was trouble from the start, and I almost paid for it with my life.
I divorced him in 2013. He continued to stalk me all the way up until the day he died, calling and leaving emails for me several times a day to try to absolve himself of any wrongdoing.
“I know you don’t hate me,” he said. I responded with dead silence. The truth was, I hated his guts and would for a long time until I went through therapy and could forgive both of us.
It would be easy for me to advise any woman to get out of a dangerous relationship. I’m living proof it can be done. I fought hard for my marriage until I realized there was nothing there to fight for. However, I know it’s not easy.
Coming Out Of The Shadows
There are women under their husband’s thumbs who don’t see a way out. Maybe there are financial restrictions or their confidence has been so worn down they think they aren’t worthy of a happy life. They could be manipulated into thinking the person abusing them is the only one they can rely on. Sometimes children are involved. A lot of brainwashing goes on in an abusive relationship. I know this firsthand.
If I can get away, so can you. I didn’t have the luxury of family and friends to support me. Still, I had myself, and when I counted on her things changed in my life. I had to give myself the consideration I would have given to a friend in the same situation. Once I proved to myself that I could survive, the people I loved came back around. We have great power if only we choose to use it.
Please don’t sell yourself short. You deserve to be treated kindly and given respect, but first you must insist upon it. You can cut your ex completely out of your life with no contact and live through it. You can set boundaries and stick to them. I promise you, every step you take towards reclaiming yourself will bring you greater peace.
With physical and verbal abuse, there are no accidents. I’m glad I learned that before it was too late. I pray you do, too.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, please reach out and call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–799–7233 or visit their website at: