Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Incident

This week marks One Year since leaving what may have been the worst relationship of my life.  I've debated whether or not to talk about it, because the details are hard and the story isn't pretty.  But at some point, you need to let go of the things you've been holding on to and that is what I'm doing.  If I can help one person, if one person can see something in my story that helps them... then it isn't in vain.  This is my story.  

I haven't talked about the events of the day I called the police for multiple reasons.  Mostly, fear.

I've been afraid of what people would think of me.  That no one would take it seriously.  That people would say hurtful things about me for making the decision that I did.  When I say the relationship was abusive, people automatically assume I was hit.  Throughout the course of our relationship, my ex had never hit me.

I wish he had hit me.

Physical abuse is so much easier to identify than any other kind of abuse.  I ignored the signs and I didn't realize what was going on until I was emotionally attached, invested in the life of his child, and everything about me had been torn to shreds.  No... what happened that day, taken out of context, is pretty laughable.  

My Ex threw his own television off of the second story balcony of my apartment. 

My landlord had been watering the grass like a lunatic for weeks, and when he tossed it off the side of the balcony the corner of the television hit the ground and it was so moist that it left a corner shaped dent in the soft dirt.

See?  It's kind of funny, right?  So... if I think it's kind of funny now, why did I run then?

In the months leading up to the breakup, something in me had broken.  

The relationship wasn't broken because there wasn't really anything there to break anymore.  It was as dysfunctional as ever, but with every stupid argument, every plead for basic human respect and consideration, every time I tried to fix things and make them better and he called me names or laughed in my face at my emotions the less I cared.  And the less I cared the more I realized just how badly I didn't want to be there.

Except realizing I didn't want to be there didn't mean anything.

Not. A. Damn. Thing.

I had realized I didn't want to be there once before.  I'd leaned on people for support.  I'd told everyone about our break up and what a horrid person he was.  I'd gone through the motions of getting over a breakup and faced the embarrassment of listening to people say horrible things about the person I'd loved and ask me how I could stand living with him.  I complained about all of his gross habits and declared him a neanderthal without home training, not realizing that the disgusting things he would do were really all part of disrespecting me-both figuratively and literally soiling the things that I took pride in.  He had harassed me for months afterwards.

Eventually things got quieter.  He still texted every now and then, wishing me a happy birthday, occasionally asking how I was and I never responded.  I know now that it was him making it a point to illustrate to me, "I'm still here".  I'd already been isolated from many of my friends so when life got crazy and I didn't know who to turn to or how to handle it, and I responded to the person who was consistently there. He'd made sure that he was that person.

The fact that I didn't want to be there once before didn't mean anything because after everything I'd said and done, I'd taken him back.  It wasn't even two weeks before I found out he had been lying to me, was seeing someone else and he hadn't ended it yet.  The next year and a half started out OK but went downhill back to the way things were and worse.  I'd made a decision to go back for more of the same.

There are always promises of change in abusive relationships.  Ours was no different.  How long the "change" lasted decreased with every incident. Eventually, I reached a point where I needed to ask myself what would become the most important question I've ever asked myself: If things never change, is this how I want to live the rest of my life?

The answer, obviously, was no.  I was tired of walking on eggshells.  I was tired of not only explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full-grown man, but begging and pleading with him to be an equal contributor to our household and relationship (in more ways than money).  I was tired of being falsely accused of infidelity by a man who cheated.  He'd broken things given to me by my father, torn up pictures, and ruined my furniture - things I cared about and had worked hard for.  I was tired of being called every name but my own.  I was tired of not being allowed to sleep at night, or crying myself to sleep.   I was tired of being with someone who would never be the partner I wanted or needed.  I was tired of being afraid in my own home.

He'd never left peacefully before.  Once an argument started, it would go on until I relented or he would do something intimidating and scary which would shut it down immediately.  Things would be dragged out until I was so exhausted I gave up.  I couldn't get away from the memories of past arguments and the feeling that I was never going to get away because he was not going to leave and he wasn't going to let me leave.  I started to believe that the only way I would get away from him was killing myself.

I just stopped caring about everything.  I didn't nag.  I didn't try.  When I disengaged, he started trying to turn on the old charm.  When I didn't respond to his attempts to buy me things (his frequent go-to), he turned hostile and began accusing me of cheating.  I'd reached a point where the things he did, like playing on the computer all night, didn't bother me as long as he was leaving me alone.  The longer I stayed disengaged, the more irrational his behavior got.

That day... I wanted to sleep in.  When I got up, he was angry with me because there were things he wanted to do.  We started fighting because he was mad at me for not being ready to go and follow an agenda that I didn't know existed.  Then the name calling started.

And I said I couldn't do it anymore.  I wanted him to leave.  I didn't want the relationship anymore.

He told me if I wanted him to leave, I could pack up his things.  I started packing my own clothes.  I was going to leave.  He came in, grabbed my bag and threw it into the closet.  Then started pulling his clothes out and throwing them on the bed.  He started packing, verbally abusing me the entire time and even going so far as to tell me he hoped I moved on, got married and my children came out diseased.  He didn't even get halfway through the closet before he shoved past me to go out to the kitchen.

He came back with a snack.  

Sounds like a bad joke, but I'm not kidding.  Cheese and crackers.  He sat down and started to eat.  I couldn't stand to watch so I left and went to the gas station. When I came home, he was playing games on my laptop and drinking a beer.

When I walked in, he tried talking to me but couldn't even bring himself to look at me while he was promising to change and telling me how much he loved me.  Once he realized that tactic wasn't working (imagine that) he tried a different tactic: sex.  I rejected him.  He told me if he left, he wasn't going to come back again and that we would be done forever, and asked me again if I really wanted him to go.  I told him I didn't want to be with him anymore.

He stood up suddenly, his belly shoving me out of the way.  He went into the bedroom and began wrestling the TV that he had given to me over a year before off of the tall dresser I had it on, reaching out to rip the power cord out of the wall and yelling at me to open the sliding glass door.  I just watched him as he slid open the door, balanced it on the corner of the balcony.  I watched him look over the edge of the balcony and as the TV started to tip over I grabbed my keys and ran.

I heard the TV hit the ground.  I heard him yell my name and come after me.  I heard his footsteps (it is hard not to hear a 450 pound man coming after you).  I flew into the garage, fumbling with the keys before getting in my car, locking the doors, and calling 911.  I stayed there until the Officer arrived.  In the meantime, however, he sent me a wonderful little text message.

The fact of the matter is, nothing about the situation is funny.  When I told people what happened, they looked at me in disbelief, then said, "Wait, he gave you the TV?  So it was really HIS TV?  He threw his own TV off the balcony?" and they laugh.

But I ran for a reason.  I'd heard him talk about wanting to kill the mother of his child.  He had shown me that he had no regard for my life or his when he lost control, like the time he accelerated my car to 96 mph and threatened to jump out.  He once smashed the screen of my cellphone against the side of his head because I was going to call the police.  He had access to weapons.  With every incident, his behavior grew more extreme.  When I disengaged, his behavior had started escalating and he was growing more and more irrational.  A week before everything happened, I'd gone out to a movie with my brother.  I'd been accused of cheating on him that night.  When he found out it was a movie he wanted to see the outright fury, alternating silent treating and yelling, went on for more than three days.  Three days of doing things like waking me up by slamming doors in the middle of the night because I went to a movie.

I genuinely felt like he had been slowly losing control for weeks.  He had never left quietly before and when he tossed that TV over the edge of the balcony I was afraid that it wasn't going to be the only thing that got broken that day, and I didn't know if it was just going to be everything I owned or me.  I was scared, and I would stay that way for a long time.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233  or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). They have people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can offer support and lists of resources in your area. 

Other resources with information about Domestic Violence and Abuse:


  1. It's not funny. Ever. It can't be rationalized either. It is the most terrifying personal experience to know someone that you are connected to, could do something like that to your things or you. It doesn't matter to the aggressor ad long as you suffer and they're satisfied. I am sorry you know that fear. I am grateful that you weren't physically hurt. You are strong though. Most of us don't leave before it's too late. Love for you. I think you're awesome.

    1. It really isn't, but I can understand how someone who doesn't know the fear attached to such an event might think so. Laughter, for some, is a response at shocking behavior.

      Thanks Barb!

  2. You are an incredible woman Ash!!! I'm glad you were able to get out and get on with loving yourself. You ARE an inspiration. 💓