Monday, July 2, 2012

Broken: "He didn't really love me and want to protect me. He wanted to control me."

Last week, I received an email that read, "I wanted to let you know that your "Broken" series has been so good to read. I mean that in the way that there are probably many women out there who are reading it and have been in similar situations. What a hard topic to cover. What a necessary topic though... Reading your series prompted me to write up my story. In the writing of it I realized some things I never had before. I was able to look at my old relationship in a new way and am so glad to have kind of re-visited it for more clarity and healing." 

What beautiful words to hear, but I can't take credit for this.  All credit belongs to the brave and inspiring women who have shared their stories.  The author of that email also offered to share hers.  Her story is quite jarring, yet highly inspirational.  At the age of 20, after having been an unhealthy relationship for four years, she found the strength to break free despite incredible pressure (including a wedding only months away). 

My story of a broken relationship starts many years ago at the young age of 16. Sure, I had plenty of "boyfriends" before then but in my family we were not allowed to actually go on dates or dates until we were 16.

When I was just 15 years old I met a boy who was also 15 (just a couple of weeks older than me). Our families had actually known each other for years and his younger sister was one of my best friends - but I had just never paid much attention to him before. Well, the night we really met it was love infatuation at first sight. He was so handsome - blond hair, blue eyes, over 6 feet tall, and tons of muscles. I had always been told I was beautiful and I was extremely confident. We were both considered "high school royalty" as far as popularity went. (Ugh- I hate that now.) So we were both beautiful, came from big Catholic families, belonged to the same parish, and had tons and tons of friends who thought we were so cool - it was a match made in heaven we thought. And everyone else thought so too.

Because I was only 15 and not allowed to date, "Michael" called me about once a week for an entire year. We got to know each other over the phone and everything seemed ok. We laughed a lot and had tons in common. He seemed to have a bit of a short fuse. He had a reputation for being the toughest guy in our small town and had been in many fights. But I didn't really think anything of it. He also drank a lot. But it was a small town so everyone drank a lot. At 15 years old, I had been drinking behind my parents back for about a year. I was a rebel and looked for any way to get away with something. So I thought nothing of Michael drinking or fighting.

We went on our first date 2 days after my 16 birthday. I was head over heels in love with him. Everywhere we went, we knew people and they loved us. People went on and on about how beautiful, hot, cute, funny, perfect, and cool we were together. We were instantly the "it" couple. I loved the attention. Also, in the beginning, Michael really doted on me. He was kind and sweet. He had a pretty high-paying after school job with his family's business so he was able to shower me with gifts. Jewelry, clothes, stuffed animals, spa treatments - whatever I wanted really. He was also very protective of me. Because of his size and reputation no one bothered us. Boys who before would have stared or whistled at me would see me and look the other way out of fear of aggravating Michael. I loved having this feeling of power and presence.

Michael's and my relationship became sexual almost immediately. I loved his attention in any way I could get it. We had both been virgins prior to each other so this whole part of our relationship was "new and exciting" to both of us. We felt very grown up and carried ourselves so. All our friends looked up to us and thought we were so mature.

It didn't take long for me to realize that Michael's short fuse extended to me. It started with drinking alcohol. He didn't want me to drink unless I was with him. Being the rebel I was, I would not be told what to do. Every weekend I would have a date night with him and a girl's night with my friends (and he would go out with his friends). For the whole first year we dated I drank with my friends and hid it from him. But then one night, right before we turned 17, we both showed up with our groups of friends at the same party. I had been drinking heavily. Michael heard about it as he arrived and flew into the house in a rage. He was screaming and beet red. He yanked a bottle out of my hand while yelling at me. He took it and threw it through the glass door of the home. Glass was everywhere. He grabbed me by the arm and marched me out of the house. I was instantly sorry. "Please don't be mad," I begged him. "I promise I won't do it again." He would always tell me that this was for my own good. He was just protecting me. He would explain that if I was drinking when he was not present someone could take advantage of me or I could make a poor decision. (For what its worth, my behavior was extremely dangerous. However, his controlling me was not what I needed. We were both children and should not have been involved in any of this behavior.)

Michael continued to control me and in a lot of ways I let him. It just wasn't a big deal to me. Some of the things that I let him decide for me were: what I wore, the color and style of my hair, my friends, how I spent my time and money, what nights I worked, and when and where we were intimate. I was really ok with all of this. I loved him so much it was no big deal for me to let him tell me what to do. I remember one time I came down the stairs at my parent's home in a brand new t-shirt with the logo of the university I had just been accepted to on it. I was so proud. Michael was in the living room waiting to take me on a date. When he saw me in the t-shirt I could see instant disapproval on his face. "What are you wearing?" he asked. "My new university shirt," I responded with a nervous laugh. "Honey, we are going out to dinner and then to hang out with friends. You CANNOT wear a t-shirt." "You're right," I agreed immediately. "How tacky of me. I'll go change right away." I ran back up to my bedroom to put on something more feminine that I knew he would approve of.

On and on our relationship went. I so loved him and our popular status that I would endure anything to keep things the way they were. I was obsessed with my looks. I didn't realize that at the time but looking back on it I was. I wore tons of makeup, kept my hair bleach blond, tanned 5 days a week, and eventually started starving myself. I began purging, abusing diet pills, and living for days at a time on diet soda and green apples. Michael knew all of this and never tried to stop it or acted like anything was wrong. He would always tell me how great I looked. I think he figured that I was just doing my part to make sure I looked perfect at all times. At one point I had my weight down to 95 pounds. Looking back, I think I was just trying to control something.

At one point Michael heard through the grapevine that I had been drinking again with my friends. We were at school and he came to my classroom and asked the teacher if she could "please" excuse me for a minute. He had a big smile on his face and a twinkle in his blue eyes. We were the golden couple. A teacher would have never said that he could not speak to me during class - the teachers loved us too! I skipped out of the classroom thinking maybe he had a surprise for me. Maybe we were cutting school or maybe he had bought me a little gift. As we walked down the hall, I talked a mile a minute - I didn't notice he was not talking. I didn't notice that he had a hold of my arm. His hand could reach all the way around my upper arm as I was so thin and he was so big. By the time we got to a secluded place in the hallway his grip was so tight it was hurting me and there were red marks forming on my arm; I knew something was wrong. BAM! He threw me up against a row of lockers. My back and head hit so hard. He outweighed me by well over 100 pounds and was so strong. "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? YOU ARE HIDING THINGS FROM ME AGAIN? DO YOU THINK I WON'T FIND OUT? PEOPLE TELL ME EVERYTHING. YOU ARE SO EMBARRASSING! YOU CAN'T DO A SINGLE THING THAT I WON'T FIND OUT ABOUT SO DON'T EVEN TRY!" I was stunned, crying, and instantly repentant. "I am so sorry," I bawled. "Honey, I love you so much. I am just trying to protect you," he said. At this time we were only 17 years old.

You would think that I would have left him then but I didn't. You would think that I would have told my parents but I didn't. I think there was a part of me that thought this was normal. And if I didn't think it was normal, I think I felt that it was the price I had to pay to be part of this "wonderful" couple. No one else had a boyfriend as handsome or strong. No one else's boyfriend gave them the gifts mine gave me. And he was usually very nice. So he was bossy and had a short fuse? If I behaved absolutely perfect we didn't have any problems. That is a small price to pay to be part of the "golden couple".

The summer after high school graduation he proposed to me. We were young but had been together so long. Everyone just giggled and thought how perfect we were for each other. Of course we would get married someday, so why not now? We started planning our wedding. We bought a fancy sports car he let me pick out. I was so happy. I hung on his every word. My parents knew our relationship wasn't ideal but Michael was from a good family that we had known a long time. I think they thought we would grow up and everything would work out.

I decided that I would go across the state, to the university that I had been accepted to, for one year. I didn't want to leave Michael but my parents really wanted me to have one year of the "college" experience. Michael agreed to visit when he could. He was working at his family's business and would not be attending college. I would plan our wedding during my freshman year and then we would get married the summer after. I would then transfer to a University closer to home.

To shorten the rest of this story for you: (Thanks if you got this far.) My freshman year of college I experienced a tremendous conversion of heart. I came to really understand, love, and live the Catholic faith that my parents had been trying to teach me all these years. I came back to the Church (I had not been able to receive the Eucharist for the majority of the past 4 years). Michael had not been too interested in visiting me and only came up once my whole first semester. About a month into the second semester I had a moving experience one night in Mass that left me convinced of the need to have Michael learn what I had learned about our faith. I caught a ride home to see him asap. As I told him all about my new-found faith in God and the Church he looked at me with a skeptical eye. He wanted to know right away what this meant for him. He didn't want to change or even hear about what I had learned. It was ok for girls to be "Jesus freaks" but he would have none of it. His basic concern was "How does this change my life?" I explained to him that I would like our relationship to change. I told him that I would no longer be drinking as I was underage. I wanted us to do this together, to come to know our faith together. I thought maybe we could go talk to the priest that was marrying us about some of the dysfunction we had in our relationship. "No way. We are fine," he said. I told him that, for sure, we would have to change the physical nature of our relationship. I insisted that we would be chaste until our wedding day. He rolled his eyes at me. "That is so stupid. We've been having sex for almost four years. What difference do these last six months until our wedding make?" I told him that it made a big difference to me now and that I really wanted to remain chaste for these next six months. He begrudgingly agreed.

I went back to school and we began to fight a lot. I was spending my time at Mass, adoration, and confession. He was fuming back home. He was really annoyed with my new friends and my new life that he was not a part of. He mocked me repeatedly about my new lifestyle, calling me a "goody two-shoes" and "a prude". I didn't care. I "loved" him so much I just knew it would all work out. Our wedding invitations came in. My gown came in. The dresses came in for the bridesmaids in our 19 person bridal party!!!! The swanky country club in our small town would be filled to maximum capacity with our 500 person guest list. Everyone we knew was coming. No one would miss our wedding. It was simply going to be the event of the year.

Finally, three months before our big day, I snapped. I was tired of his bullying me. I was tired of his mocking me. He had made it clear he did not care for my new set of ideals and beliefs. My new friends at college didn't know us as this "super couple" and they were letting me in on all the craziness they could see with Michael and me. I called him and said "Listen, I am postponing the wedding."

 "The hell you are!" he said and our fancy sports car was parked outside of my dorm in just hours. Now all of a sudden he had time for me. He begged and pleaded but somehow I stood firm. I wanted to push the wedding off a year. I insisted. I still loved him with all my heart but we had a lot of issues. I wanted us to work out those issues before we got married. "Fine. You are so embarrassing," was his final response as he sped away.

But he wasn't happy and didn't really agree that we should postpone. He was embarrassed. His pride was hurt. He was upset about having to remain chaste another whole year. I was back home in a couple weeks to try and smooth things over with. But I would not budge; I wanted the postponement. "Then it's over!" was his response. And as much as it hurt, I was ok with that. We sat in our car at a park overlooking a small pond.  As painful as it was, and as much as I didn't want to do it, I handed him my diamond ring back and said, "If I am not worth waiting for, then this is over." In my heart I prayed and prayed that in a year we would be walking down the aisle. I wanted nothing other than to be his wife. But now I wanted it to be right and wholesome and ordered.

I decided to go live with my best friend from college in another state for the summer. Michael was not happy about this. He expected me to come home and for us to get back together. He even hinted at us eloping. I knew that if I went home for the summer I would get back together with him. I knew that if he asked me one time that I would elope with him. He had been my world for so long. I had to get away. The night before I left to drive across the country Michael and I went out for a drive to get some closure. It was a beautiful night; very similar to the night of our first date four years earlier. Except now we were just about to turn 20 and so much had changed. But not that much.

We parked to have a little chat and things started to get bad. Michael clearly wanted to have one last intimate moment with me before I left for the summer. It had been months since we had been together in that way and I was instantly uncomfortable. He teased me and sweet talked me, hoping that I would give in to his advances. I remember holding my scapular, which was pretty new at the time, and trying to explain to him what a scapular was and why I wore it. He became enraged and started screaming at me about "my God" and how dare I put my new love of God before my love of him. He gave me a couple of shoves against the door of the car. It wasn't long before I was in tears and I was frantic, but it didn't matter. He ridiculed me even as he forced himself on me in a way he had never done before. I must have screamed "no" a thousand times. As I mentioned before he was very strong; there was nothing I could do. I realized that the boy I loved was now a man and he didn't really love me and want to protect me. He wanted to control me. He had all along. When he had finished violating me he said, with contempt in his voice, "There. Now I know you love me."

I cried the whole way home while he talked about how we were made for each other and he could tell how much I still loved him. He was in total denial of what had just happened. I left the next day and drove across the country in a fog. A few days later I finally got my thoughts together enough to call him. "Do you realize what you did to me? Do you realize what that was?" I said. I could not bring myself to use the "R" word. I kept thinking that could not have been what it was... I loved him so much. I remember him laughing and saying these exact words, "Yeah, I know what happened. But we've been in a sexual relationship for four years and everyone knows that. Do you really think that anyone would believe that I raped you?" He was right and that was that.

Believe it or not over the next few years we actually tried to work it out a few times. He had a big "change of heart" supposedly and wanted to change his life. With talked with our parents, counselors, and priests. It was a lost cause. There was too much damage, too much pain, too much water under the bridge. It was so hard to let go of him, or the idea of him. Four years is a long time when you are only 20 years old. 

As the years went on he acted crazier and crazier. I caught him following me several times. He would also contact my family and friends about me. After I was married, my husband and I actually moved back to my hometown for a few years. It was horrible. I was paranoid about running into him all the time. People who did not know the extent of our past would want to talk to me about him. Also, everywhere I went there were constant reminders of him and our life together. It just got to be too hard. Eventually, we had to move away.

All the abuse and dysfunction from my relationship with Michael has carried over into every relationship I have had since. It has even affected my marriage. There is no escaping a hurt that big. My husband and I have decided that we will not let our children date in this manner while in high school. No being alone in cars, no one-on-one dates, no boyfriend/girlfriend stuff. Dating is a preparation for marriage. You don't get married when you are 16, so why date at 16? It is a recipe for trouble. I was clearly not mature enough to be in the situations I was in. Looking back at some of my decisions I think, "Who in their right mind would do that?" I'll tell you who - a child - a teenager whose brain isn't even formed enough to be allowed to vote/drink/join the military. I was so impressionable and thought such stupid things were important. Popularity and beauty were like gods to me. How immature.

I am so very grateful that the Lord has helped me to move passed all the pain and hurt I experienced as a teenager.  It has only been by the grace of God that these events did not completely ruin my life.

I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD my God,
I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit.
Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:1-5

This author of this story is a Catholic, homeschooling mother in her mid 30s. She has been married to her husband for ten years and they have two children. She strives everyday for sainthood....and everyday she fails. She hopes that her children and others will learn from her mistakes.


  1. Wow--what a story! So happy that she realized what was going on before it was too late. Scary that he started stalking her.

  2. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this! I know there are many young ladies who should and will read this. I pray the Holy Spirit has a chance to move in them through your words!

  3. Thank you for sharing this-I'm sure it took a lot of courage. I am so glad that you were able to get out and are now married to someone who really cares about you.

    My husband and I have agreed on the same rules for dating in high school once our children get to that point. Dating is about discerning a marriage partner. You don't need to be doing that when you are 16. Stories like yours just make me even surer that our decision.


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