It was the night before Valentine's Day during my freshman year of college and I lay in my dorm room watching the clock. With every breath I took, my heart sank deeper. He should be back by now...10:34 p.m...11:27 p.m...2:05 a.m. Then around 3:30 a.m., Matt busted into the room, laughing to himself. He hopped into bed next to me. "Baby, you have no idea, this night was crazyyyyy!" His breath reeked of beer so I turned my back to him. "I wish you had been back by now," I said, disappointed. "I thought we were going to spend Valentine's night together." I held my breath, waiting for him to say something. I counted my pictures of my friends and family I had hung on the wall. "You always do this," he slurred, his tone becoming more serious. "I can never have a good time with you, you ruined my night, you always do!" By now he was screaming.
I just missed you. Please don't get mad, forget what I just said, please don't get mad.
"You hung out with the guys last night, I thought this night would be reserved for me," I pleaded with him as he sat on the edge of the bed putting his dirty running shoes, his "drinking shoes," back on. He then got up and grabbed the red bin he stored under my twin bed. It was full of various things of his: shirts, shorts, love notes I wrote to him. As he opened the door to leave, he also grabbed an envelope off of my dresser. It was full of cut up slips of paper I made him for Valentine's Day. Each slip contained a reason why I loved him. I spent an hour making it for him: cutting out each slip, typing up the reasons, and even coloring an elephant out of hearts that I taped to the front.
Please don't leave. I don't want to be alone.
Tears started falling down my face. Their warmth comforted me. I followed him out to the hallway where he stood waiting by the elevator. "You're such an idiot; I can never have a good time," he slurred again. "I'm sorry!" I pleaded, trying to embrace him, but he kept pushing me away like I was some sort of beggar, pleading for his riches. "That's why your ex before me left you and that's why you dad is never around. You can't have fun and you're annoying." He snatched the Valentine's Day envelope off of the top of his bin. He grabbed a handful of the slips, ripped them to pieces and threw some in my face, saving the rest for the top of my head.
I numbly watched "I love you because you make me laugh" flutter to the ground.
Nights like that happened all the time. Our arguments differed from night to night, weekend to weekend, but the premise of the emotional abuse was still the same. Putting me down, name calling, belittling, and mind games all made up the emotional abuse I endured my freshman and sophomore year of college. Most of the time he was drunk, but there were fights when he was sober where he'd call me an idiot or tell me how annoying I was. He made me believe that I was the one causing the problems in the relationship. He would threaten to leave me and call me in the middle of the night screaming for no reason, telling me how ugly and dumb I was. Once when I cried in bed next to him after a fight, he told me I was weak. Most of the time, he would yell in private, but as the relationship went on, people would frequently hear us arguing (dorm walls are paper thin) and there was only so much I could do to hide my constant tears. Surprisingly, only my close friends and family told me to leave. Because everyone else at the time was mostly friends with both of us, no one really said anything.
But things weren't always bad. In fact, they started off great. He was sweet and romantic and my family loved him. Unfortunately, when he found his independence and as we became more comfortable around each other, he started to become hurtful. It started with him getting upset for no reason when he was drunk, but then the name calling escalated with each fight. It seems like the red flags were obvious, but I think the fact that he wasn't always hurtful made leaving him harder for me than the abuse itself. I was attached, and I had seen a person in him that was capable of being a wonderful boyfriend. I couldn't let go of that person who was clearly gone. When my friends and family started to see how unhappy I was, I began to pull away from them. They'd tell me that I needed to leave the relationship, but I didn't have the strength. Instead, I hid the relationship from some people, including my parents. My self-worth was so low that at that point in my life, I'd rather endure abuse than be alone.
Unfortunately, every time he would break up with me or when I tried to leave him, he always came back. One moment he would call and say he didn't love me anymore and a week later he would be begging for my forgiveness because he "made a mistake." He would call me crying, buy me jewelry, write love letters, and even beg at my feet for me to take him back. Each time, he swore he would change, and I believed him. A part of me felt that he would wake up one day and be the person he used to be. Sadly, every time he promised to change, he'd be nice for a week or a month -- kind, funny, sweet -- but then he was back to his same hurtful self. When I asked him to go to counseling, he refused. I also begged him to stop drinking thinking that would help, but he didn't.
I felt ashamed that I couldn't leave. My mother raised me to be an independent woman; a woman that would never let someone treat her poorly. Yet I still couldn't leave. I felt that I had let everyone down, including myself. After months of being called names, yelled at, ignored, and told I would never find anyone else, the abuse did turn physical when my boyfriend started to push and slap.