First published on Saturday the 30th of January, 2016, this piece comes in at number 7 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2016.
We had been seeing each other for less than two weeks when he told me he loved me. I deliriously replied that I loved him too. It’s all a girl can dream of, right? That the boy she meets falls head over heels in love with her IMMEDIATELY.
As the weeks flew by, we became engulfed in a whirlwind romance, spending every possible minute together, having a shitload of sex, staying up all night talking, falling even harder. He told me he had never felt like this about anyone. He didn’t know he could feel like this. He didn’t know how he had lived without me up until that point.
I was THE ONE.
I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t concentrate at work. He was offered a job in another city. He asked me to join him. I quit my job the next day, gave my flatmate notice, and packed up my stuff.
My parents expressed their concern that I may not like my new city. My friends questioned whether things were moving too fast.
"They don’t understand our kind of love," he told me, and I agreed. What did they know?
The new city was different and exciting. We found an apartment and started our new life together. I couldn’t find work straight away, so found myself alone often while he was at work. I waited with bated breath for him to walk in the door each night, pouncing on him for details of his day, what he did, who he talked to. I was lonely, but hid this extremely well whenever I was on the phone to my family or friends.
"We love it here, things are wonderful!" I would tell them. "I’m so happy!"
I found new friends. He didn’t like them. I ditched them. I became really good at playing Tetris. Preparing elaborate dishes for his evening meal. Cleaning the apartment.
"Where have you been?" he would ask me if I didn’t answer the phone quickly enough when he rang during the day. "Have you got a secret lover there?" I would giggle, "Of course not!" He would laugh too.
We would go out with his new work mates.
"You spent a lot of time talking to David tonight," he would say sulkily when we got home. "Don’t you love me any more?"
It became a recurring theme.
"Phil couldn’t stop staring at you tonight." / "Michael only tolerates me because he has a crush on you." / "My boss only asks us out because you’re going to be there."
The arguments started. After one particularly bad fight, I woke the next morning to find that he had cleared my wallet of any cash, ATM cards and credit cards, as well as taken my car keys. I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt trapped. That evening when he came home, my things were returned and he acted as if nothing had happened.
Another time, he shook me awake to tell me I had said another man’s name in my sleep. "Who is he?" he screamed. "Are you sleeping with him?"
I thought we should see a counsellor. He punched the wall next to my head in response. "You’re the one with the problem," he yelled.
I became depressed and anxious. I contacted a counsellor but when he found out, he locked the front door and stood in front of it so I couldn’t leave for my appointment. "I don’t want you telling anyone about us," he said. "They wouldn’t understand."
I couldn’t tell my family, as I was embarrassed that they would think I had rushed into things. My friends knew something was wrong, but they thought it was because I was lonely. I didn’t bother correcting them.
"You’re the only one who can push my buttons like this," he told me when he had me up against a wall with his hand around my throat. "I love you so much I want to kill you." The next morning he would always cry and beg for forgiveness. "I’m not good enough for you, why do you put up with me?" he would sob.
It took me five years to leave. What made me finally go?
Not the fractured wrist. Not the bruised arms. Not the threats to kill himself if I left him. Not the knife he held to my throat when I asked him to clean up the kitchen after he’d made a mess.
He spat on me.
That was it. That one humiliating action that didn’t physically hurt me was what tipped things, and some part of my brain finally said, ‘Enough’.
I was the girl who always said I would leave if anyone ever laid a hand on me. I’m smart, educated, independent. But I stayed because I believed I could fix it. Fix HIM. I had somehow been convinced it was me that made him act this way, his passionate love for me pushed him over the edge.
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I still shudder at how thoroughly I was manipulated, and how lucky I am to have got out. I could have been one of the 13 women who are killed each year in New Zealand at the hands of their partner.
If any of the above stories sounds familiar, get help. Talk to someone. Let them know what is going on.
I lived to tell my tale. Live to tell yours.
If you are in immediate danger, dial 111 and ask for the police.
Women’s Refuge Crisis line: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
Call 0800 456 450 for information about where you can go if you are experiencing or witnessing violence, or want to change your own behaviour. It is OK to ask for help.