Over The River And Through The Woods

Here’s a little more background info about me: my best friend in the world is in the military. He also happens to be my boyfriend. We had been really good friends for about 5 years before it became public knowledge that we decided to date…we’re going to call him Jackson.

In high school, Jackson and I dated a little bit, he took someone else to prom and I went to mine alone after my date ditched me a couple weeks prior. (We went to different schools, and met through mutual friends.) He decided that he didn’t want to “officially date” because he was leaving for the military a couple months after graduation and he didn’t want to leave me feeling alone while he was away; I get his consideration, and I honestly adore it, but I did feel alone. He told me to move on, to find someone who makes me happy, so I tried.

 

In September 2012, I met this guy at my school who was a student employee; let’s call him Joe. He was finishing his last few classes before earning his bachelors degree in computer repair/science. I thought he was cute, struck up a conversation, and I started to get to know him. About six months into our relationship, I realized some scary stuff about Joe. He was fairly argumentative and condescending, he always felt like he had the leadership role because he was 8 years my senior. But I insisted on trying to make it work even though he always questioned who I was with or talking to, always bombarded me with texts or calls when I was out with friends (even female ones) or family.

Over the first year, we had already broken up once, we argued more often than not, but he always apologized and I always forgave. During the time that we were broken up, I decided I had enough of Joe’s attitude and I began talking to Jackson again, rekindling our high school romance. Jackson said that if Joe started “pulling all the stops” (ie: flowers, jewelry, etc.) to give him a second shot. About a month after the breakup, Joe calls to talk, we meet up and he gives me a charm bracelet with a peace sign (because my nickname was Hippie) and a treble cleft (because I love music) and he took me out to ice cream while we talked. On that ice cream “date,” he asked for me back and I cried and cried for a few days because my mind was so conflicted. I talked to Jackson about it and he told me to go back to Joe and be happy.

The next two and a half years weren’t any better. Joe constantly would ridicule and control me. About a year after the initial break up, he had grabbed me by my throat and pinned me against a door frame because he was mad that I was tired and wanted him to leave so I could go to bed (I live in my parent’s house and boys weren’t allowed to stay the night). After every fight/major argument, he’d buy me presents like bracelets, flowers, a bottle of one of my favorite rums; as many times as I saw and heard about this behavior with abuse in shows and movies (like ‘Law and Order’), I didn’t really recognize it in my own relationship. Although he was physical with me more than that one time, it wasn’t until the last 8 months that I realized how destructive the relationship truly was. Never in my imagination would I have believed that I would be the subject of abuse in a relationship. I’m not just talking physical abuse, it was everything…emotional, financial–everything.

By March 2014, I had miscarried my second child (the first one is a different story for a different time, stay tuned.) In May 2015, I walked across the stage at my college graduation but he missed it because he went to use the bathroom then got caught up in conversation with his friends that were also employed at the school, helping with the graduation production. In June, he made a scene at my grandfather’s memorial service because I decided to sit with my cousin who was inconsolable rather than with him and my parent and my sibling. In my opinion, he acted like a child and I was so confused. By the end of June 2015, Joe and I were engaged. Was I happy? No. Was I excited? I pretended like I was. Was I scared? Yes. Did I feel like I had to do this because I felt trapped? …A thousand times, yes. In mid-July, my grandparent had two heart attacks within 12 days of one another; my house was being deep cleaned and instantly became a smoke-free home before my grandparent returned from the hospital (they were a pack-a-day smoker prior to the attacks), but even amongst all the chaos that was ensuing in my life during those two weeks, Joe still had to be the center of attention and if I didn’t make time for him between the hospital visits, the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry, and keeping all of our other affairs in order and for me to get enough sleep to keep doing all these things, he would get livid. He would throw the adult equivalent of a temper-tantrum, and make me feel guilty that I wasn’t doing enough for him or my family…I wasn’t even 21 and I was essentially running a house and dealing with all the change that had happened within the past 3 months, I was stressed out and exhausted (mentally and physically) and all I wanted was for him to be understanding and comforting–its all I needed.

Enter 2016. Things between Joe and I had been going down hill for basically the entirety of our relationship but it became more and more prevalent to me through the last year. After discussing the past 3 and a half years with several friends, I came to the realization that I needed to leave–I needed to escape. Some of them knew earlier what had been happening within my relationship and warned me to get out, but I brushed them off thinking that he’d change or that it was a misunderstanding. July 2016, I broke it off. It took an immense amount of courage (something I would never claim to have), and a lot of support by friends. My family had no idea what was going on, although they didn’t like how he spoke to me. A friend of mine told me that I could stay with them if I felt threatened after the breakup, another friend offered to get me help dealing with all of the emotional part of it, and another friend offered to get me a lawyer and seek punishment for what Joe did. But I stayed at home, I never want my family to know what happened, it’s embarrassing and I was taught to be stronger than to let an abusive man into my life and just take what he’s dealing; I was taught to fight for myself.

 

No, I don’t blame Jackson for what happened in my relationship with Joe, or for getting me stuck, because I was an adult and my own individual, I can make my own decisions–I have been doing so since I was at least 6. I do wish, however, that I could rewind, go back to right after high school, and tell him that I will not search for a relationship; but I am also thankful that all this crazy stuff happened because it brought Jackson and I back together. He doesn’t want to know everything that happened and I’ll respect his wishes; last thing I want is for him to get enraged or feel guilty–some things are better left untold, which is why, in this post, I didn’t divulge most of what had happened between 2012 and 2016.

As for my new relationship with Jackson, we’ve been together over 6 months and going strong. He is still in the military, and planning on reenlisting soon for another 4 years. He’s my rock, always has been. The journey was painful, but I am so thankful for where we are, where I am.

Jackson has realized that I don’t care about the distance, or how long I might go without seeing him or talking to him due to his job; I have honestly never cared about any of that. I have always been in awe over him, he’s always been my saving grace, the one that keeps me pushing through every seemingly impossible situation like the one with Joe. Without him, I’m not sure how I would’ve survived. We currently live over 200 miles away from each other; we try to visit one another at least once a month, but when he’s doing his duty, we barely get to talk. Yes, it’s hard, but it is worth it to me. He’s my light, my strength, my knight in shining armor. (Yes, I know…I am such a cheesy person, get over it.)  When we finally made our relationship “Facebook official,” literally every comment was “Oh, it’s about time!” or “hmmm never would’ve guessed lol” or “yayyy!!” …I think you get the point. All of our family and friends were so excited for us, almost as happy as we were to announce it!

I know this may seem like I am depending on him for joy and whatnot, but I am currently the happiest I have ever been since I was 9 years old (when my depression began; again, different story, different time.) Even in high school, I knew there was something about him…I called us soulmates for years…and here we are…finally. It took us years to finally be where we are, where we’re meant to be…a journey over the river and through the woods, up a mountain, and through a desert to be in the best relationship of either of our lives…and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

 

And to end this:
Please, if you think or know that you are in an abusive relationship (or think a friend is, suggest the following to them), please, please, PLEASE
(in the US, I’m sorry I don’t have any other resources)
Visit: http://www.thehotline.org
If you think your internet usage is being monitored (it is impossible to completely clear your computer/internet history),
call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
for TTY: 1-800-787-3224
Don’t forget, if you are in an emergency situation, call 911, many areas in the US now have texting features for emergency response too; if you are afraid to check for the text feature online, have a friend check for you.

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