"Slice Deeper if You're Trying to Punish Yourself"
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Pregnancy, Abortion, Physical Abuse, Self Harm.
The scars on my legs, even after two years, are still healing. I’m still waiting for the marks to go away. Back then, when they were fresh, he’d see the cuts and say if I was trying to punish myself I should have sliced deeper.
I can’t tell you exactly when he started to change. I have an idea, a rough time frame, but I can’t pinpoint the exact time because the shift wasn't sudden and happened gradually.
Beginning of the relationship:
We met in 2008. I was 16 years old. We had class together. I still remember the first day I walked into the room. I was late and he was already seated. We locked eyes but I don’t remember ever really trying to speak to him again after that. I don’t think I even had interest in him at first or found him attractive. There was nothing compelling about him till we spoke. I guess all they say about mental connection is true because it was after our first conversation I was intrigued. After school that night I went home and searched him on Facebook but for some reason he was already on my friends list so I went ahead and messaged him. We added each other that night on MSN and it all started from there.
By 2010 we were in a relationship. In those two years after meeting we built a friendship. I don’t think at ages 15 and 16 you really take relationships seriously anyway so when we were a little older and when we thought we were mature enough, we decided to give an official, committed relationship a shot. At first it was light, it was fun, it was innocent and we enjoyed each other. I looked forward to the messages after class on MSN and I waited for his text messages before I went to bed. We talked about everything. I couldn’t wait to get to school to see him or to run into him in the hallways. He wanted to understand why I did the things I did and why I said what I said. His approach was different and he seemed to genuinely care. So over some time trust was built and I opened up.
He didn’t just love my light, he listened to all that was dark and it felt like he could help me heal. Looking back now I don’t know if I was in love with him or the idea that someone could look past all I felt about me was fucked up. No doubt this person became my best friend before it went sour. I needed someone to listen and I needed to feel like someone would stay. He was stable; whether or not deep down I was in love with him, I kept him. I've never had stability before.
This new relationship started and I felt like God was finally bringing something positive into my life. I felt like I was always dealt the worst hand. Don't get me wrong; I knew I had many things to be grateful for. I had received an ample amount of blessings and amazing people to share these things with but there were also so many hardships I couldn't quite grasp or make sense of its reason for happening.
I had 1001 walls built and he tried to knock all of these down. I didn't want to let anyone in because I didn't need anyone. My mentality was, "I had gotten this far without anyone and I don't need someone starting now." I tried over and over and over again to push him away but he didn't budge. He stayed, he tried, he wanted to be there, he wanted to learn my triggers and he wanted me to get to a better place. He said he wanted me to succeed and he wanted to take care of me. Illusion.
He didn’t understand why I didn't fully enjoy sex. He started to take it personally that I would never have an orgasm with him, that I couldn't look him in the eyes or that when he tried to push his fingers in me I would push his hands away. My favourite position was doggie style and not because I enjoyed lying on my stomach or because I was lazy. I couldn't handle intimacy. I was frustrated with myself too. My internal battle was affecting what I was trying to grow with this "wonderful" new person and so I told him what my "problem" was; I had been raped when I was 14, just three years before our relationship started and sex scared me. I was trying though. I wanted to try again with him but I was scared. I thought this would scare him away or that he would tell me it was too much but he stayed and we continued our relationship. This was the first major thing he learned.
One day he forgot and tried with fingers again and I started to cry. At first I laid there, hiding my face with his pillow so he wouldn't see and I tried my best to enjoy it but I couldn't. My sobbing grew louder and couldn’t be hidden anymore. He asked what was wrong and I told him at one point during the incident my rapist used his nails to violently scratch my vagina after he had finished with his penis. He never tried with his fingers again and this was the second major thing he learned.
Since he couldn't pleasure me with his fingers he tried with his mouth. Any time his head started to get lower, I would pull his face up and stop this from happening almost immediately. He loved how I tasted but I hated that he always wanted more. Eventually he asked me why I wouldn’t let him where he wanted to go and I told him the first person to ever abuse me was someone related to me. They both had beards. Even though I knew my partner wasn’t the older male who took advantage of me when I was eight years old, his beard touching my leg made me cringe. This was the third major thing he learned.
One night he was on his way to a party and asked me if I had a problem with it because women I didn’t know would be there. I said that I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly worried. This was conflicting for me: I love and adore women. I’ve been with women. I believe they deserve the most respect. I believe they are all survivors, they are all strong, and they are more than worthy of all things great. I hold all the females in my life on a pedestal – on the highest level is my mother. They never intimidate me, as I genuinely want all of us to succeed – but “daddy issues” do not disappear overnight. He asked me what worried me about women and I told him that it had to do with male interaction with females, males that I trust. I spent my entire childhood watching my mother cry because my father didn’t come home. I listened to her excuses for why he was absent but I let her believe I didn’t understand why he wasn’t there. When he was sober he was amazing. He was my favourite person in the whole world. When he drank I didn’t know who he was. I watched him hit her, abuse her – physically, mentally, verbally, you name it. I don’t think I can erase the image of a knife to her neck as my sister and I screamed and cried. She faced it. Later down the road as a grown woman my mother asked me if I thought she was weak and without hesitation I said no; she’s the strongest person I know. She does not need to explain her decisions and I was able to make sense of why she stayed. My partner at the time knew; he knew I was terrified of being cheated on and he knew it would kill me to find out he was involved with another woman. This was the fourth major thing he learned.
There he had it – I laid it all out for him. I trusted him to not hurt me. I saw this person as someone different so I exposed myself. All that made me vulnerable, all that made me the slightest insecure and all the details I promised I would keep private were now shared with someone I believed loved me. What I would later learn is that possession does not coincide with love; compliance is not a way to prove you’re genuine and eventually restraint will cause resentment.
I needed to understand him too so I dug. I wanted to know what he had experienced, if anything. He touched on having a father who was physically abusive to both him and his mother. I listened to him and although I couldn’t relate to my father ever putting his hands on me I understood how watching your mother experience something painful could affect you whether it be now or later. I understand the construct of hyper-masculinity and how males are conditioned to behave a certain way and I also understood that one of the first ways he learned to treat a woman was by inflicting pain. I just didn’t think he’d ever do it to me. Call me naïve – I thought I could reverse his way of thinking.
I decided I would be there for him the same way he was for me. At this point in my head he was still this “wonderful” new person who knew everything about me, wanted to help me, who didn’t find me to be unworthy after all he had learned and who wouldn’t use anything he knew to make me feel worse about things that already made me feel ashamed. And again, so I thought.
Two people searching for love will never find it. He said he didn’t feel cared for at home and I said the same. He told me I was the person to show him the most love, more than his family did. I told him I loved that I made him feel this way. So I did what was in my nature – I stayed to help him feel something the same way I needed to. What I also understand now is that two people searching for love will have two different definitions of what love is. My definition consists of nurturing, the ability to remain autonomous and free, forgiveness, understanding, and to give wholeheartedly. Later I learned his definition of love consisted of control and manipulation, power, compliance and to inflict pain, just like his father, as an act of self – fulfilment.
Middle of the relationship/The Slow Shift:
He expressed he hated all of my male friends and my exact words were, “that’s unfortunate.” He knew who I was, he knew I was “that girl,” the only female to get invited to an all male party as “one of the guys.” That wasn’t going to change. Red flag number one.
He didn’t like that my girlfriends were a priority. I never did anything to make him feel he wasn’t important or included but if any of the women in my life needed me, I made sure to be there. He thought this put him second and he didn’t like this. Red flag number two.
He constantly called my phone if I was out with my friends. He needed to make sure there wasn’t a guy around. No matter how much I tried to reassure him that I’d never cheat on him he didn’t believe me. Red flag number three.
He started to monitor who was messaging me. He would constantly argue with me about male friends he didn’t know. He got upset when these friends ‘liked’ my pictures on Instagram or Facebook. Eventually I had to turn notifications off on my phone because I didn’t want to deal with him. Red flag number four.
I put up a fight. Always. He wasn’t going to control me or tell me what to do. I was going to hang with my boys, I was going to party wherever the fuck I wanted to and I was going to return the call of whichever one of my male friends was calling even if it was right in front of him. This didn’t mean I was immature or not ready for a relationship. This displayed how controlling he was. It wasn’t disrespect. I didn’t have to alter my behaviour because he was insecure. He didn’t like how he looked and felt he was stagnant in life. He wasn’t working and I was on top. I was always on top. I had money and I was taking care of myself. I was always involved with numerous projects at once. I had friends and I was well known. People knew who I was but only knew him as my boyfriend. I was stronger than him, mentally. I challenged him and he didn’t like it. Later down the line he would come to tell me that he was intimidated by me and this explained much of his behaviour.
Instead of leaving him at this point, two years in, I decided I would stay and help tackle his insecurities and all that made him uneasy. What I didn’t understand is that you cannot help someone that does not want to be helped or who believes his actions can be justified. He looked at me as his possession instead of his equal. It’s not your job to “help,” period. At times I knew things he did and said was wrong but he was my first serious boyfriend. His actions after years of inconsistency and instability in my home, felt somewhat okay. I was desensitized to so much after seeing my mother go through worse. I felt I had it better. I don’t feel this way now but back then it felt normal.
The first time he called me out my name I let it slide. After all he didn’t know better, right? He had watched his father do it to his mother and so he didn’t actually mean it when he repeated the words to me, right? Wrong. We had just finished shopping and we were on our way home. He wanted to spend time with me later in the evening but I told him I couldn’t – I had plans with the guys. He looked me dead in my eyes and called me a whore and he said he knew what I was doing when I was out with them and I wasn’t answering his messages. This fight escalated quickly and I defended myself. I tried to level with him but he said I was a bitch for arguing with him, then he said I was a cunt and then for whatever reason started to name people I slept with before knowing him and called me a slut. He looked at me again and said I was deserving of the rape because all I did was flirt with men anyway. He used major incident number one as a way to make me feel the lowest I could possibly feel. I tried to walk away from this argument but he kept following and blocking me. He didn’t want me to leave. Possession. I ended up having to call one of my friends to pick me up to get me away from him. Slowly I started to shut down and his way of speaking to me continued. I’ve always believed the most important thing in a relationship is not communication, but forgiveness. So I forgave him and we continued.
The hard part of the relationship – middle to end:
February 17th 2012 one of my best friends asked me to watch her son. I asked him if he wanted to tag along and keep me company that night as he had the night off work. My friend went on her date; I locked her door, put her son to bed, and fucked him in her living room.
March 28th 2012 I took a pregnancy test in the washroom at my school. Positive. I didn’t cry because I was happy. I ran back to my classroom to get two of my girls. I took them down the hallway and we plopped on the floor. I showed them the test and I told them how excited I was. I called him to let him know. His response: “you’re a cunt, that’s not my baby, didn’t we talk about how much of a whore you are and that you’re sleeping with other guys? Get rid of it.” This was when I started to cry.
When he calmed down he called me back and we spoke. He said he would leave school to pick me up. He asked me what I was craving and said he would take me to eat. He said he was sorry, that he actually was excited and that he was wrong for what he said. Forgiveness. So we continued.
We decided we were going to keep our baby. Agreed – the timing was probably the worst, our families wouldn’t be happy, but we both believed it was a blessing.
Then he changed his mind. Over and over he changed his mind. One minute it was all a go then he called me a dirty whore and said I needed to get rid of “it.” Then when he decided we would keep it again I was the person he loved the most, his best friend, and he couldn’t wait to see what our baby looked like. Forgiveness.
Of course he changed his mind again after that. My anxiety disorder worsened. After the sexual abuse I had experienced earlier on and now being pregnant and having someone verbally abuse me every day, it escalated to a point where it was uncontrollable and I was having anxiety attacks several times a day. Both my mental and physical health was deteriorating. I woke up to text messages where he asked me if I woke up in a pool of blood and to only respond if I miscarried. Before I went to bed I received messages where he told me I was filth, I asked to be raped, and that he doesn’t want to have babies with a dirty woman so I should abort. Messages like these continued for weeks, all day and all night.
I didn’t tell anyone what was going on. How could I? They looked at me as the strong one of the group; I was the mother. I took care of everyone else. My relationship on the outside looked perfect. How could I possibly go to my friends and tell them I needed help? He knew I’d never tell anyone. I believed whatever happens in a relationship stays between the two people so I never said a word. Maybe I was also trying to protect him.
April 3rd 2012 I had an abortion. I couldn’t take him anymore. Secretly, deep down, I didn’t want his child. I wanted my child but I didn’t want his. I cried and cried feeling like I killed my baby and carried this guilt for years but I did what I had to do. I thought maybe he would change if I made him happy and our relationship would be good again after the abortion but he wouldn’t touch me or look at me the entire time. From the moment he picked me up till I got home he wouldn’t engage with me. I was sitting on the floor in the hallway outside of the clinic and reached up for a hug but me pushed me down to the floor and asked me to not speak to him. I sat there and cried till it was my turn.
After we left the clinic he still wouldn’t speak to me. I was drowsy from the drugs and I remember him walking ahead of me, not turning back once to help me. I fell trying to get inside of my house and he yelled at me telling me to hurry the fuck up because he had to get home. I thought this would be the end of him but it wasn’t.
Exactly one week after the abortion I woke up to a text message from him saying was really tired. I called him to say hi and asked why he didn’t sleep well. He told me he was up until 3am talking to his ex girlfriend, almost taunting me with this. I hung up and had an anxiety attack. He used incident number four to hurt me.
I drank every single night for months. The drinking stopped when I started cutting myself. I never understood why people hurt themselves but that day I did. It made me feel better. Also, I was working and I couldn’t handle a hangover while there. As messed as it sounds to say, it was the quickest and easiest way at the time to release. I fell into a deep depression. After being pregnant for two months I was attached to my baby and I couldn’t wrap my head around the termination. Regret. I wouldn’t accept help from my friends. Most of them didn’t understand and I was ashamed to go to the ones that did. I felt alone. Two of my best friends were away in another country and I couldn’t face my family. I was young too. I didn’t even really understand what was happening. I tried to continue like everything was okay but it wasn’t.
You act in ways outside your usual character when you feel like you don’t have anyone. Or when you tell yourself you don’t have anyone. One day after an anxiety attack I attempted suicide. I still remember that day like it was yesterday – I was laying on the floor in my basement crying about my baby and I said fuck it. I tried but was unsuccessful. I panicked and called my friends but they didn’t answer me. The next person I called to take me to the hospital was him. He picked me up to take me but cussed at me the entire way there, cussed at me every time the doctors left the room and cussed at me before he left. He was upset he had to miss work.
He knew at this point he had some kind of power over me. He saw how much I loved him after I begged for us to keep our child and after I begged him to treat me better but stayed even though he didn’t. One minute he was great, one minute he was horrible. It was almost like he was testing me every single time and I didn’t budge. When he wanted to see me weak and have an anxiety attack, he’d mentioned his ex. When he wanted to see me cry he would say if I were a stronger woman I would have held onto the baby despite all that he did. I started to internalize all of this. Love can be wonderful and it can be the most beautiful thing but it can also be the most darkest, damaging, and hurtful thing when used as a weapon.
At times I would be having an anxiety attack and he would hover me saying and doing things that would make them worse for me. I would lie there crying, hyperventilating, having absolutely no control over my body and he would laugh and smirk as I begged him to hold me and calm me down. He wouldn’t touch me. Instead he would say, verbatim, “everyone thinks you’re this strong woman but I know exactly how to break you down, I know I can control you.” At one point after the abortion he wanted to have sex but I was still bleeding. I told him I couldn’t and that he’d have to give me a few days. We were out driving one day and continued to do so till he said, “no I want it now, let’s pull over.” I didn’t really know how to react and I kind of just looked at him. I told him I was cramping and in pain. He said, “Guess I should just call my ex.” Compliance.
We went to a parking garage. He entered me, pulled out, looked at the blood on himself and told me “I was absolutely disgusting,” put his pants back on and we left. Another time after that when I stopped bleeding we attempted sex and he saw the marks on my leg after cutting. He looked at me and said if I was trying to punish myself I should have sliced deeper. Suddenly I became fully responsible everything that happened.
There was a monster in this man I could not tackle. Even if I tried to tackle it I’d never be successful. I wanted to stick by him and I wanted to help him change but even thinking he could be changed to suit me was a mistake in itself. I’ve always been a strong woman. And in these moments where it sounds like I was weak, I wasn’t. Abuse comes in many forms but starts with manipulation. Mental abuse is hard to recognize at first since it doesn’t leave obvious marks and it’s not always blatant and in your face. It can be characterized by the manipulation and invalidation of a person. Anything he did and said to me was to invalidate me as a woman, first starting with invalidating my strength.
I was trying to work towards a better place for myself and he recognized this. I tried to leave him numerous times but he would threaten to swallow a bottle of pills or hurt himself and I’d stay – thinking it wasn’t who I met back in 2008 and that he needed help too. I felt trapped. Remember what I said about forgiveness being the most important thing in a relationship? The act of forgiveness can destroy you.
Nobody believed me when I tried to share what this person did and said to me until I showed proof. I showed them my phone so they could see his text messages and one night his best friend listened to him on speaker as he cussed at me the day after my birthday. He was mad guys were flirting with me at my party. Everyone viewed him as this sweet and lovely person. Only I knew who he was.
He wanted compliance but that wasn’t in my nature. He needed someone to control and maybe at my weakest moment he had that but it didn’t continue for long. Recognizing red flags isn’t as easy as it seems when you pair all that I went through at home and as a child with what he was doing. I’ve learned now.
Our cores do not change. My heart and my core is different and will never be the same as his. At the center of his core was darkness, and at the center of mine, despite all that I had gone through, was light. People will choose to show you what they want but deep down they will always be the same.
He started our relationship saying he admired how strong I was but this was far from the truth. This relationship ended one night after a party. We went to one of our friend’s house and afterwards attempted to have sex. I got on top of him; I kissed and licked his neck, pushed his head between my breasts, begged him to suck on my nipples and moaned as he did. Then I hopped off to turn on my back, waiting for him to fuck me. I was wet and ready to go. He slid in me and I pushed him off me and sat up. Something shifted, I don’t know what or why, or even when, but I looked him dead in his eye and said, “get the fuck off me, you disgust me.” Karma. I put my clothes on and I left. I was ready to move on.
If your partner had to be in a state of distress and depression for you to feel happiness, even in the slightest, you're weaker than them even at their lowest. He started to slowly realize towards the end of our relationship how much his family impacted his life and he started to slowly see exactly how damaging he had been but at that point when he finally realized a change needed to be made, I was ready to walk. He cried, he called me and begged me to work things out but it was too late for me.
Relationships and what being in a relationship entails can be confusing. This idea of sticking by someone no matter what they do or say to you will make you forget about what your needs are and what makes you happy. This is not called sacrifice for the other person; this becomes self-destructive for you. I stopped worrying about what he needed when I chose to leave because I started to see that nurturing each other’s needs was not being done mutually. It wasn’t easy to move on or to make sense of most of what happened. My focus became healing on my own and without him – he was the root of most of the issues.
I forgot for a short while but I know who I am. What he planted in my head was slowly removed. I am none of the things he tried to tell me I am. Instead of continuing a relationship with someone who constantly reminded me of everything that caused me pain I decided to start a new journey, standing alone. I have to live with my decisions and I know why I made them. I cannot question or punish myself for anything that happened before him, during our relationship, or even after. Forgiveness. And so I continued.