I stood there shaking while looking at my phone.

I was in shock.

I had come up with the idea to video record what was happening, and while I managed to find the video app on my smart phone, I was too shaken up to figure out how to record anything. The big red button on my screen that said ‘record’ was a blur. I couldn’t think straight.

I was in fear for my life.

The date was August 28, 2015. I had woke up that morning and felt a strong urge to shower. I know that sounds weird, but it’s important to the story. As someone who is self-employed, I can usually spend my mornings however I want. Sometimes, I shower as soon as I get up. Other times, I have a cup of coffee first, do some reading, maybe catch up on some tv shows, and then take a bath or shower.

The urge to take a shower was strange, to say the least. It felt like something my guides were pushing me to do, but I couldn’t figure out why.

“Nah, I don’t feel like it right now.”

You’re going to wish you had. The voice in my mind urged.

I didn’t listen.

I went downstairs and *Chuck (my ex-boyfriend) was already up. “Do you want to watch Impractical Jokers?” he asked. “Sure.” I responded.

Impractical Jokers was one of his favorite tv shows. I enjoyed it too, but since he had become rather obnoxious about it, it was no longer one of my favorite shows. One time, I had some friends over to celebrate my birthday. There were only six or seven people who had shown up. Chuck decided that he was bored, and put on Impractical Jokers for everyone to watch. I was upset, annoyed, and actually kind of hurt. I didn’t invite people over to hang out with me on my birthday to watch Chuck’s favorite tv show. I wanted them to hang out with me, to talk, to play games, to do something fun. But as usual, Chuck didn’t think about what I wanted, he only cared about what he wanted, and what he wanted was to watch Impractical Jokers with our friends on my birthday. Thanks a lot Chuck.

Anyways, we had this routine of recording tv shows and watching them the next day so that we could fast forward the commercials.

I made myself some coffee and breakfast and settled onto the couch. My dog Lilly cuddled up next to me. Little did I know that that was the last morning I would ever sit on that couch with my dog, and a cup of coffee.

We put on the show and we laughed at the silly pranks. I don’t remember what the pranks were, because something far more traumatic was about to take place.  A commercial came on for the anniversary special in which the jokers were going to walk a high rise wire in New York. While watching the commercial, I said “Murr isn’t going to like that.” (Murr is one of the Impractical Jokers from the TV show.)

“How do you know it’s going to be Murr?” he asked.

“Because all of them are doing it. It’s for charity. I saw posts about it on Facebook and Twitter.”

“Well thanks for RUINING it for me, PAL!” he yelled at me.

Fuck. I thought….here we go again.

This was routine for Chuck. He would often get mad over small things, and he had a terrible temper. I’m convinced that one of his favorite things to do was to yell at me. He was constantly creating no-win scenarios for me, just like he did in this case. I made an innocent comment, he asked about it, I gave him clarification, and he yelled at me. This was typical behavior from him. I would later learn that moments like these were called ‘gaslighting.’

“I didn’t ruin anything for you.” I said, “You asked me a question, and I answered it. Also, if you watched the rest of the commercial, they were going to tell you that all four of them were going to walk it anyway.” (Ugh! Why didn’t we fast forward the commercials like we normally do?)

I don’t remember what his response was. I just remember him yelling at me. I was not in the mood.

I sighed, grabbed my coffee and said, “You’re acting like a child. I don’t want to do this right now.” I then proceeded to walk away so I could go to my office, which was my sanctuary whenever I was upset. I had also learned from previous experiences that there was no way to reason with Chuck or to calm him down the moment he decided to become irate. The best thing to do was always to walk away, and it’s something that he hated.

“Oh?! I’M ACTING LIKE A CHILD?! ME?! YOU’RE the one running away like a BIG BABY!”

I vaguely remember saying something like, “I’m walking away because I can’t handle you like this right now.”

Chuck had been picking fights with me consistently, every single morning, for the past few days. The morning prior to this one, he barged into my bedroom at 5:30 AM and argued with me because I hadn’t gotten up yet. I was supposed to meet a friend at 6:15 AM to go walking. For whatever reason, he got it in his head that I needed to be up at 5:30AM to get ready and to meet my friend who lived less than 5 minutes away from me. I still don’t understand what his intentions were that morning, other than to pick a fight with me. That argument had ended at 5:50AM with his signature move…him slamming the door.

Chuck always slammed doors when he was mad. Doors were just his thang. He’d open them just to slam them…hard.

As I walked to my office, he started yelling at me like crazy. He was no longer on the couch. Fueled by rage, he was pacing the floor and yelling at the top of his lungs while pacing the house. I don’t remember what all he said, and I don’t think I want too. I just remember that he was always so scary when he got like that, because he would turn red in the face with his bulging eyes and loud voice, and intimidating demeanor. He was nearly a foot taller than me.

I just remembered that he was talking about what a horrible person I was, and I was just so over it. I couldn’t understand why he was always so angry. What on earth prompted him to behave this way over me giving him information about an upcoming episode of his favorite tv show? I still don’t understand it, and I probably never will. All I know is that Chuck is addicted to his anger, and the only person he could ever safely take his anger out on was me.

He had the rest of the world fooled, because he always came across as charming, lovable and innocent in public. Those who met him thought he was a nice guy, which is just what he wanted. He was very concerned with his image. He didn’t want people to see him as a jerk, and of course, no one wants to be thought of this way. But with Chuck, he really was a jerk. Actually, the correct word for him is ‘bully.’ He was a bully, but he hid it well. He would say terrible things to me behind closed doors and would give me ultimatums. “IF you tell anyone this happened, I’ll….(insert threat here).”

He was more concerned with looking like a nice guy than actually being a nice guy. If he was the person he pretends to be in public, we would still be together. But he’s not. He’s a textbook narcissist…mean, rotten, selfish, manipulative and controlling to the core.

As he continued to spout lies and accusations against me, I could feel my own anger rising.

“Don’t engage.” I told myself. “Don’t engage…don’t engage…don’t engage….”

He continued to rage on and wouldn’t light up. Usually, his tantrum would be over by now, but angry words were still flying out of his mouth. I was reaching my limit. I had put up with his abuse for the previous seven years, and while we had some good times, most of them were bad. It also didn’t help that he had been in major jerk mode over the past few days.

I was getting angry, and I went into the bedroom, opened up the door and then slammed it as hard as I could.

I borrowed his signature move, and he didn’t like it.

He was silent for a few moments, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

It actually worked. I thought.

I was wrong.

I heard him yell at the top of his lungs from downstairs…..

“If you break my stuff, I’m gonna KICK YOUR ASS YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!!”

I broke. Right then and there, I broke. I was shaking. I couldn’t believe he had just threatened me, and worst of all…I believed him. I believed that he was angry enough to beat me up. This comment proved two things that I had always known. One was that he valued his stuff more than he valued me. (He was a Disney and sports collector.) Second, that he didn’t love me. He didn’t care about me. Chuck had called me names in the past. He had called me every name in the book, including the name of his ex-wife, his sister, and other women in his life who he didn’t like. Oh yes, he was a name caller. But calling me – his girlfriend – a piece of shit….that just seemed like a whole new low.

If you break my stuff, I’m gonna kick your ass you piece of shit…

What grown ass adult says something like that to the person he loves? No one.

I stood in there in shock. It took me a while to fathom what had just happened. He had threatened me. He had called me a terrible name. He was, once again, more concerned about his precious stuff than me. He was being a bully.

“That’s it.” I managed to say. “We’re done. You threatened to physically harm me. This relationship is over.”

“WHAT?!” he yelled, “Where the fuck are you going to go?! What the fuck did I ever do to you?! You think you’re better than me?! YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME!!!” 

And his rampage began again.

It was at that point I got the idea to record him on my phone, but I was so shaken up, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I was shaking so bad. What was happening in seconds felt like it was happening in minutes. Everything was happening in slow motion, and yet, I couldn’t keep up.

I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer. My life was in danger. Chuck had made a threat, and although I didn’t break any of his things, he was clearly at a point where he had absolutely no respect for my safety or well being.

Chuck had harmed me physically before, but he was always smart about it. For example, when I get migraines, I become extremely sensitive to light and sound. Knowing this, Chuck would punish me for being sick by slamming doors, yelling at me, and turning on the lights when he knew I had a migraine. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was making the pain worse. It was very intentional. The other way he would physically harm me was when we would go out to run. He would always, without fail, run into me. There was no excuse for it, yet whenever we went running, he would do it. I didn’t realize that this was done on purpose until I had beat him in the first mile of a 5k. Instead of congratulating me for running my fastest mile ever, he made excuses as to why he couldn’t keep up. A few minutes later, while running, he ran into me. At that moment, I realized that all of these ‘accidental’ run ins were on purpose, and at that point, I made the conscious decision to never run with him again. And I didn’t. He wanted to sign up for more 5Ks, but I said nope. Not gonna happen. We have this whole history with running, but that’s a story for another time.

But back to August 28…I knew that if I said the wrong thing, or heaven forbid, accidentally broke something, he really would harm me. He might strangle me, punch me or who knows what else. I was scared, and he was angry, and this threat was not to be taken lightly.

I also remembered something that a friend of mine, who was a psychologist had said to me, “Physical abuse is always proceeded by verbal abuse. Verbal abuse doesn’t always lead to physical, but in many cases, it does.”

I knew I had to get out of there. I had to get out of that house. I looked for my suitcases, but couldn’t find them. Chuck must have hid them. I grabbed my computer, went downstairs (he had finally stopped yelling and was now sitting on the couch petting one of the dogs), grabbed my purse, and my keys and headed for the door without saying a word to him.

“Where are you going?” he said in a nasty, provoking tone.

I didn’t answer. I just kept walking.

“Oh, too good to talk to me, huh?” he said.

I walked out the door, got into my car, drove to a park, and cried. No, I bawled.

I looked at the clock. It was 7:54 AM. At some point, while looking for my luggage, I had gone onto facebook and wrote “Chuck just threatened to beat me up. This relationship is over.”

I sat in the parking lot of that park, and tried to collect myself. My life had just ended, and I knew it. I could never go back there. I would never feel safe with him again. I had wanted to leave him years ago, but didn’t have the means to do it.  For the past few months, I was trying to pull the resources needed to leave him, but he was constantly sabotaging my businesses, and my job opportunities because he didn’t want me to be financially independent. I left Chuck with $130 to my name.

My friend Patty texted me a message that simply said, “Come over.”

I responded “okay.”

Fortunately, her place was only 5 minutes away from the park where I was having my meltdown. I drove to her house, and when I got out of the car, she was standing in the driveway waiting for me. With tears streamed down my face, she hugged me. “Shhhh…” she said, “You’re okay. You’re gonna be okay.”

Even though Chuck didn’t like it, I had begun going to networking business meetings in March of 2015. I wanted to promote my business, but I was also tired of being so isolated. I didn’t have any close ‘real life’ friends. My entire social life was on the internet, and that wasn’t enough. It never had been. Through those networking meetings, I made some great friends who took me in during this ordeal. I had only known them for a few months and yet, they invited me into their homes.

I ended up spending that first night at Patty’s house. Chuck never even texted or called me. This was the first time I had ever left, and hadn’t come back within a few hours. This was another thing that was very hurtful, and it also showed how much he didn’t care about me. The next day, I went back to his house and when I walked through the door, he was sitting on the couch and looked up at me with a blank expression on his face. He was already dressed for the day, and gave me a ‘what’s up’ nod. He didn’t say “Where did you go?” “Are we okay?” or anything like that. Just looked at me as though nothing had happened.

I had gone back to the house to get some of my things, and I didn’t go there alone. I went there with a cop, which really pissed off Chuck. After his initial tantrum, he calmed down, and offered to pack up my things for me. We made an arrangement with the cop as our witness. Chuck was going to pack up my belongings, and I would make trips over the next few days or weeks to get everything. At the time, I had no idea where I was going to put everything, because I didn’t even know where I would be staying.

Chuck wanted to stay friends after this whole thing had happened, and he must have felt guilty because he gave me some money to help me out. But I couldn’t remain friends with someone who had been so mean to me, and who had tore my world upside down, and inside out.

It’s been about a year since all of this has happened, and I wish I could say that everything has been easier and better since that ordeal took place, but that would only be a half truth. I think it’s important for me to be open and transparent about my story, and I couldn’t do that without being open about how my life is now.

The pros:
– Guiding Echoes is growing, because I don’t have anyone sabotaging me anymore.
– I’m in a relationship with a man who loves me and respects me. Our relationship isn’t perfect. It definitely has its challenges, but I can definitely say it’s a step up from the one I left.
– I’m making my own money.
– I don’t have someone calling me names, putting me down, or subjecting me to emotional and verbal abuse nearly every day.

The cons:
– Being self-employed has it’s challenges. If I don’t get paid, I can’t make my rent and pay my bills. My (new) boyfriend and I split the bills. If I don’t get paid, we’ll survive, but barely. The months are tight when we have to live on his income alone.
– I left my dog Lilly, and I miss her so much every single day.
– When I left Chuck, I left California a few weeks later. California is my home, where I was born and raised. The move was supposed to be temporary, but I’ve been in another state longer than I wanted to be. I moved out of California because its so expensive, and I couldn’t afford to stay there. The good news is that this tactic has worked, as I can afford a more comfortable living here than I could in California. I’m up in the air as to where I will move next, but I know that I can’t stay here.
– I miss my friends tremendously, and I’ve been unsuccessful at making new ones here. That’s what happens when a pagan moves to the Bible belt!

And the biggest con is this: I still have a lot of anger towards Chuck. I’m still upset with him for the way he treated me all those years. I’m upset that he couldn’t just be nice, and I’m upset that he put me in a situation in which my life, or at the very least, my physical well being was in danger because of him. I’m mad at him for the way he intentionally poisoned the things that I loved and enjoyed. And most of all, I’m mad at him for tricking me.

Yes, he tricked me. At the beginning of our relationship, I thought I had found a great guy. But slowly, I began to see his real side. His ugly side. But the thing is that Chuck didn’t have a dark side. He was darkness with a light side, but his light side wasn’t genuine. It was a trick. A trap. Something he used to lure people in so that he could use and control them.

Chuck was (and probably still is) manipulative and mean. To outsiders, Chuck seemed to be the perfect man. He seemed to provide a nice life for me, since we live in a nice area. But they had no idea of the mental anguish, emotional manipulation and verbal abuse that this man caused behind closed doors.

I’m sharing this story because this scenario is all too common. I have spoken with hundreds of men and women who have been in verbally abusive relationships. I want you to know that there is a way out, and you don’t have to stay in that situation.

5 Tips For Leaving An Abusive Relationship

  1. Reach out to friends you can trust. It’s so important that you find someone that you can talk to about these issues. If you don’t have any friends, then make the conscious decision to make some. Go to a church, find a book club, but go somewhere that will allow you to meet people. Leaving the relationship is going to be hard, and having a good support team in place makes it easier.
  2. Ask for help. This one is hard. It means swallowing our pride and being vulnerable. Do you need help gathering finances to leave? Do you need a place to stay? Put the word out there, and let people help you. A word of caution: Be absolutely sure that what you’re intending does not get back to your partner. Be careful of whom you ask for help from.
  3. Call the Domestic Abuse Hotline. They can tell you about the domestic abuse shelters in your area, as well as give you some advice, support and encouragement to get you through this ordeal. Their number is 1−800−799−7233.
  4. Keep some of your personal belongings at a friend’s house. Pack up some clothes, toothbrush, etc. and store it there. I had a friend advice me to keep a pre-packed suitcase or duffel bag in my car, but that wasn’t something I could safely do, because my ex was often using my car, and it wasn’t unusual for him to go through my things either. If he found a packed bag in my car or closet, there’s no doubt he would ask about it, and he would probably assume I was having an affair.
  5. Just leave. I don’t think I can stress this one enough. I wish I had left Chuck much, much earlier in life. I am filled with deep regret for not leaving him sooner. He made me feel as if I owed him for something, and in a way, I became his prisoner. I wasted seven years of my life with this man, and I would do almost anything to get those seven years back. I wish I had left him during the first year we were dating when I first began to see glimpses of his abusive behavior, but I didn’t. It will probably take me years to forgive myself for putting up with this abuse for so long.

So if you’re in an abusive relationship, please find someone to talk to about it. Someone who is compassionate, understanding and sympathetic. There are some people who may not believe you, or who give you this whole ‘quit being a victim’ bull shit speech. When that happens, stop talking to them and find someone else to speak to. Part of the reason I stayed in this relationship as long as I did was because I didn’t have a good support system in place to help me to get out. When I opened up to a couple of friends about the relationship, they weren’t sympathetic or helpful. One even made a snide remark which encouraged me to stop talking about it all together, and that was partly responsible for keeping me in the relationship a few years longer.

I want you to know that it’s okay for you to be scared. It’s okay to feel lonely, and it’s natural to feel lost. I also want you to know that it may take time for you to gain the courage to leave, and that’s okay too. You do have the strength and ability to leave the situation, and maybe it will take some time to get everything in order. Please know that it may not be easy, but it will be worth it. If I can do it, so can you.

 

 

*The name has been changed. My ex-boyfriend’s name is not really Chuck. I didn’t change his name to ‘protect the innocent,’ but rather, to avoid a lawsuit should he every come across this article. I don’t know if he’d actually try to sue me over this, but I learned long ago that you should never put anything past a narcissist….especially a vengeful and abusive one.

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