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Escaping From Her Pain:My journey in and out of mental and emotional abuse

I could have walked away at any time. My friends encouraged, cajoled, threatened, and begged me to do so. One woman friend offered me sex to help get over the breakup if I would do it. So why didn’t I?

It’s been 25 years. I have healed a lot, but I still can’t explain why I let it happen or why I stayed as long as I did. We were co-dependent no doubt. She had major mental health issues and was coping with life the only way she knew how. I was crazy in love with her and I am nothing if not loyal. It was foolish to think I could save her, but I was pretty young and still had a lot of idealism.

When people ask ‘why didn’t she just walk away‘ about women who are abused — I know why.

When people say “why didn’t she just walk away” about women who are abused — I know why. Your abuser has you hypnotized, and you believe that everything wrong is your fault. Even when someone shows you how you are being used, you don’t believe them. If I just try a little harder and be a little more patient, things will work out.

She would shower me with love, sex, and even adoration. Everything was ok now, she would say — and it would be for a while. When things were good, they were wonderful.

When she was “ok” she was brilliant, funny, caring, and loved sex. What was not to like? She was like that the first year, and I thought she was the girl of my dreams. She moved in with me and things started falling apart. When it was bad it was very bad. There was rarely a middle ground. After a while, the good times were less and less until they were no more. I was hooked though, and could not escape.

I was always the one apologizing and begging forgiveness. Of course, I had hurt her again. I would have to make it up to her.

The dark side

There was a deep dark side that I learned about as things developed. She had been sexually abused as a child and now she was going into depression because having sex with me had triggered old memories. The shy sweet girl disappeared, and the broken hurt girl who had been destroyed by sexual abuse took over. Of course, that was my fault. The sweet girl would only emerge enough to give me hope it would return eventually.

She was often reclusive, but she could be outgoing, friendly, charming when she wanted to be. Even her face looked different when she flipped the switch. I don’t think she really had any control over when the switch was moved. There were at least two people inside her and at times they did not appear to know each other.

She started talking about killing herself. I had to stay up all night with her to prevent that. She did try to hurt herself and I stopped her many times. I went to work many days with no sleep from having stayed up with her all night and wondering if I would find a dead woman when I got home.

I was a 20-something guy working for a newspaper. I had no idea what to do or how to help her. I could not just walk away. I still loved her and cared about her. As a result of my sense of loyalty, I was controlled by a mentally unstable woman who was afraid to go outside.


She was obsessed with sex. She talked about it all the time and started telling me stories about having sex with other men whenever I was away. Then she would tell me she was just kidding and had not been with anyone. I had no idea what to believe.

She could have been staying inside all the time and having no contact with anyone. She could have also been out messing around. Both were possible. She could not hold a job, so she stayed at the apartment all day while I worked and supported her. I had no idea whether her stories were true, but I found myself liking them, even aroused by them. That was confusing. I never spied on her to find out what the truth was. I didn’t want to know.

Sex between us became less frequent as she had more bad periods than good periods. She would tell me it made her relive her past abuse, and that I was abusing her by having sex with her. How could I be so thoughtless and mean to her? I would apologize and not ask for sex again for weeks.

She told me the sex she had with other men was meaningless. It was her way of punishing herself to let men have sex with her. She didn’t want me to hurt her that way. She now had an excuse to withhold sex and I didn’t even argue. Now I had to prove to her I loved her by not asking for sex.

I did not know what was real or what was not anymore. I didn’t even know which personality I would meet when I got home in the evening.

One female friend who knew us both, and knew about my girlfriend’s issues, said one day, “I don’t know which one of you is crazier.” She was right. I was going crazy but did not know what to do.

My friends told me she was running around, but they soon learned it would anger me and I would defend her. They stopped trying. She tried to keep me from friends by “needing” me whenever I was not at work.

This went on in a vicious circle for three more years while I worked in that town. There were suicide attempts and emotional breakdowns thrown into the mix as well. She also tried to hurt me a few times. There were short periods of her being “ok” and that was the carrot dangling in my face.

A ray of hope

I lost my job in that town due to repeated lateness or not showing up. She was the reason, but that is what ultimately set me free. I got a job in another town, and she went back to live with her parents. She went into depression and was driving her parents crazy. They wanted me to come to get her. They didn’t know what to do either.

I still came to see her every weekend, and she would usually be the sweet loving girl I had always wanted. She would still push me away though, telling me she didn’t love me. She wanted to come with me, but for once I said no. I was living in a very bad place that had only one room. I had spent all my money on her and was broke.

She told me she went on a couple of dates and didn’t remember if she had sex. That was the beginning of the end. I didn’t know what to believe anymore, but somehow not remembering if you had sex was too much. I don’t know why I chose this story to believe.

The craziness of it all slapped me upside the head while I was alone in that tiny apartment. The absurdity of it all came crashing down. Being alone, and away from her, allowed me to think clearly for the first time in a long time. This was stupidity and it would not change. Things would not get better and I could not help her. Her spell over me began to unravel quickly.

Her sexual exploits, real or not, were too much in the end. Sometimes I thought she didn’t know what was real herself. As much as I loved her I realized I could not go on.

I called her to tell her I was done and would not be seeing her anymore. She laughed and said she would take me back when I came crawling. “You always do,” she said. There was a dominatrix-type personality that arose when I tried to stand up to her.

Her saying I would come crawling back made me mad, but I feared she was right so I did not respond. I had left before. I hoped this time would be different.

A chance meeting

At my job in the other town I ran into someone I had known and worked with years before. I was having trouble fighting off the temptation to go crawling back. A dog returning to his vomit. I don’t think this old acquaintance ever knew she saved my life.

I saw her on the street one day, and she came up to me. I did not recognize her. She had lost about 150 pounds and was a very pretty woman. She had also let her hair grow out and was dressing sexy. I was amazed at how she had changed, and it felt good that she wanted to hang out.

She felt sexy for the first time in her life and wanted to explore the world. We went out twice and then she point-blank asked me if I wanted to have sex with her. She was interested in experimenting and told me it would be just for fun and would not last long.

I happily obliged. For a few weeks, we had sex every day. We laughed, we talked, we did all kinds of fun things. It was even fun that it was casual sex with no strings. For the first time since college, I was actually having fun with a nice woman, and she was having fun too. I had forgotten what that felt like. There were no mind games, no price to pay, no guilt to feel. Just laughing and enjoying life. It felt foreign to me but I liked it.

After a while, she decided to move on. We celebrated our “breakup” with one final round of sex and a bottle of expensive wine. I thanked her as she left. She may have thought I was thanking her for the sex, but I was thanking her for opening my eyes and setting me free.

My old girlfriend had problems that were way beyond anything I could deal with. I was not helping her and only hurting both of us. I was finally really done with her. I remembered what it was like to be with a nice woman.

I was hurting but I was also done. I disconnected my phone (before cell phones or the Internet). I wasn’t opening any mail.

A nice, confident, successful woman who was in control of her life had wanted sex with me. I wasn’t damaged goods. I wasn’t trash. I thought there were probably other women like that out there who would want me.

Escaping at last

I started applying for jobs in faraway places. I knew I would go back if I stayed. I had been away from my old girlfriend for three months. The magic of the girl I had sex with was fading and my resolve was disappearing. I thought about her every day. A combination of desire and disgust with myself pressed my spirit. It was like a sick druggie looking for another fix, knowing how bad it will be but wanting it still.

It was very much like withdrawal from drugs. Some days I thought the question of my relapse was “when” and not “if.” I asked for extra work to do at my job. I ran five miles a day. I stayed busy and that kept me from obsessing too much over my girl. I was also drinking and smoking a lot of marijuana. It was still difficult, but I managed to stay where I was. I still thought about my girl every day and had to fight temptation. Fortunately, I was staying busy enough to not have much free time to think about her.

I got a job opportunity 2000 miles away on the east coast. I wanted the change and was happy it had come. I went back to the town where my old girlfriend lived to collect some things I had left with other people. I had a packed trailer behind my car, and my car was full. All of my possessions were ready to roll.

One of those people I had left things with was the woman who had offered me sex if I would break up with my girlfriend. I asked her if the offer was still in effect. She said if I was really done with that girl, she would be happy to have sex with me. I spent the night with her and she delivered.

After the sex, we were cuddling and talked.

“You are a nice-looking guy. You have a great personality and you have a lot to offer. Don’t settle for garbage,” she said. “The only real problem you have is yourself. You could eat steak but you’re eating Vienna sausage,” she added with a chuckle.

You could eat steak but you’re eating Vienna sausage

She had never hidden her disdain for the girlfriend and never hesitated to give her opinion. She met her about the same time I did and told me then this girl was bad news. She never changed her opinion.

She always had an opinion and would tell it to you whether you wanted to hear it or not. I liked her for the same reason a lot of people did not like her.

“Prettied-up trash is still trash,” she said often of my old girlfriend. No one else could have said that to me, but she could.

I fell silent as words seem irrelevant as I lay beside her. She held me like a mother holds a hurting child. I cried, resting my head on her breasts. I felt cared about — not in a sexual way — and that was the best thing I had felt in many years.

“You’re going to be ok,” she said almost lovingly as she stroked my hair. I fell asleep in her arms.

The next morning we hugged and said goodbye.

I started to say something about the night before, but she put her finger to her lips and told me to hush.

“I understand,” she said and smiled.

She knew I was leaving the area and was happy for me. She thought that was the best thing I could do.

I asked her if she thought I should at least tell my old girlfriend I was moving far away.

She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head with a look of disgust on her face.

“You are not that fucking stupid, get out of here,” she said and pushed me out the door. “And don’t you dare.” she hollered as I walked to the street.

I got in my car, drove away, and never looked back.

Free at last. Finally, I was not that stupid.

I started a new life on the east coast. I reinvented myself as they say. It would take counseling, finding God, and some years to recover. It was two women friends who broke the chains that allowed me to escape. I still had to take that step, and finally did.

Photo Unsplash

Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in All Stories, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Personal Narrative, True Story


  1. Damn, this was a ride. I mean, you would know. I’m glad you got away from that situation. Being with an unstable partner is a double edged sword. Took me right back to when I had to let go of a relationship just to set him free, as I’ve pretty much been emotionally unavailable from childhood and didn’t wanna push my pain onto someone else. Phew!

    1. thanks for the comment.
      It was a ride for sure. 🙂 writing about it is pretty healing. I am sort of kind of vaguely working on a novel about it. IT may never see the light of day, but that isn’t the point. 🙂

  2. I’ve done hard things but I know nothing will be harder than leaving an abusive relationship. I fasted for months beforehand to just build up the self-control to stay gone once I left. I remember the people who kept me from going back as the people who saved my life through kindness. I’m happy you found those people too.