My girlfriend physically attacked me and 2 months later I asked her to marry me
“When somebody shows you who they are, believe them; the first time”
— Maya Angelou
This is my story of abuse. I never knew much about abuse before it happened to me and if I had I would of never believed that I could be a victim.
I first saw my girlfriend in a coffee shop in Boulder, CO. I was instantly attracted. It took me 2 months to get the courage to talk to her. One night I was waiting in the coffee shop for another woman I was going on a first date with to show up. Somehow this gave me the courage I needed. As I was waiting, she told me stories of her traveling in South America with her sister. I became so engaged listening to her that I didn’t notice my date had showed up and was standing behind me. My girlfriend pointed the date out and I walked out telling her to have a nice evening. I knew then that I really wanted to date her instead.
I got up the courage to ask her out one Friday for a happy hour. We talked for 2 solid hours and then went out to dance and see Boulder. As I walked her home, we held hands. I decided to give her a kiss only and keep it simple. She invited me in but I grabbed her shirt gently in a bunch and pulled her close for a kiss. I knew I was already in love.
She had a gift for design, art, and minimal living. One day I asked her to help me redo my apartment. In under a few hours, I had decided with her guidance to throw away almost 70% of my possessions. We made trip after trip to the local thrift shop. It was exhilarating and I felt very close to her. I loved things that made my life simpler and I thought it was amazing that she had this gift.
A few months later I asked her to move in with me, to my surprise and her’s. She was the first person I had lived with since my first marriage. My ex-wife and I are on good terms and are raising our daughter in Boulder, CO. At the time my ex wife and I lived close so that we could be there for our daughter. My girlfriend was understanding and cooperative. There were few warning signs.
She was a former mountain guide and worked at a school in a teacher-like role, leading the kids in out of school activities. She wanted to become a yoga teacher and go into fitness coaching. I told her from the beginning that I wanted to split everything 50/50 if we broke up, even though I made much more money than her. I thought this would make her feel safe with me and I didn’t want finances to be a point of contention.
The first several months went almost without a hitch. She and I had sex regularly, took walks, she and I both worked during the day, and I felt close and safe to her. My mom died somewhat suddenly during this time and my girlfriend came to the funeral and met my family. She was supportive and loving.
Fairly quickly there were power plays. She started withholding sex and only having it at her discretion. She took control of when and where we would have sex and I was practically not allowed to initiate. This became a huge point of contention between us. I didn’t feel wanted by her physically at the same level and started to develop some insecurities about whether she was really into me. She assured me that it was simply a matter of our initial attraction fading and every couple went through this. I wasn’t sure there wasn’t something else going on and I told her. It caused some fights and she accused me of being emotional about sex.
We decided to move to another apartment. She used her powers of design, organization and minimalism and we quickly made it a beautiful little apartment. My daughter and I worked hard to build a patio and clean the place as best we could. We were increasingly under the marching orders of my girlfriend who would make decisions about the physical space but we liked it. She made great decisions that took us into account. We trusted her. She would think of little things that made our life better and we appreciated it.
During this time my girlfriend and I had a big fight one night. I walked out of the bedroom. She locked the door behind me and when I came back I saw that it was locked. Infuriated, I slammed my body into the door. It came part way off the hinges. I am almost 200 pounds. I was amazed at what my physical reaction had done. I apologized and we got through the fight. I say this to show that I was far from perfect. I never have physically assaulted somebody else in my life except once when I was a kid, when I once hit my brother after he held me in a choke hold for several seconds. That and the door incident are the only 2 real physical displays of aggression I have ever had and they show me the power and danger of violence, even when it’s not towards another person.
Sometime during this period, I got hit for the first time. We would start fighting, sometimes about sex, sometimes about something else, and then bam I would get hit across the side of head, usually by my girlfriend’s fist, sometimes a slap. I would usually walk out and go spend the next several hours somewhere. We would come back and makeup. I never hit back or even restrained her.
My girlfriend discovered another apartment she liked and my daughter and I agreed to move, despite all the work we had put into the last one. The new apartment was much cheaper and my girlfriend loved it for it’s modern look and we quickly loved it too. Again we followed her lead.
A few months after moving to the new apartment, my girlfriend fell into a depression. She seemed very disinterested in me and most parts of her life. It went on for a few months. During this time she became more aggressive during fights, starting to call me “pussy” and pointing out “that I was a weak man” who seemed scared of her. She would also point out that I didn’t kiss her with confidence. Every once in a while she would strike me once across the temple during a fight.
I became exasperated and decided to leave the relationship. I told her that I was leaving and she was very angry. How could I leave her with no car? Her car had died a few months earlier. She reminded me of the 50/50 agreement. I left anyway and lived by myself in my car, in the mountains. My daughter was away at camp and I wrote her and told her that I was single and that everything was going to be ok.
My girlfriend and I were scheduled to attend a wedding together and we decided to go together even though we had broken up. On the way home, she got really mad because I still hadn’t given her the money. She punched me across the temple and I left crying and slept by my car in a parking lot. The next day she wrote me a text apologizing. I remember thinking that there were parts of her that were not good.
It took me about a month or more before I decided that she was right, an agreement is an agreement and I sent her 1/2 of the cash I had in the bank. I kept my car. I felt better and that the whole episode was over.
However after a few months she and I started talking again. We decided to take a trip to California. I made her promise that we would not fight over finances or anything else. We had an amazing connection including sex on the trip for the first few days. But then coming out of a restaurant in Laguna Beach, she thought I was texting another girl (I wasn’t) and hit me across the side of the head again in a 1–2–3 set of punches. I ran off emotional and soon started crying. I returned to our motel room but she was cold and unapologizing. I slept on the beach.
We made up the next day and had more wonderful walks and dinners and talks.
When we came back my girlfriend quickly stopped responding to any of my texts and I didn’t hear from her for another couple months. Around Thanksgiving, we started hanging out again and she told me that she loved me. She spent the night a few times. One night I stayed up rubbing her back, as was my custom, until about 2am in the morning. She rarely every touched me back, except to drape a leg around me. It always felt very one sided. The next day she went on a date with another man and never returned my texts. I was devastated and angry, and sent her some angry texts about her being cruel. I cried on the bathroom floor for about 2 days. I knew I had to get over her for good.
I felt demolished. However, I found a book by Byron Katie that made me feel better. It was about loving life, no matter how bad it is. I realized that I was not taking personal responsibility for my own happiness. I wrote my girlfriend and apologized for complaining about sex so much and other things I had did. I wished her well and she wrote back saying it was a beautiful letter. It all seemed over.
A couple of months passed and I had zero communication from her. I started dating a girl and my then ex girlfriend was dating the same man she had met on that date. But then out of the blue a few texts were exchanged and I decided to take a hike with her. Things were different now. I was determined to not be so insecure and to not fall for her. I was calm and confident and she chased me hard. I broke up with the girl I was dating and decided to date my girlfriend again. The sex became wonderful and mutual and the communication was as warm and loving as it ever was. I felt that we had made a huge breakthrough. We took walks together in the Boulder mountains and sometimes would just sit and admire a sunset, or a beautiful tree. We were both content and in love.
A couple of blissful months passed, including Valentines Day, when my girlfriend wrote me a loving card. In early March we went out to a club together for drinks. My girlfriend started talking to a man in a corner and I didn’t mind. I definitely didn’t want to be jealous since I prided myself on not being that sort of partner, but I did feel a twinge of jealousy and couldn’t help it. When we got home my girlfriend seemed a bit detached but we had sex. After sex I went into the kitchen feeling a bit depressed because of the lack of connection between her and I. I started into my iPhone sitting down on a chair.
She came around the corner asking what I was doing. I responded that I was doing nothing, I just felt a little weird. She asked if I was texting somebody else, naming the names of girls I had dated while we were apart. I said I wasn’t. I was so excited to be with her. Her voice started to get higher and she flew into a rage. “You are texting someone else, I know it”. She started throwing punches across the side of my head, one after the another. I threw my hands across my head to protect it, and kept saying “I promise I am not texting anybody else”. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t believe me. She kept attacking me, the attack seemed to go on for 5 minutes, maybe longer. My head was hurting and I was going into a basic shock that it was happening. I got up and she shoved me against the fridge saying “you fucking little pussy”. I sat back down and started to rock back and forth.
She flew into even a bigger rage. “Get out of my house or I will call the fucking police”. I didn’t want to leave her side. Somehow her hitting me made want to stay and make her understand that I wasn’t texting anybody and that I loved her. I wasn’t angry, I felt scared and shocked and I wanted to be close to her. So I just sat there. “Get out of my fucking house or I will call the police”, she continued to yell. Soon she had picked up her cell and dialed 911. Her voice instantly changed. “My boyfriend won’t leave my place” she told them calmly.
Within 5 minutes, the Boulder police showed up in our kitchen. The lights came on. I was sitting on the couch my hands between my legs in shock. The police took my girlfriend to a bedroom. They asked me: “Did you hit her?”. I said no. “Did she hit you?” I said: “yes but it didn’t hurt”. I could hear my girlfriend being asked the same and she said that I didn’t hit her. She kept telling them not to arrest me and that she should of never have called.
The police told me that they were going to arrest me for the charge of domestic violence trespassing, since I no longer officially lived at the residence. I said that was fine, not wishing to fight anything but go along with the horrible events of the evening. I was in shock. They put me in handcuffs and took me off. My girlfriend seemed to try to get them not to arrest me but once she saw that they did she just practically let me go. She never offered herself up instead or took responsibility for hitting me. I didn’t know anything about abuse or domestic violence, I was in shock. The police didn’t believe sadly that I could be a victim. It’s very common for victims to protect their abusers. I told them that she hit me and they should of arrested her. It is sad to me that they didn’t and it greatly affected my life.
I was in complete shock for the first 12 hours in jail. I felt so bad for what I had done, which was nothing, but I didn’t know that. I wanted to reach out to her and apologize. I thought I had lost her for good and the only thought on my mind was reconnecting with her. I was not allowed to call her, a very important rule that protects victims from their abusers. But I broke it, calling to apologize. She said that she was working hard on getting me out.
My ex wife came and paid the bond and I got out 2 days later. I immediately walked several blocks from the jail and my girlfriend picked me up. I got in the car with her and we hugged. She promised that we would dedicate our lives to peace and to “teach others about the dangers of fighting” and I thought that perhaps this horrible incident would somehow be worth it. She apologized for sending me to jail and said she felt horrible. I quickly told her it was my fault and no big deal and didn’t want her to feel bad. She took the apology and we moved on.
I plead guilty to a deferred sentence for a misdemeanor (no lasting criminal charge) and was sentenced to 6 months of probation and mandatory DV training. I started attending classes with DV male perpetrators once a week. I learned about anger management and each class came home with insights for myself that I would relay to her. I didn’t realize how entitled many of the men in the class were over their victims and how big of a show they could put on during class. I honestly felt they were good people, they didn’t seem like criminals. I knew nothing about DV still. Most DV criminals are very charming people.
During the class I got hit again and then again by my girlfriend. But like other fights we got over it and in general we felt close. So I asked her to marry me on a romantic Memorial Day weekend. We felt completely in love again. We decided to get married the next June. We planned the wedding, I finished probation. I worked 2 jobs to pay for the wedding. I got hit a few more times. Nobody knew I was being hit, I had told nobody.
We were married in June 2015. On our honeymoon, we drove to California for a 1 month tour of the west. She hit me in the car near the border of Colorado and Utah during a fight. We got over it and we finished our honeymoon. We started married life.
As soon as we were married things got worse. She started to up the level of control. She got mad when I quit my second job, saying I did not consult her first, even though I did. She got mad when I started running in the mountains by myself, an activity that I used to do before I knew her and something that gave me great joy. She said that I was leaving her behind. I could sense that she was angry that I was practicing my own freedom and independence.
When she did hit, it would hurt bad. The punches would sometimes be in a 1–2 series, always across the temple (for some reason) and be accompanied by serious insults like “you are a weak man and scared of me” or “I fucking hate you”. I would leave and go the same motel for the night. I would always feel guilty the next day for leaving and make up with her.
But things were also blissful. My wife and I took long hikes together in the mountains. We traveled together and camped. There were incredible peaceful and loving moments, tons of laughter, and times with friends.
But soon something snapped in my head. I started to piece together what was going on. It wasn’t the physical abuse I noticed. It was the emotional. I started to realize that usually after I walked into the room after being gone at work or exercise she would first give me a negative comment about my clothes or smell or something else. Then she would decide when to say something nice. I would wait for her to accept me and then we could start talking.
I started to get angry when she did it. When she would say I stunk, I flew into a rage and left the house for 2 days, staying in motel. I didn’t understand why I was so angry. I wasn’t thinking about abuse, I just knew that it wasn’t right to be treated that way. But I came back. As I got more emotional and angry, she became more calm and started to call me crazy, bi-polar, and unstable. She said I had serious problems. This technique is called gas-lighting, a very common pattern where abusers make their victims feel crazy and confused.
One weekend my very good friend of several years, a woman, and her husband came to visit us in Boulder. My wife and I had attended their wedding a couple of years earlier. On the way home after dinner, she told me that she had read through 3 years of Google chats with us and knew I “had something for her”. My friend and I were platonic friends and I prided myself on having platonic female friends so this hurt really bad. It also showed me that she was reading my personal accounts. I would later find out she was had access to my Gmail and Facebook accounts, a criminal activity even for an intimate partner. I left angry and slept away that night, knowing that something was very wrong.
Then she told me one night that she couldn’t have sex with me right now because “I had let myself go” and wasn’t that attractive anymore. I knew that nobody who respected me would ever say something like that. I am in general a very fit person and only gained a few pounds. I took off my wedding ring, set it on her dresser, and announced calmly but with tons of anger and resolve, that tomorrow I was leaving for good. And I did. I have yet to see her again since that morning.
3 days later I thought of the words “domestic violence” and realized that she was hitting me. I called a national hotline and was advised to tell a few friends and family that I was being hit. I told my wife via email that I had called the hotline but wasn’t sure what to do. My emails were full of anger. She called me mean and I was indeed full of righteous angry statements but it was long overdue and I knew it was the jet fuel I needed to leave. My large family was very supportive.
I told my daughter over dinner. She is 17 and incredibly wise and strong for her age. She bursts into tears. She couldn’t bear to hear the details of me being hit; she had never witnessed it. She has dealt with her parent’s divorce and it was heartbreaking to put her through this. But now she knows about abuse. She is my strongest ally.
After a few days I called my wife to talk about what had happened. She sounded very dark and accused me of being bi-polar and ruining her life. I started to doubt myself and feel bad for calling her an abuser. I wrote my family and pulled back some of my accusations, saying she had only hit a few times, lying trying to cover back the ramifications of what I had just done, by outing her as an abuser. But then in a quiet moment of reflection late one evening I knew that she had truly been assaulting me for some time. I looked at my dog Charlie and considered how me hitting him would ruin our great relationship. I also thought that I could never look at myself in the mirror if I woke up with someone who was physically assaulting me. I also thought about what if my daughter was being hit and the advice I would give her. I wrote my wife an email saying I would divorce her. She took our car and left the state and she took over 1/2 of the finances. Combined with the value of the car, that means she took over 80% of what we owned. She threatened to take more saying “you want to play nasty” but I had the rest moved to a safe account.
I filed a detailed police report with the Boulder police. I had emails and texts where she admitted to abuse. The Boulder DA refused to pick up the case however saying that my proof was for assault past the statue of limitations. Most of the times she hit me in the past year I had zero proof about.
For the first few months after I left, my life was an hour by hour struggle. I would burst into sobs that would last for several minutes, letting out noises that seemed weird to even me as the person doing them. My sisters took turns checking in on me ever day. I stopped working out or doing anything but watching TV. I decided to quit my job and live off my savings because I couldn’t focus and I take great pride in my work and didn’t want to cheat my client. I am a computer programmer. Almost every night, I would finish the night by reminding myself that it was ok I left by reading accounts of abuse on the internet from other victims.
After a few months I started to go outside. I would go to the park and just sit in the sun and do some yoga. I started to do pull-ups and pushups. I started to trail run again. I attended a support group at the wonderful Boulder Safehouse once a week. When I was there I felt completely at home and with people who understood. I also had a private counselor who met with me who was wise and so helpful. I read multiple books and articles on abuse. I told people about being a victim with varying responses. I started to gain strength. Personal strength is awesome.
After some months of recovery I started to think about forgiveness and I read about it’s physical benefits. I wrote my wife an email saying I forgave her for everything she did although I would never forget. I told her to never write me back and that my daughter and I never wanted to see her again but that my forgiveness was nevertheless truly genuine. As soon as I sent it I felt considerably lighter. I will always carry anger towards her but on a bedrock of the peace that came from this choice.
Not long after that I finally got the strength to go to divorce mediation. My wife and I were in separate rooms so I didn’t have to see her. The mediator kept trying to convince me that seeing her would be good for me and that she was having a tough day, even though I told him that the woman in the other room had a history of physical violence towards me going back 3 years. The mediation went fairly fast and well and my wife agreed to pay me back a couple thousand dollars. It was well short of what was ethical but I was just interested in getting out of there quickly without seeing her. I signed the divorce papers and the whole saga was finally completely over.
I write this to show what hidden abuse looks like. I do not write this to disparage women in general at all so if you are of those guys who doesn’t like women please stay away. I also do not write this to say that my abuser is crazy or that she doesn’t deserve rights. She is a calm person with many, many wonderful qualities who loved me very much. She does not have a mental illness. She is however a criminal in my book and was very entitled over me. What you should learn from this story is that abusive criminals, who take advantage of those that have their trust, like Bill Cosby or Dennis Hastert, are usually good people at many levels and it has nothing to do with gender or anything else. I know tons about abuse now but didn’t want to bore you with high level statements about abuse. I wanted you to see the inside.
Violence is weird so don’t feel weird for thinking that this story seems strange. We all have countless transactions every day based on non-violence with our friends, family, and strangers. Few of us experience any violence at all. I never had and I suppressed it in my subconscious when it started happening to me because I couldn’t process it. Violence is especially confusing from someone you love and who loves you.
I continue down a powerful path of recovery with the help of the wonderful Boulder Safehouse and it’s counselors and other victims, The Hotline.org, Love Is Respect.org, the sun, trail running and other forms of movement and a few very strong family and friends. Thank you for listening to my story. The one thing you should know is that true love begins and ends with respect for each other’s emotions, finances, time and yes body.
(If you think you might be a victim of domestic violence, please realize that domestic violence can quickly escalate into something very dangerous. Please take it as seriously as you can. If you feel you can, please call 1–800–799–7233 for a completely safe and anonymous call to the wonderful and helpful people at http://www.thehotline.org/. If you are a kid or teenager you might feel more comfortable texting or calling http://loveisrespect.org).