[If you like this IHTM contest entry, comment to that effect below and that will help the writer win big money. Feel free to critique below too, so we can weigh that in our decision. -- Jane]
It was winter 2008. I had been married on paper for nearly two years, though no one knew besides my immediately family. I was ashamed because we did it the “wrong way”; we eloped after knowing each other for a handful of months. We hadn’t gotten “engaged,” and I had no ring -- and looking back, I subconsciously didn’t tell anyone because I ignored blaring red flags, but more on that later.
Our witnesses were two guys he knew from college. I wore a white dress and he wore a suit and we got married in a park up the road. Our “reception” was a dinner at a local place and champagne at the hotel nearby. There was no honeymoon; the next morning I had to fly out on a work trip.
It wasn’t right from the night we met. I met him at a lounge and we were both highly intoxicated. Our first date was at the corner pizza place, drunkenly shoveling pizza down our throats. He spoke of his “ex-girlfriend” that night and showed me her photo. I later realized they hadn’t officially broken up, but that “it was already over but not officially over.” Whatever that means.
I was 24, had just moved to the New York City area, living with a roommate who made my life hell and was incredibly lonely and homesick. I was in a bad place and he filled a void.
Because of my horrible roommate situation, he suggested I move in with him to a place he was sharing with a friend and his friend’s girlfriend. I was desperate and agreed. A month later he had a good friend come to town and visit. He was doing freelance work so could basically go out whenever he wanted.
One Sunday night -- I will never forget this -- they went out. I heard him come in around 3am, and I heard high heels follow. I woke up concerned and saw him and some girl I’d never met right behind him.
She lied and said she went to college with him, but she did not. She was a mutual friend of a girl friend of his from college, and they met that night. She wanted to stay out longer, and he offered her a place at our apartment. I was thoroughly hurt and disgusted.
They began speaking their first language -- not English and one I couldn’t understand -- giggling. He made her spaghetti. I chain smoked with them, livid, and asked her questions that may have sounded intruding, but I thought the situation was bizarre; anyone would.
She called me “weird” to my face. The next morning I was sleepless and packed up my car with everything I had there. I went to work as usual but planned to drive to a nearby hotel after work and never look back.
My mother came up because I was in a state of disarray. I checked in to a hotel for a week and started looking at apartments nearby because I felt so betrayed -- I didn’t deserve this. But I got suckered back in, all the while ignoring more obvious blaring red flags.
When he asked me out for Valentine’s Day, which was after this event, I went. Pushover move, I know. I could have ended it all right then and there but I didn't. Want to know what my present was? He DREW me a picture of a Tiffany’s tog bracelet, saying the real one was coming soon. It reminded me of the fake baby Charlotte’s ex-husband gave her as a gift on "Sex and the City." It was insulting.
The same night, I noticed that girl who was in our apartment called him at midnight. Later I found out that they’d been corresponding all the time.
I moved back in and thought everything would change and it didn’t. It’s my fault for staying but looking back now, I was slowly becoming brainwashed and controlled by a mastermind manipulator. I had fallen in love so fast and ignored what my normal self would have never accepted. I was blinded, literally, by the desperation of feeling loved and wanted and accepted. After awhile, I got used to the abuse and it became the norm.
Two weeks before we decided to get married we drank so much together, along with his roommate, on a huge party night. I assumed we’d all go out together but he said I was not welcomed and we got into a fight. He called me despicable names. Drunk on half a bottle of vodka, I got in my car and attempted to go talk to him. But that didn’t happen; I got a DUI.
When he picked me up from the station, he told me he was so pissed that I “fucked his night up.” No apology for anything.
Why I got married, I don’t know. He brainwashed me. He isolated me. The next year and three-quarters can be summed up in lies, betrayal, and abuse. So much abuse.
Two weeks after we got married, he took a trip behind my back with his platonic girl friend to see some girl he’d been IMing with for months. Two months after we were married, he got wasted and took a girl home to our bed and I found her thong on our bedroom floor when I returned from a weekend home. It was the only time he’d ever cried; he knew he’d been caught. Yet he denies it ever happened. He was a classic "gaslighter" -- he'd do things then yell that I was imagining them; I was the psycho.
I also determined through phone records that he’d called escort agencies nearly every weekend I was out of town. His response? He thought it was “funny” to talk to them. At 4 in the morning to call 10 places? I find that hard to believe.
He called me fat and told me I had a cellulite ass every day. It caused me stomach ulcers and I barely ate for months. I had become over 30 pounds lighter than I normally was. When I went home to see friends, they would call me bony, but I would just see fat.
He also would call me a cunt, a cum dumpster, a whore and a prostitute, then deny he ever did, sometimes minutes later. It hurt me to the bone, more so than any of the times he would slam me into a wall or throw food (once an entire pizza) into my face.
He often wouldn’t come home either. He’d say he got too drunk and would crash at friends’ houses, even though we lived less than 10 minutes away. The last time he didn’t come home was when everything came into fruition for me.
It was a Thursday night, and he’d gone to happy hour with work associates. I was in the area, shopping and stopped by the bar he was at to say hi. Outside, he was smoking a cigarette and yelled at me to leave:
“The vice president of the company is in there and I’m talking with him! Wives aren’t here. Go home!”
I was so used to this behavior, I did leave. He said he’d eventually be home, but long story short, that never happened. He said he’d be home at 9pm, but that slowly turned into 10pm, 11pm, and midnight...when I got a text saying he was in Hoboken, five minutes from our place.
None of that was true, because our bank statement said he’d closed out at a pub in the city around 2 am and went to spend $30 at a nearby bodega then another $30 on a NYC cab. I stayed up chain smoking all night, crying. I even called my mom at 3 am because I was so upset and depressed. I thought I was going insane.
The next morning at 8a m, he texted me like nothing had happened. “Hi babe, I’m not dead in a ditch. I’m on my way to work now.” SERIOUSLY?!
At that point, I completely lost everything I had in my body for this marriage, for him, for anything; in my heart, I’d pressed over, right then and there. On no sleep and still foggy from everything that had happened, I made an executive decision that I was going to go out with my best friend at the town over and stay by her and come home in the afternoon the following day.
That’s the night I met John. I wasn’t looking to talk to anyone but my best friend. I was emotionally a wreck and finally needed to open up to someone about what hell I had just gone through, and what hell I had been through. I rarely saw my friends during our marriage; I honestly felt too depressed and down most of the time to commit to anything. But tonight I knew I had to get out of my apartment.
We went to a local pub, and I was dressed in jeans, boots and a long white shirt; nothing fancy. As I mentioned, I wasn’t looking for anyone. I was just wanting to be around a good friend in a normal situation.
At the bar, an all-American guy who looked about my age started talking to me. I hadn’t had a “normal” conversation with a male in what felt like forever, and the conversation just flowed effortlessly. He made me laugh. I didn’t “feel” anything for him; it mostly just felt like a great conversation I was having with a good friend.
My friend and I did shots with him and his friend, as they were there to celebrate his friend’s birthday. It was a night free of arguments and depression and anger; it was refreshing, to say the least.
As the night at the bar came to a close, my friend decided to have people over afterward so I asked him if he’d like to come, and he said yes. We smoked cigarettes on the way back to her place. We walked up to her roof and looked at the stars for a while, continuing our conversation. We went downstairs and listened to his iPod for the next few hours, conversing more. Nothing physical happened; around 5 am, we slept on the couch, together, clothed.
The next morning we got up and I felt no guilt; after all, nothing happened. When he asked for my number, though, I hesitated. I finally did give it to him, because I really did enjoy his company and saw him as a new friend. So began our innocent correspondence.
He went to Europe for two weeks and wrote me every day. It was the only thing that made me smile during the day. My nights after work I spent crying because I was getting abused every evening. Often my husband would keep me up, torturing me mentally as we lie in bed, just so he could control my sleep. I think he found satisfaction when I had sleepless nights.
It was three months after we initially met that I finally ever saw John again. While things were horrible with my husband and I at the time, I still felt it was inappropriate to see him. We spoke of separating but nothing had gelled together yet.
The first night we saw each other, I met him out with my girl friend. I pretended like John had reached out to me randomly the same night, but it had been planned this way. I still harbored some guilt at what I was doing. After sharing yet another night of endless laughs and amazing chats, we went back to his apartment where several of his friends were over, watching movies, smoking pot and drinking champagne that had been left over from the prior new year’s. We followed suit.
John and I tuned everyone out and were in our own little world. We stayed up later than everyone. And on that night, we shared a kiss.
We continued our relationship, and by this point I told him I was “engaged, but we were practically broken up.” I didn’t tell him all the details until later. My mind was so fucked up. I was just happy to be in the company of someone normal.
My husband eventually found out who John was by looking through my phone while I was showering one day and stumbled upon some e-mails. That’s when he checked out, too (although I don’t believe he was ever checked in to our marriage in the first place, but simply playing house).
Do I regret starting something with John, something that my husband may have never known about had he not seen the e-mails? Not in the least. John taught me that not every guy was like my husband.
It was the push I needed to really see that life could be normal again. I could get "me" back. It didn't have to be how it was. He let me escape to normalcy in a time I was consumed by darkness -- a time when I seriously thought being dead was better than what I was going through. My husband finding those e-mails was the biggest blessing in disguise that ever happened in my life.
After he found out about John, we went our separate ways, and I did let him back in my life in attempt at reconciliation. That same night he was up to his old tricks: corresponding with women, even having a 4-hour late night conversation with one woman he had met as I lay asleep next to him. The verbal abuse also complemented such behavior, naturally.
It proved to me that a leopard truly never changes his spots.
While I do believe in the sanctity of marriage (although I'm a bit cynical about it these days), being single beats an unhealthy, abusive marriage by far. I'm still working on getting my confidence and self-esteem back because he truly sucked it out of me, but I'm much happier now.