|When I first met Alyssa, I thought she was my dreams made real. I could see no one else in the room. Her feminine shape and delicate facial features, her boyish haircut, lopsided smile, and large doe-like brown eyes had me from the moment I laid eyes on her. As I got to know her, her sense of humor, her wit and her willingness to help anyone completely charmed me. The fact that she seemed just as interested in me was astounding. I fell head over heels in love with her. I was hopelessly gone within the first few months, as she seemed to be with me.
The first year I spent with her was bliss. I wanted to be with her as much as possible, unfortunately to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. We laughed, we learned about one another. As the story of her rough past unfolded, I loved her all the more. She was abused and neglected as a child and teenager. Her father was an alcoholic; her mother had been in and out of her life since she was five years old. Yet she had pulled straight A’s in high school and was accepted into a competitive Social Work program at the University I attended. During that first year we were together, she lived with her aunt while she attended college. She called me in close to tears often telling me of arguments that she and her aunt had gotten into. At the time, I couldn’t understand why her aunt seemed to be treating her poorly. I hadn’t realized I was only getting one side of the story.
As that first year drew to a close, I began to start seeing some warning signs that she wasn’t as together as I had thought she was. My twenty-first birthday was approaching and we often got into arguments about it. I have never been a drinker. Ever. Neither had my friends ever been terrible drinkers. The plan was simple and innocent, dinner at Applebee’s with said friends, perhaps a drink or two to celebrate. As my birthday drew closer, my casual reassurances to her that I was not going to get crazy or turn into an alcoholic like her father began falling on deaf ears. Her gentle protests turned into long punishing silences and eventually into angry outbursts. To calm her, I finally gave in and said, ‘fine, I’ll order one to appease my friends, and just sip on it.” However, when the day came and I sat in the Applebee’s booth, Alyssa to my left, and four of my closest friends since childhood to my right, whom I had shared everything with, whom had been there for me through thick and thin, I felt extremely uncomfortable. I wanted to have fun with them. I didn’t want to go nuts, I just wanted to have fun on my birthday. Yet I felt an oppressive weight where Alyssa sat beside me, stoic, uncompromising, and rude to my friends. I ordered a strawberry daiquiri and drank none of it. After the whole uncomfortable affair of my birthday dinner was over, Alyssa informed me that she didn’t like my friends because she felt they were pressuring me into drinking. She wrote them off like they were nothing, and expected me to do the same. I fought her to an extent, but somehow she always managed to confuse me, to turn the situation around in a way that I believed I was wrong.
Regardless of these warning signs, when Alyssa asked me to marry her, I accepted eagerly. Another year passed, this one miserable. I was hopelessly in love with her and my self-esteem and self-image has always needed work. I believed that if I could just somehow love her enough, things would be ok. When she put me down, I took it. When I fought back and threatened to leave just to see if she cared, she told me I was worthless and asked who else could possibly want me or love me or take care of me the way she did. I began to believe her. She began seeing a counselor for her anger issues. There were moments where she was sweet and really seemed to try to show me she cared and wanted to be with me. These moments were few and far between and I used them as excuses to stay with her. At our two year mark, we went public with our engagement.
My mother was horrified. There were countless nights she came into my room and stroked my forehead as I cried after another terrible argument with Alyssa where she made me feel worthless. My mother tried talking to me. “Lissy Lou,” she would say, “if she loved you, you wouldn’t feel this way. She wouldn’t make you beg for forgiveness for something you didn’t do.” But I would protest, “I love her, mom,” and then I would make excuse after excuse for Alyssa’s behavior and treatment of me and how she really was trying. Others protested our engagement, my sister, my friends who I had once been close with. During this time, Alyssa monitored my behavior, if she wasn’t going with me, I wasn’t going anywhere.
Within the third year I spent with her, I realized how angry I was at her, at how much life I was missing out on. I still loved her with all my heart and still wanted to be with her, and yet I didn’t want to go on the way we were. Our end was complicated and painful. It’s been almost a year since I managed to end it with her. I was broken for a few months afterwards. I had lost sight of who I was in the relationship I had with Alyssa. My identity was so tied up within her. However, I’ve managed to mend broken fences with old friends, with my sister, with my mother (who grew tired of seeing me lie down and take the abuse). I started painting again. I began building a portfolio for attending grad school. I started seeing a counselor to help deal with the fall out and my insecurities. I met someone new who treats me well and while we argue now and then, she never makes me feel like I’m worthless.
Abusive relationships are just as real in LGBT relationships as they are in heterosexual relationships. Emotional abuse is often not taken as seriously as physical abuse. However, emotional abuse should be taken seriously. It can often lead to physical abuse. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, don’t brush it off. I know it’s painful to face, especially when you are so in love with your partner, and are made to feel as though you are worthless. But believe me, you are worth it. Seek help. Get out. There’s hope and there’s the kind of love that you deserve out there waiting for you.
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