For my 25th birthday my parents threw me a party at a restaurant. I had an awesome group of friends and family that came, and it was a fantastic celebration. As I blew out the candles on my cake, I wished for a boyfriend. Lame, right? Well, be careful what you wish for.
I met Aaron two weeks later at a friend’s birthday party. He was charismatic, out-going, and handsome. And a paraplegic. He’d been injured in an accident at the age of 20 when he flipped his car on an isolated road. Still, his attitude was excellent, his outlook on life optimistic. He could talk to anyone about anything, something I really admired. We started dating, and it was fun, light and exciting.
I don’t remember where to pinpoint when it started to go wrong. When we’d been together about 9 months, we decided to take a road trip up the California coast. I went shopping for some new jeans, and I had to get a bigger size. Love and my career (I traveled for work about 60% of the time, so I wasn’t eating healthy homemade food) had made me fat and happy and I’d put on a few pounds. That was the first time he made a comment. He said he wasn’t attracted to fat girls. He didn’t say I was fat, but that he wasn’t attracted to girls who were fat. Either way, not exactly encouraging or supportive words from someone who’s supposed to love you.
In July of that year, when we’d been dating just over a year, we talked about moving in together. When I told my parents about it, they weren’t happy and tried to discourage me. That should have been a big warning sign. If only I’d listened.
I moved in at the end of September and things changed big time. Before we lived together, I spent 5-6 nights a week at his place. I knew his habits. I did his laundry, helped with the cleaning he couldn’t do easily, and did his grocery shopping. I knew more or less what it was like to live with him. But it all changed. Now, instead of just doing laundry, I was expected to keep everything in our home clean. He’d criticize if I didn’t do things perfectly. I became full-time girlfriend, full-time maid. I did it out of love, but there wasn’t any appreciation on his end for carrying the burden of keeping our home. Any attempts I made at cooking were met with criticism. Meals were thrown out.
And then the drinking started. He decided he liked scotch. He’d always been a social drinker, but it didn’t bother me; there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. And believe me, I watched out for it. I’d dated an alcoholic in college, and I was very sensitive to guys’ drinking habits. But suddenly Aaron was drinking more. He went from a double on the rocks, to a triple; then from a triple to two triples, and then to three. By December, he was drinking a Costco sized handle bottle of scotch every 10 days. I went to bed alone a lot, while he stayed up filling and refilling his glass before coming to bed with hot boozy breath. We fought about it. A lot. It was supposed to be none of my business. I still can’t stand the sound of ice clinking in a tumbler. It makes me want to throw up.
In November, I went to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with his family. We were happy that week. His brother-in-law was a CEO and lived in a $10 Million home down the street from Tiger Woods. It was a week of extravagance – expensive dinners out and fancy cars and private jets. We had fun and enjoyed the holiday. I loved his family, and his twin nieces adored me. One night, we stayed up late after everyone else had gone to bed drinking and laughing in the hot tub. We were both past tipsy. Something spurned an argument. He pulled out his camera and started video-taping me. Mocking me and my tears and my slurred speech. I still don’t like to be photographed or taped.
Christmas and New Year’s that year were strained. We agreed to work through some things. I wanted to go to counseling because I knew I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t ready to admit yet that it was because of him. He again made comments about not being attracted to fat girls. Only this time, his comments were coupled with a complete lack of affection. Now it was personal. And now when I cried, accusations of me being bipolar came along with the tears. In actuality, I was trying to keep up my front of happiness and was repeatedly failing. In my heart, I knew things were broken.
I was building strength to put my foot down on things changing when I lost my job the same day I had my first counseling appointment. Instead of being supportive and encouraging, he was furious, and questioned what would have happened if we had kids to support. I was out of work for three weeks when I started my new job on a Monday. He was coming back from a ski trip that day and made me leave my first day of my new job to pick him up at the airport. He never would have done that for me.
We broke up on Friday, four days later. That Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. We went to his friend and coworker’s house to watch the game. He drank a 12-pack in 4 hours. In front of the friend’s kids. And then wanted to drive home. I was mortified and knew I had to get out.
Things weren’t easy leaving. We kinda sorta tried to make things work for another week before one final fight left me begging him to just let me go. How pathetic is that? That even though I knew it had to end, I didn’t have the strength to end it myself? I hate that about myself. I did leave, though, and found my own place. It was 9 days before I could move into it, so I stayed with him, living with my now-ex-boyfriend who took every opportunity to get in every last jab. We fought, I cried, and he made more accusations about my mental stability. He made comments about my choosing a second floor apartment and how that was a slap in the face to him. February 23rd, 2008 was the day I moved into my new home, my new beginning.
I met Dan in late May and we slowly started dating. Aaron called drunk one night. It was two weeks before Dan’s birthday, at the beginning of October. He was trying to make amends, wanted to be friends. I said we could be civil. A week later, I thought better of it and emailed him and said he wasn’t welcome to contact me anymore, that I didn’t want to hear from him again. His retaliation was a vicious string of venom and hatred in written form. Accusations of me being bipolar. Threats that my boyfriend (Dan, my future husband) had better have a lot of Kleenex. Other horrible things about me that I quickly deleted and have tried to erase from my mind. I didn’t give him the satisfaction of a response.
It’s been over two years since that horrible final email. I’m not bipolar (I never thought I was). I am mainly healed. I have a husband who is an absolute angel, who promised me he’d never be drunk in front of me, and who holds me tight when something in the present day draws a sudden memory or flashback that knocks the wind out of me. My husband never makes me cry anything but tears of joy. I was never physically abused or harmed by Aaron, but I have wounds. From emotional abuse. It’s hard to say. Emotional abuse. Abuse. There’s no other word for it – for the things he said and did to the woman who loved him – as much as I try to dance around it. I’m working to forgive.
I have so many things I’d love to say to Aaron if given the chance, to scream at him in anger. I like to think I’d be stronger now, and that I’d really fucking give it to him, tell him how all the hurtful things he said have followed me and threatened the happiness I deserve. But I’m scared to hope for a chance to say them, because I’ve learned you have to be careful what you wish for.