You’re in an abusive relationship. And I should know… I’ve been there. Like you, I was infatuated at first. Swept off my feet at his bravado and direct straight talk. He wasn’t like the other guys — he got me. Like, if I was into art museums? He was into art museums. If I was into obscure, lugubrious singer songwriters? He was into obscure, lugubrious singer songwriters. It was so refreshing. I totally fell for it.
When I met him, I wasn’t in the best place. I had a hard job, I was a single parent, didn’t earn much money. I’d had a series of traumatic life events — a divorce, a friend’s suicide, a custody battle. Frankly, I was weary and unsure of myself and he made me feel like a winner. Where I was feeling aimless and lost, he knew exactly what he wanted — me. He held out a vision — we were going to get married and have kids and move to the country and I could go back to freelance writing. Okay, he wasn’t real clear on the specifics of how we’d manage to pull all this off, but what he lacked in specifics, he made up for in ardor. He was going to make me great again.
Shame on me. I should’ve believed in my own potential and not needed the validation from this guy. But it was so seductive.
I was special. I understood him in ways no one else understood him. And we had a common enemy! His ex-wife who was really awful to him. And then later after we married, we had another common enemy! The woman he was cheating on me with. Okay, he had a lot of enemies. A lot of people misunderstood him and railroaded him.
But I believed in him. I believed in US. He succeeded in convincing me in that way sociopaths do — he knew I hungered to believe. And when he was blustery and rage-filled? Hey, it was directed at other people. People who deserved it. Who had harmed him, had harmed us really. Okay, so sometimes he was a bit alpha. I thought I could work with that. I never thought he would abuse me. Until he did.
Let me tell you how this all unravels… This is what’s going to happen if you stay with him — he’s going to put a belt around your neck and “joke” about killing you. He’s going to isolate you from your friends and family. Worse still, he’s going to project all his crimes onto you and accuse you of what he is — a liar and a cheat.
And when you object? When you say, no, I’m not the terrible person you say I am? He’s going to get to the narrative first. He will undermine your credibility and surround himself with Switzerland friends. People who say things like, “You never really know what goes on in a marriage” and “You need to accept your part in making him hurt you,” and “I don’t want to judge.”
Except they do judge you. They’re just too chicken shit to admit it. And really, who would they rather be aligned with? A sparkly winner like him or a pathetic chump like you?
There will be a terrible reckoning, America. You will lose yourself. All those things that made you beautiful, that you never sufficiently appreciated — equal protections under the law, a free press, diversity — you will suppress just to please him. This relationship will not bring out your best self. You’ll become paranoid, insecure, and off-balance — and if anyone challenges your relationship? You will defend him. Because to not defend him is to admit that you’ve made a horrible mistake — that you’ve invested in a fraud. That you were never special — you were just of use.
One day America, after you’ve stuffed down one indignity after the other, and made excuse after excuse, something inside you will break. He will go too far. He’ll hurt your children. That could scare you straight, and in that moment you won’t care about your sunk costs and all the self-serving lies you told yourself — you’ll run for your life.
Don’t take his calls, America. Don’t let him make promises and cry and plead and tell you he’s changed. Because he’ll just build the wall higher the next time, so you can’t escape. We can’t have you rebelling and making him look bad. You’re an extension of him. You are of USE.
There is only one way out of this, America. Know your worth. Know what your values are and fight like hell to defend them. It just kills me to see you with this guy, who is so beneath you. You deserve better.
Your citizen friend,