Guest Post: Content Warning–description of nonphysical abuse. If this may be triggering to you, please read with caution.
[I was at a vulnerable time in my life when I met Chad (name changed). I was graduating from college with a bachelor’s of psychology and had no idea what was next. We met at a bar one night through mutual friends and from there the relationship raced forward at full speed. We said I love you in two weeks and started spending all of our time together.
Some might find this to be a cute love story. I now see the red flags, Hind sight is 20/20. Chad was love-bombing me or trying to get me hooked into the relationship before I really knew him or even knew what I wanted. I was so happy to start a new relationship that I didn’t keep up with my friends and family and through this isolation I didn’t really get to see him for who he was. I ignored the red flags like him not having a car, the fact that he dropped out of college and lived with friends (and wasn’t paying rent). He seemed like he had it together after all. He had a job at a warehouse making over $20 an hour. I didn’t know the car he was driving was his friends. I didn’t know anything about his family or his past. He didn’t try to get to know my family.
These are all things I can look back on now and identify as problems. However, in the moment I didn’t see any of it…
We continued dating and because I didn’t know where to live and didn’t want to run home to Mom and Dad, I moved in with Chad. This is when the financial abuse started to creep in. He didn’t have a car so I drove him to work. He was always stressed about life and working so much that he turned to gambling in hopes his winnings would turn his life around. When the money ran out he would beg me to take out cash. And I did because I didn’t want him to be mad at me. Not giving him the money would lead to a blow up.
This pattern continued. My college graduation day was finally here and Chad was, of course, out of town for work. He said he would come but somehow managed to get out of meeting my family (as usual). He would sugar coat this by saying things like they won’t think I’m good enough to make me feel guilty. So I played along.
I then flew out to Colorado where Chad was working and he took me on a week-long vacation telling me how much he loved the area. I did too; I had always dreamed of moving to another state. After we returned from the trip, Chad said he wanted to move to Colorado. He promised that he would save money and help pay to get an apartment there. This lead to him going out of state more for work. Of course, Chad didn’t save the money, in fact, he called me asking for money all the time as he continued to gamble. I was worried about him so I would send the cash. He would swear it was for food or gas and then 10 min later call back asking for more because he just spent it at the casino.
Chad drove back from New York on fumes, stopping at casinos along the way to win enough gas money to get back. Chad was clearly demonstrating how reckless he was willing to be with his own life and I didn’t see it. I wanted to leave him then but I couldn’t. I now know that it often takes women an average of 7 times to leave an abusive partner. I was confused at the time and didn’t have the knowledge I have now to know that this was abuse. I thought because he wasn’t hitting me that everything was ok. IT WAS NOT OK. No one deserved to be abused financially, verbally, physically emotionally or in any form.
I spent two years in Colorado living with Chad and I wish I could say things got better but they didn’t. He continued to follow a pattern that I now know to be the cycle of abuse. He would use me for money, be reckless, and financially rely on me. Then he would work really hard for a week and take me to dinner or do something nice to make up for it. Then he would take my credit card and pay all his bills. Then he would be sorry and would take me hiking. Then he would max out my credit card. Then he would find money to buy me dog to show he was sorry. This relationship emotionally drained me until one day I couldn’t do it anymore. I had been so isolated that the idea of returning home to my parents was scary. I was so isolated that I thought they wouldn’t help me get home. I quit talking to all of my friends because he told me to. I felt completely alone. This is what he wanted: for me to be so isolated that I didn’t have a way out.
One day after not hearing from me, my Dad called crying. He had flown to Colorado with my Mom. I was so nervous to see them and embarrassed to admit that I had no money and needed help. I told them I was fine and that they could go home. I wanted to leave him but I had too much pride at this point and didn’t want to admit that moving with him was a mistake, so I stayed.
Finally a week later I realized I was harming myself for the sake of my pride and it was time to come home. Chad got physical for the first time ever. He fought me for the possessions he thought he could get money for and when that didn’t work, he cried. I left him most of my things.
I moved home with what little possessions I had in my vehicle, a maxed out credit card, and various other debts that were now drowning me. My parents helped pay for me to start seeing a counselor and we worked on rebuilding our relationship. I then got an attorney and found out filing bankruptcy was my best option. All of this took months and months but I can finally say I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I looked up Chad once. He went home, starting living with someone else right away, and got a new girlfriend. This didn’t affect him. However the damage it did to myself and my family will last a lifetime. Because of Safe Passage I have gained the knowledge and support to truly identify what was going on in my relationship and it has helped me to move on. I thank this organization so much for the work they do because I know just how important it is.]
If you’ve experienced abuse, it is not your fault and you are not alone. Safe Passage is available 24/7 at 815-756-5228 or text us 24/7 at 815-393-1995.