Disclaimer: If you are reading this and your name is Richard, this is not pointed to you. If you’re reading this and you know a Richard who is stupendous, this is not pointed at them. No Richards were hurt in the production of this blog entry.
I never planned on sharing this. I never planned on experiencing this. I knew if I was in an abusive relationship, I would quickly show him the door and I would never look back. I knew there would only be one memory to share because the first time that would happen, would be the last. Unfortunately (sometimes), life doesn’t go as planned.
For more than two years we only showed the world the good parts. We showed the adventures, we showed the smiles, and we showed the laughter. And, while I mostly lived my life that way – keeping what should be private as private – I think it’s time I shared this part.
I will preface this – what I’m writing about is my perspective, my experiences, and what abuse looked like to me. I do not intend to speak on behalf of all or anyone who has been in an abusive relationship. I intend to share my story in hopes that it helps me, but especially helps others who have been there or are currently there.
The relationship began with an electricity I never experienced. It was exciting. So, when things started to feel unfamiliarly wrong, it was easily dismissed by me because all relationships have rough patches. And since I hadn’t experienced something like this before, logically the challenges would be unlike anything from before, right? Well, at least that allowed me to buy in to the belief that it was “normal”.
I’m often described as strong-willed and independent. I tend to lean on logic, frequently. So, our first fight demonstrated that. Nothing really caused the fight. I couldn’t find where I miss-stepped. I replayed the night with logic and knew I didn’t do anything wrong. He was different. He was angry in a situation that never angered him with me, before. And, it was an anger I hadn’t experienced in a relationship. And, after he blew up, he ignored me. So, I realized it was over, dusted myself off, and stepped forward. Then, he wanted to talk and explain himself.
I agreed. I prepared a strong stance. And, I stuck to it. He explained his mood, past experiences that grew into triggers, and shared his remorse. I told him that we will not fight that way. I told him that we can disagree, but we won’t lash out, and we won’t check out on each other. He agreed. That fight was followed by smiles and laughter. It worked out so well. I told myself that he just hadn’t been with someone like me and it was a learning curve for us both. I considered it as water under the bridge.
In the next several months, the rough patches weren’t filled with anger or yelling. They were quieter. They were calm acts of “checking out” on me, constantly using my inability to fail against me, testing how much I would take and still remain at his side. I thought I was doing it all right. Being his rock. Showing him how strong I can be for him. Showing him I was there whenever he was feeling “soft” again. Some days he was so grateful for my strength and logic. Some days he set me down like I was easily disposed of.
Then, it was as if he knew it was time for phase two. It was like he was reading a book on how to break down someone – piece by piece. And, phase two can’t begin until you know she is “locked in”. We were together nine months before he met my daughters. He knew how careful I was before introducing someone in their lives. And, that seemed to be the final qualifier to move onto the next phase.
Sometimes a disagreement led to relentless anger, name calling, and ghosting. Sometimes I spent a day or two in search of the catalyst – never to be found. After we made up, there was remorse. There was explanation of what drove the swing in his mood that I wasn’t aware of – finances, past memories, restlessness. And, then he would shower me in affection. And I thought, “This must be how relationships work.” After all, he constantly reminded me of the mantra: “It takes two. Relationships are hard work.” So, I began taking on ownership and handing out apologies when I wasn’t quite sure what I had done wrong.
After a year, I thought I found clarity. I didn’t share a lot about our relationship because it was mine to deal with…and I was embarrassed by some of the things I put up with. I shared some things with a few – hoping to find it was normal. But, I realized, I wasn’t always wrong. I felt crazed by having to apologize for small mistakes that led to big punishments. I felt crazed that I couldn’t hold onto any wrongs, but was to stand stoically while he reopened months of his resentments. So, I started to fight back. I started to put my foot down. And, I paid.
We would go out, I could sit, and be ignored for an hour. But, if I did the same – there was hell to pay. I couldn’t get jealous. But, he could. I used to read articles that I could never relate to. But that inability to relate shifted. I began reading articles about narcissists, gas lighting, and other kinds of abuse. I knew I was dating a narcissist, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. What I identified with the most, was where the abusive narcissist accuses you of being the abusive and crazy one. They accuse you of how awful you are perhaps for one mistake you made in the past several months, but it doesn’t make room to talk about their dozens of abusive mistakes they made in the past several months.
You first start explaining their abusive behavior just to sell your family and friends on why it’s justified. They had a really bad childhood, they had all kinds of things to overcome, they were going through a rough time in their life… Besides, what did it matter, I was going to fix him.
The hardest part about admitting I was in an abusive relationship, was admitting I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. It was always easy to give advice to others when they were with somebody who wasn’t treating them right. It was easy to say, if I were them, I would’ve gotten out of there a long time ago. But, I thought I could make it be different. I held onto the good memories, with my strongest grip. They became more seldom as time continued on.
In the end – my anxiety reached a frequency I hadn’t experienced before. The nightmares allowed for little rest. I found myself explaining trembling hands and stuttered sentence fragments. I never stopped walking on eggshells when he was around. I would swing 10 pounds in 3-day periods. It dropped after an awful fight. It returned when we were together and I coped with alcohol.
I couldn’t fix him. I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t stop him. I had heard every tearful promise and apology. I could predict what was happening next. I could predict exactly how the playbook would be used, every time. I was a professional at predicting the waves of abuse. But, I realized I couldn’t stop them…or even soften the blows. I tried being undeservingly apologetic and soft – it didn’t stop the crash of anger from slamming into me. I tried being quiet and unresponsive – but it only drove the anger to hit me in a more rapid fashion. I tried fighting back – which would be punished and held over my head for months to come.
One day, my unbelievable intuition kicked in. It was spot on. And, it was my end. After more than two years, I ended the relationship and thought the abuse would end there. I was unfortunately wrong. The promises of change will continue. The desperate attempts to get you back into their web will continue. And, the vicious cycles of making you feel like you did something wrong constantly, making you feel like you were crazy, making you feel like this is your fault, will continue. You can’t fix them. And, you’ll only lose yourself trying.
In speaking with others who have been in abusive relationships – I realized that it’s not a matter of strength. I’ve realized it wasn’t my fault. But I still have difficulties to this day, accepting how long I allowed it to go on.
In my previous blog entry about a “Richard”, you can see how such abuse can continue. You can be flying high on excitement and achievement – but they want to bring you down. You can be laying in a hospital trying to recall when you were in more pain – but they want to see if they can hurt you more.
More than three years ago, I was honored to be a part of the biker community which taught me a lot: often unspoken but unconditional support, a comfort that someone always has your back, and encouragement as I moved to the front of my own bike.
On October 13, I broke my first bone ever in a bicycle accident. I didn’t just break my arm, I snapped my humerus and elbow, so my arm was bent where it should never be anything but straight: a distal humerus fracture. On October 15, I headed to surgery. The surgeon was transparent with how uncommon this kind of a break is, how painful it is, how long the road to recovery is, and that getting to only 80% mobility will require determination and hard work.
I won’t lie. My first thought wasn’t about being able to write with my dominant hand. It was about my ability to ride. So, I told myself that I need to push through this and do my part in order to be back on my bike by the first decent day of spring (don’t tell me how unlikely that is in this situation – a girl can have her dreams!).
As the details of my injury were shared. I was blessed by amazing support and well-wishes. But there always seems to be one “Richard” who wants to quite literally add insult to injury. As I lay in the hospital for the fourth day, I received the text below, out of the blue.
Abuse can happen in many forms. You can end an abusive relationship, move on with your life, and get a random note attempting to abuse your mind again. But, you don’t have to let it bring you down. Remind yourself of your worth, that it isn’t your fault, it isn’t your job to change them, and keep your head up. Let that “Richard” light your fire to keep on keeping on!
If I’ve learned one thing from this amazing community of camaraderie, it is that even if there is a “Richard” amongst the group, it isn’t a reflection of the good ones. Regardless of “Richard”, I will be following doctors’ orders, and you’ll see me riding next season!
I immediately reached out to Brad of Dirty Biker Design to create this shirt. I hope you like it and join me in not being a “Richard”. $5 from each shirt will be donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Orders placed by November 25 will ship by December 3.
Now, let’s have some fun turning this into a positive. I want to see you in your shirt! Post your picture wearing your shirt. If you have a bike, get that beautiful beast in the picture. If you have an act of kindness to share, please do. Post your picture to Smooth Rides & Stiff Drinks on Facebook. Include the tag, #dontbearichard.
You get one entry for a picture posted to SR&SD. You get another entry for sharing this Facebook post. And, we will select one winner on January 4. The winner can pick $50 in Dirty Biker Design gear to have shipped to them – on me. I’ll also donate $100 in their name to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
[For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).]
May your ride be smooth, and your drinks stiff! Cheers!