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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Zunter

My Boyfriend Was Abusive —And I Married Him Anyway

My now ex-husband was abusive: physically, emotionally, and verbally. I’ve written about this experience before. But what I’ve never really written about is that I already knew he was abusive long before the actual wedding. Two years to be exact.

And I married him anyway. I’ve always felt a little ashamed of this fact.

Did I think he would change? Yes, I really did. Did we seek help or go to counseling? Yes, we did, briefly. Going to counseling produced a prescription for my then-boyfriend: an anti-depressant. But those pills turned him into a zombie which didn’t help much, either.

The violent episodes did stop for a while after the pills, but he still attacked me verbally. He would constantly accuse me of cheating on him. He would scream insults at me if I looked at another man, even by accident.

His rants would go on for hours sometimes, calling me the most degrading kind of names one could imagine. Then he started abusing narcotic pain pills along with the other recreational drugs he was doing.

Still, I stuck with him. I thought that’s what you do when you love someone who has a problem.

Eventually, we got married. The wedding was beautiful. The honeymoon had its fleetingly happy moments. No one knew what was really going on. I kept it very well hidden as abusive victims so often do.

The fact that I was 12 years my husband's junior and in my early 20s probably didn’t help much on an experience level. Needless to say, despite brief periods of calm, the relationship became more and more volatile after we got married.

It’s often difficult to understand the reasons why women stay in abusive relationships if you’re looking in from the outside.

There are many factors involved and most of them are not rational. Most of the reasons center around feelings like love, loyalty, fear, shame, insecurity, and compassion. Keeping the abuse a secret out of pride or embarrassment is totally normal as well. Many women do it. Maybe even women you know and love.

An abuser is generally more manipulative than the rest of us because they have learned how to talk people into staying with them even when their behavior is blatantly unacceptable.

They beg and they flatter. They make you feel special as if they couldn’t possibly survive in the world without you there to care for them. But once they have you back in their clutches, the abuse begins again, sometimes even more viciously.

I’ve written a little bit about my experience with domestic abuse, but I haven’t gotten into the gory details too deeply. Personally, I’m far away from that life now, happily settled down and at peace. But it wasn’t always so, and I want my experiences to be out there so that perhaps other girls and women will be able to see red flags in their own relationships.

It’s imperative that open conversation continues between women who have experienced domestic abuse and women who may be at risk. Men also need to be a part of these conversations.

My ex-husband never took personal accountability for his actions. He blamed and he blamed. He blamed his parents, his siblings, his ex-wife, drugs, alcohol, his friends, and then me.

The cycle doesn’t end even though there may be periods of time in an abusive relationship when everything seems loving and sustained.

It’s normal to have a “honeymoon period” of sorts in between abusive episodes. But a person who abuses physically, verbally, and emotionally won’t just stop because they love you or you love them.

It’s a harsh thing to hear but truly, love will not fix an abuser — and that’s where a lot of women — both young and old — lose touch and get trapped further into the destructive nightmare.

I consider myself to be an intelligent, sensible woman. Admitting that you’ve put yourself in an abusive relationship is not admitting defeat or failure. This is important to remember. An abusive relationship can happen to even the most independent and savvy women out there.

You will not be able to change someone. This can’t be emphasized enough.

There’s nothing I can do to change my decisions now. But there’s plenty I can do to get my own experiences out there to other women who may be in or who know someone in this kind of situation. If nothing else, my mistakes won’t only be my own lessons but someone else’s, too.

More from Michelle: 4 Warning Signs That You Might Be in an Abusive Relationship

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