Tag Archives: chicago

Was the relationship abusive or just bad?

Recently I was put in a position to explain what delineates an abusive relationship from a regular ol’ bad one.  Unfortunately, I can speak from personal experience.

In 2013, I left a bad relationship in California to come back home and pursue one that, obviously unbeknownst to me at the time, would become an abusive one very quickly.  I left my ex, Ken*–who I had a bad, but not abusive relationship with–after 4.5 years, to try to rekindle things with my (unofficial) ex Kevin–who became abusive very quickly.

Kevin was abusive financially, emotionally, and sexually.  He purposely stole from me on a regular basis, he lived off me completely and refused to move out when I told him he had to, he insulted me and set unreasonable benchmarks, he essentially tried to turn me into his estranged wife, he beat me unbelievably hard during sex, and he even forced me down and brazenly attempted to rape me once.  These things constitute abuse.

For those reasons–so many months later, after learning I’m not his only victim–he is currently facing criminal charges.  I wish I had pressed charges sooner, but it’s hard when you’re dealing with a sociopath.  Sociopaths are pure evil, but they’re very convincing, especially when they’re extremely charismatic and also classically handsome.  For well over a year, he managed to pathologically lie to me and convince me that anything wrong was all a mistake.

My other ex Ken*, though, is not a sociopath and is not evil.  We had a bad relationship, after the first couple years went by.  It was unhealthy, punctuated by cheating and lying.  But it was not an abusive relationship.  While he and I both individually did things that could classify as abuse when viewed through a lens, it was not an abusive relationship on the whole.  It boils down to two people hurting each other a lot but also loving each other (platonically), and being too afraid to let go.  I made the move to let go, eventually.  I’m sure that hurt him immensely, and that alone makes me sad.

To this day, any time I’m at a Chicago airport, I still cry.  He travels constantly for business, and Chicago is a layover city.  I cry just knowing he could be there.  A part of me misses him, as a family member.  Not at all as a boyfriend.  I do love him.  Just not in the way he needed.

So if you want to know what separates a bad relationship from an abusive one, I can tell you.  One is full of love and hope, and then eventual disengagement.  The other is full of sadness, resentment, and even violent assault.

There you go.  One ends in letting love go.  The other ends in pure, unbridled hatred.

*Name has been changed but you can also see below.

So many people are doing so many good things and, for the most part,  I’m not.  That’s not to say I’m doing anything wrong, either, but my existence is pretty neutral.  I’m not doing much to make the world a better place, and as a middle(ish)-class white person, I really should be.  I feel great about doing my part to get a dangerous man slapped with the label “criminal” by the penal system*, but that only affects the handful of women who may encounter him before his unhealthy choices kill him.  I want to help effect broad-scale change, because so much change is needed.

What holds me back is my inability to be a leader.  I can’t be the one to start things, to do the planning and organizing, and especially the outreach.  I can’t join others’ organizations either, because of my social anxiety.  Walking into a room where I don’t know anyone (and staying sober) is more than I can handle.  I’ve been to a couple protests before, but all I could do was stand to the side holding a sign.  Chanting and marching in a group of strangers is far too scary.  Plus, I’m also afraid of the commitment, of people relying on me.  What if they want me to do something I’m uncomfortable with?  What if I get too depressed and just want to lay in bed?  What if I’d rather drink instead of do work?  I don’t want to put myself and others in a position where I fairly likely may let them down.

Part of me wants to give myself more credit than that, but I know my own flaws too well.  I love my comfort zone, and my comfort zone has become drinking and listening to music with Bunny.  They might ask me to write a press release or paint some signs, but I’d rather get drunk and sing songs and play on Facebook.  These habits have me in a spiral of self-loathing at times, but I’m not sure I have the willpower or the drive to break them.

A long time ago in this blog I made mention of a girl I had a one-night stand threesome with.  I knew her first name and had a vague idea of a last name.  About a month ago a name popped up on Facebook, and I was pretty sure it was her.  It was.  Since that crazy night/morning, she seems to have been very ambitious and gotten some cool things done, including an upcoming plan to start a garden.  I think, maybe, I can handle starting there.  A community garden won’t enact major policy change in our sexist, racist society, but at least it’ll benefit some people.  I’ll be doing something positive for the greater good.

 

* I won’t go into detail for both legal and privacy purposes, but I’ll say that it has proven to be a very good idea for me to write the below post about intimate partner violence.  It turns out I’m not the only one.

Analyzing my abusive relationship

I did my best to convince myself and anyone I talked to that we were happy and in love, because if we weren’t, it didn’t make sense that I let him so blatantly take advantage of me.  Instead of calling the police so they could force him out of my apartment, I acted like I was making a choice to help the man I loved.  I was ashamed of myself for what I was letting him do to me, so I tried to deny it to myself.  I still carry that shame, even though I know I shouldn’t, because I regret the entire situation so much.  Damn it, I’m a feminist, for fuck’s sake!  My feminism is a huge part of my identity, so why would I let a man treat me that way?

Because he’s terrifyingly manipulative and deceptive, not just to romantic partners, but to his friends and family and even himself.  It was almost like mind control the way he got into my head and made me comply with whatever he wanted.  I constantly acted contrarily to my own best interests, and even my own mental health, because he had managed to gain control of me.

I’m changed for the worse because of him.  I know I need to go to therapy to process his abuse, but I keep putting it off because I don’t want to relive the pain.  I have PTSD and trust issues in a relationship now, as well as just recently developing occasional flashbacks to the way he’d beat my ass during sex until I cried, and I never told him to stop because I did whatever he wanted.

My boyfriend now is gentle as a lamb, a feminist, and a self-described beta male.  I know he would never intentionally hurt me.  But I can’t help having an underlying fear that anything is possible, because there was a time when I insisted that my ex was “a good man” too.  I’m not afraid of my boyfriend at all, but I’m afraid of the fact that I wasn’t afraid of my ex either, in the beginning.

Much more so, though, I’m afraid of unintentionally doing to Colin what my ex did to me.  I worry about it all the time, actually.  Because he’s so passive and always wants me to make the decisions, I’m so scared that I’m going to make choices for us that hurt him.  I’d hate myself forever if I hurt him in even a fraction of the way that Kevin hurt me.  This is something that haunts me constantly.  I’m paranoid of becoming the monster that Kevin is.  While I don’t think I have that much evil in me, I can’t help worrying about it.

I think I’m finally ready to talk about my experience with intimate partner violence

It’s kind of out of nowhere, but I think I’m ready to talk about the time I was sexually assaulted, even though it’s minor compared to what other women have experienced. Inspired by this Feministing story, I decided to just go ahead and share it. The more we talk, the better the world may become.

I was already asleep in the bedroom and had been for awhile.  My then-boyfriend Kevin was in the living room, presumably binge-watching Netflix or channel 11 and growling profanities at my pet duck.  I woke up when he opened the bedroom door, and I saw him standing there, just his dark silhouette in the doorway.  He loomed there looking at me for a moment, and then suddenly he threw himself on top of me, pinning me down with his weight.  I shifted under him as he started kissing my neck, telling him politely, “No, Kevin, not now.  I need to sleep.”  He didn’t stop, but grabbed my hands and held them down so I’d stop trying to push him away.  “No, stop, I have to work tomorrow.”  He was pulling my pajamas off and I started fighting, trying to push him and protesting, “Stop, stop!”  But he wouldn’t listen.  He said nothing, just held me down under the weight of his body, tearing at my pajamas, swatting my hands away when I tried to grab or shove him.  I was crying hysterically, protesting louder and louder, and we fought progressively harder.  It continued on, in a violent struggle on the bed, as he used his strength to try to get me naked and force me to compliance.

Then suddenly, the look in his eyes changed.  The animalistic passion disappeared and they became clearer.  It was almost like he suddenly remembered that rape is bad.  He stopped, rolled off me, and said sorry.  He fell asleep, and eventually after I’d calmed down, I admittedly went back to sleep next to him.

Worse things have happened to other victims of intimate partner violence.  I’m lucky that the lightbulb went off in his brain and he stopped trying to rape me.  But in those five minutes or so that he attacked me, I felt what it’s like to be a helpless victim of a physical assault.  Fortunately that was the extent of the experience. I’m also lucky that he was my boyfriend, so I consented to sex with him many times, though not that particular time. It would’ve been much worse if it was someone I never consented to sex with.  Regardless, it was not at all consensual by any stretch of the imagination.

People question why women stay with men who hurt them, and the reasons are usually very valid and important: financial dependence, fear of further violence, protecting the children.  But reasons of that magnitude are not why I stayed with him.  I stayed because I was so physically (though not very emotionally) attracted to him, and I stayed because I wanted to see where his music would go.  I also stayed because I felt sorry for him, for what a wreck his life was.  He still needed me.  But even though I stayed, things did change after that incident.  I saw a glimpse of the abuser he really was, underneath the charisma and charm.  My rose-tinted glasses came off, and what I saw was scary.  I should’ve explored those feelings further, but I didn’t at the time.

I didn’t tell anyone about it for almost six months, and even then, I only told a couple of my closest friends.  I was embarrassed, I guess, and while we were together I still wanted to protect him.  I didn’t want people to know he was capable of being violent.  But now I think it’s time for me to be open about it, because silence helps no one.  What happened to me is on the low end of the scale of intimate partner violence, but it was real and it was scary, and I have much sympathy and empathy for other victims.

So why speak out?  Just for awareness.  To remind people that these things happen, and they can happen to anyone.  Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator.  Anyone can be hiding this secret.  Trust victims.  Believe them.

The Lifestyle

Here’s the thing about dating musicians: it’s only as fun as they are.  I’ve been accused of being a groupie just because of the lifestyle, not the music, and there’s truth to that.  After all, I’m not an artist.  I love music, but lots of people love music without that influencing the way they live.  The point of being a groupie is to be part of a certain lifestyle, a certain scene.

My new boyfriend isn’t a musician, but we have more fun together than I’ve had with any other boyfriend on a consistent basis.  We thrive on the same things–going to shows every Friday and Saturday, drinking and taking speed, and staying out till sunrise.  We’re so compatible in our interests and hobbies, because we both choose the same lifestyle.

Then again we’ve also talked about selling all our things and eloping to Ecuador to live off the land, so ya know. Options.

Lost dog

Last week I had a dog for six hours.  Now I’m trying to get her back.

She was leashed to a tree outside my apartment building.  When it became apparent that her humans weren’t around, I sat outside to play with her and keep her company.  Neighbors told me that she had been tied out there for a few hours, and I started to get worried.  After dark, I left a note on the tree with my phone number and an explanation, asking the owners to call me when they wanted to pick her up.  Then I took her around the street and asked if she belonged to anyone.  She didn’t, but I met a vet tech who agreed to help me.

Because of Bunny, I couldn’t keep a terrier loose in my apartment while I was at work.  So the vet tech set up a dog crate in my kitchen, and she also gave me some dog food.  It was getting late at night, but we agreed that after I got home from work the next day, I’d bring the dog to the vet and we’d scan for a microchip.  I’d also post photos online, in case she wasn’t abandoned and her family was searching for her.

Of course, I felt sorry for the little sweetie.  She was very loving, nuzzling up to my face and climbing all over my lap.  We’d determined that she didn’t have fleas, so I decided to let her sleep with me.  The doggy and I settled into bed, her furry body pressed against my leg.  I listened to her soft snoring as I drifted to sleep.

I woke up a few hours later, around 2:30 AM, and discovered that she had peed in my bed a couple times.  I wanted to get her outside ASAP, but I was drunk and groggy, and I was having trouble finding the leash.  Though I was pretty certain I’d hung it on a doorknob, I checked every doorknob and it wasn’t there.  My neighbors let their dogs out in our fenced-in gangway, though, so I opted to just let her out unleashed.

As soon as I opened the door, she made a mad dash for the fence, and she slipped right through.  She was gone.  I couldn’t see her anywhere.

The next day I went out walking with fried chicken and dog treats, but she was nowhere to be found.  I wrote to animal shelters and posted her photos online, but so far, more than a week later, there is still no sign of her.  There is no indication that her family is looking for her, either.  She’s just out there, alone and scared.  I had a duty to protect her, and I completely failed.

I couldn’t necessarily keep a dog, mainly due to having Bunny and also the simple fact that I’m gone for 11 hours a day at work.  But I could’ve rehomed her with a family member or friend, and I would’ve known she was safe.

Now all I can do is worry.

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Being a groupie in Chicago

There’s a reason why I live in a city where the weather is horrible approximately two-thirds of the year.  The rock scene is absolutely thriving right now, growing and becoming stronger and more cohesive.  There’s so much good music, and everyone supports each other.  I’m so lucky to be a part of it.  I go to at least one show a week, and I’m meeting so many new people.  Whether it’s the handsome stranger I had sex with upstairs in the corner at Double Door, or the band I just met and partied with until sunrise, blowing huge lines and talking about classic rock, the people I’ve been meeting and spending time with are wonderfully fun and exciting.  I’m so very grateful to be here, in the here and now.

Alcohol has enriched my life in important ways, and I want to acknowledge that, because I usually only focus on the obvious negatives of being an alcoholic.  But alcohol is a facilitator for so many social interactions, and I am very appreciative of that.  Drinking at shows gives me the confidence and nonchalance to talk to people who intimidate me, and it’s something to bond over.  Without it, I wouldn’t have the courage to approach a complete stranger and say, “You’re handsome, so what’s your story?”  Buying a round for the band is also a great way to become their new friend.

Related to that, though, is how fortunate I am to have the financial means to go out as often as I do.  Now that I’m not wholly supporting a 37-year-old, rarely employed, lowlife of a junkie anymore, I’m constantly patronizing the arts (buying merch and drinks) and jetsetting (Ubering) around the city.  The circumstances are all right for me.

Music is finally going in the right direction again, and what I’ve got is perfect.  I never expected I’d be able to achieve my life goals to this extent.  It’s the prime time to be a Chicago groupie.