Everybody asks: “Why did you stay?”, “How could you put up with that kind of treatment?”, “I would’ve just left.” I’ve asked those same questions to others and made the same statements. But until you’re inside the relationship, you have no idea what it’s like.

I am kind and trusting, and I can honestly say this was so very different from any other beginning. I didn’t even see it coming. This didn’t start with sex and build from there as my relationships usually do. There were no sexual innuendos, no come-on’s, no flirting; there were intelligent, mind-stimulating conversations, good advice both given and received, and quiet comfortable company. I fell in love with his mind, his friendship, his soul.

Looking back, I can clearly see I was uncertain of who I was and where I belonged. I  was a newly divorced, single mom, post rehab for alcohol abuse. I had gone no-contact with most of my immediate family and was struggling to regain respect and confidence at my powerful, well-paying, extremely stressful job that was the sole support for my two teenagers and I.

I could escape the structured world where I was living and working, and just be myself around him. In his world, no one judged and everyone understood you all had struggles that were no better or worse from each other.

But not knowing who you are and where you belong puts you in an extremely vulnerable and dangerous position if you’re not careful. The more time I spent with him, the more we shared our individual hopes, dreams and greatest fears. I began to fall in love with him, and eventually our friendship went to the next level—at my persuasion.

And I was completely taken aback by his bold displays of love and affection. It was obvious to anyone around us that we were together—whether it be my hand on his back, his hand rubbing my leg, or his loving kiss goodbye in front of everyone. Friends and acquaintances that had known him for years said they’d never seen him behave this way.

These same friends said repeatedly how much he liked me, was into me, wanted me around, respected me, etc. I saw this tough guy, bad boy let his guard down and allow me to experience the loving, soft, compassionate man who wanted to be touched and loved.

And love him I did. I valued and loved him dearly as my friend and that only deepened to a level I’d never experienced. I was blown away by the depth and intensity of love I felt for him. In 21 years of marriage, children, and growing up with my ex husband, I never once felt the connection and depth of love as I did with him. Yet I knew from the beginning I loved him more than he loved me.

 

Woman smelling a flower with her eyes closed


I loved him with all of me—with wild, reckless abandonment and would have moved heaven and earth for him. And for a short time, I was truly happy and content. I will always question if my love for him was too intense and was to blame for the demise of us.

Did my intensity scare him, blind him, overwhelm him? Or was this the predestined fate of the universe to teach me something? There’s no answer to my ‘whys’ and no point to asking ‘what if’s’ because there’s no way to get closure on anything that breaks you as wide open as he broke me.

Months later, I look back and understand I was intimidated, manipulated, lied to and threatened. I was given the silent treatment, ignored and dismissed. I was brutally beaten, demoralized and went back for more. The man I fell in love with vanished within weeks of our relationship turning sexual.

But now I question if the whole relationship wasn’t just an illusion and I am left with severe trust issues. I had always had confidence in my own intuition, perception and judgement, but I was suddenly doubting everything I did.

I wish I could say I was one of those brave, strong women you read about that wakes up and realizes she’s worth more and leaves, but that’s not my story. He left my bed one morning after an incredibly loving weekend and never came back.  He woke up one day and decided not to talk to me, not to tell me goodbye, nothing. And I was left reeling for months wondering what I did wrong, why wasn’t I good enough, and blaming myself for not proving myself worthy enough for his love.

Now, I struggle with the polar extremes of the emotions I feel. I deeply love and miss the kind, gentle side he showed me but hate and fear his mean and violent other side. How could I miss someone who has been responsible for such vile behavior towards me? How could I long for someone who violently pummeled my body with his hatred while claiming to love me? I do so because the love I felt was so incredibly powerful, it has overridden and overshadowed any intellect.

And so I begin my journey, one tiny step at a time, of releasing the powerful grips of disillusioned love and walk towards self-love and peace.

by Cindy Richards