Beaten Not Broken
I met Nick when I was 23 years old at Lipstick, a local dance club. I was a young, show-going scenester who prided herself in the multiple stamps on her hand and bands on her wrist. I wore my hair big and black with dark eye makeup and practiced snarl. Nick was nice to me. He paid attention to me, and he liked music. That seemed enough to hang out with him for awhile, anyway.
My first mistake was that I never told Nick that he needed to stay at his own house sometimes. Early in our relationship, he was at my place every day and every night. Eventually, after only two months of dating, he was living in my apartment. I wish I could say it was because of wild passion or because I was madly in love… but in truth, I was lonely, and I wanted someone to hang out with me.
After a few weeks of him being a constant in my ears and eyes, I started to get annoyed with his habit patterns. He wanted to be a singer, but he couldn’t hold a note or beat. He didn’t do anything to help me financially or physically around the house. He would talk a lot.
This talking thing was the number one reason why my feelings of mild amusement for him turned into burning hatred. He could speak "AT" me for hours without any prompts. Unfortunately, the subjects of his diatribes were not as simple as opinions on the new Batman franchise (which I would happily talk for hours about). He would speak about his take on the Bible, various local political stances, overly thought-out lyrics, big business corruption and my favorite: How I lacked as a person.
In the early months of our relationship, I had gotten so fed up with Nick that I had brought up us breaking up at least three times. The thing is, for us to break up, he would have to move out of my apartment. Since he was “so in love with me” and “knew more about what I needed” he thought it more reasonable that we stay together. I lacked in so many ways as a human being, what do I know? So he would just not leave the apartment. Staying was an effective tactic on his part because it worked for over a decade.
Everything else in my life was not bad. I had a high-paying job as an advertising sales associate at a local newspaper. I had a successful fashion blog, a burgeoning solo music career and a healthy relationship with my family and friends.
All this changed when Nick quit his job to “pursue his dream of being a musician.”
After that, we fought every day (instead of every other day). I resented him for not bringing in money, not helping me clean our apartment and his almost constant criticism of me and my actions. His chatter got worse, since he would be at home thinking all day and wanted my attention when I got home from work. He’d keep me up until 4 am to declaim to me.
Please Just Stop Talking.
One incident, about a year into our relationship, Nick and I were fighting about something until the very wee hours of the night.
By this time, he had a vice grip on me and my life. When I didn’t make his dinner exactly how he wanted (he ate like a child), or I didn’t wash the dishes clean enough, or I was wearing lip gloss, he would call me lazy, uncaring or wanting to cheat on him. Then the six-hour-long conversation that I couldn’t get out of would start. I tried everything to make him stop talking: pleading, yelling, breaking stuff, crying, apologizing right away, calling his mother… it didn’t matter what I did. He would keep that conversation as long as he wanted. I couldn’t get him to shut up. The only way I could get him to stop talking as soon as I could is by giving him about two hours to carefully explain what is wrong and why it is wrong and for me to apologize “like I meant it.”
I must have said “I’m sorry,” a million times, a thousand different ways. I eventually mastered it like a Tippi to her Hitchcock.
So, imagine me in that exhausting conversation because I did something atrocious like cooked a tomato sauce that contained onions in it (the HORROR). I had had these fights this long and significant about three times a week for months. Finally, he broke me down. I was so exhausted and angry that I snapped. I picked up his guitar and threw it into a wall. It shattered to pieces.
That is when he pulled my collar and threw me onto the kitchen floor.
It wasn’t so bad. It actually didn’t hurt that much. I was bruised, but honestly, the physical part didn’t and never bothered me as much as the long conversation he was attempting to have with me. That’s because I learned something that day.
When he hit me, he would finally shut up.
As the years went on, my life outside of Nick deteriorated. I closed down my precious fashion blog because he hated when I did my photo shoots for various reasons: I'm vain, I’m giving into and perpetuating the evil beauty culture, I’m cheating on him with someone online. My sales at work were lacking. I was a fantastic salesperson, but when I got about 3 hours of sleep a night, I was just OK. I stopped performing music because Nick was so jealous that I had fans and was making money playing my silly songs that he sabotaged every opportunity I had. I ceased to hang out with friends and family because I didn’t want to talk about myself or my life.
Like a typical domestic cycle relationship, there were times of breakups, and then us getting back together. He was even put in jail for a month because he threw a mug at me. It cut me so deep and I had to go to the hospital and the doctors called the police. I kept taking him back mostly because he was willing to break my will by spending hours talking to me and not leaving the house. I was his girlfriend because I couldn’t get him to go away.
It’s My Party, and I’ll Cry If I Want To
It was the day of my birthday party. I had been planning this for about a month. I made tacos, I DIYed a photo booth, and I invited dozens of people who wanted to come to my new little cottage!
Before people showed up, I was in the middle of decorating and cleaning when Nick had brought up a concern to me.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time on your birthday party, and it’s not fair to me.”
He had said hundreds of inaccurate, childish or selfish things in the past but, of all the ridiculous things he had said in our ten years of torment, this was the 2nd to most ridiculous.
We had another big blowup fight that lasted for hours while I cleaned and Nick talked at me about how I’m pathetic and no one is going to show up, knocked stuff off tables in an attempt to make things more difficult to clean and shoved me against the wall a few times when I seemed like I wasn’t listening. Nick stopped only because his brother and his brother’s family knocked on the door.
Fortunately, I had the best birthday party I had in many years. I felt like an average person with my friends and family filling my tiny cottage. There was music, karaoke and I felt loved like I hadn’t felt loved in a century.
My brother, Oliver, got too drunk and I helped him into the spare bedroom to fall asleep. We talked for a bit, and I left him to say goodbye to the rest of the guests, who were leaving for the evening.
Later in bed, Nick said it was very suspicious that I was hanging out with Oliver at the end of the day.
“You guys are having an affair.”
That was the first most ridiculous thing he ever said to me.
He would be out of my life in less than a month.
I’m Going to Surprise You This Time
The last time I saw Nick was the evening I broke up with him for good.
I had made different plans for decades on how I would finally break up with him so it would stick. I could fake my death. I’d pack up a few things and live out of my car. I’d find a job many miles away and disappear; all would include a level of mystery where he couldn’t find me.
The game-changer was I got a new car. Long story short, I didn’t have a car for a few months and those last few months the most taxing and horrible because I couldn’t get away from him.
The day I got that car, we got in another fight. He was acting weird because he was sweet and unselfish at first.
He asked me about my day.
I explained to him that nothing happened and I made a smart remark about how I don’t do anything anymore because he eliminated everything joyful in my life. He disagreed that it had anything to do with him and started to go into his hours-long monologue on why. During that fight, he pulled the glasses off my face (after I said something nasty to him) and snapped them in two. I very calmly picked up my purse and keys.
“I’m leaving. I’m never coming back.”
“Yeah right. You’re going to your friend’s house for a night, and you’ll be here tomorrow morning,” he laughed. He laughed. I won’t forget it because that was the last time I saw his face. The last time I saw him, he was mocking me and testing my strength.
“I’m going to surprise you this time,” I said and walked out that door.
I got in my new car and drove to my mom, who never gave up on me. I cried on her shoulder and pleaded, “Don’t let me go back to him. Don’t ever let me go back.”
She didn’t. I couldn’t have done it without her.
For more in this series, visit www.ollaswanson.com