Many of the women I know can all relate to having a partner who has been manipulative, controlling, and abusive. Some of them are willing to share their stories with me, which I’ll share here. While they may never forgive or forget, I do hope that sharing their stories can help my friends take another step toward healing.
In this blog post, we’ll hear from Tyra, in her own words. (I may edit for clarity, grammar, etc., and I’ve changed names).
Content Warnings: Emotional abuse, manipulation, physical abuse, financial abuse, mental abuse, parental alienation, drug abuse, sobriety, miscarriage, and adult language
June, 2008. I met who I thought was the person of my dreams. We were introduced by her cousin. We talked on the phone for hours each night while both of us were at work. And by hours, I mean 7-8 hours at a time. I told her my whole life story, she told me hers. I went to visit at the end of June, and ended up moving in with her the first of July. Our relationship was beautiful. She would buy me roses. Every night. I say our relationship was beautiful. And as I start typing…. the only thing I can think of is… “She would buy me roses, every night.” I’m not sure there was much more to it than that… But apparently, I thought that was beautiful. That was it. That was what I needed. Someone to buy me roses. Someone to “accept me for the flawed individual” I belived I was. I had just got clean. I had been clean and in recovery for about 4 months when we met. I had just had a miscarriage 2 months before we met. I had been living in a rundown apartment with maggots in the sink and pizza boxes stacked on the wall behind my desk. I didn’t know how to be an adult, and SHE was going to “love” me despite all of that…
I moved in with her, where she lived with her parents. She worked for her family, so logically, I started working for her family. They hated me. They treated me like trash. Nothing I ever did was good enough. When I was there, and she wasn’t, the internet would be unplugged so that I wasn’t allowed to access it. I was confined to our bedroom. Anything I tried to record on the TV was deleted before I could watch it. I could only shower at certain times of the day. I wasn’t allowed into the kitchen when I was off work, because I made too much noise. I was too loud. I was too … too much of everything. I was too snobby, too happy, too sheltered. They would talk bad about me to her, and she never once stood up for me. I thought maybe she was a victim too. Maybe she just had to deal with it, like I did.
I believed this. She had just got out of prison. I had a good way of picking the winners. She was on parole. She said she couldn’t move out. She said she couldn’t do anything about it. She said she had to stay there. We had to deal with it. So, naturally, I dealt with it. Bad decision. All this showed her, all this taught her, was that I was willing and able to be okay being treated like trash. I would continue, every single day, to be the better person. Trying to do anything in my power to make these people like me. Turning the other cheek, being walked all over, talked about negatively, with conditions placed, and unforeseen “punishments” for no ill behavior at all. I just stayed. Waited for it to get better. Continued being me. I thought. But me wasn’t happy any longer.
June 2009. I tried to leave. No, I actually left. I met someone. We started getting high. I moved out. I was called slut, whore. I was told how disgusting I was. I was told that I was a piece of trash that would never amount to anything. I was told that I was trash. I was told that she never wanted to have sex with me anyway, because I was disgusting. I was told I should kill myself. The world would be better off without me. But I stayed gone. for about 3 weeks… and then, I broke my ankle. I was still working, but my schedule got changed. I was no longer doing what they wanted me to do, so my schedule was changed. My money nights were taken from me, and I was making less than half of what I had been making before. I couldn’t survive on my own any longer. I had no food, no money, and I was basically homeless after that last week was up at the motel.
Aug 2009. So I called my ex. I begged her to take me back. This is what she wanted. For me to need her. Even after all of the things that were said to me, I still asked to come back. Because maybe she was right. Maybe I would never amount to anything. Maybe the world would be better off without me. But I knew she only said those things because I hurt her. I knew, that deep down, she loved me. So I begged her to take me back. And she did… I was allowed back into the house. With the family that hated me. The girlfriend who hated me. And the job that I hated. I was forced to sleep in the bedroom across the hall. Because we “weren’t really together.” I still had to prove myself. I had to earn her trust back. Which made complete sense, beccause after all, I left her. Right?
So I slept across the hall, used the spare bathroom, and still wasn’t allowed to cook, watch tv or access the internet. I stayed across the hall ,where she would come in just to have sex, and then leave me there afterward, because I was good enough to have sex with, but not good enough to sleep with. I stayed across the hall, where she could keep me under her thumb and continue to control me. I stayed across the hall, to be reminded of what I did, to be reminded of where I belonged, because I was a terrible person. I stayed across the hall, where she could come and have sex with me, even though I was a disgusting whore. But she could use me, because I needed her. She could take advantage of me, because I had nothing else, nowhere else to go. She could have sex with me, because I owed her, at least that. And I stayed..
Dec 2009. By this time, I had been allowed back into the bedroom, but we still weren’t “official.” No pictures of me were posted on facebook, her relationship status refused to be changed. But we were “doing great,” and I was “proving myself trustworthy again.” She came up to me one day and asked if I wanted to have a baby. Now the only thing I ever wanted, was to be a mom. I KNEW I would be a great mom. So I said sure, because what better thing to do, than have a child with someone who treats you with little to no respect. Maybe this would fix everything! She had a 3rd cousin who was pregnant, and we were going to adopt our baby together. When she went to meet her, I wasn’t allowed to go. I sent a letter, but I don’t know if she ever recieved it. We went to every doctor appointment. We got to name our child. I wanted so badly for him to have my father’s middle name, but she insisted that would never happen. She wanted him to be named after her father. We argued about it incessantly, and I was always the selfish one. When we found out the gender of our child, she said his name, and included my fathers middle name in the name. I was thrilled. Oh man, she did love me. I ignored all the moments where she had treated me like trash, argued with me about it, told me it was stupid, etc. Because in that moment, she loved me. I thought.. Looking back, I see it for what it was. A love bomb. Something to keep me in her grips.
I don’t really have a timeline for the rest.
We would argue, I would threaten to leave, she would beg me to stay.. until one day she didn’t. She said “you know where the door is.” And I stayed. Because what else was I to do? I never threatened to leave again after that. There were moments I remember sitting in my car just wanting to die. I called the suicide hotline multiple times, because I was terrified of what I was capable of. We got into fights. I remember one time we were arguing and she pushed me down and I hit my head on the doorknob really hard. I was sobbing, and she reminded me that if I would just stop, that would’ve never happened. There were moments where I would get the silent treatment for DAYS at a time. Anytime I would try to talk to her, because I just wanted to know what I did wrong, I would be told that I was making it worse. If I would just listen, just shut up, just leave her alone, it would be over sooner. I was the one causing all of this. I was the one making her so mad that she couldn’t talk to me. She just needed “time.” So I did. I shut up. I left her alone. Silently telling myself that everything was my fault, and if I could just be BETTER, she would be okay…
Our son was born in August of 2010. On my birthday. That was always something that bothered her. I was always told that he was HER son. They looked alike. They had the same last name. If I ever left, I wasn’t taking him with me she would say. That was ingrained into me. I had to know my place. So I stayed.. We were still living in her family’s home, because “she still couldn’t leave.” Her step mom would stay with him at nights, because she refused to change our schedules so one of us could be home with him. Then, she would proceed to tell us how she didn’t get any sleep at all. I would try to sleep during the day, because I worked nights, but I was the only one who woke with him when he would cry. When he would be hungry, When he would be fussy, When he just needed Love! I was sleep deprived, I was in emotional turmoil. I was discredited for what a great job I was doing as a mother. I was verbally insulted. I just wasn’t good enough. No matter how hard I tried.
Christmas day of 2010, we were still in her family’s house. There was a huge argument between everyone in the house and I just wanted to leave to go to work. No one would move their car for me to get out. I was yelled at by her family. I was threatened by her family. I was belittled by her family. I was told that all of this was my fault by her family. Her 7 year old brother was almost pushed down the steps by her father, on purpose, because he was so mad. And I walked away. I walked to the gas station, because I didn’t know what else to do. A few minutes later, she showed up. She said we were going to get all of our things and move out. THIS WAS IT. We were finally going to be okay! We were going to live the life we wanted. She was standing up for me!
I was wrong. When we moved out, nothing changed. The only thing that changed, was that she was the only one abusing me instead of her family as well.
I quit my job and became a stay at home mom. Which of course meant, that I was responsible for everything. This is when control became really bad. I no longer had an income. I worked for my mom for awhile, but that fell through, and anytime my mom and I would get into a disagreement, if I talked to my ex about it, it would be held over my head for years to come. I was responsible for cooking, cleaning, taking care of our son, everything. But I never did anything right. I started getting high. I was taking pills for anxiety. I was taking pills for pain. I had convinced myself I wasn’t an addict, because I wasn’t like those other people.
One night we all went out to the bar, and her friend was so messed up on pills and alcohol that he tried to hit me. She did nothing about it. Said nothing about it. Just ignored that it happened. A few minutes later we were getting in the cab to go home, when her friend took off walking. She told me to get in the cab and go home with another friend and she would talk to me later. She went to find him. I didn’t go home. I got out of the cab and went looking for her. I tried calling. I tried hollering. She was gone. Her phone was turned off. I called another cab and had them drive me around trying to find her. I kept trying to call her. Three and half hours later, she FINALLY answered her phone. “What the fuck do you want?” She said. I told her I was worried about her, that I didn’t know where she was. That I didn’t know if she was okay, and I was scared. “I told you to go home with David. I’m trying to deal with this here, and you’re bothering me. Leave me the fuck alone and go home!” And she hung up. She later told me that it was my fault that her friend tried to hit me. It was my fault that her friend walked away from the cab, and it was my fault that he no longer wanted to hang out with her. Because I don’t like him. I never once said I didn’t like anyone. I never said those things.
I remember another time, a few months later, we had gone to another bar. The only thing she was doing the entire time we were there, was texting her friend. Yes, same friend from up above. The one who didn’t want to hang out with her anymore because of ME. She was hiding her phone from me, deleting messages as soon as they would send or come in. She would get upset if I asked who she was talking to. I ended up walking home from the bar, and she let me. She didn’t care. She always chose her friends over me. The ironic part about that, is I wasn’t allowed to have friends.
Now let me clarify. She never word for word, told me that I wasn’t allowed to have friends. Narcissists aren’t that blatant… most times. But what she DID do, was tell me that my friends didn’t like me. That they are just being nice because it’s the nice thing to do. Anytime I had a disagreement with a friend, It would be held over my head, it would be repeated to me. I would be told how terrible they are. How they don’t really care about me. How they dont really love me. How she’s the only one who can love me and forgive me for all of the things I repeatedly do. I don’t know what I repeatedly did. She was the only one who could ever put up with my bullshit. “Do you think if I didn’t love you, I’d put up with THIS SHIT? Do you think if I didn’t love you, I’d be okay with your bullshit anxiety? The fact that you don’t fucking listen to anything I ever say? NO Tyra, I do love you, so stop with the bullshit!”
That’s another thing she would always say. That I didn’t listen. I never ever listened. She would tell me to do something, and I would ask for clarification, and her response, instead of clarifying was “you never fucking listen.” Anytime we would argue, it was because “I never fucking listen.” Nothing was ever good enough for her. I remember getting in trouble for not completing tasks the “right way.” But when I would ask for her to help me make a list of things that needed done, she would tell me that I was an adult and I could figure that out on my own. Like Hey, what is it that you want done around the house? You can figure that out. But then… Then, when she got home, and I hadn’t done something she wanted done, that I didn’t know she wanted done, then I was in the wrong. Nothing I ever did was good enough. I was never good enough.
On Dec 2, 2011. We got into an argument. It literally started over a piece of paper. She had wanted me to grab some piece of paper from a gas station. I went to the gas station to get the paper and they didn’t have it. I came back to the house and told her they didn’t have it and she accused me of lying. She accused me of not going to the gas station. She accused me of not asking for the right piece of paper. She said I had one little thing to do and I couldn’t even do that right. I was supposed to head to Kansas City that day to go visit my family. She told me that because I was so angry, that I wasn’t taking “her son” with me. I could go by myself and she’d bring him up the next day. This was just her form of control. This is how she was going to control me in that moment. Of course, this made me even more upset. *let me clarify, I am NOT justifying my behavior in any way, shape or form, I am simply showing how much control narcissists have over us* She went to the bedroom, while holding our son and was getting his carseat out of the closet. She was going to take him to a friend’s house, because I was “way too unstable to drive with him.” I begged her not to do this. I told her I would calm down before I left. Just let me breathe for a minute. But she wouldn’t respond. It was another silent treatment, and this time, she was taking my son from me.
I kept trying to get her to respond and she wouldn’t. So I hit her in the back. All I wanted was a response. I wanted her to listen to me. I wanted her to not take my child from me. The next thing I know, I’m all the way across the bedroom hitting my head into the changing table, I get up, and I’m being shoved into a chair by my neck. I’m sobbing, trying to just leave, trying to apologize, trying to not lose my child. And then I’m against the bedroom door by my throat. “You will never see my child again. Is that what you wanted? Is it? well there you go. You did this! YOU DID THIS! You are insane. Fuck you. We hate you. You are trash. I hope you fucking die. Get the fuck out of this house right now, Tyra!” I fell to my knees sobbing. Please don’t take my child from me. Please. It was as if I was watching everything from outside my body. How could I have been so stupid. How could I have been so dumb? I ruined everything. I was a horrible person. I couldn’t do anything right. And I left…
She called me on my way to my cousin’s house. She missed me. I needed help, and I needed to do something different. I needed counseling she said. I needed help. I was crazy. But if I was better, MAYBE I could come back.
3 weeks later. After I went to anger management counseling and started going back to recovery meetings, I was allowed back home. I think it’s important to mention, that the entire time we lived “on our own” we were never “alone.” We constantly had people living with us. In and out of the house on a regular basis. If anyone would upset her, she would kick them out, and cut off all contact with them. We never did anything just “as a family” someone would always come along with us. It was never just us if we were going to eat, or going to the park, or anything. I didn’t leave the house alone with our child, because she had me convinced that I couldn’t handle it on my own. If I left the house it was by myself or with everyone. It was pretty much like this for the remainder of our relationship.
I changed so much. I tried so hard to be exactly what she wanted and more and I was never good enough. She was naturally dominant, and I’m naturally submissive.. I tried talking to her about BDSM and about how I wanted to be submissive, and her to be dominant. She said that was disgusting. She wasn’t dominant and if I feel like I need to be submissive then I am an extremely weak person. I met someone who was going to help me be a better submissive. They taught me how to top from the bottom. How to re-word things to make myself feel fulfilled. Instead of saying “do you want a cup of coffee?” I would say “Can I make you a cup of coffee?” Instead of saying “what do you want me to do today?” I would say “What can I do today?” Anytime I was asking for permission, I would get a reply. So I continued on this route, because FINALLY I felt like I was doing something right… But In 2014, I had another emotional affair, with the person who was teaching me. I tried so hard to not have feelings. I just wanted them to stop. I ended up telling her about it, because I didn’t want it to continue, I REALLY did want our relationship to work. I cut off all contact with the person, but I never lived that down. She said she forgave me. She said she wanted things to work. She said all these things, but none of them were followed up by any actions.
I told her again, what I needed from the relationship. I gave her examples of what I had been doing that she had been responding to. She still denied even considering to learn anything about it. So I continued to do what I was doing, to fulfill myself in the relationship. It was as if I was in a relationship with myself. Nothing I ever did was good enough. If I cleaned the entire house from top to bottom, but missed one sock, that would be the only thing that would be noticed. If I cooked a meal, but over or undercooked ONE piece of broccoli, THAT would be the only thing that would be noticed. If I wore anything I felt attractive in, I would be told that my clothes were too tight or that I looked fat or that my outfit was ugly. Anytime I tried to grow my hair out, I would be told that it looked stupid and that I looked skinnier with short hair. I was told that if I ever colored my hair, she would never be seen in public with me.
The smallest things would trigger her rage. Leaving the radio on my music instead of hers, wearing too much makeup, cooking food too fast, cooking food too slow, the kids being kids while she was sleeping, reading anything, wanting to go to a meeting, wearing dresses, leaving clothes on top of the dryer, folded, because I had gotten distracted, not vacuuming 3 times a day, ONE piece of dog hair on her clothing, being a human and forgetting ANYTHING, asking ANY QUESTION for clarification and and and… The list goes on and on and on…
My anxiety was ignored. I was told I was stupid. Over-reacting. Being dramatic. Anytime I was sick I was told to suck it up. Our son’s anxiety was blamed on me. Anytime he had any feelings that she didn’t agree with… sadness, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, etc. It was blamed on me. He had learned it from me she would say. Any compliment was really a backhanded jab. She could never give me a compliment. She could never tell me I looked pretty. She could never tell me my hair looked good or my makeup looked nice. She could never tell me that I was a good driver. In fact, she always told me I was a terrible driver. Anytime I cooked anything, I would ask if she liked it and it was always “it’s okay” or “it’s fine.” Nothing was ever GOOD. She would complain about her food anytime we would go out to a restaurant.
This was our relationship for the remainder of the years. In 2017, my nephew asked me to watch his children for him. We ended up having them for over 5 months. We filed for guardianship, and the courts granted me guardianship, but not my ex. This was when things got really bad. There was one night I went to a meeting, and she stayed home with the kids. I woke up the next morning and the two year old had bruises on his butt. She had spanked him so hard that she left bruises. I left less than a week later, I’ll get to that.
Maybe things got worse because she was jealous. Jealous that I could do something she couldn’t. She didn’t want the kids, she just wanted to prove she was “better than someone else” During this time, I had started, yet again, talking to someone else. I am not completely innocent in all of this, I don’t want anyone to think that, but NO ONE deserves to be abused. And not all abuse leaves bruises. So I had started talking to someone. Talking to this person, showed me what I wasn’t getting in my current relationship, and it’s as if my eyes were finally open. It was as if I was READY to finally see my worth, and to accept it.
The 5 main things that lead to me finally leaving:
1.) How much differently the 2 children I had guardianship over were treated vs our child. And the fact that she had left bruises on the oldest of the 2.
2.) One day, I cleaned the house from top to bottom. SPOTLESS. I even used q-tips to clean the base boards. I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees. The person I was talking to told me how proud they were of me. How I had done such a great job. How I should be proud of myself too. But when the ex woke up finally, and I told her what I’d done, and how great the house looked. Her response was.. “um.. okay?” I was crushed.
3.) We had had really busy day. Grocery shopping with 3 kids, a supervised visit at jump-mania, a baby shower, and then that same night, the ex had invited her friends and their 6 kids over for a barbecue. I ended up falling asleep on our bed mid-barbecue. When I woke up, I replied to a text from the person I was talking to and told them I had a long day, I was emotionally exhausted and had fallen asleep. Their reply was “Of course you’re exhausted. You needed that nap, why don’t you take some time for yourself and take a bath.” When I left the bedroom from my nap, my ex said to me “I don’t know what is wrong with you. All you’ve done all day long is normal adult shit. You just need to suck it up and get the fuck over it.”
4.) I had on a new dress one day that I had got from my mom. I looked beautiful, and I FELT, like a princess. I went home and I said “Don’t I look so pretty?” And her reply was “That looks stupid.” I was crushed. I said “why can’t you just tell me I look pretty?” She says “I’m not going to lie to you. It looks stupid.” I said “I’m not the clothes I wear. You could say ‘You look beautiful babe but I don’t like the dress'” She said “That’s not who I am, maybe you should’ve asked your mom how you look. I bet she would’ve lied and told you she liked it. If you don’t want my opinion, don’t fucking ask for it.”
5.) I was texting with the other person I was talking to on the front porch one day. Our son came outside, looked at me and says “Mommy, why are you so happy?” I said “What do you mean baby?” He replies with “why are you so happy? I’ve never seen you this happy.” And he proceeded to do anything he could to frustrate me, because I was genuinely confused as to why I was happy. THAT is not okay.
I left two days later. I haven’t been allowed to see my child since. It’s been nearly a year. I was slandered all over Facebook. I was slandered to friends and family. My email accounts were all hacked and stolen. She took my phone from me, and it still has the same number, and to this day, she will return any call that comes into it and cuss them out because they called for me on that number. She has told me she hates me. I will never see HER child ever again. She’s lied to the courts. She’s lied to the schools. She’s lied to everyone. She told our child that I no longer loved him. She told him I’m no longer his mommy. He’s no longer allowed to talk about me. She’s taken him out of counseling. She’s taken him out of any extra-curricluar activities. She’s taken him away from ANYONE associated with me.
With all this said, today, I AM FREE. I am free from her narcissistic control. I am free from her abuse. I am free from her thumb. I am free! I have faith that I will see my son again. I have friends I never knew I had, and today, I believe them when they tell me they love me. Today, I have a job. Today, I have my own place. Today, I pay my own bills. Today, I am responsible for me. Today, I am happy. Today, I have self-love, self-respect, and self-discipline. Today, I am me.
I end this, with my first public moment of freedom. A letter I wrote to my abuser after I left. *filled with nsfw language*
I literally thought I was crazy all those years! You made me feel crazy! Like something was wrong with me. You kept me in that state on purpose so you could control me. I’m driving. In a thunderstorm. During a tornado watch. And I’m okay. I’m o.k.a.y. I would call you freaking out and you would tell me I was over dramatic and you couldn’t handle it and proceed to hang up on me and not answer my phone calls for HOURS on end.. Told me that I was freaking out for no reason. Which only furthered my anxiety..
Really, I just wanted YOU to tell me it was okay. The person I thought loved me. The person who took advantage of my heart and my soul. The person who ripped my soul from the inside out.. You hated me. To my core you hated everything about me. My confidence when you met me, my support system, my close relationship with my family. So to make you love me more, I gave all those things to you. Until I was nothing but an empty fucking shell who NEEDED you. Needed you to survive and you STILL hated me. And i STILL begged for you to love me. I gave you my everything and it was NEVER FUCKING ENOUGH! I WAS NEVER ENOUGH!! NOTHING I could do, would ever satisfy you.
Clean the whole house? “What about this piece of dust?” Do I look pretty? “That shirt looks stupid, is too tight, [insert back handed bullshit here]” I lean in for a kiss “disgusting, you smoke!” Do all the laundry for everyone in the house and put it all away in one day? “these aren’t folded right. You’re going to stretch my socks. This isn’t hung right. You forgot this sock.” Do you like it? [After I worked REALLY REALLY hard on ANYTHING] “it’s alright.” How’s dinner? [After I cooked SPECIALIZED meals for you because you didn’t like what I was cooking, while ALSO taking care of the kids “it’s okay.” And then you proceeded to get food while at work. Too much hair. Too little hair. Wear it up, wear it down. “If you ever color your hair an unnatural color, I’ll never be seen in public with you!” NOTHING WAS EVER FUCKING GOOD ENOUGH!
“Where’s my keys? My wallet? My belt? My debit card? What did you do with my drink? My trip sheets? My log sheet?” I NEVER TOUCHED any of that shit… But fucking A right I had a panic attack and beat myself up internally every single time. Tyra you’re so stupid. She’s mad because it’s your fault. And It wasn’t. But you sure never told me that. And I ALWAYS FOUND IT FOR YOU! FRANTICALLY, and every time, WITHOUT EVEN A GOD DAMN THANK YOU! Anytime our son was misbehaving, my fault. Anytime he was upset with you, my fault. Anytime he was smart at something, my responsibility. Those were the ways you made me believe you. Put a LITTLE good in there… Right? EVERYTHING was my fault!
You kept me there like your little puppet, and I allowed it. You would show me moments of “love” to give me an ounce of hope, and then RIP IT AWAY until I was begging for more! Until I would bring it up and we would fight bc I WAS CRAZY AND IMAGINING ALL THE THINGS! “Of course you loved me. We lived together Didn’t we?” What the fuck does that even mean? But I fell for it. Yeah.. Of course she loves me. She “puts up with all of my bullshit.” “If I didn’t love you, I definitely wouldn’t put up with this shit.”
Well Fuck you! I’m okay today! I’m not fucking crazy! And I KNOW what you did, and I SEE you for what you are! And I will continue to heal from the TRAUMA you put me through!
For help identifying or leaving an abusive relationship, please contact the Domestic Violence Hotline. 1-800-799-7233