Have any of you ever looked at a reminder and hated what it made you think of? Hated the flood of emotions that hits you in the gut and almost bring you to your knees? Well, I have faced many in my life. Some I face every day even now. Framed photos, saved texts, family conversations, etc.
During high school I spent a year away in a study abroad program. When I came back I was faced with a person I had known for four years as a friend. By the end of the summer, we had moved on to a couple and were pretty serious. Throughout the time Leander and I had known each other, I knew he had family issues, from his tragic life with his mother and him and his siblings being taken away to be raised by their grandmother who had issues of her own. We were destined to burn so hot we would destroy everything around us with how messed up we both were.
For the first year everything was… well, I wouldn’t say great. Leander had a problem with grabbing, yanking, pushing, not listening, and pills. Leander had gotten injured during a football game and was given some good pain killers that he eventually took advantage of. He would mix up to six into his drinks and take it to school with him. Once I had to actually take him from a class and half carry, half walk him to his coach's room so he could sleep on the back corner. As the year went on, Leander became more aggressive but never to the point where I was scared for my life. He was, what I now know, obsessed with me. If I said jump, he would ask how high. If I said I wanted to borrow his car, he would ask for how long. Yet, if I said to stop, or try to walk away before he was finished with me, he would get angry and defensive.
It wouldn’t be until a few years later when I went to therapy that I would learn Leander was a classic case of narcissist. These qualities include manipulation, aggression, fake personas, hidden agendas, and being an amazing liar. All of which trapped me in a life I hated.
Now, many people ask the same question, the same question I myself have asked before: why stay? Well, that’s complicated. It could have been because I was hoping Leander would one day return to the man I once loved, or because I didn’t want the past two years to have been for nothing. But really deep down, I knew why I had stayed after the first hit and even after the time he locked me in a room and refused to let me sleep on my bed because I said no to showering with him. My pride made me keep my silence. Even now my own mother, who is my best friend, doesn’t know everything. Another thing that made me stay was that over the span of two years, I was beaten down mentally and emotionally so that I would believe that I was unworthy of love, that no one but Leander would ever find me attractive or worth the effort. Now I also can’t forget that everything I had was under his name, even if it was my money that was paying for it all. How could I simply walk away when my home was under his control? Where would I live? I had a dog I had to bring with me and because we lived in an apartment, Gremlin was an inside pet. A pet that was practically my child. Maybe sometime soon I will write a story about her but this one is about Leander.
So during the time we had been together, I was faced with few decisions. Leander didn’t want me to work at first and in the beginning I didn’t, but after a few weeks of living on our own, he got back in touch with his mom. The same woman who lost him due to drugs and negligence. At first it was fine. I wanted him to explore that side of him, see what his options were, and find out where he wanted to stand with her. Yet when his grandma found out, things began to fall apart. Christy wasn’t like what I was used to in the grandma department. She was angry and spiteful, loved to hate and extremely rude. She loved me until Leander began to choose me over her. Then I was told I didn’t belong with him, that I was the devil and only there to poison his mind. When we moved in together she refused to help him pay for his college tuition and then refused to allow his siblings to see him because we were “living in sin,” as she liked to tell us. One could only imagine the anger she had when she found out Debra, little daughter dearest, was back in the picture. She would stop talking to Leander weeks at a time, would ground his brother and sister from their phones so she knew for sure they would have no contact with us.
I had no problem staying away from Christy. By that point, she had ruined any relationship we once had and I was fine keeping my distance. Yet when Debra started coming over, Leander was becoming happier. He was cooking fancy dinners and making plans to see them. Everything was looking up.
Then something changed.
I don’t know when it happened. It was gradual and took weeks before I noticed. He began to spend more time out with his friends, began drinking every night even if he knew he had the night shift and was due to leave in three hours. He began to be mean, say rude comments, and throw snide remarks in an argument, things even his friends would stand up and defend me over. I can’t count how many times his buddies would hit on me or tell Leander how lucky he was to have me, how many times he would show me off and brag to his friends about me, just for him to come home and yell at my face saying things that eventually turned into insults about my looks and size.
Now I like to think I'm a strong woman. I stopped crying over things well before high school and definitely after my year abroad (another story for another time), but by year 2 I was crying myself to sleep multiple times a week. How could the man I loved, the man who showed me off and praised me in front of everyone, tell me I was getting fatter, that no one would ever love me and my problems? For the longest time, I was in denial.
By the fourth month in our first apartment, Debra wanted to go out to a strip club with us—weird, right? What parent wants to just hang out with their child in a strip club? Long story short, after three days of partying with her, Leander told his boss he would be out for the whole week due to being sick with meningitis, an illness that by law you have to have a doctor’s note saying you can work again before actually being allowed back at work. A week later he was fired because he obviously couldn’t get that doctor's note even though his mother promised she could create a fake one so good it would pass HR. That was when I started working again as a waitress. My first semester at college was finished and I was getting ready for my second one to start, things were tight, and many nights we would skip meals just so we would have something the following week.
Now before I forget, during this whole time, Leander’s best friend Shawn was living with us. He refused to work and slept all day long, waited until Leander came home to play basketball, then stayed up all night. He never did anything else unless we did something together as a group. Now I love Shawn. I still to this day have a soft spot for him, but he definitely did not make things easier money wise.
When I began working, Leander stopped looking for a job, he didn’t have the money to return to school, and he began to slip into what I believe was depression. He would spend his days playing basketball or swimming with Shawn but never cleaned or contributed anything aside from cooking the same meal over and over again, spaghetti. I’m not saying the food wasn’t good. I mean we were broke so it was cheap and could feed us for days, but after two weeks it got boring. When I did come home with money he loved to spend it. When I would get my school money, he would go shopping then take pictures and brag about how he took care of me on social media. Funny right? He took care of me by buying himself stuff with my own money… I look back and see how stupid I was. What I would say now if anyone tried that on me now.
Eventually my income couldn’t pay the bills and we had to leave. Leander’s bright idea was to move in with his mom. I fought the whole way, but eventually I caved in and gave him two months to get a job and save up enough for us to move back out or I would be leaving without him. Because of this move I had to quit and get a different waitressing job closer by. As I hated waitressing, I tried looking else were, which is hard to do when you haven’t finished college and your only experience is the food service kind. Leander found a job fast. He became a cook at a close by sea food restaurant and eventually told me they were looking for servers. I was desperate by that point and decided I would go ahead and apply.
Long story short, I got the job and began making good money which I saved secretly in my car so Leander wouldn’t find it and spend it. After the second month I brought up moving again and he said he needed more time, so I gave it to him. Yet each day that passed since Debra come back into his life, he grew angrier and angrier. He began getting in fights, talking back to our bosses, calling into work when he knew a certain worker would be in, and he became more aggressive with me. He eventually got fired for his attitude and he was left to find another job, this time at a fast food place.
As long as he was working then I didn’t care. By that point. I was slowing growing tired of his ways and we would fight almost every day. Working in different locations helped, though. I began making my own friends, having people to leave and see when I didn’t want to go home. This began to make him paranoid. I had stopped going to school due to wanting to work enough to move out as fast as I could, and this meant I had shifts almost every day, sometimes doubles. Leander would come home wanting to mess around and I was too tired to even move. Eventually that became an recurring argument for us. His anger about this grew so large that he eventually stopped asking for what I wanted. He would wait until I was asleep before he would make his move. This was when I began to cry myself back to sleep every night.
After a few months I had finally saved up enough money to get my own apartment, I was finally going to leave him. I had had enough and I was ready to move on and be on my own with just me and my brand new puppy. I began looking for studio apartments that were close to my job and began getting things ready, talking to my mom about it and getting all excited.
One morning during winter, the roads iced over and my car was rendered useless with the tires that were older than my own mother. I was left with two options, drive Leander’s big Dodge Ram or call into work. Obviously I chose to drive the Dodge. As the day went on, the ice thawed and work got crazy, my shift turned into a double, and by the time I got home I was so tired I went straight to sleep, not even questioning why my car was moved to a different spot.
It wouldn’t be until a few days later that I would figure out why.
I guess Leander found out I was planning on moving out. He found the saved apartments I had on my laptop and then on the day I used his car he took mine without asking and found my saved money. So he did what any other "good boyfriend" would do. He went and got an apartment with my money and put it under his name. Didn’t tell me until he signed all the paperwork.
I had lost everything. My money to move out, my leverage to leave him, and my will to be happy. I was so close to freedom, yet I lost it and with it almost every penny to my name.
A week later we were finished moving in and I began to make it a cozy home. I bought all new appliances with saved gift cards to stores, and over time I replaced everything in the kitchen such as bowls, plates, silverware, and even bought a new vacuum. I wasn’t happy, but I made sure I looked it when people asked.
I still worked as a waitress and was becoming good friends with a girl named Carly. She slowly became my confidant, a person I turned to when I was in need of anything. She eventually figured out what was happening to some extent and then from that moment on, she became my voice of reason.
To this day I still believe Carly was one of the reasons I survived Leander. After a few months, I began to grow this hatred for him. Some nights I would refuse to come home and just stay with friends. I told him I was done and our relationship was over until he changed. For a few weeks he played as if he was, but we had been there before so I didn’t believe him. Carly eventually created an account for me on Tinder—this was where I started my journey of moving on. A week later, Leander found out and got angry. So angry that he held me down by my neck and refused to let me leave. When I finally got away, I ran for the door but the moment it opened, it was slammed shut.
I had lost my freedom once again.
He grabbed my shoulders and shoved me so hard I hit the corner of the wall and fell. I couldn’t stand back up fast enough so he grabbed my hair and began to drag me to the bed where he continued to hold me down and tell me I couldn’t leave him ever. This encounter left the bruise in the photo above, a bruise that over a year later was still noticeable under the skin.
Eventually he calmed down enough for me to leave but I was unable to grab anything—that included my dog (a story for another time). I turned to Carly who said I was welcome to live with her.
A few days later I was moved in with a few bags of clothes and one pair of shoes. She and her other roommate already had a total of three dogs so mine had to wait. I couldn’t overstep my welcome. We continued on with our lives but a few days later Leander followed me home and found out where I lived. He showed up at 3 in the morning, banging on the front window, screaming at me and Carly, cussing at me and demanding I come out. That night he broke into my car, claiming he needed to get his things out of it yet only grabbed his broken sunglasses.
Over time he got the picture and began the suicide rants, calling and texting about how he was done living if he couldn’t have me. After a few weeks of this, I eventually called his mom and said he took her car and said he was going to crash it to end his life. I told her I was done with the matter and if she cared that she would have to figure it out on her own. After that, it was done. He stopped calling, he stopped texting, and I no longer saw him.
To this very day I still look over my shoulder when I drive through the area we used to live or in the area his family lives. I fear I will run into one of them. I fear what I will feel or say towards them if confronted. I see someone who looks like Leander and I freeze. My stomach drops and my mind goes blank. I don’t want him to ever touch me again yet to this day, I still crave that wind fire hot passion we had in the beginning. That crazy type of love that burns so hot it will eventually destroy everything around you.
But I am happier not melting. I'm happier breathing fresh air and standing in the cold just feeling the air.
I’m happier without him, even if I still struggle two years later with not only myself but my relationship with others.
Men do not define us. They can’t put us in a box and label it, expecting us to remain inside. We are stronger than that.
I hope, if anyone who reads this is ever in a situation such as this one, you message me. Ask me any questions you want and I will help you in any way I can. I still struggle to this day, so I know if I still need help, then so do others.
Who better to lean on than someone who understands?
Get help, before it’s too late for you to.
With much love,