How Cheating Helped Me Escape My Abusive Relationship
Cheating is constantly viewed as something negative in our society, and generally, it should be. But, what if cheating was your only way out of something horrible and potentially life threatening?
For many victims in abusive relationships, cheating is a way for them to realize their self worth, giving them the strength to get the help they need.
“For some women, exploring connection and intimacy outside of their relationship can serve as a means to reclaim a sense of power and agency they may have never felt, or were stripped of with an abusive partner,”explains Marissa Nelson, relationship therapist. “For other women, feeling validated by another, experiencing closeness and sexuality without fear, harm or control can tap into her feeling freedom, and explore an expanded self, re-connecting to those lost pieces of her personal desires, needs, wants and vulnerabilities that are often overlooked and diminished in an abusive relationship. With this being said, research actually shows a correlation between a rise in physical/emotional abuse after an affair has been revealed, and can increase instances of domestic violence. There is not much literature, however, that studies women who use an affair as a means of leaving an abuser.”
We talked to one women who used cheating as a way out of her abusive relationship. Here is her story, as told to Ashley Uzer:
It was my freshman year of college and I met someone who was three years older than me at a nearby university party. We hooked up on Halloween and it very quickly became obsessive. We always wanted to be around each other. I was essentially living in his room that was the size of a closet.
After Thanksgiving, I had officially moved all of my stuff into his room. I never went back to my freshman dorm, and my old roommate’s boyfriend moved in to take my place. Shortly after, we began having fights nearly every night. It was always about someone talking to someone else, or my high school boyfriend, who went to the same university and whom he was incredibly jealous of. My grades fell completely that term.
He started checking my phone, so I started deleting messages. He would check my emails. He had a tracking device on me using an app called Find My Friends – if I took it off he would get enraged. He would make me keep the app on the whole time, even when I was visiting my parents at home, to make sure that I wasn’t going to my ex boyfriend’s house. He would check my Facebook messages, what Instagram pictures I had liked. It was very controlling, I had no time to do anything unless it was him.
One time when I was away from school, I made up a story that I was going to my friend’s house and shut off the app so I could visit my ex boyfriend. He went ballistic, started crying, and almost drove up to Connecticut (where my parents live). A couple months later, he started telling me how to dress, what to wear, what not to wear. If I had pants that somehow hugged my butt, they weren’t appropriate. If I wore too short of a skirt, he would freak out that “other people would want me.” I would buy new clothes and they would sit there because they didn’t meet his criteria.
Six months into our relationship, I was at his parents’ house and we had a fight because my ex had texted me and I had deleted it. He got so mad that he threw me into the wall. I went into the bathroom and locked myself inside, trying to figure out what to do next. I didn’t have my car so I couldn’t leave. I called my friends but no one knew what to do. We were 19 years old and didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation. Meanwhile, his parents were downstairs and could probably hear most of this. My boyfriend came into the bathroom and went ballistic again and punched his hand through the plastic wall of the shower. After that, his parents came up and asked what the hell was going on, but he lied about how it happened. That was the first instance that I knew that something was wrong, but I still didn’t have the balls to get out of the relationship.
The physical abuse started after that. There were fights every night, I was pushed into walls. I hit him a couple times, I’m pretty proud about that. When he got drunk he would always claim that I was trying to flirt with someone or trying to get away from him. We were at one of his fraternity parties and we were fighting so we went into this room and I blocked the door in order for him to calm down. Instead, he threw me into the wall again and I kicked him so hard in the balls and thigh that it ended up being the largest black and blue mark I’d ever seen. After I did that, he gave me indian burns all over my arms. I took pictures of all of it for evidence, knowing that one day, perhaps I could press charges.
There was a lot of hitting and mental control. I would stay in our room all night while he would go out with his friends. It was hard to keep up with friends at my own school because I was never there. One night, I don’t remember what we were fighting about, but he locked me out onto the balcony while I was naked. I was outside on his fire escape in the pouring rain naked, waiting for him to cool off and let me back inside.
I always told myself in high school that if I was ever in an abusive relationship, I would get out. In real life it was difficult because nobody knew what was going on. Once you get hit for the first time, you don’t know when it’s actually going to stop or be taken to the next level. I think I was so caught up in being liked by a person that I was blinded. I dated my high school boyfriend for two years and I wanted to recreate that. I think I wanted to believe it was good. Sure, there were times where it was fun, but it was superficial.
Then, the sexual abuse started. Some nights he would study until three or four in the morning. When I woke up in the morning, he told me that he came home late the night before and he said, “I really wanted you, I tried touching you in your sleep and tried to have sex with you in your sleep.” I would be terrified to go to bed for fear that he would touch me in my sleep, which started my night sweats. For the past three years, I’ve had night sweats every single night.
When I was applying to internships that summer, he wanted me to be near him. So, that summer I moved into his parents’ house with him. While he worked at an investment firm, I worked at an awful talent agency. Obviously, more fights were happening, but his parents didn’t seem to notice. Once I went out to lunch with his mom and I told her that he had hit me and she didn’t seem phased by it at all, she acted like I was exaggerating. I would go home to my parents’ house some weekends, but he would always accompany me because he was worried I’d go see my ex boyfriend.
One weekend we were up at my house, and my mom could tell something was wrong. While he was out playing golf I told my mom that I really didn’t want to be living with his parents, that I wanted to move out and quit my job. She encouraged me to, but I told her that I couldn’t tell him that. Instead, my mom told him that I was going to move out. After she left he started going crazy, but I went back to his house, got my stuff, and moved back to my house for two weeks before school started up again.
When I got back to school, I moved into the sorority house which I had luckily signed a lease for last October before I met him. As soon as I moved in, I knew I could end it, but it was still pretty difficult. Right when I returned to school, I broke up with him for a couple hours. I ended up hooking up with my ex boyfriend that night. The next day, I rubbed it in his face, but he still wanted control. I didn’t feel comfortable getting out, even thought I should’ve. Nobody told me I could do better, I felt like I didn’t have another option.
The next few months were on and off. I would hook up with someone else and then go back to him. In December, I was at the point where I pretty much hated him. My mom would call every day — she wanted to know if I was alive. While she never asked me directly about the relationship, I think that she knew there was some form of abuse. I was so ready to be done.
There was a football team party at a club that night, and I wanted to go. My roommate and I planned to pregame first, but we couldn’t get a taxi in time. We called him and asked him to drive us to the party, and he got angry, but agreed. I had a goal that night to hook up with a specific person on the football team and I did just that. People saw, but I didn’t care. It made me happy that my abusive boyfriend could possibly know.
Afterwards, we went back to his place, I was getting calls and texts asking “where are you?” It kept going all night long. Around three or four in the morning, I finally picked up. He said, “I’m driving around the city looking for you. Where are you? Why haven’t you called me? You’re doing something with someone.” I went back into the football player’s house and tried to pretend that nothing had happened, but I eventually told him what was going on. The guy encouraged the idea that I was better not being with my boyfriend. The fact that someone else was actually interested in me made me realize that I was seeing this all wrong.
If I hadn’t had that experience I don’t think I would’ve ended it, I would probably be going back and forth still. I don’t usually tell people about the cheating part, because people have very skewed opinions on cheating. Cheating can definitely go both ways. I did it to intentionally hurt a person because he needed to be hurt, but I also did it for the satisfaction, because I wanted the other guy. We hooked up for two months after that, it made me feel better that my ex knew. If you cheat in an abusive relationship, I don’t think it makes you a cheater for life.
My ex still contacted me afterwards. He texted me and he called me. When I answered, I was extremely rude and told him that he abused me and that he’s a loser. He couldn’t come to terms with the fact that hitting someone or attempting to rape them is abuse. I blocked him. I didn’t see him for months. But at the end of the year, he messaged me trying to meet up. I agreed. I don’t know why. He kept trying to tell me that it wasn’t abuse. After that, I blocked him on every single thing I possibly could. He was on my LinkedIn, Facebook, and email. I blocked him on everything because I didn’t want to every see his face or name again. I deleted every single friend that I had met through him.
All in all, cheating was my escape. It allowed me to put one foot on the other side of the door. All I had to do was pull myself through, and I did.