My friend, J, is a very strong woman. Not everyone agrees with my opinion, most see her as simply naive and vulnerable. She isn’t, nor is she stupid, perhaps guilty of being far too empathetic. We’ve known eachother years and she is a perfect mix between reserved and brutally honest. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I found out deeper parts of her life, it wasn’t until a few days ago that she asked me whether I would write about it on her behalf. Her story is important but given her choices, she needs a cloak of anonymity which I am more than happy to provide. She asks me to write this exactly as she describes, not to be coy or shy away from the realities, to do this for every man or woman who can relate.
J’s older than myself by 9 or so years, early thirties, but doesn’t appear to have aged past her teens. She has a youthful glow but wise beyond her years. She’s moderately successful, while she hasn’t always held down work, she’s very skilled and intelligent. J is the kind of girl who can light up a room, an IT nerd who can hold hour long conversations about her favourite comic books and Sci Fi films. J was never short of friends but lacked decent relationships. She came out as lesbian in her early twenties, terrified, but quickly relieved at the warmth and comfort that surrounded her by friends and family. Despite the support, she found it hard to date, her experience very limited.
Four years ago, J was sat in a park reading, as she often did on warm afternoons after work. Time passed and she felt a presence beside her on the little wooden bench. She looked up from her novel and her heart skipped a beat. Her eyes connected with two inquisitive emeralds staring back. This was the most beautiful woman J had ever seen. Petite, long blonde hair, mesmerizing eyes, a smile you’d kill for. J realised she hadn’t spoken a word and the woman, noticing J’s awkwardness, laughed radiantly. She introduced herself as N, she had noticed J was reading one of her favourite books, and wanted to make conversation.
It all started from that day. The meeting at the park turned into coffee, coffee turned into dinner. They spent the entire evening together, parting at around 10pm with a dizzying kiss. J was in love, just like that. She knew is was quick but she couldn’t deny the butterflies. It felt pure magic, fairytale romance, stuff you only read about. They saw eachother almost every day, their connection was undeniable. Everyone would comment on how happy they seemed, how well suited. They made a promise to always be honest with each other, J had no doubts and that seemed reciprocated by N. They spoke about the past, present, and future. N was much more experienced than J romantically and sexually, ashamedly admitting that she had made a bit of a reputation for herself when she first came out. N was bisexual and when she was younger, she was confused and scared, she would be overtly sexual to compensate for this insecurity. Multiple sexual partners at once, everyone knew her as a cheat, a nice girl but never one to trust. Since, she had tried to redeem herself, J being her first real relationship that wasn’t based on lies. J appreciated the honesty and in turn, shared her experiences and how her own insecurity had lead her to having her heartbroken many times.
After a month of seeing eachother every day, J was told she would have to work away for a week in a different city. N seemed fine with this, predictably sad, but she understood the commitment to work. J spent the morning with N and hopped on a train ready for an exhausting week. The hours were long and grueling, breaks were sparse. The second day, during a much welcomed break from typing, J was bombarded with texts. N had text very unusually, threatening to break up with J for no apparent reason. J was broken, crying and frantically dialing N’s number, she begged to know what was wrong. N laughed, “got you! I’m just joking, God, chill out.” This repeated multiple times throughout that week. J didn’t know how to react, she was so inexperienced, she knew this behaviour wasn’t acceptable but what could she do? She spoke to N, who would half halfheartedly apologise, claiming she didn’t understand why the “joke” was a big deal. N was very charming, very charismatic, and J fell for it every goddamn time.
When J came back, N’s behaviour seemed to return completely how it was before the trip. J decided to let N’s behaviour slide, maybe she was just missing her? N suggested they visit her parents’ house for the weekend, which they did. The first two days were wonderful, her parents were very good and warm people, N was being as loving as ever. That Saturday night, they stayed up until around 5 AM, drinking and laughing, before heading to bed. The next day, they both awoke mid afternoon, still quite tired. J had barely opened her eyes before N’s bad mood became apparent. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! Here, just look at this!” She thrust her phone into J’s face. It was a text from N’s mother, saying that they were planning on inviting them for lunch at the local pub but when they realised they were both still sleeping, decided to leave them to get some much needed rest. J looked at N confused, not understanding what the problem was. “I’m fucking hungry, this is YOUR fucking fault. Are you fucking stupid? Are you actually fucking stupid? Why didn’t you set an alarm? Can you not do anything?!” J felt the tears pour down her face, they had been together 2 months and she had never seen any indication of this temper before. “Why are you fucking crying? Look how fucking pathetic you are. What, you want me to feel sorry for you at something? It’s so pathetic” and she spat on her. J was distraught but just like that, N was embracing her. “Oh, J, I’m so sorry.. I’m not like this. Shit, I don’t know why I did that. I love you so much, I really don’t know where that came from. I know it isn’t an excuse but I’m just still really tired, I haven’t woken up properly yet, I’m just groggy and moody. Can you forgive me?” She did.
After that incident, N’s anger remained hidden. There were little things that started bother J, though. At night, they would speak over social media and N would often say she was asleep but her media would say she was active. She would constantly be accepting friend requests. The night before, J took a picture of N sleeping, thinking it funny and sent it to her that morning. J was scrolling through social media and saw this picture, smiling, until she read the caption. N had captioned the picture, “When your friend catches you sleeping.” Friend. J scoffed, they were much more than friends, her heart sank. Looking through her profile, she realised N had no pictures of them together, no mention of her at all. She contacted N, justifiably pissed off, accusing her of hiding their relationship. “No, babe, you’ve got it all wrong. I was tired when I posted that picture and I just accidentally wrote ‘friend’ instead of ‘girlfriend’, it really was a genuine mistake. There’s no pictures of us because I just don’t really use the account, I hardly ever post on it. Please don’t make a big deal out of this, I know you’re insecure but I wouldn’t hurt you.” N was already putting the blame onto J, “I know you’re insecure but”, then reinforcing it with, “please don’t make a big deal out of this”. Minimising genuine concerns. N flirted with truth and lies. She had given J all her passwords to her accounts, always saying, “God, just fucking check if you want to be like that.” She knew J would never check, N was bluffing, the passwords were real but she knew J would feel too guilty if she actually signed in. She could do whatever she wanted.
3 months in, N took J to the park where they met and proposed. J was shocked but happily accepted, trying to ignore the little doubts she had. They moved in together shortly after.
N’s family decided to throw an engagement party for them. They went to a quaint restaurant and had a fantastic time, J was so appreciative. During that evening, sat at the table, N began to roll a cigarette. J, a bit drunk and feeling mischievous, jokingly knocked N’s hand slightly so a bit of tobacco fell onto her knees. J didn’t have chance to form a smile before she felt her arm being forcefully yanked under the table. The grip was tight and painful. N pulled J in close, everybody was engaged in their conversations and didn’t notice, she spoke quietly but assertively. “Don’t you ever fucking do that again.” Then she released J’s arm and got up smiling, leaving for her smoke.
Living with N was problematic. J was desperate to please, did all of the house work, made dinner every night. She didn’t notice at first that it was her doing everything, she was that in love with N that she didn’t even mind. N was loving but very distant at the same time. N would spend hours at work, then spend the rest of the night on her XBOX, playing games. Her short fuse became more obvious, as did other personality faults. She was obnoxious and lazy. When J would question N’s behaviour, it was met with, “I work longer hours than you, I work a fucking stressful job, so yeah I want to spend all my time playing games. Don’t you realise how selfish you’re being asking me to spend time with you? That isn’t normal, you know. You work less, so why shouldn’t you clean and make dinner? It’s honestly only fair. God, if only people knew about you, they’d think you were crazy getting on my back about shit like this.” J was losing herself, she started off strong, but was too mentally exhausted to argue back. She started to question herself, was she being selfish, would people think she was horrible? The more N said these things to J, the more believable they sounded to J. It was Jekyll and Hyde, N was everything J ever wanted in a partner at times, which is why she was so forgiving. N was funny, smart, she would donate her time and money to charity, would give J anything she wanted. Then the monster would come back.
Their relationship went by okay. To J, she honestly thought it was amazing, despite everything she was absolutely and truly in love. That love, coupled with her decreasing self esteem, was a dangerous combination. She was vulnerable. J recalls one night, they had got into a small argument about cleaning. N had backed J up against the bedroom wall, she pushed J hard into the wall, her head bouncing off it. J caught herself and sat back onto the bed, trying to work out what was happening. N held J down, once down, she placed a pillow over her face and began to suffocate her. “FUCK, WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME? I FUCKING LOVE YOU, REALLY FUCKING LOVE YOU.. AND YOU.. YOU JUST BRING OUT THIS ANGER, WHY? I DON’T WANT THIS, I DON’T WANT TO BE DOING THIS! YOU MAKE ME DO THIS. FUCK!” A few hours later, J was convinced she had provoked N, that it was a silly mistake and it shouldn’t be brought up again.
No violence appeared for awhile. It was somewhat peaceful, N still had an undeniable anger problem but would take it out on doors, walls, leaving holes in them. J reasoned that while it still wasn’t healthy, it must have proved N was trying to improve.
J was still suspicious of N. One night, a week before Christmas, N was fast asleep. J tried and tried to control her anxieties but she caved, picking up J’s phone, she opened J’s Whatsapp. She clicked on a conversation with a girl she had never heard of. It was of N trying to get to know this girl, phonecalls of two hours at a time, sexual conversations, sexual pictures. J lost all feeling, all emotion, all sense of time and reality. She felt physical heartbreak for the first time. The conversations were dated within the first few weeks her and N had began dating. She dropped the phone into her pocket and looked at N’s sleeping body. Her thoughts raced, her body shook, she walked downstairs. She sat on the sofa and cried. She thought about punching things, walls, anything.. but she couldn’t. She had no strength, no power, nothing. Eventually, she walked upstairs. She slammed the lights on, hurled the phone and N, crying so hard she couldn’t speak. N didn’t say anything at first, J was expecting a burst of anger or violence but it didn’t come. J calmed enough to explain what she found, bemused by N’s calm behaviour. N cried, while J was hurt and angry, her caring heart still longed to comfort her partner. It was J’s turn to be silent and N spoke. “J, I really love you, and you have every right to hate me. Not just for this, for everything. No matter what I say, it’s going to be a shitty excuse because I had no right to do that to you. I’ve had no right to do anything that I have done to you. I don’t expect you to forgive me. This is the only time I did something like this, I was scared. Scared of committing and I acted like an idiot. I don’t even know who that other person is, some girl off Facebook, I don’t even know her in real life. I was just being selfish and cowardly. I was high, too. I know it’s no excuse. Please, I love you. Don’t leave me.” J accepted the apology, accepted the explanation. She couldn’t sleep though, she didn’t sleep for days. She didn’t eat. She could do nothing but cry. Took a week off work. N tried to console J, but it meant nothing, J just bottled her feelings and carried on.
A week and a half later, they were sat in bed together. N asked to borrow J’s laptop to check her emails. As N opened her emails, the screen flashed with dating site confirmations. J lost her cool and N’s temper finally flared again. N threw the laptop at the wall, breaking the screen. “Look, see what you fucking did. Spam email. Fucking SPAM EMAILS, ever heard of them? That’s what that shit was. You get them, everyone fucking gets them. I’m not actually on any websites, I honestly can’t believe you’d think that. You’re crazy, you know that?”
The next few weeks were a blur. J sank into a deep depression, still not eating, still not sleeping. She remembered that she had all of N’s passwords and terrified, she logged into her apps. She told herself was being paranoid, believed with every part of her soul that she wouldn’t find anything. In the space of two months, she found: three separate Facebook accounts, further Whatsapp conversations, a KIK used for sexual conversations, POF, Match.com, a fuck buddies app, Ashley Madison account, a Meetme account, Badoo, Bumble, Tinder, Snapchat. Most of the emails/usernames used were in N’s emails she never bothered to delete. J sat and read every single message. There were hundreds, every single one of these apps and websites were being used daily by N. Every single day, whilst she was at work, it seemed.
“I felt myself die completely reading those messages. I know it sounds dramatic but that’s how it felt, how it still feels. I’m not a whole person since that. The violence was bad but was nothing compared to the emotional torture of reading the person you love saying they want to fuck people. What they’d like to do to them. Sending nudes. You know what hurt more? When I would see she would have phonecalls with them. It made it more real. Like, it wasn’t just dirty little sexts, it was actually conversing. I don’t know. I’ve never been the same person since. I read everything and sometimes, you know, it would make me physically ill. I’d have to stop and vomit. It was weird because on these messages, she would lead these people on and ask them to meet but then never see it through. That always confused me, they would send N messages asking why she’d stood them up.. She never actually met with one of them. I don’t know why, it’s not like it was any less bad because it wasn’t actually physical.”
J would confront N and the reactions would differ. At first, N would deny the accusations even with the proof before her eyes. It was always someone had hacked her or she would spend hours gas lighting J, convincing her it was in her head. The stress and pressure was all too much for J, she quit her job, she couldn’t function. She would beg N to just admit the truth, it took months for her to. In those months, J would find more messages and accounts every single day. Every day her heart would got torn out of her chest, the hurt never stopped, J thought about suicide a lot. The pain for J was indescribable, yet she couldn’t let N go. J felt helpless, she knew N had her completely. She knew logically that she could have just ended things but she just didn’t feel she could. She felt she needed N, that there really wasn’t an option.
It was quiet for awhile, a few weeks, J was still obsessively checking N’s media and messages and it seemed to have stopped. They’d had an amazing night, for the first night it a long time it felt like they had connected again. Sat watching a film, N’s Facebook notification pinged. J passed N her phone, but was confused as no active notification had come up, N mentioned that her phone had been playing up. J took the phone and checked, the Facebook notification was from a second account, she immediately questioned N. N laughed it off, saying that she hadn’t deactivated the account properly and would do it the next morning. J was silent and forced herself to sleep. The next day she tried to force it from her mind, as they were sat having dinner together. N took the plates into the kitchen to wash up and whilst in the room, her phone rang. J picked up the phone to hand it to N, noticing that it was a female’s name she had never heard N mention before. “Oh babe, it’s just my friend’s sister. I left some work stuff around their house, I’ll go sort it out later.” The following day, she checked the Facebook whilst N was at work. The “friend’s sister” was a girl N had been speaking with. N’s last message to this girl was, “I think I saw you in town, if I had known it was you, I would’ve kissed you.”
N finally did end the behaviour. 5 months after it had began. False promises and gas lighting, their relationship seemed completely irreparable. N tried to comfort J, it seemed like she was trying to accept responsibility. She stopped staying out late and dedicated more time to J.
“I know people won’t understand this but despite everything, I wanted us to work. When it was good, it was great. I know it doesn’t seem like it but N isn’t a bad person. I cringe as I say that because I know nobody will believe it but you know, good people can do really shitty things, doesn’t make them a bad person. Maybe I’m naive, I don’t know but I know that I love her. I hear people all the time saying, “If I was in an abusive relationship, I’d leave, but it’s not always like that. It’s not that black and white. I’m not encouraging or advocating people stay in relationships like mine, I’m really not. I’m just trying to give a different perspective or some insight.. I don’t know. It’s real. It’s no bullshit.”
The infidelity had ceased but J’s pain hadn’t. She became a shut in, didn’t socialise, didn’t really live. For the first few months, J was obsessed with checking social media. It became a compulsion. She would spend hours at a time, googling N’s name trying to find her social media pages. Typing her email into different apps. She never found anything but it didn’t silence her mind. She couldn’t relax, after daily hurt, it had become an automatic daily pattern to be on high alert. As time passed, this behaviour died down, but didn’t stop until 6 months after. They would argue a lot, J couldn’t and didn’t know how to process the emotional pain. N didn’t know how to support J, she showered her with reassurance but because of all the previous empty promises, it never felt real. It was never enough.
However, this horrible time period had opened communication up between them both. N was learning how to be more honest and speak about her feelings, sharing with J the dark times from her past, traumatic events that had shaped her life. N had been through emotional neglect as a child, which she acknowledged, had made her an emotionally neglectful adult for a long time.
N held a lot of anger within, which still would result in violent outbursts. The abuse would come once a month or once every six. There was no specific pattern.
“It’s weird. When you’re a victim of abuse.. or you know, you have been in the past, you can sense the incoming abuse in the air. From the moment I’d wake up, I’d know whether it was going to be a good day or bad day. I don’t know how, instinct? I’d just know. I’d immediately feel uncomfortable. N could still be fast asleep and I’d just know. The atmosphere would just be different and every single time I got this feeling, an abusive incident would follow that day or night. I really can’t explain it that well but I felt it in my entire body.”
The abuse would range and vary in severity. During the time, it would mostly be emotional.
“I’ve been called everything. Stupid, slut, worthless. I’ve been spat on and at. Had drinks poured over me, plates thrown at me, actually.. a lot of shit thrown at me. She’s broken four different phones I’ve had. I’ve been slapped, choked, thrown against walls. Kicked in the stomach, face, head. Punched in the body. She only ever punched my face once, which resulted in a black eye and a very bloody nose. It was terrifying.. I’d never been in a fight before, never been in any physical fight with anyone in my entire life. She hit me and it didn’t process at first, the pain wasn’t immediate, I was just in shock. Then the pain hit, the blood poured, I thought she’d broken my nose. I remember there was so much blood is soaked parts of my t-shirt. A month before I had started a job in an office, which I quit after this incident. I had to go into work with my black eye, I tried covering it but I didn’t know how, it was very obvious. Everyone was whispering or asking me outright. I lied, said it was nothing, just a fall. I could tell nobody believed it. That anxiety, knowing everyone was judging and talking about me, I couldn’t handle that. So, I just quit.”
The violent outbursts became more controlled once N sought help. This help wasn’t welcomed at first though. It had started as an argument, J can’t recall what it was about. J remembers seeing a rage in N’s eyes.
Her eyes would always glaze over when she became enraged. It was like a different person was stood before me, like her face physically changed. It scared me because not only did I know I was going to be hit, I knew that this person had no empathy, it was a complete stranger. Her eyes would be empty, she didn’t seem to recognise me, there was just nothing there.”
N rained down punches on J’s body. J was on the floor, curled up, holding her hands over her skull. It happened in a flash. The screaming, shouting, over in minutes. N stepped back and fled the house. She ran into the local woodland and hid. J reached to her phone and called N’s parents, who came and picked her up. They took her back to their home and J explained everything. The listened, completely astounded by what they were hearing. N’s relationship with her parents was complicated, they were people who could provide, but not always provide love and caring. N’s parents admitted that as a child, she would often lash out at people and inanimate objects but because they couldn’t control her, they often left her to it, believing she would grow out of it. The parents made multiple attempts to contact N, but it was finally J she accepted a call from.
J stepped outside to speak with her partner, who confided she was feeling very suicidal. N had a history of suicide attempts, so J was very cautious in what she spoke. She reassured N that she wanted to get her help but she needed to know where she was. This back and forth lasted around twenty minutes before N finally backed down and admitted to her location. J was still on the phone to N as she started walking towards the woods, when she heard N shout “fuck you” and hang up. J was terrified and called back, when N answered she was very quiet. “Why the fuck did you tell them, J?” J was confused until she heard N’s parents in the background of the call. They had left the house when J was on the phone, deciding by gut instinct to try the woods to find their daughter. N heard them shouting her name and panicked, she had just told J her location so could only assume that J had betrayed her trust and informed her parents. N’s parents took her into their car and picked J up, they decided to take N to the emergency room at the hospital. There, N eventually had a mental health evaluation, and was put into therapy and signed up to anger management lessons and classes.
“It’s really fucked up, I know that, we know that. I love her and she loves me. I’m still suffering from the aftermath. There’s been no violence since that day within our relationship but still, when N gets slightly annoyed at something, I shake. I get feelings of nauseous and have anxiety attacks. I find myself still struggling with self esteem and I apologise excessively all of the time for things and immediately try to take blame. From the cheating, though it was years ago now, it still haunts me in ways. I’m quite.. controlling, I guess, sometimes. I like to know exactly who N is with and don’t like her to really make plans without me. I still get flashbacks of those seedy messages in my mind, sometimes during sex, and I could just hurl myself from a window. There’s a lot of damaged to be healed, I don’t think it ever fully can repair. People question why we’re together, those few who know what we’ve been through, and I can only really put it down as love. I really want to spend my life with her and I hope our relationship can be healthy, I hope it can be normal. I don’t forgive the things she’s put me through but I see something in her, I just have this pure belief that she’s a good person and I really feel it. I don’t know what the future holds but I take each day as it comes, a lot has changed from those years ago. We’ve grown a lot as people as a couple. I don’t know, sometimes I think I’m stuck in confusion. I know I’m happy but this isn’t a conventional relationship, is it real? I think so. I hope so. I question a lot”