“I treated her so right. I was the best person I could be and sacrificed so much and it was never enough.”
Typically we think of domestic abuse as something only women experience, but men experience it too, usually in a psychological way.
According to acculturated.com, psychological abuse can come in the form of bullying, unreasonable expectations, unpredictable responses, emotional blackmail, rejection, withholding affection, constant chaos and isolation.
Matthew Howard (names have been changed due to the sensitivity of the topic) was a sophomore in high school. He didn’t have much experience with relationships or girls in general, not for lack of trying.
Matthew met Scarlett in band class.
“She was pretty and we seemed to laugh at the same type of jokes; a perfect girl for a guy just like me. Or so I thought,” Matthew said.
As the school year progressed, Matthew and Scarlett grew to be friends and eventually mutually agreed to date.
“I think one day I just asked if she would be my girlfriend and she agreed,” Matthew explained. “At this point everything seemed okay. Nothing in her demeanor and attitude said that she had depression.“
She used Matthew as a tool instead of a boyfriend. Her life wasn’t perfect, but she required constant affirmation and affection.
“About a month into our relationship she told me she hated her dad,” Matthew said. “Now I thought this was just teenage angst so I agreed with her. I told her that her dad is an awful person. That should have been my first warning sign.”
A couple of days later, she asked him to come over because she was feeling sad. Her parents weren’t home, but that only thing that mattered to Matthew was making her happy.
“That should’ve been my second warning sign,” Matthew said. “I should’ve never gone over. I knew that my parents wouldn’t allow me to go over without any parents and so I asked her what she wanted me to do. She told me to lie that I was going to my friend’s house, so I did.”
It was innocent for a while. He would go to her house and play Xbox with her, they would kiss a little, and then he would bike home before her mom left work.
“One week I felt really bad about going over and lying to my parents and so I told her that I couldn’t go over without any parents there,” Matthew said.
Then came the third warning sign.
“If you loved me you would come over.”
He thought he really loved her so he gave in. They did a little more than kiss this time but it didn’t matter to him. The only thing that mattered was making her happy.
“Her requests kept getting harder and harder to fulfill. It got to the point that I couldn’t. I felt awful. All that mattered in my life at that point was making her know she was loved and important,” Matthew explained.
“My grades dropped, I was staying up until 2 in the morning to make sure she fell asleep without cutting and then getting up at 5 to go to seminary. I was getting 3 hours of sleep a night and that didn’t matter because she was doing better.
It wasn’t good enough, though. Matthew was getting I trouble for his grades and his punishment was no commination with Scarlett for just one week.
“In just one week she decided that my caring and passion for her wasn’t enough and so she asked my good friend Michael to come over and do a little more than play Xbox, and he did,” Matthew recalled.
A couple of weeks later she broke it off with Matthew and then immediately started dating him. She then decided that Matthew was better and started flirting with him again after she broke up with Michael.
“I was so naïve. I decided that maybe she wouldn’t do it again. Maybe I would be enough for her this time. I thought I was the issue, not her. She was perfect in every way. She was an angel in my life.”
Then she started to cut herself. Matthew began to fall into depression too. He blamed himself for the cutting and she did too. She told him he wasn’t enough and broke up with him for the second time.
They went back and forth. Getting together, then breaking up. She continued to cut and shut all of her friends out of her life. He thought he could help her but she needed professional help.
The night she tried to commit suicide made that clear.
“I remember that night as if it were yesterday,” Matthew recalled. “She told me that I should go to bed because I had a long day tomorrow. I had a couple of tests but nothing really important. I told her I loved her and that I hope she sleeps well and that I would talk to her tomorrow. She thanked me for all that I’ve done for her and said goodbye instead of goodnight. It seemed off to me but I initially shrugged it off.”
He tossed and turned for a couple of minutes before shooting a text to her mom about Scarlett’s strange behavior.
The next morning, he had received a text back detailing how Scarlett had tried to kill herself the night before.
“They called the paramedics and the cops. When an officer showed up she screamed at him about how she wanted to die.”
After that, Scarlett kept her distance.
“I apologized for interfering because she was made at me for that,” Matthew explained. “I was always at fault. I could never do enough for her. So finally stopped talking to me one day because according to her, she got her iPhone taken away.”
A few days later, he noticed that she was posting things on social media. He messaged her right away, hoping for a response.
”I could talk to the person who I thought I loved!” Matthew remarked. “She told me coldly that her dad told her she could have her iPhone back if she broke up with me. She told me to have a good life and left it at that.”
This psychological abuse affected Matthew for years but it also taught him some valuable lessons.
“I learned that you cannot “fix” someone.” Matthew said. “I learned to never ever think you’re not good enough. You are good enough. I also learned that if someone wants to leave your life that you should let them. Fighting for their attention is only cause pain.”
Men experience abuse, too and even though it may not be as obvious, it’s important to recognize and address.
Don’t ignore obvious warning signs and get out as soon as you see your life or your emotions being negatively affected by the person you’re married to or dating.