We moved our relationship from the dance floor and out into the campus spending pretty much every waking and sleeping moment together. Things seem kind of fuzzy and I don't know how it all went from good to bad but at some point I realized I was unhappy.
He was such a passionate person- and by passionate I mean aggressive and what I would call controlling, but that was a trait of Latino men as I was taught. He would get upset and punch walls, get jealous when I would go out with friends, get in screaming matches which terrified my best friend, or he would give me the silent treatment when I went out (especially if I drank).
I think my best friend and I were the only ones aware that the relationship was not good for me but I was in it up until Fall semester junior year when I decided to get out. While I was in it I don't think I would have called it an abusive relationship, mostly because I don't know if I was ever really taught what an abusive relationship looked like, but I knew that it wasn't a healthy relationship for sure.
Everyone around him loved him and when I broke up with him I became the villain. He could do no wrong and I was the hoe who was obviously cheating and interested in other guys on campus, even written about on the campus Anonymous Confession Board (ACB). While yes I was attracted to other people, there was this whole other side of the relationship that no one else saw.
Almost five years later and today my ex-boyfriend called me to apologize. With all the recent news of the Ray Rice domestic violence situation and the national conversation about abuse and intimate partner violence my ex-boyfriend seems to have embarked on a journey of self-reflection. He mentioned that he had come across the #whyistayed #whyileft hashtag on Twitter and reading those stories realized that not all violence and abuse is physical. He apologized for making me feel unsafe and said that he never intended to be that man.
We discussed that when you are in the midst of a relationship sometimes it is hard to see the unhealthy aspects until you are out of it. We talked about how young we were and I talked about how manipulated I often felt to be who he wanted me to be...but, he apologized.
I am thinking how fortunate I am to even hear that apology, even five years later and miles away. A genuine apology from a man who is able to look inside and really reflect on who it is he was, is, and wants to be. For the past two days I have been battling with men who continually defend Ray Rice, who say his wife provoked him, who spend more time on idol worship then standing at the front lines for their sisters and I commend my ex-boyfriend for being able to say "I was wrong and I apologize."
That is the beginning of the work. When we can look in the mirror and see the person capable of being and doing better. When we can stop defending, stop arguing and just say sorry. Apologies go a long way, especially for people who have experienced trauma- in all forms.
I never asked for an apology, I don't think I ever needed one but being a Black woman has been really challenging in the last couple days and so I take that apology and I am letting it patch the little holes that have been dug into my spirit the last 48 hours. I am taking that apology and I am sharing it with you all in the hopes that it gives us courage to look ourselves in that mirror and reflect on how we can be better. I take that apology and use it as an example of what it means to be human- to admit fault and to grow from it. I take that apology knowing that him picking up that phone after five years was not easy but necessary. I take that apology and I forgive- make no mistake I won't forget...
But the dances we did still flow through my mind and as bad as things were I won't forget the good either.
If you are in a domestice abuse situation and need to talk to someone please visit
http://www.thehotline.org for resources.
Love & Light