“Date From Hell” is a new monthly series featuring dating and relationship horror stories and the frustrations—and triumphs—of being a single Mormon feminist.
Content Warning: This post contains descriptions of physical and emotional abuse.
A few years ago, I escaped from an abusive relationship. I knew the relationship was bad, but I couldn’t seem to get myself out of it. To this day, people can’t understand why I stayed for so long. I have no answer for them.
I met this particular guy in my YSA ward in September 2010. As singles wards go, there weren’t a lot of prospects. This guy seemed sweet and gave me the type of attention I was looking for. I soon realized he was dating someone else and I became the “other girl” and often felt second best. He held her over my head, and I held on thinking I could change his mind and that eventually he’d end up picking me. As things progressed it became evident that he wasn’t planning on choosing one girl or the other. He was going to do whatever he wanted.
As I look back on it now, I don’t believe he was ever actually dating the other girl, but was instead using it as a means to manipulate me. Why did I even care if he chose me or not? He wasn’t anything special. But he knew my weaknesses and insecurities, and he preyed on them. This relationship came after my missionary dumped me halfway through his mission for a girl he met in the field, after I told him my concerns and he told me I was distracting. I wanted to feel wanted, and this guy wanted me. The more he threatened to leave me for the other girl, the harder I clung to him, even when I knew it was toxic.
I was in a constant state of feeling nauseous and I just didn’t feel like eating around him. Even if he wasn’t around I felt just as sick. I ended up losing 20 pounds in the four months we dated, because his mind games became more than I could bear. He asked so many questions and probed and prodded at everything I did that it was like being in a nightmare. I was attached to my phone because if I didn’t answer he’d yell at me. I couldn’t tell him certain things, like if I was eating out or watching TV, for fear of being yelled at: “You can’t eat out on a Sunday! You’re breaking the Sabbath!” and “You are so lazy. All you ever do is watch TV!” He often told me I was a slut for wearing a v-neck top, and would say things like “I can’t believe you’d go to work in that. Are you trying to entice the fourth graders?” I stopped swing dancing, something I was passionate about, because he didn’t like the idea of other guys touching me and he’d never let me forget it.
One time his nervousness over us having a day out with his dad was so extreme that he took it out on me during a sadistic game of Slug Bug. He hit my thigh so hard that I had two bruises the size of my hand on my right thigh. They were a deep shade of purple. He knew they were there, so he hit them often, all in the name of a fun game of Slug Bug. Those bruises didn’t fade until a couple of years later, and to this day I can faintly see where they once were.
I finally reached my breaking point. I had finally had enough. I was getting absolutely nothing out of what I was giving. I couldn’t stand it any longer. When I broke it off with him, things became much worse. He begged and pleaded for me to reconsider, and he even shed some tears over it. Good to know I can make such a tough man cry, I thought.
I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting soon after I broke it off, on the day he was going to be made an Elder. When a member of the bishopric asked us to raise our right hand to sustain him in this calling, I didn’t. It seemed like only seconds afterwards he was squeezing onto my bench with me. He hissed, “Why didn’t you sustain me? You hate me, don’t you? You shouldn’t spread rumors. You saw me with someone, didn’t you? And I put my arm around a certain someone?” He motioned to a new girl who was giving a talk. “She told me you said some things about me. I know it was you.”
I told him I hadn’t spoken to that girl before, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He just kept doing what he did best: manipulating the situation. I became extremely uncomfortable and I got up to leave. As I did, he grabbed my wrists and tried to hold me down. I shook him off and ran for the nearest exit with the whole ward watching. I stumbled out the door and into a snow bank. I was headed for my car when he caught me and tried to hug me. A friend came out to check on me and he assured her everything was okay. He blocked me from her view and gave me a glare that meant “Don’t you dare say anything.” I was screaming inside.
After that incident, the bishop called me into his office and I told him what had happened in our relationship. He listened quietly and didn’t offer much feedback. The only advice he gave me was to read Ephesians 5:25–“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” That was confusing and didn’t feel like the substantial help I deserved.
I was finally able to break ties with him but things weren’t quite severed on his end of things. When he found out I went on a date with a new guy from the ward, he began harassing him to try to get details on me. I eventually decided to lay everything out for him in an angry email one night. This wasn’t a good idea; the email just gave him the go-ahead to try to talk to me again at a ward game night. He sat down at the table I was playing at and casually said, “If I ever had to rush you off to the hospital, I’d pull over half way there and leave you in a dumpster to rot.” And then he laughed.
It is so easy to get sucked into an emotionally abusive relationship. If you ever find yourself stuck in one, or wonder if yours is bordering on abusive, here is a checklist you should go by. The points you want to look for are in bold, the others you need to avoid.
• Abusive or Healthy
• Competition or Partnership and Faith
• Control and Power Struggles or Intimacy and Sharing Joy
• Contempt or Validation
• Manipulation or Mutual Cooperation
• Inequality and Disrespect or Equality and Respect
• Intimidation and Hostility or Trust and Goodwill
For me, it felt like the best way to fight my abuser was to stay silent. He tried to use my words against me. He tried to make everything that I said sound crazy. He tried to hug it out, but his hugs meant nothing when his words meant everything.
Lindsey loves listening to indie rock, watching movies, reading comics, traveling, and designing geeky graphics. She is an alumnus of BYU-Idaho and Bond University in Australia, where she received her master’s degree in communication. She currently lives in Rexburg, Idaho.