Survivor Stories, Guest Post. “On Nice Guys”

This survivor story was written by a tough, funny, smart, educated, and humanitarian woman. She is evidence that violence can happen to anyone, and that it’s not always easy to pinpoint or recognize at first. Here is her story in her words.

I’ve often wondered why isn’t there a website where we can search for reviews of other people’s performance in bed?  When I think on how often people would use it, I’m shocked this hasn’t been invented yet.  In an age when we can look up our doctors, plumbers, and even rate our teachers – a place where there are clearly some subjective undertakings – why can’t we learn more about who we might wish to sleep with, before we take the plunge?  (Have fun dreaming up names for that kind of social media site for the rest of your afternoon.)

Hear me out: Angie’s List, a site for the reviews of professionals and hired help around the house, doesn’t allow the company being reviewed to make changes to the assessments they deem unsatisfactory.  And with good reason!  Companies would flood the site with fake, positive appraisals of their work.  I was once inappropriately hit on by the Elvis impersonator at my grandmother’s nursing home, and when I went on-line to see if there was a place to complain, there were already multiple negative comments about this guy.  People who had hired him before said he has stolen from other nursing home residents, he’s been seen dangerously speeding on the interstate, and if my grandmother’s convalesce facility had just taken a peek on-line, they might not have hired him.  There were precautions in place.  There were warnings.
But back to the issue at hand: Pretend you’re a woman who is dating someone that seems pretty great.  Wouldn’t it be reassuring to Google them and learn “Tom was so attentive.  He listened to me and, when something wasn’t working, was willing to try new things.”  Ah, sigh of relief.  Now, if there are hundreds of reviews, we can start considering how many people he has pleased and also make an informed decision based on our understanding of what kind of sexual history is right for us.  Oh, the possibilities!  But alas, we have to make choices about others for ourselves; and sometimes we’re wrong.

I fell for a guy who seemed really great on the surface.  He is so gregarious, and always has groups of people surrounding him and laughing along to his stories.  He’s a terrific communicator, we had so much in common regarding work and interests, he’s well-groomed (but still rugged and handsome), and a bit older – all things that, to me, indicated we could take our relationship to the next level.  Great communicator = great friend, right?  Great friend = great lover, does it not?

Well, our first time being physical together was a disaster.  Something about his wants were at odds with each other.  He is a really tight-lipped kisser, which is fine, I can work with that.  There was nice foreplay; he really seemed to be avoiding some sort of first time rush. But then, in the act, there was so much pushing, and grabbing, and hair pulling.  I had no idea a nice, mild-mannered man would be so violent in bed.  But it was the first time.  Maybe he was over-acting, you know, trying too hard to impress? 
Some weeks go by and he’s still a nice guy, still wants to spend time with me and talk and, except the occasional, short-lived fight, we really get along.  He keeps pushing the idea that he wants to get to know me better, and he’s definitely not a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” kind of guy, so it seems like things are going great.  I can work with this.  But the next time we’re physical, a few weeks later, it’s just more of the same.  I am more vocal this time, and say things like “Please don’t pull my hair,” because, let’s face it, it didn’t feel playful and I couldn’t enjoy myself.  He listened, but with a shocked “oh,” as if considering “who wouldn’t like that?”  But I thought ‘this could work; maybe we can compromise.’  That’s what great communicators and friends do.

But I was wrong.  Time and time again it became apparent that he couldn’t climax unless I was pinned down, immobile, quiet, and basically in pain.  This is no sexy Fifty Shades of Grey agreement thing, which I’d probably argue isn’t sexy anyway; this is a psychological need of his to overpower and conquer.  Sure we tried other things.  But, it was more of the same.  The more I tried to suggest intercourse in which we’re equal players and both have a say in the rhythm or pace or location, the less he was into it.  He’d want to stop halfway through, which would make me feel inadequate, or like a failure.  I’d feel like I was doing something wrong.  He would never finish “making love” to me unless I basically laid there and let him hurt me; but he is such a “nice guy,” remember? 

Maybe some women might feel accommodating to these needs, and I am certainly not one to judge, but it’s just not in my nature to continue with this kind of behavior when I feel so uncomfortable with it.  Maybe he had been with other women who liked him being forceful, and hurting them.  Maybe he watched pornography that reinforced this behavior.  And I wanted to accommodate his needs because he is so nice, but in the end it was hurting me far too much.

The truth is, I stayed with a man that was hurting me –  a man that couldn’t bring himself to not hurt me, even when I asked.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why didn’t you just talk about it?” and you’d be right to.  Sex is something we should feel comfortable discussing with our partners.  It’s only safe and most pleasurable when we can.  But he couldn’t.  I’d ask ‘What can I do to help you climax?’ in, I assure you, usually sexier ways than that, and I’d be met with lots of “It’s a sensitive subject for me,” and “I just can’t a lot of the time, don’t worry about it;” but I wasworried about it.  The only time he did was when I was feeling harmed in one way or another.  If you think me a prude, that’s fine, but I’m not above a little spanking or anything, so don’t jump to conclusions on that front.  I just can’t allow myself to be continuously held down in such a painful way, physically and emotionally.

He’d push me away when I brought anything about it up.  I was in this mindset that I didn’t want to lose a nice guy.  All of my friends adored him, maybe this was a little thing that could change overtime?  If only there had been a website, some source for me to read before: “He’s so nice, but in bed you might feel uncomfortable if you don’t like rape-like role-play.”  That would have been all I needed to know.  Sure, sites like this could be misused, false negatives by dumped exes, or false positives by friends, but I’m learning you can’t trust what’s “on the surface” what will make someone a good match for you.  And if, like in this case, the surface behavior never matches the bedroom behavior, then there is something going on there that I’m not strong enough to help him through.  I have my own demons.  I have my own needs, and I have the right to say what’s right for me, and how I best need to go forward with the situation.  And you do too.

Think of all the people who don’t report rapes.  We know assaults are happening, but they go underreported.  They won’t go forward to the police.  They’re afraid of the stigma.  If there were a safe place they felt they could at least warn others then maybe we could avoid a few more date rapes, or a few more situations like mine, where I feel regret for sleeping with someone who would treat me that way.  I never want to regret anything, and yet, here I am, wishing I’d had a warning sign because what appeared to be the start of a healthy, normal relationship, has hurt me psychologically in ways I can’t fully express here.  When a person seems to understand the complexities of the communicative side of dating, does it hurt more or less when they treat you poorly in the bedroom?  I think, in the end, it doesn’t matter.

And I just keep asking myself, why would someone who claims to be attracted to my intelligence, my love for life, my strength, and who calls me “brilliant” pretty often, treat me during intercourse the way he treated me?  Why would, especially after a few beers, he stop listening to me say “no,” “that hurts,” or “can we stop?”

But people can’t come with a warning label.  You can’t Google whether or not your potential partner has an STD.  Or if they’ve behaved badly in the past.  Or if they’re going to be the nicest person you’ve ever met.  You only have each other.  And trust.  Trust you can build over time through conversations where you’re open about your pasts and needs and wants.  I thought I knew this man, and thought we could communicate well enough, but if we’d just spoken more about sex before going to the place in our relationship where we were having it, maybe I’d have seen more of the warning signs.  The “It’s a sensitive subject” would have been a tiny red flag.  The most often not climaxing, another.  An earnest discussion about our preferences another.

Or, more importantly, I could have said, “Well, I’ve been abused before, please talk to me before doing anything forceful,” or “Please don’t hold me down or force me into uncomfortable immobility.  I need to feel like I have a sense of control.”  But I’ve never felt brave enough to say any of these things before.  Not until right now.  Not until this article.  And maybe it’s taken me too long to get here, but I want to share this with everyone else I can.  Just because I’m older, doesn’t mean I only need to ask about STDs; I need to ask about all of it.  Just because I know what I want, doesn’t mean I don’t have to tell my potential partner about it beforehand.  And just because you don’t think someone is abusing you out of bed, doesn’t mean what happens in the bed is okay if you don’t want it.  I don’t want one more sexual experience in which I feel badly afterward.  Life’s too short to carry those around with us.

Despite my best efforts, even if we had spoken about our preferences before, I still think his preferred, violent sexual dominance would have surfaced, after the bar one night, or after a fight.  But at least I wouldn’t have made excuses for him.  I’d have known I told him before I wouldn’t be comfortable with those things.  I would not have waited, and stayed, and kept trying to make it work.  I should have been vocal about what was not okay from the beginning, because I put up with things that were not okay every time, and no one should keep themselves in that kind of relationship as long as I did.  I blamed myself, because all of our friends thought he was so nice, which he was: in conversations, during afternoons out with groups, and even one-on-one.  But this subject, and this behavior, he wasn’t comfortable talking about.  And I felt guilty that I couldn’t give him what he needed so I continuously let it happen.  But regardless of his attributes, this is something that is never okay.  No matter who does it to you, no matter how nice they are in any other aspect, if it’s something you don’t want them to do to you and they still do it, it’s abuse.

Guest Blogger’s Bio: She has been an instructor of Composition, Creative Writing, ESL and Methodology.  Usually a poet, she has recently started working on finding the voice to share her stories of abuse and tragedy.  Sadly in life we have can accumulate so many of these, but sharing and reading them sometimes helps.  She is taking a new job and will be moving soon, and she’s looking forward to a bright future.

Survivor Stories, Guest Post

One of the goals of my blog is to provide the opportunity to other survivors to share their stories. Most domestic violence stories have similarities, but they are also each unique to the couple and individual. After I created my blog, I was contacted on Facebook by an amazing woman who had found my blog through a friend. She could identify with my anger and said that her anger had provided her with motivation unlike any before. She started college 2.5 years ago with 3 children, a 10th grade education, and a GED. She will graduate next year Magna Cum Laude and continue on to law school. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. I wasn’t just impressed, I was inspired. She is a testament to what can be accomplished in the wake of deep, personal pain, and her story shows how anger can be purposeful instead of purposeless. I asked her if she would share her story here, and I am honored that she agreed.

Here is her story in her own words:

I was married for ten years. I was controlled, beaten, raped, and used. I was not allowed to drive, go to school, or work for most of my marriage. I was called crazy, stupid, incompetent, and worthless. I was cheated on, lied to, raped then laughed at, bruised and isolated, and I stayed.

The previous lines have been the only words I have typed about my marriage since I left almost 3 years ago. But today I feel like I can do more; I can give women that are in the middle of the storm a means to connect with someone that who can validate their feelings. So, let me start by saying this:

My ex-husband used extreme manipulation to convince me that my strengths were in fact my greatest weaknesses. The game of power and control has only one winner and that person will destroy everything in their path. I had to learn this reality after years of changing every little attribute about myself that he deemed flawed.  In the end nothing mattered, no change was enough, no effort proved my worth. The reality is that it was not due to anything that was lacking in me because the defect had always lived in him. He was broken and simply put, I could NOT fix him.

Many women leave and go back. On average it is seven times before a woman stops going back to her abuser. For me, I had left two times before the final escape. My going back was not because I was weak, but because I believed I loved him. I also believed that my children deserved my best effort. In the end, if there was a way of making it work, I believe I would have figured it out in ten years. When I left that last time, it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, mostly, I believe because I was not a quitter. I wanted the dream, the fairytale of ever-after, and it was so devastating when I had to admit that it was not obtainable with my husband.

The sadness that came with this realization was all consuming, and threatened to engulf my very being, if it had not been for a tiny glimmer of an idea which was, “You could be free.” I had forgotten what it was like to make my own decisions. For years, I worried constantly out of necessity about every little action I chose, from the type of hamburger I bought, to the way I mopped the floor. I yearned for his approval and feared his disappointment. But now… now I could be free. This was one of the most difficult concepts for me to wrap my head around freedom. It scared me to think about all the decisions that I would be solely responsible to make. After ten years, I had forgotten how to make a decision that was not completely consumed by his wants. But there was also a contained excitement.  

Over that first year, the possibilities that came with my rebirth and freedom became infinite. I was able to make some of the most challenging decisions of my life with an ever increasing ease that I never believed was possible. Now when I look back over the last thirteen years of my life, I am grateful for the journey that has brought me to this moment. I am now strong, independent, driven, intelligent, and the healthiest mom I can be. My life has truly just begun… I am Free…

Guest Blogger’s Bio: A mom of three young children that currently is a junior in college and is on track to graduate with honors. She is active in her community and has done several television and newspaper interviews on the legal and emotional effects of domestic and sexual assault. She will be attending law school after she completes her undergraduate degree.