Domestic Violence And Gay Men: My Survival Story
We often receive personal stories from our readers. This submission's cover letter begins:
As a gay man, I rarely hear about stories of domestic violence among gay men, or other same sex couples.
I was in an abusive relationship for about two years. I wanted to share my story and open up this dialogue. I have had many people who have heard my story, reach out to me about how they were in similar situations, but never spoke out.
I have told this story many times. It’s actually a story within a story.
Here is our reader's story.
When you hear about domestic violence, society tends think it’s between a man AND a woman. The general thought veers toward a man physically or verbally abusing his girlfriend or wife - a female. Domestic violence among gay men is something that is not really talked about too often, if at all.
In 2007, I was 27 years old and living in Los Angeles, enjoying the city to the best of my ability. Being a young professional who made decent money, I was able to really sample what the city had to offer: trying different restaurants weekly, going to Hollywood parties, brunch with friends, and late-night outings were not uncommon. Overall, I was pretty happy with my life. There was one thing that did elude me while living in that city...love.
If anyone has ever lived in Los Angeles, they can attest to the fact that it can be incredibly difficult to find a real connection with someone.
In the fall of 2007, I started chatting with a man on Myspace who was a friend of a friend I was instantly taken with this person. To protect his identity, I will call him David. David was quirky, charming, determined, goal-oriented, and the type of personality that I had not come in contact while living in Los Angeles. He genuinely seemed to like me, and I felt the same way. The only issue we had was he lived on the East Coast. at the time, and I was in LA. Despite the long distance, we continued to chat via Myspace which lead to texting, and then Skype sessions. I enjoyed talking with him. We chatted for hours each day, which was something I was growing to love. Whenever I had a hard day at work, I knew that chatting on the phone with David would cheer me up; he said all the right things.
David became someone who I genuinely cared for, and our online relationship was something I was excited to explore. After a couple of months, I decided the time was right to meet David. So, I bought a ticket without hesitation, flew to the East Coast and spent one on one time with him. It was a magical four days together. I felt special, but most importantly, I felt loved.
Over the next six months, we took turns flying back and forth, coast to coast. We could not get enough of one another. I was feeling emotions which I had never felt before and it was all encompassing. One night, we were Skyping for several hours when he looked at me and said, “I... I love you.”
Now, for someone who was desperately trying to find a true connection with someone for years, this was GOLD. I was instantly drawn to him, like a moth to a flame.
My face lit up and I replied, “I love you too!”
Not too long after that momentous night, we decided to start our lives together, in the same city. David was quite persistent and driven to move forward with our relationship; I was as well, yet instinctively more reserved. David’s persistence paid off.
In retrospect, David showed signs of being controlling and manipulative, but after I heard the words, ‘I love you,’ I subconsciously pushed them aside. I was blinded by love. Out of concern, a couple of friends brought up some of the things he said / had done that were out of line, but I brushed them off, because they were not in this relationship and did not know what they were talking about.
Finally, after seven months of endless chats on the phone, Skype, and many trips back and forth, David and I decided to move to the Midwest to start our new lives together. Simultaneously, I was nervous, yet excited. This was it; this is what I wanted.
The first few months living together were so great. David and I got settled into our new apartment, started our new jobs, started our new lives, together.
We decided on the Midwest because David was originally from there, and he still had friends and family living there. I, on the other hand, was a fish out of water; I knew no one. Feeling vulnerable and out of my element, I looked to David for support and comfort. In hindsight, I realize he was very much aware of this fact and decided to use it to his advantage.
We did things that he wanted to do, went to places he wanted to go, and my ideas were more or less swept under the rug. If I had an idea, he would say something like, “That’s good, but why not do this instead?” or, “This is a better idea.” Anything I would suggest would never be good enough, so his world became my world - no compromises.
Over time, it became apparent that David had the ability to manipulate any situation. I started to find my voice and address my observation, yet somehow I was the crazy one. Six months flew by and David casually mentioned buying a home together. Reluctantly, I agreed. Upon finding the perfect house, I started to learn more about David financially. We decided to close on the house, however, the mortgage was solely in my name. To keep control in his court, David made sure to have the final say on the home decor, and anything that should have been a fun compromise building a new home life together.
At this point, I was totally involved in the relationship and did not know how I could get out of it, even if I wanted to. In the 2.5 years that were together, he talked me into giving him $2,500 for him to buy a car, we bought multiple numbers and types of pets, and several other major purchases (which, I might add, I paid for most, and took on the responsibilities they required). He was reaping the rewards, but not doing any of the work. I was way in over my head, I was drowning.
The swirl of abuse began the first few months of me moving to the Midwest. It started as verbal abuse. Snide remarks which escalated throughout the relationship, and eventually on to blow out fights. On two separate occasions, David put me down in front of groups of his friends. I remember him saying, ‘You’re f**king retarded,’ and, ‘It figures you forgot that, you’re so stupid.’ Now mind you, I know these things were wrong, but I was so deeply invested financially and emotionally into this relationship at this point, I genuinely wanted to try and make it work somehow. Even after being spit on during an argument, I said to myself, ‘I can’t bail now, I put too much work into this. It’ll get better.’
David still had the upper hand during this whole time. After several months of living in the Midwest, I still didn’t have a lot of friends of my own, and the few I did have, David somehow hated. He didn’t like my family or ANY of my friends. Now I know why. It is so much easier to manipulate someone when they are alone and vulnerable.
Arguments were frequent when we were both in the house, which casually grew into public fights. In the 2.5 years of being together, we got into two physical altercations, which I never will forget. The first time was a late evening and were arguing about something, I can’t recall; I just remember wanting to talk about a problem I was having and David walked away not wanting to discuss it. Unresolved issues drove me crazy, and he knew this.
He got up to leave and go sleep in the other room, then I said, “Fine, see ya!”
The next thing I knew, he clocked me on the outside of my right eye, which began to bleed and swell. He was wearing a ring on his hand and this tore into my face as his fist struck me. I was terrified, enraged, and I had no idea what to do.
I always would hear about women going in public with black eyes, laughing it off to others and saying, ‘I fell. It was the stupidest thing.’ I thought to myself, How can people say things like this? How can they let something get so bad?
The next day, I went to work with a bloody face, black eye, and said to my co-worker, ‘I tripped and fell.’ I had become one of those people.
This happened about a year into the relationship, and yet, I stayed.
February of 2009 was the second time we got into a physical altercation. Emotionally, I was beat down, I could not possibly get any lower or depressed. I came home one day after work, went up to him and said, ‘We need to end this, we need to find an exit plan for both of us.’ He got real angry, his facial expressions changing, scoffed and went upstairs. The next thing I heard were loud crashes. In shock and my heart racing, I quickly ran upstairs, walked into our bedroom and saw our big screen TV on the floor along with my laptop sticking out of the wall. I looked at all the chaos and snapped. I charged after him and slapped him in the face. I’ve never struck anyone in my life, and I was stunned I did it. I just wanted out of this mess. Yet David tried everything in his power to stop that because it was something I wanted.
It took a good week for my mind and body to cool down after the last and final altercation. Together, we made the decision that our relationship was over. For the next month, David slept in the bedroom down the hall until he could find a place of his own.
A challenging month it was, to say the least. For my own sanity, I needed to find solace in something that would keep me out of the house as much as possible after work. One day, it clicked, I set a challenge for myself: 30 days of consecutive yoga classes. Every day after work, I would find a yoga class, sometimes two an evening to attend.
Within that challenge, I met my first real yoga teacher, who became my mentor. She opened the doors on the next chapter in my life, a yogi.
After 30 days, David took most of the furniture in the house and moved out. I remember sitting with my dog in a near empty home, crying. I couldn’t believe all that had happened to me over the span of 2.5 short, yet very long years. Little did I know that he himself had set me on a new path in my life. Without him, I would not have tried yoga, therefore never meeting my first teacher, who lifted me up out of a great deal of sadness.
Six months after we split up, I moved back to Los Angeles, and continued my yoga practice with another great teacher. He picked up where my first teacher left off. This upcoming April will mark eight years since I’ve been practicing yoga. Some amazing things have happened within those eight years, empowering me to be the best version of myself. Thanks to the yoga community, I have traveled to many countries, meeting incredible people along the way. Most importantly, I have a new sense of self awareness.
For which I can truly say, I am happy. Being in a challenging situation, can make one appreciate the good things in life like embracing the people who care about you. My relationship with David wasn’t all bad, but most of it was and I have put the memories behind me. I am living proof that good things come from bad things, because I’ve lived it, experienced it with blood, sweat and tears.
The gay community has this image that everyone is happy, having a great time, laughing. But, I can tell you this is not always the case. To this day, I really don’t hear or read about domestic violence in the gay community, but I do think it should be a topic of conversation. If it happened to me, it has or is happening to someone else.
I would be silly to think that I could just erase that time in my life, block it out. That relationship definitely changed me quite a bit, and I do still think about David, but I no longer wish to stay in contact.
I will say that I do wish him well, and I do thank him (from afar) for pushing my life in a positive direction. Experiences like these can change your life forever. The question is, what do you want to do with them?
Can you relate to this reader's story?
Have you found a good resource that helped you get out of an abusive relationship?
One such resource is The National Domestic Violence HOTLINE