In August 2015, I moved out of Lower Downtown Denver an hour away into the mountains west of Boulder into an exquisitely constructed house with a ten million dollar view. Partly due to its isolation and partly due to its Spanish mission style construction, my then-partner and I dubbed it the Sanctuary.
Sadly, the name became a misnomer. A sanctuary is a place of safety and protection but I was in a relationship that offered neither of those things. About eight months after we moved in, the relationship, which was always a bit fragile, became a nightmare. The person who swore he loved me, even up to the last day, who said everything he was doing was for our future and that I was his partner for life, also became a person who repeatedly told me I was a cunt and the worst thing that ever happened to him; who threw glass and smashed picture frames when I disagreed with him; who left the house for days at a time and refused to speak to me over the smallest arguments; who repeatedly told me I needed to leave his house and then begged for forgiveness and asked me to stay; who accused me of cheating, apropos of nothing, and then mocked me for being offended by the accusations; who treated me as the enemy, refusing to discuss our relationship at all and showing up drunk to couples counseling. I can go on for some time on the verbal and emotional abuse:
- When I expressed sad emotions about our relationship, he said I was being manipulative and only trying to make him feel like he wasn’t good enough. If I kept my emotions in, he said I was cold.
- When the company I worked at closed down—a company I loved and would have stayed at forever—he told me to just get over it. When I got a new job—a high paying job with amazing benefits and a great boss—he belittled me for not making as much money as he did.
- He worked from home with a flexible schedule but wouldn’t get up with me in the mornings, and the minute I got home from work, he would leave and go into town to the gym or to drink with friends. Then he put all the blame on me for us not being as intimate or affectionate as he wanted.
- He took over our joint accounts, such as insurance, the cell phone plan, and the shared credit card. He would often get mad at me and change the passwords so I couldn’t access anything until he decided it was ok again. This action could be prompted by something as small as me not expressing enough gratitude for the dinner he cooked that night.
- I would spend hours cleaning the house by myself on the weekends and then he would seek out the one bit I didn’t clean and rant about how it showed a lack of respect and consideration for him and sulk for hours afterward, while simultaneously his clothes and packaging from internet purchases were strewn about every room of the house and would remain that way for weeks.
- He made clear what an inconvenience it was when I wanted him to visit my family—even though we saw his family several times a year—and one time even refused to get out of bed to catch our plane. He made me call him on my way to the airport alone and beg him to come with me. Then he was incredibly disrespectful to them the whole time we were there.
I learned to carefully analyze everything I wanted to say to him that wasn’t complimentary or supportive or focused solely on his needs, weighing what his reaction would be and whether it was worth saying. I usually decided it wasn’t worth the risk. My dog learned to defend me, though his body trembled as he rushed to cover me any time my ex raised his voice.
None of this is meant to imply that I was a perfect partner. I have my flaws too and we had our share of “normal” couples spats and issues. But the way he treated me was beyond the pale. I don’t know what was going on in his head. Maybe he has deep psychological problems, but maybe he simply didn’t love me anymore and wasn’t mature enough to talk to me about it and end the relationship in an adult way, preferring instead to make my life hell and push me to the absolute limit of my patience, forgiveness, and willingness to support him. I’ll never know what happened, but it doesn’t matter now. The time to talk about it was when we were together, but he made clear that wouldn’t participate in any such discussions. So, on February 1, I walked away from the relationship.
I moved into my own true Sanctuary one month ago today. It’s an old pioneer cabin, modernized, of course. I’m too old to have to go to the laundromat and no one can live without Netflix. It has history and ghosts. There are bizarre neighbors. And there’s plenty of space for barbecues and another garden. It is a place where friends new and old rallied around me when I needed help and have since been to visit many times already in this first month. They remark on how calm my dog is now. It’s cozy, with stoves in each corner for heating. It’s bright, with floor to ceiling windows my dog looks out and watches the squirrels. It’s peaceful and quiet. I have a charming writing desk and a claw foot tub. I have old fashioned, built-in cabinets for displaying curios and books. I have a three-season porch that is perfect for drawing or reading. I plan to write about this house as I did the last. So please stay tuned for the stories to come.
And as for how to classify these new blog posts, I’m keeping the category named as it is.