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A Bruised Relationship

Names have been changed.

What started off as a sweet little crush turned out to be a nightmare.

It all started when Anthony was 19 and I was 15. I was friends with his brothers, and I noticed Anthony. There was something different about him. He never tried to holler at girls like most guys do. He was very attractive, he knew how to dress, and he was quiet.

Of course, he had his faults. He was getting money the illegal way and he smoked, but I thought that if we started going out, I could change his ways. I decided to try to get to know him better, so I went to his house almost every other day and tried talking with him.

At first, he didn’t pay me much mind, but after a couple of months we finally got together. When we first started going out it was like baby steps. We barely talked because he was usually busy hustling and being with his friends. We also didn’t rush anything physical, which I thought was good. But I felt like there wasn’t enough communication. I told myself that if I put my all into the relationship, it would get better.

Soon, my only focus was Anthony and changing his ways. Meanwhile, I was doing terribly in school, but I didn’t care. I convinced Anthony to start hanging out with me in my neighborhood more often, and that led to him not hustling as much. As summer came, we got closer and we took that next step in our relationship, which was me losing my innocence to him.

After that, I felt like he was my everything. We started spending every minute of every day together. Unfortunately, being together 24/7 caused tension between us.

Play Fighting Turns Real

One day we were hanging out at my house playing around. He was poking me on my arm and legs, which was hurting me. I told him in a playful, laughing tone, “Quit it, stop it,” but he continued. My tone got more serious, but he kept going. Finally, I got so mad that I slapped him across the face really hard.

“Why’d you do that?” he yelled, grabbing my arm. His grip got tighter and tighter. Then he let go and pushed me hard onto my back so that I almost fell off the bed. I was in shock and started crying, but I was furious, too. I got up and hit him again in the face.

That’s when we both started slapping and punching each other. He slapped me once in the face and punched me a couple of times on my leg. Then he grabbed my arm and twisted it so hard that it felt like it would break. “Stop! Get off!” I screamed in pain.

My two little sisters came rushing in to see what was going on, and he let go. They saw tears running down my red face, and one of my little sisters ran to me and gave me a hug.

“Are you OK?” she asked with an upset voice. I nodded, and she turned to Anthony.

“Don’t hit my sister, you jerk!” she yelled. My youngest sister yelled, “Get out of our house, before I call my dad.” My mother came in and took in the scene.

“What’s going on in here?” she asked.

I didn’t say anything, but Anthony said, “She put her hands on me. It’s her fault.”

She told us both that we shouldn’t put our hands on each other, and said that although I was wrong for touching him, that doesn’t give him the right to touch me. My mother commanded him to leave and told us both that we needed to take a break from each other. My mom left the room as he started gathering up his stuff.

“You’re a b-tch and you can go f-ck yourself. This is over,” he yelled angrily. I sat there crying on my bed while my little sisters yelled at him to leave.

‘Love Hurts Sometimes’

When he was gone, one of my little sisters tried to comfort me. “Don’t worry, you don’t need him,” she said. “He’s an A-hole and you can do way better than that.”

I gave her a hug and a half-smile, but I partly blamed myself. I felt as if I’d made a big mistake by slapping him, and I didn’t want to let this guy go. I had shared something so special with him that I just didn’t want it to be goodbye. Anyway, I told myself, I was in love with him and love hurts sometimes. I figured that things would get better.

By the end of the week, we were back together. He apologized for the fight and said that he would never put his hands on me again. He even started making the kind of changes that I’d hoped for when we first started going out. Anthony stopped hustling and started looking for a real job. He even started talking about getting his GED.

It felt like we were finally on the right track, and that things between us could only get better. I told myself that the incident had gotten blown out of proportion and that, with his new attitude, it would never happen again.

We were both so sure that everything would work out that, a year into the relationship, we got tattoos of each other’s names. It was proof that we were each other’s everything and that we would be together forever. Nobody could tell me otherwise. My mom had warned me that the first hit wouldn’t be the last, but I didn’t believe her. (Neither she nor my sisters ever told my dad what happened, since we all knew that it would have hit a nerve with him.)

More Bad Days

But things didn’t go according to plan. Anthony couldn’t find a job, and when things weren’t going his way, he would turn into a different person. He’d get mad at the world and nobody could calm him down. I hated it when he got in those moods because I couldn’t talk to him and we would start arguing. And a couple of times, it did get physical again.

The worst argument started when I was playing around saying silly things about him. He got mad and pushed me off the bed so that I hit the floor very hard. I had a bruise the size of an orange on the side of my back a couple of days later. I was embarrassed and ashamed when my sisters saw the bruise. I felt like I was setting a bad example for them.

We made up afterwards, but it hurt me emotionally. I wondered how much of this I could take. I thought about breaking up with him, but I couldn’t see myself starting over with someone new. I still hoped to maybe eventually settle down with him, even though our bad days were starting to outnumber the good ones.

‘Whose Number Is This?’

image by Erika Faye Burke

I’d been so consumed with the relationship that I’d slacked off in school for a whole year. When I realized I wouldn’t graduate on time if I didn’t get my act together, I transferred to a new school and started studying. I even participated in after-school programs.

My grades began to improve, but as soon as I stopped spending every minute with Anthony, he started calling my cell phone about 10 times a day and then calling my house and questioning my mother about my whereabouts. There were even times when he showed up unexpectedly at my house. He seemed to be constantly jealous.

One day we were hanging out in my room and I left to get something in the kitchen. When I came back, he was suddenly pissed off.

“Whose number is this?’’ he asked angrily, holding up a piece of paper that had been in my book bag. I was shocked that he had been digging through my things. I put my hands on my hips and stared at him.

“That’s just the number for a friend,” I said. I explained that the number was for a guy friend of mine who wanted to go out with one of my girl friends.

“Then why do you have it?’’ he asked in a mean, curious way.

I explained some more, but he didn’t believe anything I said. He just got upset and we started arguing.


“Why the hell are you digging through my stuff in the first place?’’

“Because I wanted to, and if you claim you don’t have nothing to hide, why can’t I?’’ Then he got up and tossed the paper on the floor. “You’re a f-cking ho,’’ he said. We exchanged ugly words, getting louder and louder until my mother came in the room and told him he had to leave.

My mother told me that he was too possessive of me, but I made excuses to her and to myself. I figured that every relationship has its own little bumps, and that was what Anthony and I were experiencing.

But his possessiveness just got worse after that. Every day my phone would be blown up with missed calls from him, and when I called back it was always 20 questions: Where was I? Who was I with? He constantly accused me of cheating on him. As he assumed more negative things about me that weren’t true, I started to lose my love for him. I was sick of the accusations and beginning to feel suffocated.

‘It’s Over’

One evening I walked to the train with a boy from class. We were laughing and joking around at the train station. I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually enjoyed myself like that. I didn’t notice that Anthony’s brother was nearby watching us. Although I wasn’t doing anything wrong, this meant another storm was brewing.

As I walked into my house, my phone rang. It was Anthony. I was in good mood, so I answered in a sweet, joyful voice, “Hey, baby.’’

“Where were you at?’’ he asked in a deep, angry voice. I went to my room so nobody in my house could hear me. I could already tell that this conversation was going to turn out badly.

“I was in school and stayed after school to watch the basketball game.”

“What guy was you with in the station?” he yelled. “Yeah, don’t try to lie. My brother seen you sitting, playing with this guy.’’

“That was one of my friends,” I said in a calm voice. He began cursing at me. My mood changed very quickly. I was upset and pissed off.

“You know what, Anthony? I’m so tired of you. We been together for two years and you can’t even trust me. It’s over,” I said calmly. I hung up before he even had a chance to respond.

I didn’t cry. I actually felt relieved, as if I had just lifted a big burden off of my shoulders. He came over later to get his stuff, and he apologized, but I didn’t want to hear it. I was done with him, and done with the name-calling, the accusations, and getting pushed around.

Looking Back

It wasn’t until much later that I realized I’d been in a truly abusive relationship. As I finished up my junior year, I applied for a summer job as a peer educator. As part of the application process, I attended a workshop on dating violence and healthy relationships. They handed out booklets that explained what usually leads up to physical violence, the warning signs of an abusive relationship, and why people stay in abusive relationships.

As I leafed through the booklet, it dawned on me that Anthony hadn’t just been a bad boyfriend—he’d been an abusive one. My heart went down and I felt shocked as I read the list of behaviors that are considered abusive: insults, name-calling, and comparing your partner unfavorably to other people. He had done all that to me, but I thought those were the kind of things that came with a relationship.

I had thought it wasn’t that big a deal, but it turned out to be majorly important. I know my mother had told me that the way Anthony treated me wasn’t right, but I thought she just didn’t like him. Seeing it on paper opened my eyes to understanding the bigger picture of what was really happening between us. These things aren’t supposed to be tolerated.

Healthy Signs

I learned that to be in a healthy relationship, both partners have to respect each other’s space and not be selfish by wanting them all to themselves. I also learned that being in a healthy relationship means being with someone who trusts you and expects to be trusted. They should encourage you in any goals you have and never use violence or put-downs to resolve a conflict.

The most important thing that I learned was that loving someone doesn’t automatically mean that the person is healthy for you. It may seem difficult, but ending an abusive relationship like I did is the best option.

Now I’m more aware of what I want in the future for myself. I want to find someone who shares similar goals with me and is supportive of me. He should respect me and, although it’s inevitable that we’ll get into arguments, we should be able to talk about what went wrong and try to fix it instead of making it worse by name-calling or physically fighting.

Find out if your relationship is unhealthy or abusive at If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can get help from a trained peer advocate at 1-866-331-9474.

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