...when you fall in love with a sociopath.
A couple of posts back, I touched upon a relationship I was in which turned abusive. I couldn't really dive into that story then because it was actually the anniversary of the day we met. I had started writing this story a couple of years ago, but haven't been able to share it with anyone outside of my circle until now. There are journal entries which were written during the time I'm describing, that are sprinkled throughout.
We met in March 2004. I was still pining over an ex, and was visiting a friend—begging him to set me up with someone. His friends showed up shortly thereafter, and the one which had been called to meet me, only managed a nod and smile as he walked past me at the top of the stairs. Slightly disappointed by the cold shoulder, I noticed—let's call him: Voldemort. He had stopped at the bottom of the stairs and was looking up at me. His face had changed from laughing with his friends to crooked-smiling his way into my heart. He was charming, but not particularly attractive—overweight, sloppy oversize orange shirt and baggy jeans, bedraggled curly hair in desperate need for a cut, and bare feet—but when he spoke, he seemed intelligent, eloquent, and funny. I agreed to take a walk with him around the block.
As we walked and talked, his feet black from the road, I learned that he was 17 and had already graduated high school. Instantly taken aback, I assumed him to be exceedingly smart and hardworking. In reality, he had dropped out of school after several behavioral issues, and his mother was too busy throwing out his rock music CDs and science fiction novels, to enforce or regulate his homeschooling.
Up until this point, I felt as if my life was heading in a different direction. I was in college and had started working a couple of days a week at Abercrombie and Fitch—my first job after five years at the optical my mother managed. I had a great employee discount and—with the financial aid I was getting from school—was able to revamp my wardrobe after years of awkward early 2000s rocker attire. At the time, I was also straight-edge. Never having drank alcohol and completely against drugs and cigarettes, I had yet to develop any of the bad habits that I would be trying for years to curb; but Voldemort was quite the opposite.
I discovered on that first meeting, that he liked to smoke weed with his friends, and drank often. I was put off by this and prepared to my friend's house after being told that they were about to get high. In my car, saying goodbye and ready to pull away, Voldemort surprised me by claiming to not desire the distraction of weed in my company—saying he wanted to come with me and continue getting to know me. I was flattered, and looked forward to making this smart, funny, and not quite ripe boy, into something great.
Voldemort had soon introduced me to a completely different lifestyle. Growing up, my sisters and I never had permission to leave the house unless we were going to school. We would come home and were alone until the evening—cooking and cleaning, since our parents’ work schedules never allowed them the time; and the beatings we received for the messy house, or my father’s missing dinner, were not worth rebelling. On the weekends, we would be home, locked behind an iron gate—the key to which we did not have—and our friends would sometimes visit to play with us from the opposite side of the gate. It seemed normal to me. I had felt like a hostage for so long that being with Voldemort felt like freedom. With him, I had friends and was attending parties almost every night—where I found that alcohol made socializing easier.
I had wanted Voldemort to be a distraction—not a relationship. I knew that while I liked him, he was not exactly right for me. Still, I fell quickly—over-correcting from my previously perfect boyfriend—and ignored that there were more red flags than ground to christen.
I wasn't looking for anything serious, and I really want to take my time with this one, but I'm not about to shun him because I'm scared. We made plans to hangout today; but they seem to have gone to shit. I don't want to call him again. Instead, I sit here waiting for him. I'm always waiting
A couple of weeks in, a pattern developed where Voldemort would promise to call, or we would make plans, but I would always be left waiting for a promise never realized. I was blind to his lying and gaslighting. I took him at his word; and when I would get upset, he would apologize and we would move on. I felt so alone and trapped without him, that I ignored my instincts.
Right away, his drug use was an issue. I never asked him to, but Voldemort told me that he would quit smoking pot; and of course I was pleased with his decision. I wanted him to grow up—probably sooner than he was ready. I helped him find a job—working dispatch at an air conditioning repair company with my cousin—started taking him for regular jogs along the lake by my parents’ house, and treated him to clothes that actually fit.
Things seemed to be going in the right direction, but I was constantly filled with doubt. I doubted that the taste on Voldemort's lips after he had been with friends was in fact cigarettes, as he claimed, and not weed. I doubted that the way he was acting was normal; but I was a trusting and naive girlfriend, so I gave him the benefit of all of my very justified doubts.
Our first major hurdle was his religion. Voldemort's mother, Merope, had strict rules as to whom her son could and could not date. In her twenties, she had graduated from the University of Miami, and was on track to make something great of herself, when she met Voldemort’s father—a young, foreign student that was already betrothed to a woman in his home country. Following a brief affair, Merope became pregnant, and her lover went back to his country without another word. She was never the same after that—lost control of her health and weight, along with her life—never found use for her degree, and married an immigrant, well-digger with dreams of owning his own company—with whom she eventually had a daughter. Hoping to find truth and order, she became a Jehovah’s Witness, while her new husband remained a non-practicing Catholic.
Voldemort kept me secret from everyone except his secular friends; but not having any religious orientation of my own, I thought that I could learn about his, and perhaps I would like it and we would no longer have to hide our relationship. I told him how I felt and he cried. No one had ever thought to do that for him before. Like me, he was a hostage in a way, and I had told him he would no longer be alone.
It's surprising—being so in love that you've forgotten how you got there. You find yourself retracing your steps, only to discover that there's not a single moment that you can remember not being in love. Love is surprising.
I met his family and discussed converting. He understood that I would retain my beliefs, whatever they were, but wanted learn of his and make it so that we could be together. Unfortunately, I was instantly put off after attending only one meeting. I didn't mind jumping through whatever hoops I needed to, but was not about to embrace their truth. He said we couldn't be together after I expressed my opinion; and I told him he was a fool for throwing us away before we had really begun. He agreed; and the issue never came up again. I was no longer a secret and no longer converting but in hindsight, I should have let it end.
The lying escalated. Soon I was finding inappropriate conversations on his computer. He claimed other women were flirting with him and he was just trying to be polite; but I suspected that was not true. He always managed to make everyone feel special, like his best and only friend. I was sure he was doing to them what he had done to me, but had no concrete proof; so I let him convince me that I was being paranoid.
All the while, I was so concerned with whether or not he was getting high behind my back or romancing other girls, that I was blind to the more important issues. Our first and final fight was about sex. I had previously been sexually active with two others: my first love and my ex. Voldemort claimed to have been with a few women, but could not give me an exact number; not that I particularly cared, but I believed him when he said he was not the type to kiss and tell.
Following a few drunken hookups, we had a sober and unpleasant teenage tryst in the back seat of my ‘97 Kia Sportage. It was not at all what I had anticipated. His actions seemed awkward; and although I was the one who had initiated, I'd derived no pleasure. He appeared to be unable to finish as well; and when I finally asked what was wrong, he was unable to answer. We stopped and, overwhelmed, I cried—blaming myself for how badly it was going. He had been with so many other girls—I had thought—but could not enjoy sex with me. Sitting in my cramped car, he briefly comforted me, and then nervously admitted that not only had he finished right away and lied when I asked, but until me, he had been a virgin.
“Why lie about something so insignificant,” I asked. He replied that he was insecure and worried that I would not want to be with him if I had known the truth. While I was furious that he lied, I pitied him and accepted this apology, as I had all the others.
After having too much to drink at a friend's house one night, Voldemort escorted me to a bedroom. I was conscious enough to assume he was putting me to bed so I would sleep it off; but instead he began removing my clothes, repeating: “Shh... don’t worry. I'm taking you home.”
With my eyes closed, pushing him off of me, I argued that he was clearly not taking me home. He stopped—fairly drunk himself—and laughed. Innocent as I was, I did not realize the implications.
As a child—based on conversations with friends—I had concluded that sexual assault was something that happened to all girls at one point in their lives. I had never viewed it as assault however, so much as a disgusting rite of passage, and considered myself lucky for it having happened to me so early and in such a mild way—assuming I could check that box and be done with it.
I began sneaking him into my room at night and sneaking him out every morning. Each time, I would wake up in the middle of the night, and he would be having sex with me. “I was asleep too,” he would always say—leading me to believe that his sleeping body could not control itself while I laid next to him. I had never spent the night with a boy before, and assumed this was common—more so since he had just become sexually active.
Four months in, and the wildfire that was our initial coupling was burning out. I was ignoring my instincts, but they were still gnawing at me, creating depression-like symptoms, which caused me to long for my ex again. The freedom I had once felt, began to suffocate. I wanted out but didn't know how to cut the connection.
We would constantly fight—about sex, girls, lies—breakup, and get back together. I didn't trust him but more so, I didn't trust myself or my own feelings. Then one day, I ran into my ex and remembered what true desire—not trauma bonding—felt like.
I'm walking up to him with the rock of our past safe in my stomach, weighing me down. I want to tell him that I've missed him, that I dream of the day that the comfort we once had, is finally restored to where it belongs. I don't say a word. I find myself shaking. I sway back and forth in my shoes, which is the only thing I can do to keep myself from crying, short of pulling him towards me and kissing his face—I'm noticed. He smiles that smile I once knew so well, it's almost terrifying how well I knew it, how well I don't. Polite words are exchanged; we're strangers now. And as I walk away, I think of the man whom I lie to every day. "I never think of anyone else,” I would say, as my heart lingers on the image of another.
I begged the universe for a sign—something to tell me what to do—and that same day, the universe answered. While talking to a mutual friend, I mentioned that Voldemort had to take a drug test for a new job—he had not smoked since April, but bought a detox drink just in case. The friend replied that in reality, Voldemort had been smoking all along, even mentioning a time in which I was drunk, and he and Voldemort had actually smoked together, right next to me.
Having a concrete reason to breakup, I met with Voldemort and told him we could no longer be together. He cried and begged me not to leave; and while this was not our first breakup, it was the first time I felt completely secure in my decision, and baffled by his attempts to make me think that I was wrong. In that moment, I finally felt the anger I had been suppressing. Rage bubbled up inside of me, refusing to remain contained, and exploded out of my mouth and fists. “Let me leave,” I yelled as I shoved him away from me. In that moment, I expected to feel remorse, but instead I felt empowered.
Voldemort tried to prove he was changing his life for the better; but I remained in my resolve for about four months—our longest breakup until that point—when he adopted a new group of friends that I quickly fell in love with. They were a peculiar brand of millennial hippies, running their parents’ house rampant with parties; and it felt like freedom again. I let myself fall back into things with Voldemort, assuming it was my choice and that I was in control.
The doubt crept back in rather quickly. I caught Voldemort more than once being inappropriate with the girls in the group. He would peek in on them in the shower and claim it was a joke. He had also once again "quit smoking pot," but his hippie friends all smoked often; and I wasn't so dumb to believe them when they said he was abstaining. Eventually, their collective conscience got the best of them and they told me not to trust them—to trust my instincts. Someone in the group, unaware of their dissension, let it slip that he had just been with Voldemort buying weed; and that was the last time I saw them; but Voldemort and I remained broken up only for a short while. I could not quit him anymore than he could quit lying.
Where do you go when this perfect home, this perfect structure, this perfect frame of support comes crashing down on you? Who do you cry to when the only shoulder soft enough for your tear-soaked cheek has been buried in the rubble? What do you do when the straight line you've been tracing fades into the hand of the man with the shoulder, still underneath the crash? What do I do with these broken pieces?
In early 2005, we both applied for work at a local telemarketing firm which housed companies like Expedia.com, DirecTV, and Sprint Mobile. I started working for Expedia at one location, while Voldemort worked for Sprint at another.
Hoping to revive our quickly dying relationship, I bought Voldemort and I a trip to New York City for the anniversary of the day we met. It was not a particularly pleasant trip, but Voldemort and I had agreed that the city felt like home. We both wanted to go back to live one day.
After returning from New York, I met Thomas. He had been hired by Expedia, and assigned to sit with me and listen in on my calls. I was instantly attracted to him. We got along like old friends. I confided in him—venting my relationship frustrations. Thomas listened, mostly keeping his opinions to himself, until we realized that Thomas and Voldemort had gone to the same high school. He told me Voldemort had been expelled—that they still knew all of the same people and were often in the same gatherings. He admitted to thinking that my boyfriend was not a very good person, but failed to give me any sort of definitive evidence; or rather, I failed to listen—unable to reconcile Voldemort's actions with his words, and what seemed to be obvious potential.
Unhappy as I was, I quickly began developing feelings for Thomas—who had a girlfriend and unlike myself, was perfectly content in his relationship. Still, I came to him one day—asking him to kiss me and let his feelings decide with whom he should be. He kindly rejected me, and eventually began working the night shift.
In April of 2005, Voldemort and I attended a party at his friend’s house. After getting me drunk on cheap sangria—my new favorite drink—he offered me a Xanax. Having experimented with it many times, he knew its effects and claimed it would be safe and fun. I did not know anything about the drug, but being in an up-for-anything mindset, I trusted him. Before I blacked out, Voldemort had left me alone and naked in a bedroom, following an embarrassingly obvious drug and alcohol fueled romp. His friend walked in, sat next to me on the bed, and proceeded to fondle my breast until I managed to stop him. Voldemort did not believe or defend me when walked in a few moments later.
The only man that I was used to loving while being completely unable to trust, was my father. I could not trust him to be in a good mood when he got home from work. I could not trust him to not verbally and physically abuse my sisters and me for the crumbs on the floor, the dishes in the sink, or the excessive laughter coming from our bedroom. Finally, I knew with certainty that—like with my father—I could no longer neglect the obvious pattern of empty promises and emotional manipulation that I suffered with Voldemort.
I wish I could say that was the end, but it was only the beginning.