Spurred by Olga Khazan’s chronicle of G-chats called “A Diary of Toxic Love,” readers open up about the emotional abuse in their own relationships. To share your story, send us a note: email@example.com. (If you’d like to supplement your story with screenshots of texts, we’ll make all redactions necessary for full anonymity on both ends.)
That feeling ate away at John, a pseudonymous reader:
There were certainly parts of Olga Khazan’s account of Laura’s relationship that resonated with me, mostly the complexity of something like emotional abuse. I think in some ways I conceive of myself as both a recovering emotional abuser and victim—an idea that Khazan’s article begins to approach near the end, when it discusses how Lauren would “push back” against her ex. Not that I think she was an abuser herself, but certainly in her ex’s memory, there were plenty of times where Lauren perhaps behaved in a manner that could be described as abuse, though not to the same magnitude.
After my ex and I split, I would describe some experiences with her to other people (mostly women, actually) who identified them as forms of emotional abuse against me. The constant fight-picking, threats to leave the relationship over minor disagreements about things like my opinion of news articles, belittling of my feelings, and the dredging-up of old arguments got to the point where I fantasized about cheating on her and keeping it to myself. Not because I actually wanted satisfaction elsewhere, but because I knew the pent-up guilt would make me feel like I deserved to be treated how she treated me.
Perhaps that qualifies more squarely as toxicity—something where both people are at fault—than it does as abuse. (I’m sure my ex has some choice stories about things I have said or done that would qualify as abuse.) I don’t think either of us met the other and said “I’m so excited to waste years of my life making yours miserable.” That kind of dynamic develops over time.
I long ago deleted the anxiety-inducing texts and emails and chats that my ex and I exchanged, especially near the (very bitter) end. In my final analysis, I think we were both so happy to be with someone that we ended up trying to force a relationship that should have ended before. There were certainly good moments—of which I am reminded by Facebook’s “on this day” feature—but I think our fears of being alone and not wanting to blow up the life we had built together made the relationship drag on past its expiration. Being in our early 20s and being relatively inexperienced with things like communication and conflict resolution, and living in a city in which it is a lot more expensive to live alone, also didn’t help things.
Though I regret my mistakes and mistreatment of my partner, and I’m still not perfect, I am thankful for an experience that revealed my faults, so that I could understand myself better and become the all-around better man I am today.
Here’s the first of two readers owning up to emotional abuse:
Even before I read Olga Khazan’s account of a toxic relationship, I have recently been having some revelations and self-realizations about a relationship that have made me finally accept the role that I played as an emotional abuser.
The relationship ended five years ago, and I feel ashamed that it has taken me so long to see the situation clearly. But I think that I was in a kind of denial about accepting the label of “emotional abuser” because I had never actually been physically abusive, and the examples of domestic abuse that we see and hear about in the media always seem to be examples of physical abuse. So it was pretty easy to tell myself that I was not an abuser because I had never caused any “physical harm” to anyone, and it was easy to dismiss any complaints or concerns as my ex just being “overly sensitive,” like Lauren’s ex told her.
I think I was so oblivious to my role as an abuser, or so unwilling to accept that I was anything other than the “nice guy” who looked “good on paper” to my ex and to everyone else in my life, that I was frequently able to recast my guilt as a form of victimhood, or to split the blame by labeling the entire relationship toxic. However, when I look back on the relationship, I can see now that it was toxic because I made it toxic. I was overly critical about almost everything, and I failed to maintain a proper sense of perspective on both the relationship and on life in general, so that a “dent in the floor,” or a banana peel in my car, became things that enraged me and justified my criticism and emotional abuse.
In my case, everything came to a head on the night we broke up.
I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety, and when my ex decided to leave me, I convinced myself that I was suicidal, when in fact I was trying to manipulate her into remaining in the relationship. My ex called the police because I threatened suicide, but when they arrived, and found out that I had impeded her from leaving the apartment by putting myself between her and the door, they arrested me for false imprisonment.
In retrospect, this was something necessary and deserved, and I have learned more from that than from any other single event in my life, but even that took me years to accept. In the immediate aftermath of the arrest, I was still convinced that it was an overreaction by the police, and that because I had not physically harmed my ex, there was no way I was guilty of any actual abuse. My friends and family helped me to maintain this delusion by defending my actions and encouraging me to hire a defense lawyer, and so it has taken me around four years to be able to clearly see that I was an abuser, even if it was “only” emotional.
In my case, my life kind of fell apart because of that one moment, and that has brought a welcome check on my ego and the arrogance that I used to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault. Unfortunately for most victims of emotional abuse, the average abuser probably never experiences this kind of reckoning, and I think that the absence of this allows many emotional abusers to continue to justify their behavior to themselves, and consequently, to continue to act in the same way without learning from their past mistakes.
This next reader dissents over “Diary of Toxic Love”:
I felt the article was very heavily biased towards the woman’s experience, and the conclusions seemed massively overstated, particularly given the strong emphasis on abuse in the preamble. I feel that the previous and subsequent relationships of the individuals involved should have been described, to establish if there was any pattern consistent with emotional abuse or personality issues. I felt the article needlessly pathologised (or “therapy-ised”) what sounded to be simply two people with different expectations of how to behave in a relationship.
If you identified with Lauren’s ex in any way and would like to share your own story, please drop us a note—all perspectives are welcome. Here’s another one from a self-described abuser:
As a male sufferer of borderline personality disorder, I wanted to give a perspective on my own abusive relationship. We met three and a half years ago in college. At the time I frequently abused alcohol in an attempt to deal with constant depression and anxiety, mostly stemming from a childhood spent under physically and emotionally abusive parents. She had a history of low self-esteem and self-harm, including cutting and anorexia, and had also grown up in an environment that negated her own emotional life. In short, we were a match made in heaven.
Lauren’s ex described her as “oversensitive,” which really resonated with me. I can’t diagnose him, but I often felt this way during my own relationship with my ex. It’s not because it’s true, and to be honest I don’t think there really is such a thing as being “oversensitive.” What was really happening was that when my ex made any kind of emotional demands on me, it was simply too taxing for me to bear if I was not already in a stable place—which I rarely was. I didn’t have the coping skills or emotional strength to deal with someone else’s negative emotions on top of my own, so I lashed out. At the time I genuinely believed that me lashing out was OK because I was “finally making sure my own emotional needs were met”—but this was happening because I had no healthy way to satisfy my own emotional needs.
Sufferers of BPD often think in black/white terms: Having a stunted range of emotional expression, we think of people and situations as entirely good and pure or else passionately hate them, often switching between the two modes of thinking like a light switch. I went through cycles of valuing and then devaluing my ex almost constantly: thinking of her as an angel, someone entirely perfect and the only person who could ever love me; then without warning she became a harpy that was ruining my life, and I believed that this had always been the case and I was just too blind to have seen it before.
This switch could happen with almost no warning—most often it was triggered by a fight, but sometimes it was simply because I felt like she didn’t express positive emotions enough! When I felt that she “wasn’t appreciative enough” of favors I did or that she “didn’t show enough love” to me, even when she was being appreciative or loving, I would experience negative emotions such as self-hatred that quickly spiraled out of control. This latter “not enough” feeling is also a hallmark of thinking in sufferers of BPD.
When I abused my ex, I genuinely believed that my emotions reflected reality and that my actions, even if heinous, were justified. The hardest part of BPD to deal with, for me, is simply not being able to trust your own thoughts and feelings. In our fury we break things, the people around us, and ourselves, and then when the wave of self-hatred washes away we are left to pick up the pieces. When this happens time and time again in life, we doubt everything we think and feel, remembering what happened the last time we “went with our gut.”
It’s important for me to remember that, yes, some of the things my ex said or did towards me do count as abuse. But this does not justify or mitigate my own abusive behavior, and it did not make it acceptable for me to reciprocate.
She ended things about six months ago, originally with plans to get back together if we could work out our problems individually. Recently she has told me she has moved on, and although I am hurt, I understand that sometimes there is simply too much baggage to make things work. For now I still think of her fondly and wish the best for her no matter where her life takes her. I want nothing more that for her to experience the kind of loving, stable relationship she should have had.
As for myself, I am exorcising my demons, developing healthy ways of thinking, and letting life guide me one day at a time.
When I read Olga Khazan’s “A Diary of Toxic Love,” it was as if I was reading about my own marriage. I am a young American, and I got married to a Central African man a couple of years after moving to West Africa after college. The emotional abuse was rampant, but I continuously told myself that these were just cultural differences that I needed to deal with through open communication.
The problem was, it was totally impossible for me to communicate with him. Any mention of feeling bad meant that I was hysterical or overthinking things. If he stayed out all night drinking instead of helping me take care of our newborn, I couldn’t bring it up in the morning without being told that I was ruining his day and having a door slammed in my face.
I was told routinely that I had no right to feel the way that I did, and that if I ever told anyone about how much I was struggling, it was a direct betrayal of my husband and his family. I was not allowed to “talk badly about them.”
He convinced me to quit my job when he got a well-paying one, then refused to give me access to his bank account and only let me use the money that he gave me, shaming me if I ever asked for more than I was given.
I lived in absolute terror of the consequences of my actions; I would talk myself up for hours before attempting to talk to him about any problem, then enter the conversation practically shaking with fear. When I witnessed him beat his 5-year-old nephew to the ground and aggressively called him out on it, he told me that I had no right to say a word about it, that he knew what he was doing, and that I should have known what I was getting into when I married an African.
At the time, I thought to myself, “right—cultural differences about child rearing.” Now I think to myself, “I should have taken my son and walked out the door on the spot.”
But I was too afraid to do that. Because he told me daily that I was crazy for feeling the way that I felt, I no longer trusted my own instincts of emotions. I thought that I was wrong for feeling or reacting the way that I did. I struggle with that lack of self trust to this day.
Without ever hitting me, he rendered me totally powerless. I believed that I had no option but to stay with him, and that by marrying a man from a different culture, I had chosen to put up with certain differences.
It was only when my son and I left the country where we had all lived together, with the intention of bringing him to the United States, that I began to rediscover myself. Away from him, I noticed that people liked me—and this absolutely shocked me. Away from him, I realized how little he valued Skype calls with me and our son. Away from him, I noticed how happy I was, how capable I was, what a good job I was doing at work. With him, I routinely had emotional breakdowns at work and openly wept when anything went wrong in my job.
Now I’m going through an ugly international divorce and desperately trying to gain sole custody of my son. Even as I pour emotional, mental, and financial resources into this process, I am grateful every day for the insight I had that allowed me to get out. The cultural differences may have been real, but I was under no obligation to live in fear, no matter what the reason for his behavior.
We paused our reader series on emotional abuse last month when the results of the U.S. presidential election came down, both because of the overwhelming number of timely emails we posted over Trump’s victory and Clinton’s defeat and because posting stories of emotional abuse right after an especially toxic election seemed a little, well, abusive. This reader also felt the strain of the election:
This summer I left my husband, kids in tow, because of his continued treatment of me. The drinking, the constant attitude, the belittling, the constant commentary (“are you really going to wear that” / “you sound like you are flirting with that guy when you talk like that” / “you can’t be friends with a man; he just wants to fuck you”) and the second-guessing built up and was too much to endure.
It all came to a head during our annual vacation. My husband got it in his head on the 13-hour drive that I was being rude to him, so he refused to sleep with me all week. He started drinking every day at 11 am, and by midweek he was screaming at me that I was a cunt, a bitch, a whore, frigid, an asshole, stupid, and a sheep. He said he wanted a divorce in front of his parents and our two small children. And yet he says he remembers none of it.
Leaving him was a shock. A real shock. He had no idea, he said, that I felt that way. Certainly he “never meant to hurt me and would never hurt me.”
I eventually came back for the kids, and because I really couldn’t break his heart—although I do not love him or want him. He has been true to his word and not cursed at me since the trip, but the other behaviors still exist (and totally exacerbated by this election, believe me).
An older woman writes:
During my 30-year marriage (now ended for five years), my partner blew up inappropriately, belittled me, insulted me, threatened me, bullied me, and isolated me from family and kept friends from visiting. Over the years he became so upset over my two grown, married sons, he even banished them from visiting as well. He was also careless with money and had a disability that nearly ruined our finances.
My innate gift as a singer-songwriter always threatened him, so I kept it buried during our marriage. When I finally resumed playing music at age 60, he tried to make me stop with insults, belittling my vocal abilities and my character for starting music again. But I kept with it and decided to end the relationship. At the same time, I began dating the person I was playing music with.
This next woman “definitely never thought I would be in any relationship like the one I’m in now”:
I did wrestling and football in high school, being the only girl on the team. A lot of people thought I was brave. I’m currently in an Army ROTC program to be an officer in the National Guard after I graduate.
I met my husband three years ago. Our relationship moved very quickly. Within three months, we were living in an apartment together. Almost a year after that, three weeks before I went to Basic Combat Training, we eloped. My family really didn’t like him, but he had me convinced that was because they were bigots (he referred to them as “hillbillies” a lot).
When our relationship went downhill, the constant criticism, belittling, and anger over my career choice in the military chipped away at what I thought about myself. I didn’t even realize that it was emotional abuse until I instant-message chatted with TheHotline.org about it. They confirmed it was emotional abuse.
He is currently enlisted in the same National Guard that I will commission into. In the past six months, our relationship has dissolved. He made constant remarks about how mediocre of an officer he thinks I will be. He has stated that I “don’t belong in his uniform.” I am 12 out of 14 in my class, as printed on the accessions sheet, and he would constantly tell me how he “had to call around to get favors” to get me a good placement, because “Do you know how hard it is to vouch for a 12th seed cadet?” There were also threats that if we divorced, he would do what he could to wreck my military career, and by extension my civilian careers.
There was also some sexual abuse. He would tell me he wanted me to walk around with a very uncomfortable dildo in myself so that I could feel the way that I made him feel all the time. He also got angry enough at me one time to hide all the modest underwear I had, leaving me to wear a thong in my army uniforms for about a week.
He has experienced some traumatic events in the military, all of which he blames on the officers involved. Ergo, he took it out on me through impossible expectations.
At the same time, he expected that I be the best officer I could, but still fulfill all the obligations as a wife. He was enraged when I told him I had a mandatory four-month training after I graduate because he wanted me to “pump out a kid” for him as soon as possible.
As recently as two weeks ago, I proposed divorce. After taking my phone (thank goodness my mother sent me an emergency one), he started to spread a false rumor to people in his unit that I cheated on him in our marriage [which is actually a crime within the military]. (I didn’t. He actually cheated on me and gave me an STD). He also threatened to post up very intimate photos of myself in my uniform. (He put one up on Whisper and, thank goodness, I was able to flag it for bullying.) I had addressed this manipulation of my esteem and career with my commanding officer long before this incident, and he has been very supportive of me while I go through this.
My husband is getting better through counseling, and I am getting better too. But while we are currently only separated, I think it is best to go through with a divorce. So much has happened to me that, while I may forgive, I don’t think I will ever be able to fully forget.
One more reader shares her story of toxic marriage:
I’m a 35-year-old teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience in my field. I recently divorced in September after discovering that I was in an emotionally abusive marriage. I recognized there was something off early in on the relationship, but even with my education, experience, knowledge, family, and friends, I didn’t fully realize it until everything finally started to unravel after six years of marriage and two children.
Two years ago, my now-ex told me he wanted a divorce. He said he had been unhappy for a long time, and he was upset that I was prioritizing other things above him. This was not the first time he brought up the D-word. He’d done it once after a trip out of town, because I didn’t reward the trip with having sex with him. He’d done it previously because I wasn’t “excited” about a 14-hour road trip on Christmas Day to visit his daughter from a previous relationship.
In all, divorce came up about once a year. This particular instance, though, it felt different. Thus began our spiral into destruction, where for three months we tried to fix things but they unraveled faster. He would claim he didn’t really want a divorce, and he would beg me to stay when I began packing to move. Then the next day he’d scream at me that he wanted a divorce again, or leave divorce papers on the kitchen counter for me. In this three-month time period, he told me he wanted a divorce nine times; and then talk me into staying again, giving him just “one more chance.”
He would disappear for days then show up angry that I had a (female) friend over. He monitored all my accounts (emails, texts, social media) without my knowledge. He told me I could only talk about our relationship with people he approved (his friends). He cut off my phone service so I couldn’t contact anyone. He harassed me online. He stormed out of counseling appointments cussing at me. He repeatedly locked me out of portions of the house. He drove away in a different vehicle and left me alone in the car 10 miles from home with no keys in February. He changed the locks on the house altogether to keep me from being able to enter.
That was what made me finally face the fact that this was not normal relationship behavior. I ended up moving out and finally taking the time to work on myself. And I finally admitted that I was in an abusive relationship.
Honestly, I knew before. I remember within months of our whirlwind relationship—we dated only six months before he proposed—googling “emotional abuse” and “verbal abuse.” The escalation in behaviors forced me to really look at it. I can check off so much of the abusive actions on any checklist, but like he said to me: He didn’t hit me. I do wish he had, then I would have known. But since he didn’t, it was easy to justify away or leave it as a gray area.
The abusive behaviors were mainly about control and manipulation. There was a constant criticism of me and my “unwillingness to change” myself to be better for him. If I complained about the criticism, I was told I needed a thicker skin.
He told me the reason I was a bad wife is because I didn’t grow up with a good female role model. My mom died when I was 10.
He would get upset about the words I used or the tone, and either scream at me or ignore me for 3 to 5 days until I apologized. If I cried, he told me I was trying to manipulate him.
He once asked if I wanted to go to restaurant A or B. When I said, “I prefer A.” He screamed, “I didn't ask which one you preferred; I asked which you wanted to go to. You can’t even answer a fucking question correctly.” I always felt like I was playing a game without knowing the rules. And when I screwed up, the punishment was way too severe for the so-called “crime.”
After initiating the divorce last year, I discovered the financial abuse: He had accumulated over $100,000 in unsecured debt. He drained my personal IRA (he works for the company). He also has forced litigation, and continues to use the legal system to punish me for leaving him. He forced it to go to trial. We were finally divorced in September.
Just today, we had yet another hearing because he is moving towards appealing the divorce judgment. I, with the help of family, have spent over $15,000 in legal fees so far. I’ve been told to defend an appeal, which will be an additional $5,000. I have maxed out my credit card and sold off belongings to try to pay for the attorney fees. I am currently driving a vehicle that was donated to me.
He makes twice the income that I do and yet hasn’t paid any of the court-ordered child support. He owes me nearly $12,000 currently in arrears.
I’ve been in therapy now for over two years. I’m not going to claim to be blameless. There are many things I did that contributed to the dysfunction of our relationship. I have a lot of brokenness from childhood that was not properly dealt with, and I was in no way ready for a marriage. However, nothing I did warranted the treatment I received from him.
Even still, I struggle to know what is healthy and what isn’t. I think that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be. All it takes is rereading some old emails or messages, or reading over a checklist of unhealthy behaviors to remind myself just how toxic our marriage was. And then be grateful I was able to get out.
Update from another reader with a happy ending:
I wanted to contribute to the series because in my own years of healing from an emotionally abusive relationship, it was reading stories from other people of their own experiences that convinced me that it wasn’t “just me,” that I wasn’t “overreacting,” and that the relationship I had been in wasn’t normal or or okay or “just fighting like all couples do.”
I spent 10 years married to an emotionally abusive man, though it took me most of those 10 years to be able to recognize it as abuse. To this day, he would say that although he did some things wrong, he wasn’t “abusive” toward me.
He would alternate between telling me he admired my intelligence and berating how stupid I was. When he was angry, which was often, he would throw a fit—screaming at me, breaking things that were important to me, sometimes physically abusing a pet that was dear to me. He’d point a gun at me. He tried to run me over with a car once. He liked to start fights with me in public places because he knew it would embarrass me. He would abandon me at the store or lock me out of the house. He would drive recklessly to scare me, including the time after I was in an accident and he drove me to the hospital (he refused to let an ambulance take me because he wasn’t going to pay for it).
Our finances, which he handled, were always a mess. He’d overspend because he felt like he’d “earned it” being stressed out with work. Then he’d call me on the phone when I was out to eat with friends and tell me I wasn’t allowed to spend a dime on dinner because he thought I’d spent foolishly on something and now we didn’t have any money. I never knew if we had money to spend from day to day. He’d pay for expensive vacations and meals for us, then get angry with me when I needed to buy groceries. We found money to pay for his master’s degree but he spent years convincing me we couldn’t afford for me to get mine. His parents bailed us out of huge financial debt more than once because of his spending, though he always blamed me for our financial troubles.
Because I worked for a religious organization, I knew I would lose my job if I divorced. He knew I loved my job and used this as leverage anytime I considered leaving. He also knew that my family didn’t believe in divorce, as was also true of most of the people in our religious community. He told me that no one would support me if I left, and largely he was right. He also leveraged my faith to convince me that I was not forgiving enough when I’d try to hold him accountable for his actions.
After we divorced, I came across an article on “gaslighting.” It took me several days to read all the comments and stories after the article, but I was absorbed—it was actually a thing! The way I’d spent years doubting my own perceptions of reality because he kept telling me that I had misunderstood, misremembered, or was just “wrong” about my own memories … it was a thing that other people had experienced as well!
The best decision I ever made in that relationship was not having kids with him. I’m now deliriously happily remarried. Five years in and we have never had a fight. We’re also expecting our first child.
For this reader, the line was difficult to see at first:
Thank you to Olga for publishing her compelling article on emotional abuse. Normally I would post a Facebook comment to convey my appreciation for a great article, but much like the woman in the story, I am not keen on having my own struggles go fully public. Also much like Lauren, I’m an alumna of an Ivy League university, I grew up with parents who have been happily married for 30+ years (they are still married and in love with each other), and I could not see from the inside that my last relationship was abusive.
I was completely in love with my ex, who is an active-duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard. My own career is in animal rights. I have a master’s degree and spend my days investigating cruelty to animals, doing research and writing as well as handling animals directly in an office that doubles as a shelter. Most of the animals who come to our shelter have been abused by awful humans.
My ex has been a vegetarian for several years and acts compassionately toward animals and humans. He is exceedingly liberal, leaning toward socialist. He’s been a Coastie for nearly 20 years and looks fantastic in the uniform, he’s in charge of maybe a dozen people on board his (relatively small) ship, and he loves the search-and-rescue aspect of his job. How could I have possibly found the one member of the military whose philosophies and ethics align so closely with mine? Dream come true!
When I first met him, I was over the moon, and he apparently was, too. Things moved so quickly that within a month or two, we were discussing moving in together. I was dealing with PTSD that came from a violent rape two years before we met, and I had a few physical triggers that would send me into hour-long panic attacks. He was patient with me, telling me he wanted to help me heal and recover from the PTSD.
We are both into the BDSM lifestyle, and he was both my boyfriend and my Dom. He would test my limits, and I would tell him “please don’t do this without verbally warning me beforehand.” He would abide by that for a while until he “forgot” and did it again without the verbal warning we’d agreed was necessary.
He would tell me things like he was being supportive and patient with me to help me heal, and I felt like nobody else would ever be that kind or compassionate with me. I felt that I was too damaged for anyone else to be willing to deal with me.
I now realize that he systematically, slowly, broke down my self-esteem and sense of self-worth until I was fully dependent upon his approval. I compromised who I am as a person and the basic tenets of what makes me happy.
He spends two months in port and two months underway. He was at sea in September and we were keeping up our communication, emailing every day and speaking by phone when he was in a port of call. When he went 36 hours without emailing me, I wrote to him that I was worried; it had been longer than usual and I hoped everything was OK.
He wrote back and broke up with me, without any warning whatsoever, because he found that he was not as excited as he used to be about making plans with me returning home. I was completely devastated and suicidal. My friend took me to the emergency room and I was committed to the psych ward at the hospital. I was there for a week. I didn’t eat for the first four days because the stress triggered a relapse into a decades-long eating disorder. They threatened to put me on a feeding tube after I passed out while the nurses took blood one morning. I began eating again, but since then (for maybe six weeks) I have been caught in this full-blown eating disorder, struggling to find footing, unable to run like I used to because of debilitating physical side effects from the medications they put me on in the hospital. I am an endurance runner, and when I can’t go for my daily runs or my long runs on the weekend, it messes with everything from my mood to my eating habits.
It took at least a half-dozen mental health professionals telling me that I had been emotionally abused for me to realize what had happened. I had so much anger following my hospitalization that I felt shocked at myself. I am a pacifist Buddhist who rarely feels that much anger. After a few weeks, it dissipated and left me with the deepest sadness I’ve ever felt. I am grieving the loss of the man I loved while I recover from the abuse he inflicted on me. The person I loved never existed.
Now I feel ashamed, humiliated, lonely, and worthless. I am unable to enjoy what I used to do for fun. Several men have approached me and flirted, expressing interest in dating and/or sex. Normally after a breakup I would jump at the chance for a rebound boning. This time, though, I panic at the thought of anything sexual. I cannot even touch myself in that way.
Friends have since told me that what I thought was special treatment from my ex is actually the absolute minimum for how a Dom should treat his sub, and he consistently transgressed the limits we discussed and negotiated. I trusted my ex enough that I allowed him to (consensually) tie me down and hit me with things. The depth of trust required for that is immense. That trust has been betrayed and I struggle every single day to comprehend how I will ever recover from the betrayal and abuse.
I had to get my locks changed because I felt unsafe in my apartment and he has a spare key. A friend actually called the cops one evening after I flaked on our plans to get a beer together. They found me cowering in the corner of my kitchen, unable to communicate. It took several hours before I was able to speak with her and hold a conversation. That is how terrified I was. She offered to go with me to the magistrate’s office and swear out charges for a protective order, but she is a prosecutor herself and knows that emotional abuse does not break any laws (at least not here in Virginia). I never swore out charges because there is no hard, physical evidence of the abuse and I do not want to stand in front of a judge and explain everything in humiliating detail.
When I was raped a few years ago, I also chose not to swear out charges because a) I felt that it was my fault and b) I could not bring myself to describe in detail in court what had transpired.
He is back on land until next month. Despite my final email to him telling him not to contact me (after I got out of the hospital), he emailed me several days ago to tell me he has what he calls an STD. It’s not really an STD—more of a virus that anyone can contract anywhere from direct contact, and it clears up on its own without treatment. It’s kind of like warts or ringworm except you don’t have to treat it at all. A close friend told me he’s trying to continue the abuse and manipulation. I panicked when I saw his name in my inbox and deleted it without replying. I don’t have the virus, and I was not going to give him the satisfaction of replying.
Every single day I struggle with the effects of the abuse. I feel that because I have no physical signs of trauma, nobody would even believe that it’s real. When I read Olga’s article this morning, though, I felt less alone. I felt validated. I felt that yes, this is a real thing and other people have survived and healed from it. The article was very hard for me to read and it made me cry. But it makes me feel like victims of this type of abuse matter. What we are dealing with is real and it’s painful and we can recover from it.
More than two centuries after it was designed to empower southern white voters, the system continues to do just that.
Is a color-blind political system possible under our Constitution? If it is, the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 did little to help matters. While black people in America today are not experiencing 1950s levels of voter suppression, efforts to keep them and other citizens from participating in elections began within 24 hours of the Shelby County v. Holder ruling and have only increased since then.
In Shelby County’s oral argument, Justice Antonin Scalia cautioned, “Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get them out through the normal political processes.” Ironically enough, there is some truth to an otherwise frighteningly numb claim. American elections have an acute history of racial entitlements—only they don’t privilege black Americans.
Describing neutrino oscillations is notoriously tricky. The search for a shortcut led to unexpected places.
After breakfast one morning in August, the mathematician Terence Tao opened an email from three physicists he didn’t know. The trio explained that they’d stumbled across a simple formula that, if true, established an unexpected relationship between some of the most basic and important objects in linear algebra.
The formula “looked too good to be true,” says Tao, who is a professor at UCLA, a Fields medalist, and one of the world’s leading mathematicians. “Something this short and simple—it should have been in textbooks already,” he said. “So my first thought was, no, this can’t be true.”
Then he thought about it some more.
The physicists—Stephen Parke of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Xining Zhang of the University of Chicago, and Peter Denton of Brookhaven National Laboratory—had arrived at the mathematical identity about two months earlier while grappling with the strange behavior of particles called neutrinos.
A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?
Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
As age factors more urgently in politics, a simple test could evaluate who remains fit for office.
Remember these numbers. You’ll be asked about them at the end of the test: 70, 73, 76, and 78.
These are the ages of the leading candidates in the 2020 presidential election: Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders, respectively. In most any other line of work, people in their eighth decade are usually retired. For most of human history—and still in most of the world today—people of this age were usually dead.
Last month, Jimmy Carter, the 95-year-old former U.S. president, said that the office requires a person “to be very flexible with [one’s] mind,” and that by age 80 he wouldn’t have felt able to do the job. He joined the growing ranks of those suggesting they would support an upper age limit for the office, either for purposes of breaking up the gerontocracy or to ensure a person has the physical and cognitive capacity. “You have to be able to go from one subject to another and concentrate on each one adequately and then put them together in a comprehensive way,” Carter said.
He can’t help but go after women, even when doing so hurts his cause.
On the second day of the impeachment proceedings, President Donald Trump couldn’t control himself on Twitter: He lashed out at Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who was subjected to a smear campaign, and who testified to that effect before the House Intelligence Committee. Trump’s lack of control, in itself, was not unusual. But, for some reason, Trump showed more restraint 48 hours earlier, when William Taylor and George Kent went before the Committee. It was almost as if the president found himself triggered by Yovanovitch, the 61-year-old career diplomat. But why was the president’s response so different to witnesses who were roughly saying the same thing? What was the big difference between Kent and Taylor and Yovanovitch? All three are career diplomats, all three are Ivy League graduates, all three have worked in the State Department, all three are experts in Ukraine. But only one of them is a woman. Could that be why the president singled out Yovanovitch? It is almost as if the president is unable to control his rage against women. It is almost as if the president thinks he can bully women and silence them.
President Trump’s pardons for three service members accused of war crimes will have lasting consequences.
None of the services seems happy with President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon two service members accused of war crimes, and reverse the demotion of a third. The Navy’s reply, however, sets some kind of record of disdain. The Twitter account of the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Information Office wrote on November 15: “As the Commander in Chief, the President has the authority to restore Special Warfare Operator First Class Gallagher to the pay grade of E-7. We acknowledge his order and are implementing it.”
Those icy words breathe the mood of the admonition from Band of Brothers: “We salute the rank, not the man.”
To understand why the Navy—and the other services, too—reacted so negatively to the pardons, here’s a story I heard on a visit to Germany a couple of months ago. I had the chance to talk with a senior U.S. officer in that country.
Donald Trump’s strategy of revving up his rural base may not be worth the cost.
The shift of metro areas away from the Republican Party under President Donald Trump rumbled on in yesterday’s elections, threatening the fundamental calculation of his 2020 reelection plan.
Amid all the various local factors that shaped GOP losses—from Kentucky to Virginia, from suburban Philadelphia to Wichita, Kansas—the clearest pattern was a continuing erosion of the party’s position in the largest metropolitan areas. Across the highest-profile races, Democrats benefited from two trends favoring them in metro areas: high turnout in urban cores that have long been the party’s strongholds, and improved performance in white-collar suburban areas that previously leaned Republican.
“When Trump was elected, there was an initial rejection of him in the suburbs,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Virginia-based Democratic strategist. “We are now seeing a full-on realignment.”
A record-setting acqua alta has left much of Venice submerged, following stormy conditions blowing in from the Adriatic Sea.
Yesterday, strong winds and rainstorms pushed water levels in Venice, Italy, to the second-highest levels ever recorded. The high-water mark hit 74 inches (187 centimeters), just short of the record set in 1966. This exceptional acqua alta has flooded businesses and historic structures, sank boats, and been blamed for one death so far.
HONG KONG—For months now, I’ve been told that Hong Kong’s protests would end soon. They’ll end when school starts, I heard during the summer. School did start, but the protests wore on, only now I saw high-school students in crisp school uniforms joining the protesters’ ranks. Next, the mask ban of early October was supposed to slow protesters down, but the very first day after that ban, I watched streams of protesters in masks and helmets make their way to their usual haunts on Hong Kong Island.
The government shut down many of the subway lines that day, a practice that has become a de facto curfew, because Hong Kong’s über-efficient subway system is the way most people get around. No matter; the protesters ended up walking, sometimes a lot, and I walked with them, asking some of the same questions I had asked for months: Do you think you will continue protesting? What would it take for you to stop?
Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.
Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most previous democracies had been unstable and short-lived. But they were excellent psychologists, and they strove to create institutions and procedures that would work with human nature to resist the forces that had torn apart so many other attempts at self-governance.