What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Alissa. No one ever thinks they’re going to end up in an abusive relationship. It’s never anyone’s goal. However, it happens every day and sometimes it happens to people you’d never dream it would. I was always the bubbly girl…I still am. I graduated from high school at 17 at the top of my class with a Presidential Scholarship to Christopher Newport University. I just knew I was going places. A month after graduation I met my ex-husband and the father of my three children. He was a beautiful dreamer. We talked for hours about all the things we wanted to do and the places we would go. He had an artistic heart and I fell hard almost immediately. But like a lot of artists, he also had a very dark side. He started to go into rages periodically where he would smash things and come at me like he was going to hurt me. They were terrifying, but afterward he would fall into a limp mass on the floor crying, wondering why he did these things. It was like watching someone be tortured and as scary as it was, I just new I could save him. He called himself the monster…and I was his angel. Abuse just isn’t always what it is in movies. It doesn’t always happen non-stop. It can start very gradually and be very sporadic. He could go a year without an incident and then…then they would start again. Something I did would set him off and once again the beast would raise its ugly head. Sometimes he would only yell. Sometimes he would get in my face. Name calling was a must. If he was going to lay his hands on me, his method of choice was usually choking. One time he choked me until I passed out and he thought he killed me. He was more scared than I was…and he didn’t touch me for a long while after that. Physical abuse is very ugly, but in my case I’m thoroughly convinced the verbal abuse left the deepest scars. He would tell me how ugly and fat I was. He would tell me my stomach was the most disgusting thing he’d ever seen and no one would ever have me. He told me if anyone ever did, he would kill them, me, and then himself. I thought they were just words…and words can’t really hurt you, right? Through it all I smiled and laughed. I made friends just as easily as I always had. I went to bbq’s and served on the PTA. I just didn’t always disclose what went on behind closed doors. Some people knew, but most people had no clue. There were multiple times I left him, and every time he changed…for a while. It wasn’t until 2 1/2 years ago when I finally left him for good that I really dealt with it all, or at least thought I did. Then, I met my current boyfriend…a man who loved me with all his heart and would lasso the moon for me and my children if he could. I spent over a decade telling myself that I deserved SO much more than I was getting from my husband, and then when someone offered me everything I always wanted, I just couldn’t feel like I deserved it. There have been times when I’ve just sobbed and asked him why in the world he would want me…how could I be worth the chaos that is my life? Luckily, he’s very patient and very kind…and thinks I am most definitely very worth it. When I was in high school and I watched the stupid girls on TV talking about their abusive boyfriends, I just knew that would never be me. If those girls put up with that nonsense then they deserved it! Do I still think that way? Sort of. I made bad choices, and therefore, there were bad consequences. Does anyone deserve abuse. No. However, if I make it all his fault, then I am just a victim and he has all the power. But I am not a victim. I am a woman who has worked REALLY hard to overcome. I am a person who made poor choices for a very long time, but who has also grown immensely and works every day to make sure her children understand how the choices they make affect their lives. I am a full-time mom, full-time worker, part-time blogger, and all-the-time friend. I went back to school and earned an AS in Business, and am now pursuing a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies (Business and Psychology). Sometimes the face of abuse is bruised and obvious…and sometimes it just looks like me.