In 1987, I had just graduated from college and moved to Manhattan for my dream job.
I hadn’t dated a lot in college, but New York was different. Suddenly, I was meeting guys everywhere—and going on a lot of dates.
I met Conor on the subway. Although there were no fireworks at the time, he seemed like a nice guy. When he tracked me down a month later, I was flattered, so we started dating.
If you told me then that, within two years, Conor would beat me for the first time, or that in four years I would be filing for divorce, I would have thought you were crazy.
But that’s what happened.
Everyone talks about the physical aspect of domestic abuse—which is, of course, no small thing—but there’s more to it. Conor left me not only physically battered, but nearly bankrupt.
How I Fell in Love With an Abuser
The truth is that I was unimpressed on our first date. In fact, I found Conor, who was 17 years my senior, completely goofy. But he was a smart guy—like me, he’d graduated from an Ivy League school—and as we got to know each other, I fell in love with him.
About three months after we started dating, he confessed that, as a child, he’d been physically abused. At the time, I didn’t know such an admission could be a red flag that was characteristic of abusers. I felt sorry for him, and I was determined to show him what love was really all about.
While the physical violence didn’t start until we were together for two years, Conor set the financial trap early. Eight months into our relationship, he quit his Wall Street job for a lower paying one in a tiny, New England town without ever discussing it with me. He then convinced me to also leave my job and move with him—where we’d be far away from friends and my family. I don’t know for sure that he was deliberately trying to isolate me—at the time, he genuinely seemed to be seeking some kind of inner peace and happiness. But, now that I look back, his actions clearly fall into a classic seduce-isolate-abuse-repeat pattern.
We used the small amount of money my father had put into a custodial savings account for me to buy a house once we moved. We owned one car, which Conor drove to work every day. My new job paid about 75% less than the one I held in New York, so I also had to freelance, which was lucrative but sporadic. Meanwhile, Conor was horrible with money, and splurged on extravagant things—like a Montblanc pen that cost twice as much as our monthly mortgage payment. Pens aside, between the house and the car, we racked up $100,000 of debt.