I Was Trapped In an Abusive Relationship — Here’s What I Learned

Let’s talk about women manipulating men in abusive relationships

Justin Bennett-Cohen
8 min readNov 10, 2022
Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

I haven’t ever publicly opened up about these three years of my life before. I’ve only told close friends and anyone else who I saw in a similar situation with a manipulative partner. I’m not going to say their name out of fear of being sued for defamation, but they were female.

Now, why do I mention their gender? Why does it matter? Abuse is abuse. I 100% agree, and no matter if a man, woman, or non-binary partner is abusive, its still abuse. But even while searching for “abuse” or “domestic violence” on Unsplash for the featured image above, it was almost all women. There isn’t a lot of men out there coming out and telling their stories of abuse via their female partners. We’re not going to explore all of the reasons why, but it has a lot to do with societal norms. If a man comes out and says he’s being abused by his girlfriend, his peers may tell him to “just leave” or that he’s weak for being so manipulated. And there lies an issue.

My Story

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

I need to give this person a name, but out of fear of being sued, I’m not going to say her real name. A random name generator came up with “Ivy” which is perfect. She’s just poison-fucking-ivy; she looked like a normal plant, but as soon as I touched her, she spread through my entire life and I couldn’t simply leave.

I met Ivy when I was 19 or 20 on an online dating app. I had been meeting people online for around 4–5 years at that point, and everyone I met was incredibly nice, so there were no initial red flags. We vibed well over text, which was a good start, and we met in a public park where she was walking her dog. The dog seemed to like me, and she seemed fairly normal. The park was beautiful; it was on top of a hill down a quiet street with lots of Autumn leaves coating the ground.

Once we began talking, everything seemed normal. I liked her, she was pretty, though not as pretty as I would have liked, but I was depressed and lonely, so I settled for someone “good enough” who liked me back. That was a mistake. We began dating like normal. Her family was very nice and had a big, colonial home in a quiet, wealthy neighborhood; things seemed fine.

The thing they don’t tell you about abuse, is how slowly it builds over time. You only hear about abuse when it’s at full-scale, in its final form; a violent, final boss, high-level cunt that beats you and pushes you around physically and emotionally. That’s not what happens in reality.

Ivy would start to get mad at me for very little things. I remember going to visit her at work at a local coffee shop at night, and she would get mad at me for things and then not tell me what I did wrong. I’m someone who wants to fix relationships and be the best boyfriend possible, so I always would apologize and bring her flowers and things would go back to normal.

Ivy had become aware how easily she could manipulate me and took full advantage.

As I mentioned earlier, I had been meeting people online for 4–5 years, which included friends. I ended up getting along best with girls, and we stayed in touch for a long time. We never had a sexual relationship nor dated; these were simply people that I enjoyed talking to and we were good friends. Ivy didn’t quite like that.

She would tell me to stop talking to friends who were girls. Only one at a time, and to appease her, I would say, “sure.” I would still talk to them behind her back because they were my friends. I had a high level of respect for these people. Then Ivy would take my phone and find I was still talking to them. She would then respond with a couple of options:

  1. Respond in a fit of rage, push me, and verbally abuse me until I would finally say “okay” and delete their contact information and/or block them on social media.
  2. Stay quiet, respond with things like, “hmph”, and force me to ask, “what’s wrong?” over and over again, until finally she would move to option #1.

Let’s fast forward a little bit: The Abuse

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

As I mentioned earlier, this sort of manipulation began very slowly and became more and more prevalent throughout our relationship. The reason I stayed was because the relationship was fine besides that. We had fun going on ice skating dates, hanging out with her family, and seeing my friends from time to time (hahaha that won’t last long, don’t you worry).

This was three years of abuse, and I’d have to write a book to tell you everything this girl did to me and how one thing led to another. To keep things shorter, I’ll list out the things she did to me during the course of our relationship.

  1. Made me cut off all of my friends who were girls. This included deleting their contacts and blocking them on social media. She also would not allow me to talk to them before she did this, so I would appear I ghosted them and they wouldn’t want to be friends with me if I ever escaped.
  2. She made me cut off all my best friends who were dating girls that she didn’t like, who were my only friends left.
  3. I was not allowed to hang out with my best friends without her. She told me that would be the equivalent of cheating. She would come along, and I would be on edge the entire time with my friends. I would be quiet and not myself because if I said something that upset her, we would have to leave.
  4. I was not allowed to see my therapist because she was a girl. Ivy came with me on my last therapy session with her and waited in my car.
  5. Did not allow me to go to college, since I might get a better job than her and I would be away from her for too long during the day. No amount of talking honestly with her would result in me going to college. The day after orientation, she forced me to cancel all my classes.
  6. I was only allowed to work certain jobs in certain areas. If she moved locations for her job, I would have to move as well. I once had a really great interview that paid well, they said I was hired, and once I talked to Ivy about it, she yelled at me over the phone, and told me no. Even while texting, she would use caps and yell at me to make me feel as horrible as possible. I called them the next day and told them that I could not accept the position.
  7. Ivy took my phone away and made me use one of her phones. That way, she was “allowed” to look at my texts and search history.
  8. When I would get a haircut, she would sometimes say she hated it and that I looked “stupid as fuck.” She once told me I looked like my younger brother and wouldn’t touch me for months until it grew back.
  9. When she “caught” me talking to other girls who were my friends, or attempted to talk to my guy friends about the abuse, she would yell at me, push me, and hit me. She would say, “let me hit you! You know you deserve this.” This became a more regular occurrence.
  10. Deleted all of my saved Instagram posts. I love organizing my saved posts on Instagram, from architecture to art to portrait photography; it took me hours to do but I was very proud of it. One day I showed up at her work to visit her, as I did regularly. I showed her some of my saved posts that I found cool. Ivy said, “let me see your phone.” I had nothing to hide, so I handed it over. She then handed the phone back to me, and with a smile on her face said “there!” and all of my saved posts were deleted; not archived, but deleted. This included the saved posts, the folders, everything. This may sound very stupid to some of you, but I was heartbroken and was extremely mad at her, but I didn’t show it.
  11. Ivy made fake social media profiles of me. Ivy made me delete my personal Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts. She then made new accounts for me as a “privilege”, where she knew the passwords. These accounts would be of my real first and last name, a photo of me, and the profiles would say exactly what she wanted. She even dressed me in clothes that she found attractive that I didn’t like. She was creating her dream persona of me. Ivy did this to “bait” my female friends into adding me. She would then proceed to yell at them as me and make them not talk to me ever again. These accounts still exist 5 years later, despite my efforts of reporting them.
A self-portrait of me now — happy

I have a feeling I’m forgetting some things. I blocked out a lot of this from my memory. Some of these I had to really dig deep for since it’s incredibly traumatic for me. Eventually I got out of it by moving down to my mom’s house in Cape Cod, which was “too far” for Ivy. But at that point, I didn’t care.

I think she wanted me to be miserable. She enjoyed controlling me because it made her feel better about herself and her insecurities. One time, she told me she was sexually abused by her brother and said, “maybe that’s why I am the way I am.” She only said this once and made excuses as to why she can’t get a therapist or be on medication. She wouldn’t let me help her.

For a long time, I would tell people that she “mentally abused me” because I thought of it differently than normal abuse where you’re beaten and bruised. This was even despite the fact that she hit me whenever she got upset. Now, I see her as she was. She was abusive. I wish I saw her as an abusive cunt when we were together so I could have left earlier, but oh well.

I’m telling this story because I want other people to recognize the abuse, whether you’re male, female, or non-binary. Please see the warning signs before it evolves into something worse. Ivy could have eventually told me to kill myself and I would have done it. That’s how manipulated I was. She took my good nature and turned it against me for her own gain.


  • Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800–799–7233
  • I’d love for everyone reading this to leave a comment and tell us a little about your abuse story, a Medium article that you found helpful, or other resource. Stay safe out there and DFTBA.



Justin Bennett-Cohen

I’m a Writer, Photographer, and lover of food and bad puns.