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Fresh out of undergrad, *Rose married the love of her life at 22, but she had no idea what she was in for. More than anything, the newlywed wanted to make the marriage work, but she soon found herself feeling alone, stressed, and eventually being violently abused. 

“I was young, fresh out of college, working, in school again. I didn’t know what marriage was about. She was older than me so I figured this had to be what it’s about,” Rose shared.

Things got progressively worse once her partner began to transition from female to male, using testosterone hormones, and on top of that the two were trying to start a family together. Now older, wiser, and in a better place, the single mother of a two-year-old boy, reflects on the warning signs she overlooked, the support she had to leave her abuser, and why there’s nothing loving about abuse. 

How did your relationship with your abuser begin?

My ex-wife and I met actually while I was in high school. There used to be this lesbian dating site called Downelink, it was like Tag or Tinder for lesbians, and we met there. I was a sophomore in high school. We dated for a long time then we lost contact when I went away to college. We reconnected going into junior year of college, then we went from there. It was the greatest relationship until we got married.

What changed after you got married?

What changed was that my wife began to transition from female to male. What happened is that she start taking testosterone shots, and it messed with her hormone levels. She was in the military and had a lot of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and taking the testosterone brought a lot of her PTSD to the forefront. She had no one else to take it out on, but me apparently.


Did the doctor explain that taking these hormones would cause mental health issues?

They just said she would be changing, and that it was going to be a difficult time for both of us. But she never told the doctor that she had PTSD, and it exacerbated the situation.

How long were you married before things started to change?

I believe we just made a year in our marriage before our first incident happened.

What happened?

It started off really little, like I wasn’t allowed to have certain friends because she felt they were going to sabotage our relationship. I had to make sure I came home straight after work. I wasn’t allowed to take night classes. I had to take morning classes because I had to be home by a certain time. I had to make sure dinner was on the table at a certain time. I had to make sure the food was cooked the way she liked it or there would be consequences. She hated the way I cooked. So, it started off with little things like that.

I wasn’t allowed to speak to my mother anymore because my mother didn’t like her from the beginning. [My mother] kind of warned me that something was off, but I wasn’t allowed to speak with her because I was married now.

Were you okay with these rules initially or did you give some push back?

In the beginning I did give some push back, but I was heavy in church at the time, and they would always talk about scriptures that said “honor your marriage” and talk about how “marriage is always hard in the beginning, but you have to see it through.” At the time she was considered my husband, and “you have to do what your husband says.” I always kind of grew up with the idea that if you’re married and you’re playing the woman role and someone else is playing the man role you go with flow.

I remember speaking to a person that’s not even my friend anymore and telling her the situation, and her exact words to me were: “What did you do to make her upset? You just gotta go with it you’re married now. Things like this just happen. You always need to just make her happy. It’s your job. You’re not supposed to do anything but cook, clean and keep your spouse happy.” This person was married to her best friend.

When did doing what she asked you to do stop being enough?

Our first incident happened when it was my best friend’s birthday, and she wanted me to come to Georgia to celebrate with her. My exact words were “I have to ask first,” and when I asked I didn’t really get an answer so I kept pushing and pushing, begging, and asking because I hadn’t seen my best friend in a year at this point. I really wanted to see her and get away.

[My ex-wife] came home late from work, and the first issue was dinner was cold so she didn’t like that. After dinner was cold I asked her again if I could go to Georgia. She backhand slapped me, and I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do or say at that point. I didn’t ask again, and my best friend was mad at me for missing her birthday. I couldn’t even call her.

Two days later, after she busted my lip, she brought home flowers and said she’d never do it again. For her, everything was supposed to be okay. I still felt some type of way, but I’d never been married before so I was thinking maybe this is something married couples go through behind closed doors. Maybe this is the behind doors thing that people talk about when they say marriage is a struggle. In public its a cookie cutter front, but behind closed doors this is what it is. That’s what I started thinking about.         

How long did this go on before you realized this isn’t how marriage is supposed to be?

My last straw was when we were living in DC, and at the time we were trying to have a baby. She really wanted a family, but I was having a lot of problems because I was stressed out with work and didn’t have any extra curriculars, like hanging out with friends. I lost a lot of friends. It was just me by myself at the house. I just had a miscarriage, and we tried to have another baby. I was twelve weeks pregnant with twins, and she came home drunk one time. She was yelling and screaming about why the house wasn’t clean, and I told her I’m pregnant and tired. The house wasn’t messy, but it wasn’t as clean as she liked it. The last thing I remembered, because I completely blacked out, was her charging me.

The next day I went out with one of the friends she actually allowed me to go out with. I had sunglasses on and she was asking me, “why do you have sunglasses on? It’s really cloudy outside today.”  I just told her I was really tired and hadn’t been getting much sleep because of the twins. She was like, “yeah that happens sometimes when you’re pregnant,” but she still kept asking me to take off my glasses. I wouldn’t take them off.

While we were sitting in Olive Garden I started getting extremely bad cramps. I excused myself to the bathroom. While using the bathroom I wiped and realized I was bleeding. When I got back to the table I told her she should take me to the hospital because I’m bleeding. Sitting in the emergency room the doctor asked me to take off my sunglasses and saw I had a black eye. She asked what happened and I kept saying “I fell down the steps yesterday.” She asked if the babies were okay, and I said “ I don’t know maybe that’s why I’m bleeding.”  

Long story short, I miscarried at 12 weeks which means you still have to give birth to your kids. That was my last straw. All you want is a family, all you want to do is give someone you love or in a marriage with a family, hoping that once you give them this family everything will be okay. Maybe they will change, and this will be the end of it. Then to have all that taken from you, the less you feel hope. Is she going to be upset that I lost them? Is she going to blame me? Am I going to get beat on top of partially giving birth to twins? 

At that point, my best friend drove from Georgia to DC. While she was at work, we packed all my stuff and she made me leave. It was the scariest thing ever because all I kept thinking is she was going to come home, see that I’m not there, and its going to be the biggest blow up ever. And it was. It was really bad. She constantly called my phone, my mother, she threatened my family. It was very bad.   

How long did she do that until she finally let the relationship go?

I had to get a restraining order. I moved to Georgia for three months then I moved back to NYC with my mom. I’d run into some of her friends and they’d say, “you know she misses you,” “you know all she wants to do is be happy and have a family with you.” Then I would start thinking about the good times we had before we got married and think about giving her a try.  hen my best friend would always be like “hell no, you’re not going back to that, she’s going to kill you. The next time you go back she is going to kill you.”   

What was the divorce process like?

It was horrible. She put in the divorce papers that I ran off with someone else. I had witnesses stating that I didn’t run off. Then when we finally got the divorce she had to pay spousal support, and that did not go well at all.

She said I never did anything in our marriage to earn it. She felt like anyone getting spousal support should’ve been contributing to the household and marriage. She said I wasn’t a good wife, I didn’t cook or clean. I didn’t obey my husband. Basically things like that. I was working and in school full time.   

How long did it take to finalize the divorce?

My divorce wasn’t final until last year, and we got married in 2011. I left her in 2012/2013.


Looking back do you see where there were warning signs?

Yes, but I was so naive. I just thought this has to be what marriage is like or I love this person and I have to love them in their weakest points. I thought it was just the beginning and everything would get better once the hormones leveled out. Now that I look back, I see she was always verbally abusive.

What would she say to you?

You’re fat. You’re ugly. You better never leave me because no one else it going to want you but me. You can’t cook. You can’t do anything. You’re smart, but smarts don’t get the bills paid. Smarts don’t keep your husband coming. Whether a man or a woman, we want something that looks good on our arm and you don’t look good. At the time, I was 145-160 lbs soaking wet. I took it as maybe she’s just being playful.

Has your ex gotten help for any of her issues?

I’m not sure if she got any help because I had a restraining order. The last time I spoke to her was in court. After the divorce she took me to family court because she felt like my son now is supposed to be her son. As a lesbian, the only way I can get pregnant is through a sperm bank, and she felt that my son now is from the sperm we bought together and she should have parenting rights. She wanted full custody. I was able to prove it was completely different and had nothing to do with her.  

Did you get any counseling or therapy after the abuse?

No, I should have. It kind of made me a certain way, and even now in relationships or trying to build relationships with people I constantly hear that I’m cold-hearted. They feel really bad for me because whoever did this to me really f-cked me over. My entire mindset about marriage is that I never want to get married again. I don’t believe in the fairytale wedding crap.

I should’ve gotten help, but I still stick to that stereotype, “Black people don’t go to counseling.” You figure sh-t out for yourself and work through it. Now that I’m older I feel like I should’ve done it a long time ago.

Any advice for other women in your shoes?

This is not love. Abuse is not love. No one should say “I hate you because I love you.” I’m laughing because she used to say that all the time. This is bringing up a lot of feelings I’ve kind of harvested.  

“I treat you like this because I love you” or “I hit you because I love you” or “you just need to listen to me, everything would be fine if you would just listen to me.” That’s not love, that can’t be love. Refuse to believe that is love.

*Please note the person’s name has been changed.

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