Writing by Sonya Krzywoszyja // photograph by Inge Poelman
I met him on a dating app. Our first date was between lockdowns and I was excited to actually get to sit in a coffee shop. It had been so long.
He was very quiet and very tall. I thought he was cute and kissed him goodbye as I walked away. He called me back and offered me a lift home. I accepted.
We parked at the front of my house, on a very busy main road in his distinctive red ute. Things ended up getting hot and heavy and we moved it inside. After he left, I thought if I never saw him again, I wouldn’t mind – I had gotten used to men being a casual thing for me and I wasn’t going to allow myself to get too invested. He messaged me later that night asking me to stay over on the weekend.
I let him tie me up for the first time that weekend.
What followed was an extremely intense, emotionally, and sometimes physically, manipulative six months.
Why didn’t I leave? My mother always vehemently insisted that her girls never let a man treat her like shit and I imagined her somewhere, tsk-ing me.
Hindsight is a gift and a curse. I both blame myself for not seeing the red flags and realise I was being too hard on myself because infatuation is blind. I thought I was in love and I thought this was what love was meant to be.
He asked me to move in with him within three weeks of dating. I panicked and he got hurt and angry. I didn’t want to uproot my very happy home life with an awesome housemate and house, which, after years of unstable housing, was a major contributor to my mental wellness. I think a part of me knew even then, it would have been a monstrously bad idea.
I have always known I am not monogamous. I was upfront about my lifestyle and stated that while I was open to the idea of monogamy, it was not my natural state. At the time, I had a couple of regular partners, one who was (and still is) a very good friend of mine.
He had always been in monogamous relationships and wanted to try non-monogamy. He did a lot of reading, but wasn’t especially good at the practical side of it. His idea of non-monogamy was organising dates and sleeping with other women without informing me, never negotiating rules and always pushing boundaries.
But, according to him, I was the one who was doing non-monogamy wrong.
We were both into kink and neither of us were new to it, however, we never actually sat down and discussed the basic tenets of kink, which are Safe, Sane and Consensual. Our relationship was none of those things.
We were also incredibly reckless, sexually.
The first time he choked me to the point of passing out was in a pitch black room at his mother’s house in the middle of sex. I blamed myself for not tapping out sooner, for not realising that those big hands were also incredibly strong hands.
Another time, I allowed him to tie me and he left to go hang out with a friend of his.
It happened more than once.
I told myself that because I was into kink, because I identified as submissive, that I was asking for this treatment and if I told anyone about it, they would be horrified about my lifestyle choices and judge and blame me for it.
He was rough. I sometimes liked it. Our relationship was very sexual. I sometimes liked it.
I broke up with him the first time, after a few too many instances of gaslighting and him blaming my mental health for me not being ok with him sleeping with whoever he wanted. It lasted a week before I took him back, him promising to treat me better and apologising for driving me away.
It was good for about a month. Until it wasn’t. This time, he broke up with me. I found out later he had found a new, more vulnerable supply in the interim and I was just too much hard work.
The last night we were together, he picked me up from work and drove me home. We did the Exchange of Stuff and hugged.
It, of course, led to sex.
And it was the last time being choked to the point of passing out, coming to with “If I told the police this was consensual, they’d never believe me.”
There’s still a part of me that blames myself, more than a year later. For being passive. For allowing him to take advantage of me.
I started seeing a counsellor who was well-versed in different lifestyles and the kink community. I wasn’t sleeping or eating and I thought I would never find someone to love me again. I felt intense shame for the behaviours I “let” happen.
It has taken just over a year for me to feel safe again. I still avoid his suburb and if friends suggest brunch in the area, I suggest somewhere else. I thought I saw him one time and experienced a panic so high I thought I would pass out. I am not sure if I will ever really be healed in the traditional sense of the word. I think some people just leave their mark on you and trying to cover that up does a disservice to the progress you’ve made and will continue to make. Healing isn’t linear.
I have learned some very harsh lessons from this relationship, but it’s helped me to navigate the respect I deserve for future relationships and recognise red flags for future dating and relationships. For now, that’s enough. I am enough.