Ellie groaned upon waking up and practically pried open her swollen left eye. Parting her eyelids to the morning light was difficult considering how crying so hard the night before made her face feel as puffy as a marshmallow. Her boyfriend was apologetic the first time he hit her and said he’d never do it again. He had.

Yet he swore he loved her and would never hurt her again. She had no reason to think otherwise, but her bruises hadn’t yet disappeared before another incident gave her new ones to take their place.

The problem was that their lives were so entwined by then that Ellie couldn’t remember where she began and her partner ended. Some would call them enmeshed, her friends in particular. They noticed she wasn’t quite herself anymore. The Ellie they knew would never fall for his empty promises or stand for such abuse a second time, contusions that cut to her core and damaged her previous sense of self and personal boundaries.

Her sister and mother were horrified to see he latest argument’s after effects and tried in vain to help Ellie leave. No amount of persuasion satisfied the young woman that he wouldn’t change. She just knew it would be different this time.

Days followed within a cycle of bargaining. Ellie’s boyfriend swore his undying love and remorse at losing his temper. He said she just shouldn’t make him so angry in order to avoid those outbursts – that she pushed his buttons.

Logic finally prevailed when a co-worker shared her personal story of previously being in an abusive relationship and offered her a place to stay. Her colleague’s experience finally convinced Ellie to leave him, but her estranged boyfriend’s desperation to reunite gained strength. He told her, “I’m not that guy anymore. You have to take me back!” His remorseful expression tugged at her emotions so longingly she almost believed he was sincere.

Several months of professional counseling kept Ellie successfully single and back on a path to strong self-esteem and renewed confidence. Any time she had mixed feelings about not getting back together with her ex, she looked down at her bare ring finger where she used to wear the diamond solitaire he’d given her upon proposing. A bulge in her wrist just above that appendage remained where the fracture he inflicted hadn’t quite healed correctly. She’d been embarrassed to answer the ER nurses’ probing questions yet another time.

The update on her ex from a mutual acquaintance came as no surprise. His assault arrest came after he brutally beat his new fiancé. She lay in critical condition at the local hospital with a questionable outcome. Doctors doubted if the woman would revive from her coma.

Guilt rushed over Ellie as she realized how lucky she was, although she felt relieved her own prognosis was so much more optimistic. She remembered an old advice column from Ann Landers she’d once read that cautioned, “If you’re not happy with what you have, be happy with what you have escaped.”

The Studio 30+ prompts “entwined” and “I’m not that guy anymore” within Summer’s End.

photo source: L on Flickr


  1. A cautionary tale for sure. I imagine realizing being so tangled up with someone else you can’t remember how to exist as a separate person is terrifying. Even more so when you realize just how bad for your health your tangled up partner is. Ellie is lucky. And I like that bit of Ann Landers advice at the end. I’ll have to remember that one.

    • You are so right, Tara. At it worst they end up like the second woman, and many times it’s a chronic condition. A support system can make the difference between life and death.
      Thanks, as always, for reading and responding.

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