One of three things was going to happen: He was going to kill me, he was going to kill himself, or he was going to kill himself and take me with him.

Here is a lesson it took me fifteen years, and many thousands of dollars paid to counselors and therapists, to learn: I did not deserve to be hit.

More lessons learned: I didn't cause the abuse, and I couldn't control it. If I did not want to be abused, I needed to separate myself from my abuser.

Once I learned these lessons, it took me three years, and the services of a lawyer, the county sheriff and the courts to end the relationship.

Almost always, mainstream media coverage of domestic abuse frames the problem as the man ("perpetrator" or villain) beating his wife (victim). But domestic violence happens as well among gay men and lesbians.

My abuser and I got together when I was 19. I recently had left college. I was young and naive. Our eyes met at the bar one night. He came home with me. He stayed for eighteen years.

I thought it was love. I thought I loved him. I thought he loved me.

He hit me. He punched me. He kicked me. He ridiculed me. He tried to burn me. He threw entire pans of food across the room and against the wall because he didn't like what I had prepared. He didn't rape me, but he engaged in some other types of physical, mental and emotional abuse that should not be discussed in polite society and an academic setting.

Through it all, I supported him financially, because he could never find a job that he thought was worthy of him. And he always wondered why I couldn't find a better-paying job, so that I could support him in the style to which he wished to become accustomed. I was in a huge amount of debt, with no retirement savings.

We had very few friends; one of the ways abusers control their victims is by isolating them socially. When I asked him why we had no friends, his reply was, "Well, who would want to be friends with you?"

During the time my abuser and I were together, I never thought about returning to college to finish my degree. But if I would have wanted to, I would not have been able to count on him for any kind of support at all.

That relationship encompassed eighteen years of my life. For the first fifteen of those years, I thought I was doing something wrong. If I just cooked properly, if I kept things cleaner, if I could be more organized, if I made more money, maybe he would treat me better. Maybe he wouldn't hit me.

Eventually, with the aid and patience of several therapists, I came to understand that no, it didn't matter how perfect I was-as long as I was in this relationship, I was going to get hit. The only way to stop the abuse was to extricate myself from the relationship.

Once I finally understood this, I sought counseling, support groups, and eventually a lawyer, to help deal with the situation. But I knew that I had to keep all these actions secret, because if my abuser found out he would put a stop to them. For three years I was able somehow to keep all my efforts under the radar.

The perverse irony is that, in a way, that relationship may have saved my life. The AIDS virus made its appearance a year after we got together, and during the height of the epidemic I was living in an enforced monogamous relationship. If I had dared to cheat on him, he would have found out and there would have been serious consequences. Quite possibly, I am alive today because I was out of sexual circulation during the AIDS crisis. Had I not been essentially locked away, I probably would have been one of the first men to die.

But I also could have died as the result of the escalating abuse . Toward the end of the relationship, my counselor at the time told me that my abuser displayed all the classic signs of severe depression. And the depression had escalated to the point where, possibly within a matter of months, either my abuser was going to kill me; he was going to kill himself; or he was going to kill himself and take me with him.

At one point I was ready to pack a suitcase of clothes and leave everything else behind. I'd give him the house, which would go back to the bank because he would have no way to keep up the payments. I was willing to make that kind of extreme sacrifice just to get out of there. Fortunately, my therapist said there was no need for me to do that; the laws of the State of Minnesota were on my side, and I had every right to force him to leave. Eventually I requested an order for protection and the next day, while I was at work, the sheriff showed up at the house, presented him with the order for protection, and told him he had to leave.

We met in court a week later and the order for protection was made permanent (for one year). That was the last time I had any contact with my abuser. That was in 1993, and I then set about rebuilding my life.

It wasn't easy at first. While I had been in the relationship I had numbed my feelings as a survival mechanism. Now that he was gone, I finally allowed myself to fully feel the terror and the horror of what I had been through. I had PTSD attacks for a year and a half.

But with the help of newly made friends, and a new partner who was himself a survivor of gay male domestic abuse, I made the transition from victim to survivor. Eventually I was able to give myself credit for having the courage, and the skills at organization, coordination and logistics, necessary to successfully get myself out of that dangerous relationship. If I could do that, anything else would be easy by comparison.