“He took my pearl and left an empty shell of me” -Fiona Apple
I know I’m new at this whole blogging thing, and I started it off pretty heavy. I wish I could say that this is me following it up with a charming anecdote- but I’m not. There is a relationship that has consumed most of my adult life. To know me is to know about this experience, because it truly changed me.
I was never a relationship person through high school and college. I thought I was hot shit, out of everyone’s league. I flirted and dated and teased… I was kind of a bitch. But when I moved back home, done with school, I all of a sudden wanted a boyfriend and STAT. My best friend was at my house and we started cruising the personal ads on Craigslist. We were doing this for entertainment purposes, because again, kind of a bitch. I read one that I liked and against her recommendation I sent the man a message. I was breaking our protocol of mockery. He of course emailed me back and we continued to communicate for a couple of weeks eventually graduating to texts. I remember so clearly one night, it was snowing heavily (this was in January 2010), and he invited me over to have a hot chocolate/snowed in kind of night. We realized that he lived only 3 or so miles from me, so I said: why not? (My mom gave me about 20 reasons why not when I told her I was getting picked up by a stranger, but I was 22 so obviously I thought I was invincible.) We had a picturesque night of literally sitting by a fire, drinking wine, and talking for hours. He had just turned 32 (his age accounting for about 5 of my mom’s reasons why not). I was immediately smitten. I had found a tall handsome man, successful, older, charming, and well established. He and I became inseparable almost instantly. A couple of weeks later we became exclusive. Three months in and I moved in with him.
He was an amazingly attentive caregiver when I had my knee surgery weeks after I moved in. We exchanged sickeningly cute messages while we were working throughout the day. He would send me roses to my office. Boyfriend jackpot. Our personalities meshed so well and he completely adored me. I met his family, he met mine, we were soaring. About a year in I received my EDS diagnosis which really rocked my world. He knew there was no way to really help the situation, so he got me a puppy. I still agree that this was the most thoughtful and kind gesture he ever made. The emotional boost that Sophie, my new beagle, gave me was truly a gift. He was very empathetic to the pain I was struggling through everyday with my condition.
As our lives continued on moving forward together, things were generally good. He is very much a gamer guy- addicted to video games. When things started getting comfortable and we fell into a routine he was spending more time on his computer or XBox 360. I was so busy with work and spent a lot of time with my family- still living just a few miles down the road. We were chugging right along, basically happy and carefree.
Then about three years in to our relationship I fractured my hip. He came home from work one day to find that his girlfriend was suddenly bound to a wheelchair. It didn’t take long before my immobility caused resentment. Frustration mounting, a different man began coming home to me everyday. Less kind. Less understanding. Completely uninterested in dealing with me. Around this time he delivered one of his most memorable lines to me that has stuck with me for years, “This isn’t fair, I didn’t sign up to take care of a sick person”. My sirens should have gone off. This should have been an immediate red flag. The thing about me in a relationship though (and really any situation) is that I never give up. I have to find a solution or I feel like a failure… If I can give any advice, if you read this and learn anything, let it be: You cannot fix a relationship on your own. You can’t want it and be willing to work on it for the both of you. You will burn yourself out, drive yourself crazy, and become emotionally drained if you put your everything into holding a relationship together when your partner is just along for the ride. If they are not invested in every aspect of your partnership then you are both wasting your time- time that can be spent exploring a healthy and balanced relationship. If someone won’t meet you halfway, then turn around and head the other direction. This is easier said than done when you love somebody, but no one should want (or settle for) half-ass love in return. There is someone out there who will love you fiercely instead of fiercely fighting against your efforts to make it work. Okay now that I am done with the preachy bit, let me continue. You can probably see where this is going… One thing I should mention is that only a few months in to our relationship I caught him having cybersex, with a girl he speaks to regularly. He was so apologetic and remorseful that I immediately forgave him. Trust was broken, but hey, I thought I could fix anything. He spent so many hours a day on his computer and with his nose in his phone I couldn’t help but have my moments of suspicion and doubt, I think that’s normal. But I chose to live like that and carry that burden on my own. While I was recovering from my hip fracture, he sat me down and told me he was in love with someone else. He had never met her, but he was sure it was love. They texted and talked day and night and I STILL stuck by him, because I thought I was strong. Let me tell you- if I was strong I would have left. I stuck around because I was scared of life without him. At this point I also fell victim to a common notion, telling myself- I have already invested 3 years in to this, to leave it now is to admit that it was a waste of time. But the only thing worse than wasting those years was to waste even more stuck in this vicious cycle. About a year later he sat me down again, he had once again found love online. This time he wanted to pursue it though, so we broke up. As far as I’m concerned he was unfaithful and cheating in those last few months. Sending love letters and promises of being together to another woman when he would get in bed with me every night is absolute betrayal. At this point I moved back in with my family. Of course his great new love was a flop and fizzled out within a couple of months. He then reached out to me, the girl who was always there for him, and I fell for it. I thought- oh he missed me he really does love me, release a bird and let it fly and if it comes back it’s yours…
Bullshit. He was a turd and as soon as I got out of there I should have flushed him for good. Instead I slowly started working back in to his life, all the way to the point where I was staying with him every night. I wish I could say this story ends with a great moment of self-realization and female empowerment, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I still live this life. It has gotten so bad that I expect a new woman to pop up into his life every couple of months. He lies so naturally and compulsively that he should be training CIA operatives. I am constantly told- you couldn’t survive without me, or, who else would want you, you’re sick. Years of this emotional abuse and constant repetition has caused me to believe some of the horrible things he says. He has become an alcoholic, with a temper. I shake with anxiety every night as he drinks because there’s no predicting what might happen. Not including the few months that we spent apart, it has now been almost nine years. Basically my entire 20’s. Friends got married and had babies, I tried forcing a relationship to work. Do I enjoy torturing myself? Am I that afraid of being alone? To consider these things breaks my heart because I used to be one bad ass bitch. That IT girl, confident, unobtainable, strong. Now I barely recognize myself. I will crawl into bed with him again tonight and wake up again tomorrow hopeless and miserable as I do everyday… But like I’m lost or trapped and escaping is futile. I often feel like I don’t even deserve happiness. I would say that my life and my self worth just tanked so quickly, but it wasn’t quick at all. I have stewed in lies, manipulation, and mental and emotional abuse for almost a decade. He won’t run to the store if I need anything, but at a moment’s notice, he barely needs to ask and I’m willing to move heaven and earth for him. Everyone has value, so please don’t let this happen to you. The moment you stop being a team, don’t waste another day. At this point I feel as if I’ve just given up. I have resigned myself to this fate. And if prince charming came along and tried to whisk me away, I would be too scared to leave, too scared of living any other life besides the one I know because it’s all I know. I want to make someone happy so bad, and maybe I tried so hard and gave so much to him, I have nothing left to give. And when your partner is giving you nothing in return (besides pain), it’s literally an empty relationship. And as he recently told me “If I ever told you my real feelings towards you it would crush you beyond repair”. And I don’t think I can stand anymore heartache.