Things aren’t always as they seem…
Two years ago (almost to the day) I wrote this paper for my Relational Communications class on an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship I had been in that had ended. To this day, my professor still brings it up every time he sees me, mentioning how he reads the paper out to his class each semester as a real-life example of what this types of abuse looks like, and how powerful my story is and the ways I worked through the situation.
I even wrote follow-up articles about the things I learned from it about self-worth and healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. People commended me for getting out of it. For demanding better for myself.
But as I said – things aren’t always as they seem.
The truth is, it didn’t stop at the paper. It carried on. There was sly behaviour used to intimidate, there were verbal attacks in classrooms, and then there was another go around. I let him back in. But this time it was different. This time he had changed. And I know what you’re thinking, “Oh you poor, hopeful, girl – of course he didn’t change” – but he actually had.
He came back around and for the first time out of all his “reappearances” (he had a tendency to disappear and then reappear when he wanted/needed only to vanish again – and he did it over and over), it began with an apology. There was an admission of wrongdoing, and explanation of the changes he had made to his character, a request for forgiveness, and a proposal for friendship – starting fresh, moving forward.
I let him back in. He was different, it was obvious, and I wanted to give him another chance.
And you know what? It did look different. No more manipulation, no more verbal aggression, and no more turning tables, making me feel it was always something I’d done wrong. He came back and was a good friend. For about three weeks.
Do you know how hard it is to really settle in and get close to someone, to enjoy spending time with them, all the while not knowing which time will be the last?
I tried so hard this time to get comfortable, to trust, to not fear old patterns. And I got blindsided.
We got closer, and closer, and closer, and just when I started to get comfortable, he was gone.
I didn’t know it was the last time I’d see him, until days and then weeks went by and he never showed up. And once again there I sat, heartbroken, hating him for wasted time, and hating myself for being a fool and letting him back in.
But it still was different this time – he wasn’t a jerk, he wasn’t aggressive, and he didn’t even say it was my fault. As a matter of fact, when I did express to him through writing how I couldn’t do it anymore – the showing up and leaving again – he was understanding and distinctly stated it was not me or my issue, it was all his.
So it was left – it was determined that we both cared for each other, but there was stuff going on with him and his life keeping him from being stable and I needed stability. No yelling, no name-calling, no blame. The chapter was closed.
And oh how I wish the story had ended there…
Despite the time that passed, the unfriending on facebook, and the complete lack of communication, something deep inside of me knew it wasn’t over yet. It’s never over. He always comes back.
And he did.
It knocked me off guard when I woke up to the friend request that morning – why again? why now? why?
It had been a year. A lot can change in a year, especially for a person who seemingly was making leaps and bounds towards becoming a better person.
But he had no direction.
“Hey howsit going?” “I have a new job” “I’m living in a new city” – the small talk brought up more questions than answers.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but why are you contacting me? It’s been a year…you disappeared – why are you back? Why now?”
It was simple, I just “popped into his head.”
We made a plan to skype.
Maybe it was going to be different this time. Maybe it would be like last year only better. Maybe we’d finally get a chance at something good. Maybe it was our time.
But “maybe” is never enough.
See I fought hard for the life I have today. I fought long and I fought hard. I invested in a community of people who I love and who love me back. I’ve found my passions and I’m running towards them. I have two jobs that I love, I am settled, and I have a puppy. I am recovered from an eating disorder and self-harm, and I have finally become a person I can respect. None of this came easily, and so I am not about to put any of it at risk. I owe it to myself to protect my life, to protect me. And so “maybe” was not enough. I had to find out for sure…
And so I asked.
After an hour of small talk, catching up, and friendly chatter, I brought it up. Just to make sure: Why was he back again? What was different this time? Or is it the same? Because I was really hurt last time, when he disappeared yet again and I’m not up for that. Surely he understands why I’d want to be sure before letting him back in. Where had he been the last year anyways? Why the unfriending? And why show up now?
And then it happened. In a split second, I became crazy and obsessive. I became an over-thinker. I became someone who looks for things that aren’t there and who can’t just enjoy a nice conversation. I became the one in the wrong. I was the one who ruined it. If I hadn’t brought it up right away – the first time we talked – maybe that would’ve been different, but since I brought it up during our first “reunite” it was done, over. I need to learn to let things go. I never should’ve said anything. It was all my fault. I ruined it.
But then something happened that hadn’t happened before – I didn’t buy it.
I started calling him out on it. I stood up for myself. I said no.
No I wasn’t crazy. No I wasn’t obsessive. No I was not looking for things that weren’t there – I was looking to see what was there and I found it. I found out it was no different. I found out it was just going to be the same. And I was not up for it. I wasn’t going to put myself through that again. I had every right to ask – and I got my answer, his non-answer was my answer. It was no good. We are no good.
And so I ended it.
For the first time in three years I said no. I said stop. And I ended it.
After he’d hung up on me, he continued the conversation by attacking me over messenger. And once I hit “send” on the message – telling him not to contact me again, ending the cycle once and for all – I collapsed on the floor and drowned in tears. I cried for the lost friendship, I cried for the pain, I cried for the confusion, I cried for the last three years.
It’s over. I can breath. I am not wrong. I am not a mistake. I have value, and I deserve someone who treats me that way.
It was not easy. It is not easy. It’s only been 24 hours and my mind is still a fog. I second guess myself, I allow his accusations to convince me. I even think maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up – then we could be happy. But ignorance, though it may be blissful at the time, is not happiness. It is just ignorance. And there is nothing healthy about not protecting yourself; if you’re not looking out for yourself, then it doesn’t matter how many other people are.
I did what I needed to do for me. It took me three years, but I did it. It was even against my own will – there was still a part of me that didn’t want it to be over – but that doesn’t matter, what matters is that I stood up for myself. I said no. I stopped the cycle.
And I never have to go back again.
If you relate to this story, and music inspires you, I recommend listening to this beautiful song by Alicia Keys – you can outgrow your unhealthy relationships and you don’t have to stay, and when you become a “Brand New Me” – it’s ok if people don’t like it, because it’s not about them anyways… http://youtu.be/wOSv1TIa58M