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ThrowBack Thursdays: the ghosts of relationships past

February 11, 2010

they say every relationship is a learning experience.  i’m sure everyone has at least one relationship that they clearly remember and will always hold lessons-learned close to their heart no matter how many years have passed.

i’ve had 3 serious relationships, including DH but the one that taught me the most about myself was my second relationship with a guy we’ll call “Guy”.  we dated for about 3.5yrs, most of which weren’t very nice.  he didn’t treat me very well after the first year and i left that relationship cynical, skeptical and jaded.  i learned that love can hurt, that the most important person is me and i need to take care of myself first before anyone else.  those are not very good feelings to learn from a relationship; i mean, aren’t relationships supposed to enrich your life and  not drain them?

in any case, ours was a volatile one.  we fought all the time.  he emotionally manipulated me all.the.time yet i stuck around because… well, i just couldn’t leave.  he had stripped me of my strength, left me bare and exposed and then used my feelings for him to his advantage whenever we fought.  i know i’m making him sound like an awful person but in actual fact, he’s a great friend, just not a good boyfriend (at least not towards me).  i’m sure you know someone like that – they treat their friends way better than their girlfriend/boyfriend and i think that’s sad.   people never know how good they have it until it’s gone and it’s so easy to take what we have and who we love for granted because we always assume they will always be there.

i won’t go into the details of our turmoil-filled relationship but i did not like the person i had become.  i changed from a strong, confident woman into a clingy, whiny, sniveling girl always seeking approval and looking for some kind of reassurance that he still loved me.  i took incredible amounts of bullshit i can’t even begin to tell you…. looking back i shiver and am disgusted that i let it go that far but what can i say – i was young and stupid.  i will give you an example of my stupidity and how love can blind you:  i come home from an outing with a girfriend.  guy calls me up and says to go over to his house because he’s on his way home.  mind you, it was about 1am and i didn’t even notice that he didn’t ask me – he told me – and i listened!  so i went and waited.  2:30am rolls around – no sign of guy. i call him on his cell – he says that he’s on the road.  i ended up falling asleep and woke at 3:30am to an empty room.  by this time i’m fuming and i call guy on his cell and he tells me he’s just around the corner.  10mins later, he walks in and acts all casual, like it was no big deal.  we got into a huge fight and after several minutes of arguing, i somehow end up aplogizing to him!  turns out that he was on a DOUBLE DATE with his ex and a buddy of his who wanted to go on a date with his ex’s friend so they went out for dinner and drinks.  can you fucking believe that?  i ended up taking it and he ended up off the hook.  i know he didn’t cheat on me during our relationship but looking back, he might as well have.  i cannot believe that i took so much bullshit from him and that wasn’t even the worst of it.

no matter how draining and exhausting that relationship was, i just couldn’t find the strength to leave him.  i don’t know why either – he had some sort of hold on me; maybe it had to do with the fact that he had stripped me entirely of who i used to be, making me rely on him for validation and confidence… who knows.  but every fight we had – which was a lot – i always told myself never to give in and that he should be the one to call and apologize.  our relationship was always a power struggle; who won the fight; who had the upper hand and it didn’t matter how dirty our strategies were – the only goal was to win the fight no matter who was wrong.  so i learned to manipulate.  i learned how to turn the tables around even if i was wrong.  i learned never to say sorry.  i learned the power of the silent treatment.  i learned how to fight dirty.  these are not good skills to learn from a relationship because they hang on you like maggots.  they destroy your trust and changes the way you see men.

i knew that our relationship was not right and he had discussed marriage and the likes of that and while i verbally agreed, something deep down that i didn’t want to admit held me back from pursuing things further.  he wanted to open up a joint bank account – i made up some excuse as to why i couldn’t.  he wanted to look for a place to live – i said that my parents would never allow it.  he said that he wanted to get joint credit cards and buy a car together – i told him that i didn’t have the money.  it just didn’t feel right and i didn’t know why i held back.  but in my heart of hearts, i knew that the relationship was doomed; i just didn’t want to face that fact because i had invested 3.5years of my life and emotion and i didn’t know if there was anyone else out there.

eventually, all of the bullshit just wore me down.  i wouldn’t go so far as to say that he was emotionally abusive but it was pretty damn close.  i felt used and just …. exhausted.  our relationship wasn’t about love anymore, it was about fighting.  power.  manipulation.  i was empty inside and had nothing left to give.  that’s not a good feeling, let me tell you – to feel dead inside when you’re supposed to care for the person with whom you spent a good portion of your life.  by that time, i had started spending a lot of time with my friends and going out a lot.  i partied hard to try and forget what was going on back home.  i met a lot of interesting people and i realized that he wasn’t the only one in this world who i could be with.  in hindsight, i know that i did what i did to get my strength back; to pick up the pieces that he had left behind and remember the person i used to be.

i clearly remember the day we broke up – we were coming home from some place and we were in his car.  something happened and he reached over to open the glove compartment and it broke; some pieces falling onto my lap.  then he has the nerve to yell at me and blame me for breaking it (he was madly in love with his car) when i didn’t even touch the damn thing.  so as usual, he yelled and did his thing but instead of crying and freaking out i just sat there and felt… nothing.  not a thing.  i don’t even think i was paying attention to what he was saying.  we got to his house, he storms off inside and i calmly went in, got my things, said good-bye to his family (or who ever was in the living room) and left.  i remember feeling a strange calm wash over me and that i didn’t give  a shit if he was angry or not.  i just didn’t want to be around him anymore.

about 20mins later, my door bell rings and i opened the door to an angry face.  he immediately started yelling and demanding why i left so i calmly told him that he was angry and i didn’t want to be around that.  i guess it was something in my eyes or the expression on my face or maybe it was the fact that he felt something different about me – like i was too calm or i wasn’t reacting like i usually did (tears, sobs and all that bullshit) which made him switch gears; his voice softened and tried to reason with me.  he apologized.  still, i felt nothing.  it was weird moment – the calm that surrounded me was surreal; it was like the blinders fell off and i saw him for who he really was and what our relationship had become and  i knew in that instant i wanted out.   the next day, i went over to his house and told him it was over.  he of course didn’t believe me; he probably assumed that it was another one of my tactics to get him to grovel or whatever but i packed up my stuff and left.  i did not call or email him nor did i have the urge to.  that was the first time i ever felt that way in the 3.5 years we were together.

a few days later, he showed up at my doctors office and surprised me when i came out of the room;  i guess he must have tracked me down through my sister.  he asked me if i was serious about the break-up to which i replied with a firm ‘yes’.  he asked why and i repeated the same reason i told him the first time:  that our relationship was toxic and he took so much from me that i had nothing left to give; that i no longer loved him any more and i wanted to be by myself.  it didn’t go over very well and i can’t really remember the details but it was over and i didn’t even grieve.  i didn’t even cry.  i just felt…. peaceful.  i must have been at rock bottom because when i left, i never looked back.

i came out of the relationship a different person – harder, callous, bitchy, guarded.  i used guys and treated them like dirt.  i built walls around my heart and swore that i would never let anyone get close to me or take any kind of bullshit from a guy ever again.  that is why DH had a hard time getting through to me when we first met… but that is another post for another Throwback Thursday.

in the end, things worked out for the best.  i am a stronger woman, i know what i want and i am not afraid to say it.  i learned that you need to deal with issues otherwise it will haunt and destroy you and your relationship.  i learned that communication is so important in order to maintain intimacy and that love does not conquer all – in fact, relationships take time and effort and you should get as much as you give.

it was scary leaving something familiar; not knowing what else or who else is out there but i had to do it for myself.  being in a toxic relationship is something that is hard to leave yet you feel trapped and can’t get out but if you dig deep within yourself, you will discover that you are stronger than you think.

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