The first time I told you I loved you was to put an end to a fight we were having. The first time I realized I was never actually in love with you was weeks after the first time we broke up. The first time I knew that things would never be the same again was when you dropped my hand in that dream and never came back.
I knew then that it was over.
But the first time you hurt me deeply, I decided to stay. I decided that it was just a small hiccup and that our situation would improve. (It never improved.)
The first time my friends told me that maybe you weren’t right for me, I should have listened. The first time you met my family and insulted my home, I should have stood up for myself. (I didn’t.)
The first time you belittled me over something menial, I should have told you enough was enough. The first time you apologized to me and coated my ears with your sweet words still dripping with the alcohol from your tongue, I should have known better. But you were the first time, in a long, long time, that anyone had shown any real interest in me. So I shrugged all of these firsts off as normal. It’s no big deal.
Isn’t this how everyone loves? (It’s not.)
I will never forget the first time you came over to my apartment, and we talked for hours. I had never had that experience with anyone before. It was thrilling to know that human connection was even possible on that level.
If only I would have known that every first time is followed by many, many other times. Each one bringing a new possibility towards something brighter, better. Or something darker, worse than you had ever imagined. (Unfortunately, our subsequent times became worse than I had ever imagined.)
The first time I smelled the alcohol on your breath, I should have run. I should have known what was coming to me at the end of this road. (I honestly didn’t know what to expect.)
The first time your words stung me as I dared to stand up for myself and my feelings, I should have realized that where there are a few words, there is an entire deluge waiting to overtake me. The first time I told myself it was fine because it was only words, only mind games, I wish I would have understood that damage does not always have to be physical. (You can still be hurt without actually seeing it.)
The first time you called me a burden was the first time I began to see what we had at face value. It was the first time I knew what it was like to be shaken to your core and to have someone pinpoint one of your deepest insecurities only to expose it for everyone to see. I wish I could say that was the first and only time you used your words to shake me, but it was most certainly not the last.
The first time I figured out I could be okay on my own, I rejoiced. I never truly loved you. (False.)
The first time you showed up on my doorstep begging for me to take you back, I should have stood my ground and said no. The first time I let you back in only opened up the door to an entirely new realm of firsts I never knew could come from someone I had loved so much.
The first time we spent the weekend together at your house, and I had a glimpse into what a happy, normal future could be for us, I was happy. Content. I felt comfortable in my choice to be with you again. But time is fleeting, and it was far too soon that we were right back to square one. (Exactly one week later.)
The first time I let my anxiety get the best of me, of us, you should have soothed and calmed me. You shouldn’t have used your words to attack me so relentlessly.
The first time you accused me of cheating on you, you were so belligerently drunk that I could not understand the words you were saying over the phone. (I had simply been trying to tell you that my mother was in the hospital.)
The first time you blocked my number because you were drunk and angry, I wish you wouldn’t have unblocked me. I wish you would have stayed so, so angry. It would have saved us a lot of trouble. (One of us was always troubling to the other.)
The first time you refused to come and see me because you hated where I lived, I should have told you that you had to or it was over. (I should not have been okay with only seeing you twice in three months.)
The first time we tried long distance and it didn’t work, I should have known it never would.
The first time you ignored me for days because I was too anxious only created more anxiety for me. (Thank you for that.)
The first time you made me cry at work, I should have realized that people who love you do not treat you that way. (I didn’t.)
The first time a stranger told me you didn’t love me, I should have listened. He was right. You did not.
The first time you insulted my body, I should have just walked away. (I was never enough for you.)
The first time you made everything about you, I should have realized that I deserved better. (I do.)
The first time you pressured me, I never should have given in. (I always did.)
The first time you said you were never going to break up with me, I should have listened to the sirens blaring in my head that something was most definitely not right. I was only 21. (I didn’t know.)
The first time you made it clear that you could say what you wanted to hurt me, but I could not do the same, I should have known that I would never have a say in this relationship.
The first time you mentioned the word marriage, I was so excited. Maybe this would fix things. If we were serious, we were real. But now for the first time, I am realizing that everything we had was always real. There is no moment that you are currently experiencing that isn’t real. The small sliver of our relationship that we had built over those two years would slowly evolve into the small sliver of life I would have been allowed to live forever. (Enough was enough.)
The first time I told you ‘no’ was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. No, I do not choose this life with you. (I will not.)
The first time I left you turned into the last time we ever had to officially break up. It was the first time I was not afraid to break down. (I was very afraid, but I could not let you win.)
The first time I went on a date with someone who wasn’t you, I cried. It was the first time I truly understood that you and I were over. Things could never be the same after I did this. (Thank you.)
The first time someone else broke my heart after you, I wondered if I had made a mistake. It was sadly not the first time I began to regret ending things with you.
The first time I seriously considered reconnecting with you because I could not stand the thought of being alone anymore, I re-read an email I still had from you. It was the first time I knew that was not the path for me.
The first time I got back up after falling down again, I brushed myself off and still would not let myself go back to you. The first time I felt like you were what I deserved, I cried. (I still do sometimes.)
The first time someone else made me realize that there is goodness left in those around us, I saw just how bad our situation was then.
The first time I realized that a stranger I occasionally interact with remembered something about me and that you never even knew my birthday, I was sick. (How could I not know?)
The first time someone else’s smile began etching away at the mess you left me in, I felt peace.
The first time I realized that I am still technically alone, but somehow less alone than I was with you, I understood that: The first time you told me you weren’t a very nice person, I should have listened.