I dated someone on and off for a couple of years in college, and he was nothing like me. He was confident, outgoing, and the life of the party, while I was very shy trying to find my place anywhere. Whenever I was with him, I felt popular because he knew everyone.
I really enjoyed being the arm candy of this “cool” guy, and in my early 20s, being cool was the most important quality a boyfriend needed to have.
Our relationship had a lot of drama. When we fought, we yelled at each other in public, but then we always made up and acted like nothing had happened. Every reconciliation made me feel like we were getting stronger when I was only sinking deeper.
We were the definition of a dysfunctional couple that everyone knew should break up. Looking back, I think I enjoyed the chaos because I had always lived a safe life.
Whenever we fought, one of us would leave so we could cool down and think rationally, only to come back the next day more sorry, fall into each other’s arms, and repeat the same mistake again.
It made me think of the first time we fought. We were both out with our respective friends and we were supposed to meet, but I never heard from him. It did not help my anxiety and my insecurity.
We were a fairly new couple—new enough for others to know we were together, but not enough to have had the conversation of what we were. When I saw him walking down the street, I was furious because clearly he was capable of responding to my text.
Our interaction basically caused a scene. We were both frustrated for our own reasons, and as I was speaking, he started to walk away. I said, “Don’t you dare leave!”
He kept walking away.
“If you leave now, you are giving up on us,” I said—I am not even sure if he heard me.
I did what anyone in my position would do: went to get a beer with a girlfriend and cried at bar. I was THAT girl.
I could have followed him to save what was left, but I decided not to. I was not sure if I wanted to be with someone who would walk out of me in the middle of us fighting, especially when I was fighting for us. I felt abandoned and ashamed, but mostly I was afraid.
I was afraid to be alone.
About 12 hours later, he came back and apologized. My heart told me to forgive him, but my ego wanted me to stay strong. If he could walk out of me once, he would do it again. Still, I forgave him.
I believed in making things work. I believed in fighting to save relationships. I did not believe in running after him and begging him to stay with me, especially after he walked away when I asked him not to.
Maybe he needed space or time, but when he walked away, he did something very mean, and he knowingly hurt me. That relationship eventually ended, but what I learned was that if someone does something to hurt you intentionally, it is your decision to stay with them or not.
Men can be very black or white. Women try to think they are all shades of gray when they are in denial, trying to decode every action and every word. Sometimes all you have to do is open your eyes.
That night, when I told him not to leave, what I meant was, “Don’t give up on me during our hard times because I love you.” But he did not understand and did not care. Deep inside, I knew we were over.
He put this fear in me that people you love could walk away from you, making you feel small, unimportant, and unloved, even if only for a short time.
A couple of years later, he did try to come back into my life, but I could not lower my standards to meet what he wanted to give me.
Fast forward a few years and I am in another relationship that feels a lot more stable and normal. It did not have the same madness as the previous one. Don’t get me wrong, it is not all sunshine and rainbows, but it is real.
Like any relationship, it was inevitable for us to have one big fight at some point, and I was dreading the same experience. I felt like he would walk away in the same way.
One night, we got into a fight for reasons that had been building up over the months. As things started to heat up, I got scared, because I thought he would leave, and I got annoyed with myself because I thought I had made the same mistake again.
Walking away from someone will never be appropriate. It is one of the cruelest things you can do to someone you say you love. Leaving someone hanging shows your lack of respect and consideration for the other person.
He said he needed to leave, and the scene from years ago flashed in front of my eyes again.
“I need to leave now, but I will come back to talk to you,” he said. “I will not leave you hanging.”
That was shocking to me—I did not expect that. I felt a sense of relief because I did not feel disrespected. Walking away from anyone in the middle of the fight is never right—it makes things even worse.
I knew I was not going to run after him to save us, and I knew he would not come running after me, because both of us had made those mistakes before.
Waiting for the next day was brutal.
He came back the next day and said what we both did wrong in the situation. He explained everything as objectively as he could.
I always blamed the other person after a fight, but this was the first time that talking after a fight felt mature. I felt uncomfortable during this talk, but I was okay with it.
I felt okay about not having to be completely right. I did not feel the need to win the fight.
“I will not walk away from you when you ask me not to. I will not give up on you just because you are going through a hard time.”
That is all I needed to hear.
If someone is going to give up on you during your difficult time, it is not worth trying to save that relationship. Giving up on someone who needs you is a form of betrayal that is hard to forgive.
Right now, I knew I was not ready to be with someone who could easily abandon me in a difficult time.
It was always easier for me to be childish and vindictive in a fight, because trying to be kind and mature was harsh on the ego, which proved my immaturity. Being vulnerable always felt like a weakness to me.
Honestly, deep down, every fight scares me because I wonder if it is the end, but I have also learned that the people who truly care about you stick around when you are down in the dumps. They do not leave you when you truly need them.
Honestly, that is all it takes: You need one person to show you that they will not give up on you.
I cried after what he said. I was hoping for it but not expecting it. When someone really loves you, they make you feel a sense of security that cannot be taken away. They always have your back.
It is a choice you make to love someone and make them feel safe without the empty threats.
He did not give up on me and walk away when I needed him because he loves me. That is real love. Only the person who truly loves you will not walk away from you when you ask them not to.
“I will always be there when you need me, and I will never walk away from you.”