It starts with a “hey”. He seems normal, and is fairly attractive, and you can’t help but smile in return. Not only is he funny and charming, but several dates later, he offers you his coat to keep you warm. You ask yourself how on earth a guy this perfect could be interested in you and grit your teeth, waiting for the inevitable hamartia. It doesn’t seem to exist.
He’s had a sad lifestyle, and the tale that he tells you is enough to make you want to hold him tight and promise that you will never leave him. You seem to be the one good thing in his life, and the thought of being his strong rock is exciting and makes you fall a little bit more for him. You can’t imagine how heartless someone would have to be to hurt someone with such a beautiful soul, and eyes that can make anyone swoon. His vulnerability is able to sweep you off your feet, leaving you as the vulnerable one.
The relationship seems great, except for the occasional jealous bouts of his, but they are so far and few between that you think nothing of them. Sure, it’s upsetting to think that he doesn’t trust you enough to let you go out with your male best friend, but maybe he’s right—obviously your male best friend has always had a thing for you. No amount of pleading and trying to prove that he is the only one for you will get him to drop it, and soon enough, you decide it’s best to lose a friend.
You still get complimented often—but instead of getting butterflies in your stomach, you feel like you aren’t good enough.
“That black dress looks nice on you, plus it covers those disgusting stretch marks on your thighs.”
“Your makeup looks good, but I don’t see why you’re trying to impress other guys. You’re not a slut.”
“It’s a good thing you have a pretty face, because your personality isn’t going to get you anywhere.”
Suddenly, he will get really moody in the middle of a perfect night with him. He will withdraw, becoming cold and distant, and you will try so hard to bring back out the guy you fell in love with. After hours of pleading, you give up and retreat back to your side of the bed. Why are you giving up on your relationship? Are you trying to hurt him? How could you be such a horrible person? Do you think anyone will love you the way that he does?
After a really bad fight, you storm out of your apartment and into your car, trying your hardest not to cry. You ponder who you could go to at this hour and come up empty. Male best friend? You gave up that friendship. Female best friend? He said she was hitting on him. Mom and Dad? The last time you saw them was Thanksgiving, when he got offended by them and you stormed out during coffee and dessert. The only friends you have now are friends of his, and you can’t sit on their couch to complain about how moody he is. You drive around for a bit and come home after you are sure he’s gone to bed. He wraps his arms around you the moment you climb into your bed, kissing you on the neck and saying he forgives you. Soon, you are playing the little spoon and wondering why you had been so sure that the fight was his fault if it was really yours.
It’s not much longer before you get tired of fighting. Instead, you choose to believe him. You accept everything he says about how you are disgusting, an awful person, and are so lucky he choose you.
“No one else would ever be able to love you. You’re a mess.”
“I work all day and come home to someone who is so unappreciative of all I do. Is it so hard to not screw everything up for a change?”
“Did you really need to thank the pizza guy like that? He’s here to deliver a pizza, not take his clothes off for you. You don’t need to be such a slut all the time.”
“Why would they promote you? You’re the worst candidate they have.”
You are so fortunate to have him, to have someone who loves you as much as he does. The dating world is scary, and if you had to jump back in, you are sure that no other guy would be interested in you. You’re fat, ugly, uninteresting, and he’s the only person capable of loving you.
Occasionally, he will threaten to leave you. You plead, becoming a sobbing wreck and promising to be better. That’s impossible, he scoffs as he slams the door. Disgusted with yourself, you climb into bed alone that night, laying your head on a tear-streaked pillow, and a few hours later, he comes stumbling in, reeking of beer and cheap perfume. He falls onto you, saying he forgives you and begins taking your clothes off. You’re exhausted, and the smell on him is unbearable, but you let him make love to you that night. In the morning, everything is okay. You’re still confused, but you’re grateful he came back. He could have slept with a tramp at the bar, but he came home to you.
One day, you snap. You get tired of trying to convince him to keep loving you. Maybe it’s a slow process, maybe it’s instantaneous, but you know you are done. It takes you a while to gather the courage to end it, realizing you have no plan and no one to turn after you break things off. You try to put it gently at first, not wanting to hurt the sweet, broken man you had first met, until he starts to get angry with you.”
“I’ll kill myself if you leave me.”
“You stupid slut, there’s someone else, isn’t there?”
“No one else will ever love you, bitch.”
“Fine. Leave. You don’t deserve me.”
“If you leave, you’ll regret it.”
Those words hurt you, and maybe you decide to stay with him a little longer. Maybe you are able to leave. Eventually, the thoughts you had for his well-being turn into fear. You become terrified that he will do something, and you aren’t sure whether you are scared for him or for you. This was a man you once loved (and still do) and he’s hurting you. You had been so terrified that you would break his heart, and now you are scared for your life because of him.
Getting away is hard, and you aren’t sure how much distance you need to put between the two of you. At first, cutting him out of your life seems enough, until he tries to contact you. Then, he appears at a place you once told him you loved, that you had been sure was safe because he had never been there. Suddenly, a little space isn’t enough and you find yourself needing much more than the hope that he will leave you alone.
They say time heals all wounds, and you hope that time will make him leave you alone. You keep running away, but he still manages to get hold of your new number, your new address. It’s not enough to keep changing where you are, because you continue to live behind his shadow; this time, it’s his shadow of fear, rather than his shadow of control, that keeps you from taking back your life. You decide to stop running and begin putting down roots. You accept a date from your new coworker, and are pleasantly content when you find out to learn the new guy doesn’t have a tragic backstory.
You had forgotten what it was like to hear compliments that weren’t backhanded, and one day, you catch yourself wearing those outfits you had stopped wearing for him. It takes time, but your wounds stop aching as much. You catch yourself hating him, rather than yourself, and the weight taken off your shoulders is freeing. You make love because you want to, not because the new guy stumbles home drunk to you and you feel like it warrants a reward. You develop friends, and the new guy invites them to join your nights out. The feet you had once been swept off of get placed firmly back on the ground. He was right that you didn’t deserve him; you deserve so much more.
Someday, the other end of the line turns into a beautiful silence. It ends with a “goodbye” and the hopes that he will never again be a part of your life.