When I was the ripe age of 15, I really thought I had found “the one.” He was two years my senior, handsome, he played football, and he was pretty funny. We would cryptically wave to one another in the halls at school. We would chat on AIM for hours, until my mother nagged me to get in bed.
But I digress: when said guy and I began talking, I was still in a relationship. Now, this was definitely a shitty move on my part. But, I had known from the moment I began dating that poor guy, that it was only out of convenience: we had numerous mutual friends, we both liked to play Xbox, and he drove me to school in the morning.
When I finally broke up with my boyfriend, who had apparently been talking to someone behind my back as well, I was finally free to be with “Steve.” It truly felt like the stars had aligned and this was all “meant to be.” Lol.
Steve and I had also managed to connect on an emotional level: we were two shipwrecked hearts who had experienced cheating by someone we loved, and we found solace in each other’s empathy. Little did I know, this was the building grounds for what would be two years of misery.
Rather than providing a synopsis of roughly 730 days’ worth of breakups, make-ups, fights, and tears, I will tell you what I learned from this ridiculous period in my life. If you’re with someone who shares a similar disposition, or this sounds like your situation, please get out.
1. He was insecure: While I attended his high school graduation, I noticed that he was one of the only people in his class to not receive any scholarships, awards, or honors. He was also about to attend a community college about three hours from home, in which he bragged to me that he “didn’t even have to take the SAT for admission.” I, on the other hand, was still in high school. I was in honors courses and would constantly be on the Honor Roll or High Honor Roll and I was active in several school clubs. I was [and still am] a grammar/spelling Nazi, I had a thirst for knowledge, and I always put forth my best effort to get good grades. Thus, we were opposites with regards for our academics.
After Steve and I broke up, my mom expressed to me that she thinks he may have been jealous of or threatened by my intelligence and potential to do more than he was capable of. The more I thought about it, she was right—he would get angry if I corrected him when he was wrong, and he told me that if I went to a college farther than 20min away, that I would be “ruining his life.” Thus, out of love and fear [but mostly fear], I stupidly respected his wishes to have me nearby, and focused on getting into a college close to home.
Additionally, Steve had body image issues and self-esteem problems that were beyond my repair. He would get mad at me for not telling him his biceps were nice, or he would constantly make fat jokes about himself. These situations were always uncomfortable, and his attempts to make me feel like a terrible person for not doling out compliments worked. For these reasons, I believe that he may have felt like he wasn’t good enough for me. This then led him to begin asserting a superior status over me, whatever that would take.
His insecurities were ultimately the underlying focal point of our relationship, and the signs were so obvious, but I was oblivious. While it’s ok to be vulnerable and have insecurities—everyone does—it’s not OK to use them as a weapon for bringing someone else down with you.
2. He was manipulative: For not being the smartest or most educated, he really knew what he was doing here. Or maybe I was just an idiot for falling for his bullshit time and time again. Or both. Anyway, the summer after he graduated, he was on his way to a two-year college that was a few hours away. He was assigned a suite of four random roommates, and through our conversations, I could tell he was unhappy with his new surroundings. On his second or third day of classes, he called to tell me that he was leaving college and that he “couldn’t do it anymore.” He also alluded to the fact that our relationship had a lot to do with it (he didn’t think long distance would work; he missed me too much; etc.). While I was certainly taken aback by this, I offered my support.
At the same time, I had begun focusing on getting into a good college. I had been receiving letters from schools in other counties and states, and this apparently posed as a threat to Steve. He even went so far as to say “I dropped out of college for you,” in an attempt to create a basis of reciprocation. He wanted me to see this as a sacrifice that he made for me, even though I NEVER told him to leave college. *eyeroll* He also threatened to join the army if went to school far away, given the context that I might lose him if he were to die in combat. Although education was [and is still] important to me, I had concrete goals of attending a school twenty minutes from home, keeping in mind that this was my best bet to maintain our relationship.
Another favorite of mine was the fact that he would often put me in situations where he would pull the truth out of me by getting me to swear over my grandfather’s grave, because he knew I wouldn’t lie. He would apply this unethical method to the strangest situations, such as asking me if I dreamt about other guys. Seriously. Can we all just agree that we don’t have 100% control over our dreams? Of course other men had slipped into my dreams from time to time. Even if their presence wasn’t with romantic intentions, Steve would actually get mad about this. Also, he managed to make me feel like it was my fault and that I was basically “cheating” on him by dreaming about someone other than him.
The cheating thing was a common theme, even after my first gynecologist appointment. My doctor happened to be a man, and Steve actually uttered the words “it’s like you cheated on me with your gynecologist,” even though it’s a pretty well-known fact that their job is to check the status of your genitals. Furthermore, please don’t let your partner allow you to feel bad over things that you can’t control.
3. He was overly jealous: Sometimes it’s cute when a guy gets a little jealous. For example: if he sees you talking to another guy at the bar, he might slide over next to you and make it clear that you’re with him. I find this to be a harmless but cute gesture that shows that he cares, but that he isn’t insecure enough to lash out and instill fear in you and said guy. This was never the case with Steve. In one situation where I spent a night of underage drinking at a male classmate’s house, Steve did not approve. In fact, bruh drove all the way out to the boonies to pick me up and said “you didn’t even ask if this was OK with me,” as if I were supposed to ask his permission before I hung around boys. He would also get jealous if I wanted to spend time with my girlfriends, who he did not approve of. But, these were my girls from day one, so I wasn’t just going to ditch them because of his disapproval.
He then told me: “I don’t trust you when you’re with them,” mostly because my friends are beautiful and might have played or cheated on a few of his friends once upon a time. But, that wasn’t my problem. Regardless, Steve and I ended up spending way too much time together, alone, since he didn’t trust me to be with my friends. This sense of jealously resulted in total isolation from my girls and sometimes even my family. I was constantly in fear of Steve getting mad at me if I were to say “no” to his requests for me to spend time with him. By the time Steve and I broke up, I found that falling out of touch with my friends meant that I had a very small arsenal to battle the aftermath of our breakup. Honestly, I don’t even blame my friends for not being there for me. In fact, they had all tried to tell me to get out of my relationship, and eventually gave up when they realized my head was too far up Steve’s ass. So, as the old saying goes: “chicks before dicks.” Always. No matter how in love you are with some stupid ass dude.
4. He was terrible towards his mother: I don’t know why I didn’t treat this as a red flag much sooner. Seriously. He was a complete prick towards his mother the entire time I dated him, and I never even thought twice about saying something to him, or thinking “maybe that’s how he will treat me, too.” He would legitimately yell at her if she were to annoy him in some way. Obviously parents can be annoying, but usually we either hold our tongue or get bitched out for having a “tone” with them if we respond. This was not the case. I truly believe that his mother was scared of him.
Not to mention, she was one of the most dedicated mothers I’ve ever witnessed: she worked a nursing job at the local hospital, then would come home and make dinner, fold laundry, and just try to see what everyone was up to. This woman really, always meant well. He would ask her to make him food on a whim, and she wouldn’t even skip a beat. He would then speak about her with utmost condescension, as if he were in the position to do so. This, too, was always an uncomfortable situation. Bearing witness to this kind of treatment towards his mother should have sent me running for to door. However, at least now I can say I know better.
5. I was submissive: Fortunately, this relationship never escalated to any physical abuse. However, I based my life around Steve, constantly living in fear of his anger or disapproval. I had no real reason to be scared; clearly I had the potential for a better future than he did, and I only began to become uncomfortable in my own skin when he used manipulation against me. I have never been in a more toxic situation, and it took me way too long to figure that out. I let him bring me down, and felt like no one else would want me if he didn’t. It wasn’t until about the fifteenth time that he broke up with me that I was finally over it. Of course he came crawling back like he always did, and grew increasingly bitter when I didn’t want him back. I eventually figured out that I was too smart to stay with someone so controlling, and I had to stay true to myself. No matter how hard he tried to slither back into my life, I had to keep my eyes on the prize: my freedom.
Overall, I learned that if you’re unhappy more often than not, you are truly wasting your time, and it’s probably a sign that there is a lot that is beyond fixing. Listen to your friends and family if they express their concern, especially if it’s more than one person, more than one time. Most importantly, you should never lose your sense of self or individuality whilst in a relationship. Without these aspects, you are only allowing someone else to call the shots for you, and they might not always be in your best interest.