I wish I could say being raised by a cheater taught me to raise my standards for myself and everyone around me. That it gave me the strength to avoid toxic situations altogether and hold out for healthier ones.
But it only taught me to lock my feelings inside. It only taught me to be careful who I let into my life. It only taught me that I am better off on my own.
I don’t believe in everlasting love. I don’t believe that vows can stay true. I don’t believe that two people can stay together forever without growing to hate each other. To resent each other. To hold each other accountable for why their lives turned out worse than they expected them to be.
I don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like because every fight I’ve heard through paper-thin walls involved accusations of sex and drugs. Because I have come home to broken mirrors with blood stains on them and found baggies tucked inside of couch cushions. Because I have been afraid in my own house, in my own room, in the space which was meant to be safe.
I don’t trust anyone, because the person who raised me, who had been there since I was wiggling out from the womb, proved that people aren’t meant to be trusted. He proved that I will never know who someone really is, even if they have been there for every birthday. Every holiday. Every major milestone.
I don’t know what love looks like. I have never seen hands being held across the couch or kisses before bedtime or happy anniversaries. I have only seen tears and beer bottles, liquor bottles, empty bottles.
When I think of marriage, I think of passive aggression. Sleeping in separate beds. Coming home late or not at all.
Husband and wife sound like dirty words to me.
When I find out another friend is getting married, I can’t be happy for them – not because I am jealous, but because I know it’s only a matter of time until that happiness fades away. The countdown begins the second they slip the rings onto their fingers, only they won’t realize until it’s too late.
Of course, I can’t say anything to warn them, because I will be accused of acting bitter. Of not understanding what they have. But they will find out I’m right soon enough. Too soon. And then they’ll be more like me.
Being raised by a cheater taught me to push people away, because everyone has a darkness hidden inside of them, no matter how innocent they seem.
Being raised by a cheater taught me to be skeptical, because promises mean nothing, even from beneath the alter.
Being raised by a cheater taught me to be selfish, because no matter how hard you love someone, they will screw you over in the end.
Being raised by a cheater taught me to keep my feelings inside, because anyone who has the power to hurt you will hurt you.
Being raised by a cheater taught me to be cynical, because nothing lasts. Nothing at all.