Let’s face it: he got you nothing for your birthday, only comes to home to be too tired to do anything but eat the food you made and sleep, and you don’t even remember what gifted chocolate tastes like. He used to bring you snacks and show you off- those days are long gone. Your friends are sick of repeating themselves.
You have a long list of excuses to stay, but not a single actual reason to. You love him, your friends get that. Your friends are also sick of hearing about that new girl he met and how he dismissed your worries, they don’t want to hear what your bi-daily argument was about today- they want to hear that you have enough love and respect for yourself to walk away. So you chose to avoid your friends, because something keeps you with this person who breaks your heart into tiny pieces but also makes the world stop when your head is on their shoulder at night. You’re that girl now. The one you’ve judged, the one on Tyra who stayed with Chris even though he would press her up against walls in public and scream. You’re the girl who has someone who criticizes her, has never given her a gift, takes and takes and insults her for being on disability income and for overcoming addictions and mental illness. You’re the girl who’s with the guy that treats her worse than she’s ever been treated.
It sucks. It hurts. There’s a lot of crying, avoiding looking yourself in the eye and a lot of hopes you know are more lies than anything.
“It will get better.”
“He will change.”
This person lies in ways you’ve only seen a certain peach-colored president do. He can make a half-eaten cookie with crumbs on his face seem like someone else’s doing and he can deny cheating when you find another girl’s lingerie in the drawer supposedly belonging to you in his armoire. It’s enduring. It’s like being a soldier who gets a purple heart because everybody who knows him knows what you must be going through. Every new friend of his you meet, they shake your hand, warn you and act surprised that you haven’t offed yourself or him yet. It’s embarrassing to lower your standards, still not have your needs met, lower them even lower to the point that expecting anything would lead to disappointment.
The girls with the shitty boyfriends have a lot of love and a lot of fear. There’s a lot of attachment, fears of abandonment which are on par with self-worth and self-respect. They’d rather die miserable beside him with his emotionally unavailable face faking sympathy than to be alone and value themselves more. What if no one else loves them? This may be their forever person, is not being treated well or given anything ever really worth ruining that for? Equally, is this what forever would be? The love is there, but the right personality isn’t and that emotional war limbo is so isolating that being the girl with the shitty boyfriend involves isolating from every judging friend, because they know you know better; it’s not going out anywhere public because even random men from the clinic who buy you a soda have bought you more than your boyfriend ever will; it’s lying to your family that you’re happy meanwhile you reminisce about the past and fear that the future is already here.
I used to be the girl with the most amazing boyfriend. The first words out of his mouth were “what can I do for you?” and he was a devout Muslim, always giving to the less fortunate (me). He covered my rent when I couldn’t, first and last when I had to move, always made sure I had groceries and would carry the basket (this strong, successful man had so much humility, I had never had a man hold my grocery basket before). My ex showed up early in the morning on my birthday last year, left me some spending cash, said “babygirl, I’m sorry I have to work but pick a restaurant, any restaurant and whoever you want to go there, I got it and I’ll meet you there-just text me the time”. He was going to buy me a monkey I impulsively wanted, but then we both realized how insane that would be. We never argued, I to this day trust him with my life. He ended up becoming a father to a beautiful girl and buying his child’s mother a mansion in a gorgeous neighbourhood, and I ended up learning that after the best, there’s nothing else satisfactory.
My current boyfriend didn’t get my anything for my birthday. He’s never gotten me anything. He insults me for receiving disability income,even though I have bought him a couple gifts ‘just because’ and buy 75% of the groceries (I threw a fit demanding he start buying some and he actually did, which is great) while he drinks away his ‘hard earned cash’ while I spend my ‘handouts’ on us, even spending my savings while he continued going out to bars, just so we could have toilet paper and detergent. He has many female friends, most of whom are his past lovers or ex girlfriends, and I am insecure for raising an eyebrow. When a girl who used to send him nudes posted a message I wrote to her about not speaking to my boyfriend, a mean commenting war began and guess who didn’t defend me even once? Yep, my shitty boyfriend. My shitty boyfriend’s friends all feel sorry for me. I feel sorry for me. I can’t find another shitty boyfriend though, no one’s this shitty! There is no adult man who will 50/50 the bill at a fast food joint, who probably has no idea what a gift is, who offers to ‘loan’ me money when he hadn’t returned a penny of the hundreds he’s borrowed because he deducts anything he shared with me from that debt, while the exact same shared items from my end were just ‘gifts’. I am the girl with no self-respect. I know that this is the worst I have ever been treated but I also know that for him, this is probably the best he’s ever treated anyone. He has made some changes and I’ve invested so much in this broken old car that I don’t care if it’s not going anywhere because the roof still keeps me from getting sick from the rain.
Being the girl with the shitty boyfriend is like being someone who wants to cut off their fingertips for an aesthetic reason. The choice, the consent and the willingness to self-harm are there. The shitty boyfriend is just a tool. Equally though, there’s no way the girlfriend knew this was who her partner is. He wasn’t shitty in the beginning, but she ignored all of the red flags because he was so damn charming and found his way into her heart how even the wonderful ex hadn’t. She felt so much and when it comes to choosing love or choosing oneself, the two shouldn’t be separate but if they are, she chooses love like some martyr who believes in the rehabilitation of evil beings. Maybe he’ll become collected, won’t scream at her for being in his proximity when they live together. Maybe he’ll spend some of his beer money on flowers or a gift card for her; maybe he won’t call her materialistic when she points out that “hey, you kind of have never gotten me anything ever?” Maybe she’ll have an actual boyfriend, not just the shell of one. Being the girl with the shitty boyfriend isn’t about being stupid or even being pathetic-that much- it’s not an unknown fact that he’s shitty, it’s the delusion that he’ll treat her better and the commitment made to seeing that belief materialize. Might be a lifetime of a wait, but understand that some people are excellent manipulators and some are easily manipulated and your friend who’s with that dude who treats her like crap can’t leave even if she tries because she will fall apart more without him than with him: he has something special nobody else can understand and he knows it-that’s why he doesn’t do anything for her ever and cheats left and right. Support your friend and even if she has something new to complain about with him, understand the daily endurance of hardship and pain probably has given her Complex PTSD and some trauma bondage with him…don’t let her lose herself, because in a shitty relationship that’s easy to do and seeing as the shitty boyfriend doesn’t even know her because he’s never listened to her or really talked to her.Being a friend to your friend who has this destructive situation going on is the best thing you can do until things get better for her.
The connection to him replaces the connection to herself. The girl with the shitty boyfriend becomes pathetic in everybody’s eyes as her self worth plummets right to the level he values her at. It’s sad and nothing can change it, because if she loves herself more she will love his treatment of her less. She has to hate herself enough to accept the love he gives her. She can’t move on because love is like wet concrete molding her to stillness in a dark place where she gets run over by cars daily. There’s very little joy, very little “oh, baby, you didn’t have to!” moments if any, and a lot of sadness in having a shitty boyfriend. Nobody wants a shitty boyfriend, but if the person you love becomes a monster, then you become the Mystery Team and spend all of your time trying to find the person under the mask- and call that process ‘a relationship’. Lots of giving, lots of doing things for him and a whole lot of nothing in return. Being the girl with the shitty boyfriend is being the girl who would rather die miserably with the wrong person than live alone, becoming the right one.