I wasn’t a stupid girl. I knew the game he was playing and I learned it so well I could predict every move. The coming. The going. The snide comments and the games I almost enjoyed in their own sick way. He thought he was being coy dropping some line that pissed me off but kept me looking at my phone. But then I’d throw something clever remark back his way. It felt like in a way we’d go tit for tat of who could hurt each other more.
“This is over,” read a text across my screen.
“You can’t end something that never even started.”
And everyone seemed to wonder why I couldn’t let him go. Why couldn’t I just walk away? And I stood outside a bar with my best friend as we had the same conversation yet again. “Why are you letting him do this to you?” Everyone seemed to ask that same question.
“How could you love someone like him?” They’d look at me with sympathetic eyes full of sorrow thinking that monster was how I defined love, knowing well I deserved so much more.
Toxic relationships aren’t just relationships with someone who is bad for you, toxic relationships are the horrible relationship you have with yourself in which you think you deserve this. You think you can’t do better than someone’s half-hearted love.
But there was something about him – kind of like an addiction I couldn’t kick in a way. I couldn’t bring myself to not answer every time he called. I couldn’t bring myself to say no every time he said meet me here. I needed that temporary fix. It was small enough hit to leave me numb. What I didn’t see though was how much this had been affecting me. How one single relationship wasn’t just changing me but changing the relationships I had with other people. I began to expect mistreatment. I began to anticipate the worst of people. I became so numb and distant no one was getting close to me. Then the moment someone would try to I’d run the other way right back into the arms of the person that made me that way.
Because the truth is he taught me, I can’t trust anyone but myself. He conditioned me in such a way that it’s true no one is going to know me the way he did because he was the one who taught me don’t ever let someone that close.
He came and went as he pleased with every one of my secrets. The truth is we shared a lot more than just the physical parts of relationships. There’s an emotional attachment there that makes it hard to let go. He knew about my past, as I did his. I’ve shared secrets with him I’ve never told anyone before and he knew me under the surface and as fucked up as it was there was love there. But the hardest thing about toxic relationships I came to realize was he wasn’t the right love for me.
But that’s why people stay – they believe in who someone is at their best and dismiss who they are at their worst. They think it’s worth it. But most of all people stay in these horrible relationships because they want to be the one that changes them.
But you can’t change people, you can only love them. And you can love someone hard but not hard enough to get them to love you back the way you deserve.
We often think the devil or the bad guy is easy to spot, but often times the person who ruins you is the one who sneaks up on you pretending to be everything you want. They say and do everything right to compensate for all the wrong.
That’s abuse and it comes leaving no bruises or marks other than the ones caused by you. The ones that taint you in a way and destroy you from the inside out.
Good relationships were the ones that felt abnormal. Good guys were like a unicorn to me because I was so used to attracting a certain type. The type that left me high but as I came down from that high as they tiptoed out of my apartment I began to realize how lonely I was.
That’s what a toxic relationship did to me.
The toxic relationship with the person who taught me my best wasn’t good enough. The person who taught me love meant enduring pain. The person who taught me the definition ‘tough love’ or as he called it, ‘Let me tear you down just so I can be the one to build you back up again.’ The person who taught me if you love someone you do what they ask even if it’s hurting you. The person I couldn’t give up on or walk away from.
Because the truth is when you invest so much time and energy into someone you want to be right about them. You want to stick it to everyone that they were wrong. But the truth is we hang onto toxic people because we mistake this horrible relationship for love.
I was naïve to think love was something that caused me such pain.
I was relieved in a response when in reality the right person would have answered every time.
I was happy to sneak around and have even a little bit of his time when the right person and the right love wouldn’t in their right mind hide me.
I was happy putting my best into someone when in reality the right person would have met me half way.
It’s hard to let go of toxic relationships because there is a sick thrill that comes with getting so close to someone. There is a sick thrill that comes in almost getting it right. There’s something about not giving up on someone that makes you want to stay. And there’s something so intense about both loving and hating someone so deeply that you stay,
But the almosts and the maybes and the broken promises are only that. It won’t ever change.
That future you envision and hope for will never become a reality because if a relationship is toxic it’s like quick sand the longer you stay the harder it’ll be to get out of. And eventually, it will destroy you.
It seems almost impossible to let go of someone like that but once you do and once you value yourself enough to never tolerate mistreatment again, the thing that will feel abnormal won’t be normal healthy relationships but that day you see him and you utter under your breath, ‘I can’t believe I ever loved someone like you.’