Dating An Emotionally Abusive Man

Fool yourself. A lot.

Pretend that his neglect is a side effect of a busy career. Be consoled by his sudden bursts of affection, which you tell yourself just might be the first glimmerings of love. When he compliments you, believe it. Hoard the sweet words like gold dust.

Stay awake at night, listening to his breathing. Wonder why you love him so much.

Tell your friends that he’s a good person, just damaged because of his ex-girlfriend/ dead mother/ broken family. Tell your friends that you love him like you’ve never loved anyone else, and then spend the next hour debating whether he loves you, why he doesn’t love you, whether he will ever love you.

Quote Sun-Tzu a lot.

Fuck him every time he asks you over, although in your mind it is making love. File away every gesture, every nuance, every smidgen of what could be more than disaffected nonchalance. Wax lyrical about the time he tucked you in and kissed you on the cheek when he thought you were asleep, or perhaps the time he stayed up all night with you as you worked on your Sociology paper.

Excuse his insensitivity in any way possible. Create a tag for him on your blog so that you can re-read all the entries about him whenever the mood strikes you.

When he calls at 3AM, drunk, pretend that it’s because he needs to hear your voice and misses you; and not that he’s selfish.

Stay on the phone to listen to his complaints and stories and wishes, never once talking about yourself. Ignore the fact that you have an 8AM meeting, and talk until 6AM.

When he says he wishes you lived nearer, pretend that it’s because he misses you and it’s not a thinly-veiled booty call.

When he issues thinly-veiled booty calls, hope that maybe this time – perhaps, just maybe, you pray – this time, it’s for real. It’s not about sex, it’s not about your body, it’s about you.

Re-read his old texts from when he was courting you, listen to all the music he sent you for the fiftieth time, even though you don’t really like Ash or Band of Horses or The New Pornographers.

Overanalyse the music he sent you – especially Geraldine by Glasvegas.

Marvel at how well he knows you, how he can push every button, how he understands your motivations. Wonder at how, despite all this, he doesn’t know you love him and that he hurts you – because if he knew, he wouldn’t act this way, would he?

Buy him presents that you think will move him, like that XKCD comic book, or An Education, or maybe that tiny book of proverbs you saw at a flea market two weeks ago.

Take his insults in the hopes that he doesn’t really mean it. Shrug it off or hide your tears when he says that you’re not pretty enough for him, that you’re a mediocre fuck, that you are a self-righteous do-gooder, not intelligent enough for graduate school, wonderful to talk to but not much else.

Listen to Taylor Swift.

Pretend that the screaming matches over what setting the microwave should be or which side of the bed to sleep on are just indicators of how intense your relationship is.

Lash back a few times. Insult his ex-girlfriend, his career, his likes. Regret it immensely, not because you’ve stooped to his level but because he made you regret it with every single word and action for the next twenty-four hours, or however long he felt like.

Tell yourself his superior attitude and constant need to put you down just stems from his insecurities, which you can help him get over by just loving him enough.

Ignore the mood swings, the broken promises, the manipulation, the mind games. They’re just bits of him, after all; and you love him unconditionally – right?

Find out he slept with another woman while on holiday. Grit your teeth when he tells you he misses her, ignore it – because you’re just dating, right? You’re not exclusive?

When he invites you over and then leaves to go drinking with his friends, nap. Wait. Say hi to his dad, who hates you just as he hated every woman his erstwhile son has brought home.

Pretend that it’s okay to be a thirty-year-old wannabe author who has never written a word of his book. After all, he’s had a hard life. Pretend that it’s okay he dropped out of university after seven years of study and a few months shy of graduation. Pretend that it’s okay he’s slept with more women than you have fingers and toes – sometimes at the same time – but preaches monogamy, faithfulness and loyalty as his best traits.

Look for hints and hope in every marginally positive gesture.

Cry every time you listen to music by spunky, waif-like songstresses like Feist or Laura Marling or A Fine Frenzy.

Tumblr a lot.

Read Thought Catalog obsessively, sharing particularly heart-wrenching pieces on Facebook or Twitter and being comforted by the fact that you are not alone, there are girls just as ridiculously, stupidly in love. Emphasis on stupid.

Look up ‘fractionation’. Wonder if he’s doing it on purpose.

Act tough when he breaks up with you because you’re not his type, you don’t move him, you’re not pretty enough. Wonder why he did it to you the day before you start at your new job.

Realize you could make him pay in pain, but you could never make him stay. Blame yourself. A lot.

Hate yourself for loving him. Hate yourself for snatching up the phone when he calls, for listening to his sweet words and apologies.

Tell your friends that perhaps he’s seen the light, that maybe it’s going to be okay.

Feel like you’ve been punched in the gut when he calls you a night later explaining that he’s changed his mind again.

Two months on, marvel at your own stupidity. Laugh it off, pretend he’s a great drinking story. “I met a man who tried to cut off his own thumb and refused to take medication for bipolar disorder because he thought it’d make him less special.”

Find somebody else, with kind eyes and a sweet smile, with curly hair and warm arms. Someone who treats you like gold and thinks the world of you.

Wonder if you’ll ever be able to reciprocate those feelings.

Make believe you’re brave.

Slowly fall in love with him, his kindness. His generosity. Your stopped heart shudders and groans and starts up again.

It works. It runs.

Be happy. Sand the hurt smooth, cover it with putty.

Be happy. Oh God, please be happy. TC mark

image – Kill Hannah

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