don't do what I did.

January 16, 2019

Let's talk relationships. Specifically bad ones.

It's not really a secret that I've navigated some toxic relationships. If you've hung with me here longer than a couple years, you probably could've gleaned that already. And if we're keeping track, let's just say I spent roughly the entirety of my twenties with guys I absolutely had no business spending time with. And in an effort to be utterly vulnerable and transparent, I'll clue you in and say that when things were bad, I double-downed on ensuring that my life on screen? Was dripping with more fabricated sweetness than a Splenda factory. Why? Fear of failure. Fear of facing the obvious. Fear of admitting how painfully wrong and naive I was.

I spent many a year, lying about my life. There's nothing really as convicting as putting those words on screen, but if I'm brutally honest with myself, I can admit that I thirsted so heavily for something that never was, that never would be, that I stumbled to create it in my own heart. My longest remembered ambition was to be a doting wife and mother, and I spent years ignoring cold truths in an effort to fake it til I made it. I clung to the one or two good days in a month that he and I would share, convincing myself that was enough for me, enough to grow on. Reciting in my head how "every relationship has good and bad days..." but not being real with myself that what I was involved in. With no marriage or shared accounts or children or business? Should've been about as breezy as it comes. Yet I ignored the endless warning signs, even as they slapped me in the face.

More than seven years, I spent dating someone who I knew from the first few weeks was utterly and completely toxic in a number of ways. Read that again. Seven years... when I knew from the get-go that it wasn't good for me. When we met, I was 22 and had just ended yet another (albeit not nearly as horrific) relationship, and the wounds were fresh and open and I absolutely fell into the next thing that rolled my way. What shocked me for the longest time was how long I allowed myself to stick around. As women especially, I think we (some of us) feel the crushing pressure of making everything okay--sticking it out, regardless of what we sacrifice in the process. Again, if I'm painfully transparent, I can say that I never once could sincerely envision this guy was my forever--my future husband or potential father to my children. But year after year, something in my head told me that if I was wrapped up in this for one, two, five years... I had to stay. It could be good enough. That no one's relationship is perfect. It could be fixed. That I wasn't trying hard enough.

The first half of the relationship was long distance--more than three years of airports and late-night phone calls and sneaking suspicions that I wasn't exposed to the total truth. I shut it away--that nagging, gnawing instinct that something is way off--with this as a relationship and him as a person. His insecurities darted front and center when he forbade me to speak with or hang out with my male friends. And then he insisted we utilize "Find My Friends" on our phones to better trust each other. Yet I took notice of the recently-added Facebook friend he met in traffic school (and later took on multiple dates while I lived states away), or years later, the one in California he met playing Words With Friends, and would later text "I love you!" to, late at night.

Don't do what I did. Don't ignore that instinct that something is off, awry, dishonest, shady. 


Hell, I even discovered lies and stuck around--don't, don't, DON'T do what I did. Be true to yourself--no one can make great strides in your life to change your current situation except yourself. Absolutely no one. Don't ignore that nagging in your core that something is wrong--the feeling exists for a reason.

Time trudged on and eventually I packed up my life and moved to be closer to him. Make no mistake--this didn't simplify anything. While I experienced a much-welcomed shift in my professional life, in my personal growth, in experiencing the jolt of learning a new city and job, and getting acquainted with new friends--the relationship remained stagnant, uninspiring, concerning.

And I looked the other way. Immersed myself in my new life outside of him (which in the end, was the best thing I could've done for myself).

He worked for himself--I witnessed time and again how he swindled clients, conning them into used products, frequently canceling appointments and texting hollow excuses when he couldn't follow through on what he'd promised. I ignored his work practices, convincing myself it wasn't my business. this really the person I want to spend my life with?

He had an uncanny knack of either belittling waitstaff in restaurants, or blatantly flirting with them in front of me (then denying it, calling me insecure).

Why am I subjecting myself to this?

When in group situations with friends, I increasingly found myself on guard, knowing he'd inevitably make me the butt of the joke at some point, despite my endless pleas for him not to.

What the hell am I doing?

When I'd unveil yet another half-truth, I'd come home to flowers or yeah, at the height--a car. All of the grandiose gestures to distract from the rotting root of the problem. I'm embarrassed to say I stayed. Every single time, I chose to stay. I was terrified to leave.

Part of my staying put was that each and every time we imploded and I'd yell that I was really done this time, I was quickly reminded that I couldn't afford to leave. That no one else wanted me. That what did I think I was I doing? Throwing away all of this time together?

Girls--please. Don't let someone use your insecurities against you. Don't be manipulated into staying planted where you know--down to the depths of your core--that you need to uproot and move on. Your life is yours and yours alone.

Years passed. Years. On an otherwise unremarkable October weekday, something within me clicked and I announced I was done, moving out, and that it was finally, truly the end. He offered no rebuttal and I felt relief in every square inch of my being.

I scooped up my little dog, threw books in boxes, started over, had more good days than bad, and felt pretty confident that I was moving in the right direction. The best form of validation rolled my way, when, upon learning of the breakup, my dearest friends heaved exaggerated sighs of relief and offered their own versions of "FINALLY!" Much less consolatory--every bit congratulatory.

But let's not button it up too neatly, shall we??

A couple months later, he pleas with me to reconsider. We can be better. He'll be different. He's already changed so much. He misses me more than anything. It's worth it--we've invested so much time already. So there I went, that eight-week stint of being out in the wild not yet firming up my oh-so-empowered stance, so I slunk back into the mess. Weeks passed, the same familiar behaviors and suspicions arose, and it wasn't until I was again smacked in the face with the sick realization that 1) not only was he dating someone else while pursuing me (the same person he began dating when we still lived together), but 2) he was apparently lying incessantly to us both about who we were to him and what he was doing with us.

I washed my hands of it all and moved on--finally. Finally, finally, finally. And it took several months of therapy, and more than a few wine nights with my girlfriends--some of them literally sitting me down to beg me to realize my worth--to understand I deserve far better in this life. We all deserve better than that.

I don't think of myself as a victim, and I certainly wasn't blameless--but the bottom line still beckons: I knew from the onset that we were never supposed to date each other, and yet spent the better part of a decade flailing through an anxiety-ridden, poisonous day-to-day out of what I can only surmise was enabled to continue due to overwhelming fear.

Follow your gut. I can't say it enough--when you know you know. Surround yourself with intuitive people who you trust--who cherish you and will stop at nothing to see you happy. Who will stare you in the eyes, unflinchingly, and tell you to get your shit together.

Don't force something out of fear. Be strong and brave enough to strip away your worries and focus on your worth. As cliche as it sounds, do not settle. There is better out there for you--I promise, I promise, I promise. Not only have I thankfully experienced it myself, but I see it in my own friends time and again.

I didn't get here overnight, and it took a small army clamoring away on my behalf--but I made it to the other side. And I know you can too.

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