Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Standing in the bar, looking around, I’m enjoying time with my girls. I feel something.
The feeling of someone looking at me. I turn to my right and I see him, he catches my eye. He walks up to me and says hello. He’s tall. Handsome. I can feel that he’s different. I feel an instant connection. Is this what everyone means when they say they just knew?
My brain and my heart are going different ways, I’m packing for my summer away. Going to a big city. Of course, I meet him right before I leave. As mom says, everything will work out. Don’t force it, what will happen, will happen. I told him and he was anxious to get a first date. I feel happy, confident. We plan one for two days later.
Sipping wine, he stares at me intently. Looking at me, not just through me. Wanting to know everything about me. Learn my background. Maybe, it’s because he’s no longer in college and a part of the real world. It feels different. Grown up. He suggests a walk. I look down at my heels. “Girl, you got this,” I say to myself. We stand up and stroll the streets. We decide on the piano bar. On the train tracks next door, he pulls me close, gently pushes my chin up and kisses me ever so slightly. I’m floating on air. My life is going to change.
Elation rushes through me when I learn my work team is back in my hometown. An oopsies by corporate which will allow me to spend time in both places. Home and in the big city. Home means I can see him. Get to know him. Spend more time with him. See my friends. Introduce them to each other. It will be an even better summer than I had planned.
We celebrate the 4th of July. I’m invited over to meet his friends. He has a party. We make jokes. Work the room and make new friends. At the end of the night we go to bed. He tells me how pretty I looked and how much fun he had. He says he loves the way I can just talk to anyone. He doesn’t need to entertain me and knows at the end of the night he’s going to bed with me.
“We’re not dating,” he said. “The world is so messed up,” he said. “You’re too young, you’ll never understand,” he said. “You’ve never had to work for anything and don’t understand what it’s like,” he said. He’s drunk, I thought. He doesn’t know what he’s saying. If only I can show him, I’m mature, I’m capable of working and understand the world.
The phone lights up. She’s calling. Actually, trying to FaceTime. Why would you try to Facetime your ex? This seems strange. Maybe she is hopelessly in love with him as he says. Someone can’t take the hint. He’s moved on, Hun, you’re over.
Six months of job applications finally pays off. I got a job. An internship, and one that pays. I can’t wait to call him and tell him the news. Thank him for his help. I was excited. The news broke with my excitement and his response, “Why are you getting an internship at 22? You’re better than that.” Why? Because I’m getting a master’s and want to learn more skills. It was like a slap to the heart. “They’re taking advantage of you and not paying you enough.” I feel small. My excitement dwindling. He’s just had a long day. I know I’m making the right choice.
“The world is so messed up,” he said. “You’re too young, you’ll never understand,” he said. “How could you want to bring kids into a world when you can’t even take care of yourself. You’d be a horrible mom.” He’s drunk…again.
The phone lights up again. Her name shows with a smiley. I don’t understand how she can’t take a hint. And why are they still talking?
Hadn’t seen my old boss in a while and messaged me to visit while he was in town. A mentor. Dinner is fun, carefree. Good food, good wine, good conversation. He called me to say good night around 10:30 PM.
I texted back:we’re still out.
He responded:I know the restaurant closes at 10 PM. Why are you still there?
I clarified: We’re just enjoying our time. I’ll call later
After midnight, I’m in my hotel room. I call him. “You bitch,” he said. “What did you do with him?” I’m silent. Shocked. What are you insinuating? “You’re quiet.Clearly something happened!” he screamed. I’m crying. How could I start another fight? It’s not that hard to be obedient. I stayed out too late. I didn’t communicate. If only I’d said no to dinner, this wouldn’t have happened. If I called it an earlier night, this wouldn’t be happening. How could I be so dumb to allow this to happen? He’s yelling more. “You’re a dumbass. He just wants to bang the intern. You actually think he’s a professional contact. No man just wants to be a mentor. You’re nothing but a piece of ass. Why would you put yourself in that situation?” I cried all night. How could I be so dumb?
It’s been six months and my hard work at my internship pays off with a full-time offer. Life is good. I’ll have a master’s degree and a full-time job. I was proud. I call him with the good news. “You’ll be dating someone with a full-time job,” I joked. He was happy. He bought champagne. We popped it with a machete, the look in his eyes. A mix of joy, pride and love. I had done something that he was proud of. He told his friends and family. I was worthy of being a main conversation point. I had checked another box on his application to be his wife. I knew it would be soon.
Something is off with us, with this relationship, I don’t feel right. I’m sad. Lonely. I don’t have anyone to talk to about it. If I talk to my friends, it starts a fight between us and between my friends. He doesn’t like them. They want me to leave him, but they don’t understand him. They only see the snippets of our life or hear one-sided versions of stories. They don’t see the wonderful man he can be. The supportive partner. The comedian. The businessman. So many sides, and when they all hangout he’s tired. He doesn’t engage them in conversation because he’s had a long day. He continues to drink at the bar because he’s had a long week.
The glass shatters against the wall. “You did it again,” I thought to myself. “You idiot, you messed up. You piece of shit. Why can’t you do anything right. This could’ve all been avoided. Calling him instead of texting to see where he was. You knew he was out and wouldn’t see it.” Tears streaming down my eyes. My feet pounding down the stairs. A fist flying past my face into the wall. “You fucked up again,” I say to myself. “You deserve this. You don’t deserve love.”
A relationship should be safe. Full of love. Supportive. While they are not always the easiest, should never be full of pain and despair, manipulation and words of hate. “Just leave” everyone says. It’s not that easy. When you build a level of trust with a toxic person and they know the inner workings of your brain, they manipulate. They try to take away your power. I’m a lucky one. I was able to get out. I was able to re-find my voice and leave. While my bruises may have never been physical, the mental and emotional affects still ache. These stories are snippets from five years. It was not all bad, there were periods of pure joy. But with the good came the bad. The social isolation, the words of hate and pain.Manipulation. It never starts out that way, though. If it did, you wouldn’t stay long enough to get attached. While this is not everything that happened, it’s a small insight into just how easy it is to make excuses and ignore the red flags. Never forget that everyone is worthy of love. If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233).