It started out as the best relationship I have ever been in, I felt like I found my soulmate. We had been friends for a long time before we got together. In high school, we actually had crushes on each other but neither one of us said anything for years. When we finally got together, it felt like everything clicked into place. We laughed at the same jokes, shared the same moral philosophy, liked the same shows, had the same hobbies, and had amazing sexual chemistry. Being with him felt right, and it was like that for a while. I was the hesitant one, but he seemed confident that we were meant to be, and his confidence was reassuring. Eventually, we started talking about where we wanted to live in the future, what our wedding would be like, how many kids we would have and when. He was usually the one to initiate these conversations, so I knew he wasn’t just going along with it, and it didn’t feel too soon since we had known each other a long time already.
At first, we didn’t fight. Didn’t even bicker. I got comfortable and let my guard down. It seemed like I could tell him anything. Our political views were both quite liberal and he always sided with me on feminist topics. He thought it was wrong that women were judged for being promiscuous, while men were praised.
One night that we were hanging out, somehow the topic of how many people we had slept with came up. He said 9, then I said I didn’t know for certain but somewhere around 15. He was the first boyfriend I had that I felt safe telling the number to. He seemed fine the rest of the night, if not a little quiet, but on the car ride home he was silent. I tried to make conversation with him, and he said nothing. He literally didn’t react to a single thing that I said or did. He didn’t say “I just need some space” or “I need some time to calm down”, he offered no explanation. Just silence. I didn’t know what to do. When we got back to his place, I followed him inside, and shut the door behind me. Finally, I asked if this was about my ‘number’.
He punched a hole in the wall. Then he marched over to me and screamed in my face to leave. I was stunned. He had picked me up, and we had driven together. I didn’t have a ride home, and it was the middle of the night. Unable to get a ride home, and without enough money for a cab, I stayed the night on his couch, and one of my friends picked me up in the morning. It was the most bizarre thing to witness. I had never seen anyone switch entire personalities that drastically, that fast. It was so out of character, and I couldn’t make sense of it.
The next day, I woke up to an apology text from him. He offered to take me out to breakfast to make it up to me, and I accepted. He explained his ex girlfriend cheated on him, and something that number being higher than he expected triggered his panic disorder, and he was trying to stay calm so he wouldn’t scare me, but clearly failed. I was able to relax. I had struggled with pretty bad depression and I knew that sometimes it looked a lot worse from the outside then it actually was. It just LOOKED scary. If I couldn’t accept his mental issues how could I expect him to accept mine if it turned up again in the future? I understood.
The next time we hung out I was playing music in the background. A song he liked and had originally showed me that we listened to frequently, came up. His expression cold, he asked to delete the song. Not skip it, delete it. I asked why and he said “please just do it.” I didn’t ask questions and did as he said. It was just a song after all. He went back to normal after I did that and we continued to look at videos of puppies online.
Shortly after that, the music he showed me completely switched. Before that, he would always show me music that he knew I would like and we listened it together. Now, it seemed like every song he was showing me was a song that was obviously not something I would like. They were really sad or angry songs, a lot of country, a lot of heavy emo music. Each time he showed me a new song, he would act the same way he had before, like he was convinced I would love this song and had a huge grin on his face. I told him the songs were alright but that the lyrics were kind of creepy and depressing. He looked disappointed and explained he wasn’t paying attention to the lyrics, and just to lie back and listen to the beat of it. I went along with it. I didn’t hate it enough that it was a problem, and eventually I was just used to this new sort of music being in the background, him skipping most of the songs we used to listen together. He would always stop to listen to newer songs that he showed me that I actually liked, not just tolerated to make sure I was actually enjoying some of the music.
Early in our relationship, he was the music expert, showing me all sorts of new things, but he really liked my taste in tv shows and movies and usually I would pick what we would watch. He loved everything I showed him. The same time everything else started changing, he started reacting weirdly to the shows we watched. Before everything shifted, he would compare me to characters from tv shows we watched; beautiful, sympathetic characters that he seemed to have a thing for, and beautiful actresses. I normally thought it was a bit of an exaggeration, but he had solid reasons for it and enjoyed telling me when I did things like some of the characters. It was really sweet and made me happy.
Now, suddenly he was insulting those very same characters and actresses that he had been comparing me to. I would get offended because they seemed to be thinly veiled insults about me, but he always insisted that no, he was just talking about them. He also stopped liking the shows I would pick, including ones that he used to like, and started picking out the shows we would watch instead. It was now exclusively dark, popular comedy shows that I liked, but didn’t love, but he liked them so much I got used to it. When I would suggest a movie to watch, he said that he hated movies in general. That was new, I thought.
It evolved gradually. At first, it was just superficial things like music and tv, but then it got more serious. In the beginning, he loved my parents. Now, he couldn’t stand them and refused to come to dinner with anymore. He said my mom was a slutty alcoholic and my dad acted way too pompous for someone with only a bachelor’s degree. The insults weren’t so obvious either. I didn’t notice it at first, because he’d only bring it up when I was mad at them and venting to him. I told him I appreciated his support, but he didn’t need to take it so far. They were annoying at times, yes, but they were still good people. Then it didn’t seem to matter what I was saying about them, he would judge them anyways. I would mention I was getting lunch with my mom and he’d bring up something he knew I was still mad at her about, and I’d get into an argument with her. I started to think that maybe I had been seeing my parents as better than they actually were because I loved them. I started to believe my boyfriend that they were a bad influence on me and responsible for all of problems as a child.
Something similar happened with my best friends. Before I got together with him, I went through a real low point. I didn’t have a job, and I wasn’t in school. It took me a while to get back on my feet. Eventually I got a job. Now that I had a job, he started saying that he was disappointed in my friends. He had been friends with them all through high school as well, but now he was saying that it was because he thought they were going somewhere with their lives. He didn’t like their influence on me. I couldn’t bring them up or tell him I was hanging out with them without him giving me the silent treatment for days.
I didn’t realize until much later that he was systemically tearing down my entire life. He was taking away everything in my life that I cared about, except for him. The music I liked was “bad” so I was stuck listening to music I thought was mediocre, the tv shows I liked were mind numbing and I was too embarrassed to watch them anymore so I settled for the shows he deemed worthy. My friends and family were unmotivated wastes of space and I shouldn’t limit myself to them. I was stuck at a job I hated because I didn’t want him to think I was lazy and motivated the way he saw my friends. I had gained weight because we only ever hung out at his place, and he would only share really unhealthy food with me.
The next part solidified my dependence on him. After I felt apathetic at best about everything in my life, he broke up with me. Badly. He screamed at me, unloaded extremely personal, targeted insults to break me down as much as possible. He expressed his disappointment, told me he thought I was better than this. Told me how much I was hurting him. Told me that I was manipulating him, guilting into staying with him even though my life was a mess and his was finally going somewhere. He had real life examples skillfully put together to convince me that I HAD been doing that. I apologized, begged him not to leave me and promised I’d do better in the future, but he left anyways.
I was miserable the few days that our breakup lasted. When he showed up with a teary eyed apology, complete with flowers and a promise that he would work on his anger issues, I saw it as the most romantic thing ever. In reality, it wasn’t. It was very minor romance that people should expect in their love life, but he had lowered my self-worth and expectations so much, he barely had to do anything. In fact, he could do whatever he wanted and get away with it. He was two completely different people, my loving boyfriend, and a hurtful monster, and they never showed up at the same time. It made no sense that anyone could be so horrible to someone they loved, so I think my mind went into shock whenever it happened. I even blamed myself for “making him mad”.
Writing it now, it seems obvious what he was doing, but you have to understand that everything he did started out so subtly that even when I did notice it, it would be insane to actually make anything of these tiny changes. I mean, why would anyone do what I thought he was doing? I thought I was paranoid. It was actually quite clever what he did. He did enough to have an effect on my life, but not enough to be obvious. Even if I did call him out, he had a rational excuse or said I was reading too far into things. Everything he did would sound completely paranoid if I said them outloud, and he was counting on that.
I was with him for 3 ½ years. He continued to periodically accuse me of things I wasn’t doing, but provide enough examples to make me scared that I was doing those things and that I was the crazy one, not him, and then breakup with me. He won every disagreement because he had no problem playing the ‘breakup card’. At one point, we were having a fight over the phone. He wasn’t pulling any punches, even though I was being careful not to say anything that he could see as manipulative or an exaggeration. I wanted to keep my integrity, and he knew because of that I would never actually say or do anything mean to him. I finally had enough, and for the first time, I left him. Not the other way around. We were apart for 7 months.
One day, I noticed on snapchat that he posted a story with a very pretty girl he was out to dinner with. I was surprised, and it hurt me. I took a deep breath, and decided I needed better closure since the last time we spoke we were screaming over a phone. I sent him a text saying that I was happy he was able to move on and wished him the best. Then I said goodbye. Just as I was about to delete him from snapchat, he replied. He said that when he noticed I saw his story, he realized it looked like a date and deleted it because he didn’t want to hurt me. She was his coworker, and they were just getting drinks after work. I was relieved.
We started talking again. He explained that our breakup was a wakeup call for him. He started seeing a therapist, started exercising more, and really worked on himself. He was even offered a job as soon as he graduated in the fall. I was genuinely happy for him. I explained that I was doing well too. I had gone back to school, got certified in phlebotomy, and was working at the local children’s hospital. He was away at a summer internship when we started talking again, and he wouldn’t be home for another month. It started out friendly, then we started talking about how much we missed each other. He told me he knew it was his fault we broke up and basically took responsibility for everything. He admitted it, and even now I think he was being sincere. He told me everything I had always wanted to hear from him without any prompting. When he got back, I was already in love with him again. It was like the beginning of our relationship all over again. He made an effort to appreciate me more, showered me with compliments, took me on nice dates, watched the movies I wanted to show him. He made sure to apologize and talk about our problems rationally instead of leaping to a fight. He wanted me to go with him across the country to his new job, move in together, and he would support me financially until I could find a job. We came up with all these plans and agreements about how we would stay together and work through our mutual issues, and be more understanding. He even met with my parents again and hung out with my friends and admitted that his judgments of them we out of line.
We would both have fun dreaming up our future together. He asked me if I’d rather have our wedding somewhere like Italy or somewhere more like Hawaii. We talked about having a house, and a dog. He kept telling me about all the great things he couldn’t wait to show me once we moved. Then, he said once he started working, he could finally afford to take me on a romantic vacation and out to fancy dinners like he had promised to do before but never followed through. He wanted me to decorate our apartment, and I had a whole theme picked out. I couldn’t wait.
But then he stopped going to therapy. It was too much for him trying to juggle his final semester of school, stick with his workout routine, prepare to move, have a girlfriend, prepare to move across the country, AND go to therapy on top of that. I took on the majority of the work to keep us together, and even took on the responsibility of looking at apartments over there. He felt bad that he was so busy, but I told him that I understood, and knew he would make it up to me after he finished the semester and could finally relax a bit. Then he got more stressed and I saw him less, and our relationship grew stressful for me. It took all of my energy to follow the rules we agreed to when we got back together, when he couldn’t hold up his end yet. It seemed like no matter what I did, giving him space, taking on more responsibilities, I couldn’t help his stress. I stopped doing well in school, but it was alright, I was already accepted to transfer to a school across the country, and it was only one semester. I lost my job because I was getting depressed and anxious again, but he was still supportive, and I’d have to quit when we moved anyways so it wasn’t a big deal. Then it was finals week for him. He was extra stressed, and he crossed a line. It was a glimpse into what he had been like at it worst and it scared the crap out of me. I told him if he wanted a life with me he couldn’t talk to me like that anymore.
His reply? “I don’t.”
He proceeded to accuse me of tricking him into getting back together, he screamed at me, told me he hated me, it was just like he was before. He said he felt that way from the beginning and tried to force himself to love me. I shut down. It made no sense. I was supposed to move across the country with him in less than a month. I asked him when he started feeling that way, and he said when I started talking about getting married. The conversation that HE had started. He even rewrote history in his mind claiming that I invited myself along with him and was using him for his money (which he had none of our entire relationship) and he never wanted me to go with him. Everything he accused me of was so far off of anything that I would ever do.
Something in me snapped. I was already on the brink of major depression. I was so focused with our new relationship, and having a life I actually looked forward to again that I had alienated myself from my friends and family. I had no school, and no job, and now the one thing keeping me together was leaving me again. I simultaneously blamed myself for getting back with him, and for losing him. I felt so fucking stupid. I felt like I had lost everything. He moved away without even telling me, and then blocked me on every platform.
I think some people assume I tried to kill myself because he left me, but that wasn’t it. I tried to kill myself because I saw just how easy it was for someone to take everything from me. I learned that I would repeat the same mistake. I saw a life of this happening over and over again because even after all of that, I still wanted him back. I still wanted that life he promised me.
I tried to kill myself because in that moment of weakness, I saw it as the only way I would never go back to him. He knew all of my weaknesses, exactly how to get me back, and exactly how to hurt me the most. I was stuck. He had finally succeeded in making me the crazy one, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully recover.
Because even now, I still miss him.