Last year, I had a tarot reading. I’m not a big one for stuff like that, but I had questions, and needed confirmation. I asked her about my relationship, and she told me he wasn’t the one. She told me that our time together would be filled with ups and downs and fights and deception, and I decided she was wrong. I wanted her to be wrong because I was full of hope. But, a piece of me heard her, and knew she was right.
Things began to get slippery early, a few months before the tarot reading. I found out he was on Tinder while he was living with me, five months after we met. He was surprised I found out, and defensive, and tried to blame my friend who told me for being meddlesome. When I told him I knew he was active on the site, just a few hours earlier, he told me I simply didn’t understand; that he used it to make friends, and that it was just entertainment. He told me Tinder was just like Facebook, and that I shouldn’t be so judgmental. That was the first red flag. Many more followed.
Fast forward to last week. I am not going to go into all the details of what led up to the ugliest of the ugly, but last week he called me a fucking bitch, and spineless, and selfish, and lazy and mentally unstable and incompetent…and, and, and. He did this with my daughter nearby, and she heard everything. She didn’t hear him grab me, or shove me, or push me to the ground, but he did those things. He told me that it was all my fault. That I did things to make him angry. That I made him feel so bad that he could not control himself, because he loves me so much. And because of the months leading up to last week, I believed him, and believed it was my fault.
It was not my fault.
I am sad and embarrassed. This is not something I want to admit about myself, but I let it happen. I ignored all the red flags, the controlling behaviors, the minor insults that escalated to major insults. I loved him, and thought that if I could just change the things he didn’t like about me, we would be fine; after all, he loved me, too. But what really happened was that I gave my self away.
So I’m left wondering, how? I am strong and smart and know better. I have my wits about me and a great career and a loving family and a fabulous circle of friends. How was it that I began to doubt myself so deeply that I questioned every word I uttered, every emoticon I texted, every phone call I initiated. I’d hear the edge to his tone when I got it wrong, and knew the insults were close behind…and they’d start with “honey”. He’d test me to see if I was paying attention, and berate me if I got a detail wrong. He’d tell me how hard he was trying, and that I wasn’t trying at all, and I believed him, and tried harder; I wanted to please him, and to not trigger the anger. But you know, the anger was unavoidable.
I loved this man, so much. He was smart and witty and fun. He was kind to my children and challenged me in new and exciting ways, he has beautiful brown eyes and long curly lashes, and he danced with me in the kitchen when there was no music playing. We kissed, and I would be lost in his kisses, in his arms, and felt safe and loved and beautiful. I thought we would grow old together, and I wanted that; I wanted a life with him. And along the way, a shift happened, and I stopped being the woman he fell in love with. I don’t know how this happened, how I lost my center. Sure, some of it was him and what he was doing and saying, but a bigger part of it was me, and wanting to please him so badly. He would yell at me that he wanted me to be strong, to push back, to fight, to tell him what I wanted; and then he would tell me I was useless.
At the beginning, we felt that we were the luckiest two people around. We lived 1200 miles apart, and yet we met, and fell in love, and were happy. I was so happy. The change was insidious, and I cannot blame him, because if I do, I will allow it to happen again in a future relationship. I take responsibility for what happened. I saw the red flags and chose to ignore them. I chose not to push back, and until last week, I chose not to leave. But then, it happened in front of my children, and I heard what they were hearing, and that was too much. Nobody talks to their mother like that, and their mother is me. I am the strong independent woman that they believe I am, and I was not going to allow that to be be shattered for them. My daughters at 12 and 13 now, young women, and they look to me as an example; I was setting a lousy example. So, no more. I pushed back, and I left. And while my heart is broken, it will heal. I know this about myself: I am resilient and worthy of love, and one day I will meet a man who loves me just as I am. And I will stand firm, and stay, just as I am.