Rae

I had just separated from my husband who was a closet alcoholic. I was reconnecting with a girlfriend of mine just looking for a social life after years of an unhappy marriage. My friend brought 2 male friends both of whom I thought were into her. A few weeks later she and I are out again and he’s joined us. I thought he was handsome but we were all just going out as friends. He was conversational and genuinely interested in what I had to say. He was charming and rugged in ways my soon to be ex-husband wasn’t. It was attention I hadn’t had in a long time; possibly never. I was hooked and we started dating. After only two weeks he told me he was going to marry me someday.

Red Flags

I don’t remember when I first thought our relationship was odd. I know after a few months I wasn’t happy with the way this relationship was going. He would ask about my day but it was more than was it good or bad. It was who did you talk to? What did you talk about? At some point the questions about people I didn’t even know started. He was convinced that I had a relationship with a man I’d never met and wouldn’t listen when I tried to state the facts. He would accuse me of lying to protect the unknown guy, to protect myself, to protect him. All the time he told me that if I just told the truth (which I had been the whole time) things would be perfect and we could be happy. I remember crying, screaming into the phone that I’d never met this person. I also remember lying and making up a story that corroborated the things he thought because I just wanted us to be happy. He’d promised after all.

He moved on to having me keep my Bluetooth on while I was talking with people, mostly men, while he listened in over the phone. He would direct me to move closer because he couldn’t hear. Tell me what to say, questions to ask and so on.

I also don’t remember whose idea it was but we broke up for the first time after that. My friends told me that I was better off. That he was mental. That I deserved better. He would continue to call asking if I was ready to tell him the truth. Then he had a major health scare and we got back together. There was no resolution of the imaginary relationship it just became a background issue he’d bring up occasionally. He moved on to having me keep my Bluetooth on while I was talking with people, mostly men, while he listened in over the phone. He would direct me to move closer because he couldn’t hear. Tell me what to say, questions to ask and so on.  After that I withdrew from friends altogether. I didn’t want to hear them telling me I was crazy for staying with him. More so I didn’t want to hear him accuse me of doing things he didn’t approve of behind his back. I stopped talking about my work day because he would ask about all the male names I would mention no matter how benign. God forbid I eat lunch in the work cafe and a man join me. He would say that I didn’t know all the people he knows and that he had ways of finding things out. That was the first time he made me text male friends and ask leading questions baiting them to expose the misconduct he was sure I was guilty of. After that didn’t produce his desired results he simply told me to hand over my cell phone and write down all the app passwords. When I dared question him he said, “well if you don’t have anything to hide then why won’t you do it?” So, I did.

That was the first time he made me text male friends and ask leading questions baiting them to expose the misconduct he was sure I was guilty of. After that didn’t produce his desired results he simply told me to hand over my cell phone and write down all the app passwords. When I dared question him he said, “well if you don’t have anything to hide then why won’t you do it?” So, I did.

He then posted leading statements to all my social feeds and texted male contacts baiting them. I remember a few of those friends asking me if everything was alright after getting an odd text from me. I told them to please not say anything to anyone but if it happens again just reply with something mundane. That last part was because one of them didn’t use text and never replied. Of course, that meant that he was protecting me and we were both guilty of whatever made up scenario was playing in his mind at the time. After that he told me that I should go home and think about what I’d done and call when I was ready to confess.

This behavior continued for a while then seemed to just vanish. He stopped asking about everything, questioning me daily. Looking back, it’s because I kept to myself. I wouldn’t make eye contact in the hallways and I stayed at my desk all day. When I wasn’t with him, if I actually went anywhere, I would check in on every social media platform and post verifying photos. He’d taught me that last one after randomly calling asking what I was doing and then saying send me a pic. Why would he want a photo of my daughter and my Mom out window shopping with me? “Oh, because I do. Just humor me” he would say. Right, he wanted to verify my story; that I was where I said I was.

When we were together everything was about him and what he wanted. From food choices to movies to intimacy. I wasn’t asked what I wanted to do because he wasn’t interested. So, I started to suggest only things I knew he would like. Maybe that would make him happy and then he’d love me and we’d be happy like he promised. Anything he suggested I would do. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, it was always what he wanted because “if you would only listen to me things would be so much better.”

Realization

I stayed in this relationship for 6 years. In that time, I think I can count the number of times he told me he loved me on one hand. I would tell him I loved him often but he didn’t reciprocate. He said I had to earn it and he just couldn’t trust me.

I remember we were on the phone once arguing over some imagined things I’d done when my daughter asked to speak with him. After asking him if it was ok, I gave her the phone and she states in a matter of fact tone “Don’t be mean to my Mama!” then hands the phone back to me. That should have been a wakeup call but instead I apologized to him for her. She was right and I was apologizing. Thank God, I raised her to be stronger than I was.

After crying after every visit with him asking myself why I was doing this time and time again but yet going back hoping that this time it would be better; I finally started mentally preparing myself to end it once and for all. I take great pride in knowing I actually said the words “I want to break up with you” to him. I didn’t think I had that strength after all his tearing me down.

Words of Wisdom

If I could tell myself anything it would be to always listen to your gut. If it seems bad you can leave. Nothing is holding you in that situation except you. You don’t have to prove that you’re right. You can just let them think what they will and walk away knowing you made the right choice for you.

No matter your circumstances help is out there. If something feels wrong it probably is. At the very least you can take a step back and reevaluate. A loving relationship shouldn’t make you cry, unless it’s tears of joy.

Life Today

I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with a great guy for 2 years now. He knows about my past and though he forgets from time to time there are instances where he catches me in old habits. At that time, he takes my hand looks me in the eye and says “I’m not him. You don’t have to do that.” I have the freedom to not tell him where I am every moment of everyday and it’s not held against me.

I’ve been in therapy for a while now and it’s helping. Unfortunately, after years of un-reciprocated “I love you’s” I can’t quite bring myself to say those words to my current boyfriend. Though I feel it I can’t seem to make the words come out of my mouth. I can only hope he knows by my actions. Even my kids say that they hope we never break up. However, in the unfortunate event that we do, I know I’ll be ok. I have learned to trust my instincts and care for myself first. Not putting another person over my own needs.

I want a partner to enjoy life with, not a man to serve.

Rae is available for questions via the form below.  Illustrations depicting this hero are the artist’s interpretation, and any likeness to any real person is purely coincidental.  

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