I’m gingerly sweeping up broken glass into a dustpan. Holding the shards by my fingertips. Trying not to hold on too tightly lest they draw blood.
I’m looking at the pieces of my failed relationships.
I’ve been broken for so long and it took me this long to realize it. If asked to describe myself I would always say the same things, the right things. Funny, Smart, Caring, Generous. And while all of this is true it’s only partial. What I forgot to mention is that I laugh to cover up the fact that I’m uncomfortable, I make jokes to diffuse situations in which I feel threatened, I smile to make people think they have the upper hand and that I am harmless. Yeah, I’m smart. I over analyze everything and it destroys me. I always have to be 10 steps ahead. Not calculating, never – I’m just already thinking of getting my heart broken when we haven’t even met yet. I care too much. And I care about the wrong things. I love to come up with cute little euphemisms for how much I cannot be bothered to give one third of a fuck but the truth is, I lay in bed wondering what everyone thinks of me, who have I disappointed today, who will I disappoint tomorrow? I’m too generous. I give all of myself. At all times. To family, to friends, to lovers, to strangers, to the cute guy at the bar. But not enough to my teachers, to my parents or to the homeless on the street.
Do you know how devastating it is to be so sure of yourself, so positive you know yourself inside and out? Like the back of your hand. I have not once looked at the back of my hand long enough to memorize what it looks like. If you showed it to me in a picture I probably wouldn’t recognize it to be mine. When faced with all the facts about myself I didn’t recognize who I was.
What does this have to do with my failed relationships? Everything. It took me finally realizing some truths about myself to realize what went wrong.
Did I make a horrible mistake by leaving those men? Is it possible to find your soulmate and not even know it? Leave them and only see them for what they were only after it’s too late?
Naive. Insecure. Two words I would’ve never before added to the list of characteristics that describe me. Vision is always 20/20 in retrospect. I was too naive to recognize when a relationship wouldn’t or couldn’t work out. I was too insecure to even look. I took whatever I could get. But with insecurity comes doubt.
There was a lot of doubt with my first boyfriend. When he started to like me I doubted it was possible, when I started to like him I doubted it was for the right reasons. When we started to grow apart I doubted he would notice. When I finally ended it I doubted I made the right decision. When I went running back to him I doubted he’d take me back. When we got back together I doubted I made the right decision. When he finally broke up with me because I didn’t sleep with him one day I doubted he’d ever come to his senses. When I look back on that relationship I doubt it was ever really love.
I pour the shattered glass into its own little plastic bag so it doesn’t rip through the rest of the garbage. I tie it in a tight little knot and throw it away.
After that experience, I went numb. I compartmentalized all the painful memories and told myself I would move on and not let them affect me or any possible future relationships. I ended up doing the exact opposite.
I told myself I was free. I needed to take advantage. What I really was was clueless and vulnerable. So vulnerable. But I thought I was all powerful. I had had a boyfriend and he was long term and we had broken up and I was still alive. Where was my victory prize?
Another word. Instinctual. But I didn’t use it to my advantage although I should have. Having fun was more important. Proving to myself that I could have men falling at my feet was more important.
That’s when I met *Duke.
Duke was a co-worker. He was brash, cocky, arrogant and liked to make himself known as a huge player. Another thing about him, he wanted me. I wasn’t the slightest bit interested but the fact that someone who could supposedly have anyone he wanted chose me was too good of a stroke to my ego to pass up.
He took me home one day. He asked me what my plans for the future were. I replied “Moving out of this town. Moving to Toronto”. He said he wanted to spend the remainder of my time there together. I tried my best to sound non-commital. He leaned in under the false pretense of whispering something in my ear and kissed me. Not wanting to seem rude I kissed him back (!). Yes, this is how I think guys.
To this day I still think that was the worse mistake I’d ever made in my life.
The following week he invited himself over. He cooked for me. Somehow we ended up in bed.
I think it was then he thought he had me.
The next day he showed up at my door in a ratty old college hoodie and a sheepish grin. “My parents kicked me out. I have no place to stay. I really don’t want to be asking you this, believe me, but I have nowhere else to go…if you say no though, I’ll understand”.
Caring. Generous. Naive. Vulnerable.
I said he could stay. I had my own place, we were already sleeping together. What harm could it do? “Only for a few weeks! Until you find somewhere else to stay!” My weak attempt to regain control. Too little, too late.
7 months later, Duke was still there. I supported us both on my part-time income because he couldn’t manage his own money. I paid rent, food, bills, everything. He talked me into buying him a new pair of leather shoes and making his car payments. He was a master manipulator and although my friends had called it from day one, I was still blind. I continued to surpress my instincts.
My sporadic attempts to take back my life were pathetic at best. I insisted we were most definitely not a couple. Just roomates who slept together. But when guys asked me out, I said I “couldn’t”. I couldn’t bear hooking up with someone else, knowing I’d have to go home to him.
I stopped wanting to sleep with him. I began to see right through his ‘act’ and it repulsed me. His smiles were actually hungry grins. His meek requests were really passive-aggressive. His chivalrous manner was just overbearing. He needed it every day and every day it felt like I was throwing a piece of myself away.
To avoid it altogether I began pretending I wasn’t tired long after he’d retired to the bedroom. I stopped sleeping. I decended into deep depression. I fretted over bills, the state of the house, the state of my life. What had I done? Who was this man I let come into my home and completely take advantage of me in every way? Anxiety was my new drug. I took a dose every night before I finally succumbed to a fitful sleep and every morning before I dragged myself to a job that I loathed. I began having panic attacks. I couldn’t work.
I made the mistake of venting to a friend one day via text. I said something about how frusterated I was about how he seemed to be able to control every aspect of my life without even trying; we had recently had a fight over me being friends with a girl he didn’t approve of. I texted *Jen, “What a dickbag! Not only can I not sleep with who I want, but I can’t even be friends with who I want either?!”
He “accidently” stumbled upon the text and confronted me about it. He put on a show of how hurt he was. He said he’d never cried so hard in his life. His eyes were dry. Not being able to bear the guilt I walked away. Rather than assert myself I chose to roam the streets, alone after dark, my body racked with sobs.
Weak. Weak. Weak. Weak. Weak. Weak. WEAK.
It was only after he had taken everything I had; physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, financially. Everything. Had his fill and drunk with satisfaction, that I was finally able to muster the courage to kick him out.
By then I had quit my job and money was low. Rent was due and my credit card was maxed out. A far cry from the life he’d found me with 7 months prior. He promised to pay me back for my good deed. He paid rent that month and disappeared. He still owes me $500.
I found out from a friend a few months after Duke and I had ceased all contact that his “new” girlfriend had just given birth.
He was cheating on me the whole time.
I make myself numb to the pain of those breakups. I’m scared if I allow myself to feel the pain, I’ll open the floodgates. And I won’t be able to stop it. And what then?
I’ve moved on. This is my new life now. And I’m no longer afraid. I’ve stopped handling my own memories with a careful hand and yes I’ve been cut a few times but those wounds will heal. I’ve opened the floodgates and I feel refreshed.
I will no longer worry what a person would think about this upon first meeting them. And maybe a word spoken a certain way or a specific gesture won’t bring me back to that apartment filled with dread and the smell of Duke’s cologne. Or maybe it will and I’ll smile and remember the lesson I’ve learnt.
Either way I have a better idea of who I am now.
I’m still Funny, Smart, Caring and Generous. But I can also be Naive, Insecure, Clueless, Vulnerable, Instinctual and Weak.
I was Broken, but that’ll soon change.
*Names have been changed. And yes I really chose the name that sounded the most like “Douche”. Yep.
*The parts in bold are from something I found in my documents that I had written about a year ago. I used it as sort of the “backbone” to this post.