I Stayed

As you placed your hands in mine, I felt my stomach drop to my feet–creating another pothole in this broken road. The look in your eyes spoke before the words could fall out of your mouth. And while I had been wanting to throw in the towel for months, I couldn’t stop the heat from rushing to my face. I couldn’t stop the rage mixed with sadness when you finally said, “I’m leaving.”

“What do you mean you’re leaving?”

You just promised me not three days prior that you’d never leave me and that you were just feeling the weight of work on your shoulders. I attributed your distance to being overwhelmed. Despite coming home and you not even offering a hello, let alone a glance in my direction, until I finally broke the silence for the both of us–DESPITE that… I stayed.

Despite the lack of effort on your end to showcase any appreciation or love for me even the slightest amount–I stayed. More and more of me didn’t want to stay. So many times, I would loathe the fact that I’d have to come home to your cold shoulder. I would curse your name each time you dismissed anything I said or felt. More often than not, you filled me with stress and anxiety instead of relief and comfort. And yet… I stayed.

When we first began dating you jokingly, yet proudly, boasted about how you could have received a degree in bullshitting. You took pride in the fact that your charm could get you almost anything you desired, even if your words weren’t sincere. I never thought you’d apply those master skills to our relationship.

Like the time I saw a credit card on my credit report I never signed up for. The credit card you told me you never received because you didn’t want more debt– even though you just told me two weeks prior that you had gotten approved and received the card.

I called you panicking–thinking somehow someone stole my identity. You acted just as confused as I did. When I dug further… I found out that person (who essentially committed fraud on me)… was you. Without my knowledge or consent, you decided to add your debt to my already exisiting pile.

“But I only put you down as an authorized user.”
“I didn’t put you down at all.”
“I only put your name down as a reference.”
“I swear I didn’t do that.”

Or when it was my 25th birthday and you and your friend bought tickets for us to go to the Flyer’s game, even though I don’t like sports. You tried making me believe the two of you planned it out with me specifically in mind, yet you planned everything without my say. And then when you “forgot” to tell me your friend bought a fourth ticket and that you were inviting someone random through facebook, I realized you didn’t give a fuck if this was for my birthday or not.

When I refused to go, you kept repeating how selfish I was. As though I had no right to be upset. How dare I ruin your day? I failed to mention the part where you had me pay for my own ticket prior to my decision to opt out. Trustingly, I gave you the money to pay your friend. Yet you put him under the impression that you were paying for a ticket I had selfishly thrown away, and when he refused to accept it, you didn’t correct him by saying how the money was from my account.

And I must have missed the time when we were taught that pocketing the money that someone gave you and not mentioning it was the most selfless act you could perform. Because it’s not stealing if it’s from your girlfriend and you don’t tell her, right?

Maybe you were starting to lose your touch and your ability to keep your story straight. Or maybe I was one of the only people to finally figure out your game. I was the only one who saw through the facade you put on for others.

Your charisma and charm can win over the most stubborn of buyers with ease. When people first meet you, you’re captivating. You tell stories so elaborate, people can’t help but to soak in every word. You spin your web of exaggeration and you get people trapped. I know, because you spun your own web for me. The only difference is, they never lived with you.

They never saw the side of you I didn’t even imagine would have existed. I would watch your words come out of your mouth and fall like a song on people’s ears, noticing their trance of admiration at how personable you are. Yet I knew the monster you bottled inside. The monster that came out when we were alone and you could finally shed the skin you put yourself in–the skin that had not one fault.

As you held the doors open for me and casted envy on those who couldn’t help but think, “What a gentleman”…. all I could think was they didn’t know the fear the rage in your eyes can instill in people. But that rage only came out when I would do or say something to set you over the edge… right?

I know in the beginning, and seldom toward the end, I was insecure and, at times, overwhelming. You put up with my unpredictable change in moods. You put up with me when I’d question you fifty-or-more times on if you ACTUALLY loved me (because I just couldn’t know enough).

You stayed when I felt like life was no longer worth living and I was just taking up space. You stayed when I would wake up feeling empty and hopeless. I projected my pain onto you with insecurities and constant scrutiny because I just didn’t feel I was good enough to have someone actually love me. And that was wrong of me to do to you.

And when I noticed the effect it had on not only myself, but others, I promised you I’d get help… and I did. I could see the defeat growing in your eyes and I didn’t blame you for not wanting to stay then, because who wants to be with someone who doesn’t believe a word you say? But yet… you stayed.

Because I made you a promise. But then that promise turned into a promise for myself because if this relationship gave me anything, it gave me the courage to go to therapy. Group sessions and individual. It gave me the drive to take my medicine regularly because I wanted to be in control of my life.

Maybe therein lies the change in tide when it came to our relationship–me going to therapy was no longer for you. It was mine and something I was succeeding in. I slowly stopped projecting my insecurities onto you and accepted that you did, in fact, love me and I didn’t need to ask 50-or-more times a day. The days grew further between where I’d wake up wishing I hadn’t and I started to love myself.

When we would have our fights still, you would tell me I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was. You would claim there was little difference to be seen. But how could that be true when everyone else says different and I control the words that come out of my mouth and I know the feelings deep inside of my own body?

You only said those things in situations where you were in the wrong, as if to take any blame off of you because there is no way you make mistakes. Not the professional bullshitter.

And while I am no where near in 100% control of my emotions, I am five times the woman I was before. I am a woman who feels confident because I learned to not obsess over appearance to the point where I couldn’t see the beautiful personality I possess. I am a woman who doesn’t feel the world crashing down when something goes wrong. I am so much stronger and possess so much more of the good in me than when we first began dating.

So if anything, thank you for at one point being my reason to go to therapy. Because while it didn’t save us in the end, It taught me that I can still save myself.

And there lies the biggest difference between us. I can admit to my faults and my flaws because they stitch together to make me the beautiful fucking mess that I am. I do not hide the weaknesses in me and I am not ashamed of all that I have gone through in life-the good and the bad.

You, however, had a mindset that it was wrong of me to reach out to others and share my story. No matter how many people would reach right back and rain down thank you’s on me. You didn’t like that fact that your perfect facade was being compromised by your faulted girlfriend.

But, babe, don’t you remember? I saw the cracks in you that you hid so well from others and despite them I loved you anyway… even if you couldn’t admit they were there.

When you put your hands on me for the first time, I thought maybe you had lost your mind– a moment of weakness, regret. You looked me deep in the eyes the next morning and apologized so sincerely for squeezing my shoulders too tight and shaking me back and forth.

“I won’t do it again, I promise.”

That was, until the night we were fighting yet again and you pushed me hard into the love seat. Not like you did when you couldn’t wait any longer and you needed to have me right then and there… the moments we’d embrace in the rawest, most uninhibited form.

Instead, you pushed me out of anger. With your nose just barely pressed against mine, tears streaming down my face, while you screamed at me at the top of your lungs, looking at me as though you could just kill me… your anger took over again and you slammed your head into mine hard enough to leave a bruise. And the next day, I’d wake up to the same piercing blue eyes and songbird voice telling me how sorry you were.

All people could see was the handsome, charismatic man who held open the door for his girlfriend and was polite to others. They didn’t see the man who punched holes in the walls, broke doors off hinges, broke game controllers–anything you could find.

When I expressed to you how I felt that video games were a priority over me, you threw your controller on the ground, scattering it into pieces on the floor. With cold, hard eyes, you looked at me and said, “See what you did?”

But, babe, I didn’t have the controller in my hands. I didn’t tell you to throw it. Babe, I didn’t even raise my voice. Don’t place this blame on me, I say to you.

Yet you list the reasons why you breaking your own controller was, indeed, my fault. And I sit and almost believe you. But therapy taught me to recognize manipulation; and you manipulated me until I didn’t allow it anymore and maybe… maybe that’s why you left.

One day while we were walking the dogs, you were filled with rage for a reason you didn’t even know. I suggested you walk back home because I didn’t want you to do something I forced you to do. And instead of taking it as me trying to help you, you threw the leash down and stormed back to the house even more angry than before.

When I arrived back home, you sat on the picnic table bench, head in your hands, tear-filled eyes and confessed you couldn’t control it anymore… that you were scared of what you might do. I held you. I told you I would stay.

You agreed to go to therapy. You had one moment of clarity and that moment was short-lived. Shortly after, you stopped the physical acts of anger on me, but yet instead, you mentally made me feel so small. You never went to therapy. You couldn’t keep that promise like I did for you.

When I told your mom, hoping she would help me help you, her idea of advice to me was to stop provoking you. I was pushing, and pushing, and pushing and how could I not expect you to lose your cool?

Because clearly this was my fault, my doing. It wasn’t a problem you needed to take care of because you are such a good bullshitter, you even had your family blind.

You could do no wrong in her eyes even if the wrong you did was blatantly in front of her face. Your ability to bullshit your way into making her blame me for your anger outbursts and violent behavior is a learned trait you picked up when no one had the balls to tell you that you don’t have to make everyone think you’re perfect.

It was the entitlement you were taught when you were held on a pedestal and idolized as a trophy your entire existence. Your ego was fed by those who claimed no flaws of their own and only shared their best attributes with others because… because why, exactly?

There is beauty in being broken, in having cracks, in rising above the flames and overcoming your struggle. There is relief in acknowledging your wrongs and not hiding them in shame because someone may find out. There is progress in recognition and only road blocks in suppression.

Yet I was told expressing myself meant I was in the wrong. I was meant to believe going to my mother, the one woman I trust more than anyone in the world to give me guidance, when I wanted advice on a relationship issue, was out of the question. You tried making me believe that this meant weakness and immaturity by confiding in her.

Because you were taught to hide the personal troubles you may be facing, you assumed I would conform to that way of thinking, too. But my mother raised me to be honest and open and vulnerable and strong and comfortable enough to confide in her about anything… including relationships.

You told me I should be discussing those problems with you instead. But when I tried discussing things with you, you would burst into frustration. And when I asked you to not get upset or angry, to just discuss these issues I’ve been feeling, it would only stir the fire.

Eventually instead of anger, you slowly just started giving up and began trying to stop the conversation with a single sentence every time; no matter the degree of the issue I had laid on the table, you would reply…

“What do you mean?”

I meant what I said. Every word that came out of my mouth painted an image clear as day as to what I was aiming to discuss with you. Maybe because you were told for so long to not discuss personal issues such as relationships with your own family, you in turn just wanted to find the knob to turn my voice down.

The more self confidence I gained, the less interesting you found me. You saw my heart was an open door and you had to shut it. In the beginning, I relied on you for my happiness and positivity. I couldn’t muster the strength to create my own. And although you stated how you wanted me to be more confident, the more confidence I gained… the further away you grew from me.

Did you realize you’d rather a girl who looks at you like the sun and makes their world revolve around you and your happiness, leaving her own by the wayside? Did you realize that you made a mistake picking the girl who dances shamelessly when sunshine reflects off her skin, pulsing warmth through her and speaks openly about what’s in her heart? Did you suddenly have the smack of realization that I was a little too much for you?

Too much life, too much love, too much emotion, too much openness, or maybe just too much me. Were you looking for a girl who would crawl out of their own fake skin with you before you crawled into bed together, keeping quiet any problems she may be feeling?

A part of me feels you wanted me to speak only when spoken to and only if it was a topic you would be interested in. I could not bring up important world issues with you or around your family because it wasn’t about the all-positive-world of sports.

You would stir in discomfort as I posted about depression, anxiety, my political opinions, my moral opinions, everything that makes me who I am. You “didn’t understand” why I used social media as a platform for my writing or my voice. You told me you were taught not to share that stuff about yourself. And while you claimed to respect others differences, you expected everyone else to feel the same as you.

While bombs go off in other countries as they are overtaken by terrorists, corruption, violence, disease, all of these very real life situations that hold great importance to the outcome of our world as a whole… all you cared about was what team was trading which player and how much their salary would end up being.

You could name the stats from games from any sporting event from the previous night with ease, but if I asked you about your stance on Syria, you had no idea anything was even going on. You didn’t even bother to ask because my interests were not important to you. Even when for years I tried my best to be able to talk to you about your own. My words would fall upon deaf ears as I would be talking about something with great passion. And you would almost always say nothing.

If you did speak, it was because I called you out for blatantly ignoring me, as if I was not flesh and blood sitting right next to you.”What do you want me to say to that?” is all you would give me. I have seen you flatter conversations more drywall than mine, yet you couldn’t muster up a simple one word answer to acknowledge that I was even speaking to you.

I’m sure you are aware already, but my mother didn’t raise me to bite my tongue, sit still, look pretty, serve the man I love on hands and feet. She never gave me a cloak of skin to slip into so others would have the false perception that I bare no flaws and I have no voice. She never told me to quiet my opinion because she never conformed to the role of a quiet woman herself, who simply exists to please men and others who can’t handle a woman who is unapologetically herself.

She taught me to speak my mind, voice my concerns, express how I feel, own who I am and love who I am. See, I know your mother taught you to be polite, be respectful, introduce yourself, hold those doors, and all of the basic essentials to be a decent human being. I know, because my mother taught me all of that as well.

But while my mother was teaching me about expression, emotions, connection, the vast world around me– you were taught the most important thing besides family is sports and convincing yourselves you had not one flaw in the bloodline. Your family cast judgment on your father for placing his hands on your mother so many years before, but never once stopped to think you could possess the same anger your father had given you from his unfortunate tainted blood line.

And how would they know when you had the label of perfection to maintain? Aside from the brief moment you recognized the imperfect blood from your father diluting the pristine blood from your mother, you refused to accept you had any issues controlling your anger. And fell back into the facade that you had complete control of yourself; that it had to have been my flawed blood and upbringing that started all of this.

See, babe, you didn’t hear the words my mother said as I sat at her feet asking for advice. You didn’t hear the times she told me I was wrong, and you were right. You don’t understand that some parents have the ability to not side with their child on everything. If I murdered someone in cold blood, my mother would not make up an excuse for why that person must’ve brought it upon themselves and it, in no way, could be my fault.

You tried infesting my brain and pushing buttons to make me act a certain way, be a certain way, as long as it was your way. But what you didn’t understand is that you do not have the keys to my mind and you could not gain control of the right buttons to change who I am, only causing you more frustration.

When I asked you what you loved about me, it took you as much brain power as when you’re solving an advanced calculus problem. How is it that you had so much trouble conjuring up one trait about me you loved, yet you never forgot to check fantasy football every day?

You fell in love with the idea of who you wanted me to be and the beauty I brought to the package. We’ve always seemed to be taught that a woman’s worth is determined by how attractive she is, but damn it, I swore you were different.

Sitting here alone in this house, staring at where you used to sit on this broken couch, I realize I can’t recall the last time you told me I was beautiful without me mentioning it to you first. Because, I guess for you, my outside beauty dulled the more you realized my inner beauty was not a masterpiece you were captivated by.

And truthfully, the more you let yourself walk around without your skin in front of me, the more I realized you did not captivate me any longer either. The person I fell in love with three years ago doesn’t even exist, even if you try to convince me you’re the same and that I just must be crazy.

I fell in love with the promises you made yet could never keep. I fell in love with the persona of a self driven man who was self sufficent and driven; when in reality you knew so little about responsibility. You give the impression of having it all together, yet I had to teach you how to budget your money properly. I had to explain to you to check your car for oil before you burn your engine. I had to remind you of household chores for two years and watch your mother cook your meals for you the last few months. Because apparently that was something that was suddenly expected of me.

I no longer looked at you the way everyone else does when you are still making an effort to bullshit them. I did not fall for the act of respect and love you would think to display onto me only when out in public. If I wasn’t enough for you when we were alone, I certainly am not enough for you in front of these people and I got tired of playing the game of pretend. Yet I stayed.

I stayed even though you had checked out of the hotel called our relationship. I stayed even though you made me question everything I love about myself. I stayed when push came to shove. I talked myself out of leaving so many times even though I knew I was not company you wanted anymore.

You did not care how my job was, you did not care to ask how my day went after I asked about yours. You didn’t care if I was talkative or quiet because it all sounded the same to you. You didn’t care to tell me the truth when I noticed the change in you begin to take place. With your piercing blue eyes and songbird voice, you tried bullshitting your way around telling me the truth about when your feelings changed.

I knew you didn’t love me the way you did at first. Your eyes lacked the shine you used to hypnotize people and your songbird voice was growing weak. I kept asking, yet you kept bullshitting as though you were using the college degree you claim you should have received.

But you could not fool me with your repeated lines stating you were fine. You may have fooled your loved ones for as long as you could, but I knew and yet you still tried feeding me bullshit on the silver platter you were unrightfully handed.

See, babe, I used to correlate a mans respect for the women in their family with how they treat all women, but I stand corrected. While I posses not an ounce of perfection in my bones and the ability to fit into the bubble you wanted me to join, I had enough respect to tell you how I felt at all times.

I know you would never lay a hand on a woman whose same blood pulses through your own body, but that didn’t stop you from using your hands to threaten me, to make me feel scared. And babe, I know you would have never raised your voice at those same women the way you did without a second thought to me. I know you would never intimidate those same women by standing over them with your broad chest. But that didn’t stop you from cornering me and reminding me without words you could easily crumble me like a piece of paper and toss me in the trash where you obviously thought I belonged. And still…. I stayed.

After months of you preaching how I should not look to my mother for guidance in situations I feel at a loss in when it came to you and I, you decided to turn to your mother when you made the decision to leave; without even giving me the respect to talk to me first like I always made sure to try to do with you.

And somehow you saw nothing wrong with you and your mother deciding we needed to break up, but me asking my mom how to better communicate with you and make this wreckage stay afloat was unacceptable to you.

Babe, it’s not my fault you chose not to listen to me. Babe, the only selfish one was you. Babe, you can’t convince me otherwise anymore. Babe, I fucking tried so hard. Babe… I stayed.

I look back now, accepting the fact that we were clearly toxic to each other. But I will not sit back and allow my voice to go unheard as you use yours to con more people into believing you’re the man you think you are. Because, babe, a real man would have controlled his anger… even if “provoked.” A real man would have sought help when the problem bloomed out of his control. A real man would have treated me like a person and not a convenient piece of meat.

You may have thrown in your chips first and called it quits, but we had both folded our cards long before that night. And each day I’m more thankful you decided to be the one who chose to say the words we both avoided for too long. Because I now know my worth more than ever before and I realize it is not required for me to stay where I am clearly not wanted.

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