After the divorce…
With eyes wide open and a heart unaware of it’s radiating hunger, I zoomed into into the first romantic relationship of my life other than the one with the man I’d been with for over 1/2 of my life. The intoxication of desire on both sides filled an empty space inside of me that I hadn’t even known existed. If there ever was a thought that sexuality was a youthful and fleeting event, those thoughts were eagerly recanted. It was simply a wonderland of awakening.
The original plan was to date around and stay out of a relationship status. I was a one marriage woman; the only other ‘relationship’ experiences I had fit better into the category of making out while not sober, smart or studious. That’s what is supposed to happen in later high school and college….then there was the one whom I thought was my forever. That was it. My appetite for flirting, fun, and amorous adventures was off the charts high.
Several dates later led to no major attraction or connection with anyone. It seemed that men were either incredibly serious or just in need of a booty call, neither of which I wanted with them. Nobody appeared to capture the attention of this woman (or vice versa) and discouragement was setting in. During this time, longings for what wasn’t happening, heightened; while discernment and wisdom seemed to decrease…a dynamic with disastrous potential.
Soon enough, there was a spark (actually, an explosion) of chemistry…found in the world of online dating. He was delightful and gave the impression of genuine interest in my interests. I loved poetry, he found out my favorite poets and left me messages in a sexy voice so I could listen at bedtime. He expressed great enthusiasm for my intelligence and asked me to read my papers to him. A couple of weeks went by before I agreed to meet him. He was intelligent, funny and handsome in a boyish sort of way. He had lost 100 pounds and he understood my struggles. I had such a sense of, “we get each other”.
Our first date was at a little hole in the wall restaurant in a town 1/2 way inbetween our homes. It was also on the day I consider my new life birthday, the day of my “strokeaversary”…it was an opening to something new, indeed.
This introduction was amazing. AMAZING! He schooched in next to me in the tiny booth and kissed me within the first 10 minutes of meeting. There was no fight from me, this felt delicious. He was tall, nicely dressed, and smelled scrumptious (he was very proud of the particular cologne he wore.) His voice was rich and seductive. He had big hands like my daddy and there was no hesitation between us to talk about anything and everything. He told me that he didn’t understand how I could be even more beautiful in person, I ate it up.
That same night, we were going to get ice cream after dinner and ended up going parking instead (my idea). I hadn’t made out with a boy in a pick up truck since my senior year in highschool and steaming up the windows was pure exhilaration. We got locked in a church parking lot and had to ask the pastor and his wife to open the chain link fence and let us out; we giggled like kids at the memories we had made.
That night, when he kissed me goodbye he let me know that, “Christian Grey had nothing on him. Then he paused, looked into my eyes and said, “you are so vulnerable”. I thought about that comment repeatedly and still do. I think he knew then and there, the power dynamic that would likely play out.
The next day, he sent me a recording of the five things he really, really liked about me. I was getting sucked in fast. He knew how to charm the pants off of me….literally. He asked for things no one had ever asked for and I happily obliged. This felt like freedom and I wanted desperately to be wanted. I look back and see that he tested how far and fast he could push my boundaries from the beginning. There was a part deep in me that wanted my boundaries pushed, I wanted to drop the whole good girl me and just misbehave for a while. He constantly told me that we were magnetic and magical…he’d never felt so intensely drawn to anyone else.
One week later, we started in heavy. We talked or texted all day long, every day. He lived two hours away but would come see me after work when I didn’t have the kids or for lunch. We would make out, make out and make out some more. It wasn’t that I hadn’t behaved like this in years, it was that I had never behaved like this and to this extent. His kisses were passionate, he drenched me in all of the right words. He even told me he kept a notebook of my likes and dislikes. I felt intensely safe and momentarily cherished with him. He brought me kisses, flowers and even lipstick, precious, right? He sent me Blake Shelton songs that he originally had for his ex…now for me. (Should I have felt honored?)
I knew his story (or thought I did). I knew how his ex-girlfriend, aka, ‘the devil’ had hurt him. I knew how he had loved her girls and hurt that they were taken out of his life. I knew his childhood wounds and he knew mine. We went to church together and prayed at meals. I knew about his kiddos, he knew about mine. We became sexually involved with each other quickly. I had never been with anyone with such an edge and I just craved more. This was going right along with my desire to not behave….I could analyze that for a lifetime and still not justify the way I overlooked the red flags to keep my new form of nourishment. I know I tend to substitute my ideals for reality, even in the face of toxicity.
I was starving for love or for whatever would stop the grief. I was still reeling from the sting of the divorce, mourning the loss of my Daddy and trying to hold my head above water. I was seeking something or someone to fill my gap. This was an amazing formula for dangerous, undiscerning vulnerability. We began to spend every weekend that we didn’t have kids with each other. We rarely left the house except to go eat or go to church or maybe to his cousins house, but it was never, ever boring. We were a world unto our own and my empty was now overflowing with the euphoria of the moments. I couldn’t have imagined how rapidly this would change.
We started dating in November. By early December, we had our first quarrel. There was an icy cold evening that I had backed into someone. We got out to get details and I loved that he went immediately into law enforcement mode. I felt so protected, until…I was shivering. He had two coats on, I didn’t bring a coat. I asked for one and he told me “no, I should’ve planned. Who doesn’t bring a coat in this weather?” I remember trying not to cry. This was my first honest glimpse of what was real. My Daddy or even my ex would’ve given me the clothes of their backs to keep me warm. Somehow, I felt remorseful.
Once the arguing began, the floodgates opened. I will say that I was an active participant in these arguments and if I could do it over, I would’ve disengaged earlier and moved on. I knew what I knew and now I know better. The fighting increased with intensity and on my part the mistrust grew. There was one argument where he grabbed my face and screamed so close to me that he spit in my face as he yelled. He was sorry, but “I just made him so mad, so much madder than anyone had ever made him.” After that, I left him where we were and was inundated with hate texts and mail for the next several days. He told me that I could burn in hell for all he cared. He told me the lipstick he bought me that I loved was his ex’es favorite lipstick. He sent me pictures of he and his ex in bed together. He sent me texts of recordings he had made of us without my knowledge or consent. My stomach is sick when I consider the pictures and information his phone holds, and I’m certain it’s not just me, he has had a collection of women. In hindsight, he was the victim of all situations. I honestly don’t believe he realizes the consequences and burden of his actions.
Do you know what happened after a few weeks? I went right back. Why? I knew he was wounded and hurting. I missed the sex. I missed him. I missed the sweet, loving, teddy bear him and I hadn’t yet accepted that this isn’t who he really was. It literally hurt to be apart from him, I was empty again. Mostly, he missed me and I misinterpreted this as remorse. I normalized and justified his actions and my own. It did not matter that the wonderland had turned into a tornado, the sense of safety had become an active avoidance of the next fight and I was living opposite of all that I wanted.
The cycle of arguing, manipulation and hurt became more frequent and more intense after each reunification. He posted pictures of himself with another woman, after I had disappointed him. He mocked the battles I had shared with my weight and made callous remarks about my children’s struggles. He would whisper things in my ear and then say he never said anything and make fun of my hearing. He constantly accused me of playing “reindeer games” and the minute I began to back away, he was sorry and reminding me how good we were together.
He balanced these things well with kind words right after the sting and with pleas of sympathy because he would never amount to anything but ‘beefcake and green eyes’. He would insist that I was going somewhere while he was just nothing…a nobody. He’d tell me I should run and never look back and I believed part of him was attempting to honor my heart in those times. I ached for his pain.
He knew the places my heart was tender and he used those places to his advantage. Sometimes I think it was pure intentional manipulation. Other times, I saw him as a wounded boy who wanted to heal and didn’t know how. Quickly, he would become a bully and I would accept this after a bit. Bullies have been hurt too….we would grow past this…..I thought.
The last straw, which I won’t discuss here, was too hurtful and harmful for me to go back. I made a promise to my kids that we were over because I know I will break this promise to myself and I will not break it to my children. Lust is a powerful tool. Self-respect is more powerful.
Recently, an old friend called to ask me if I knew of this man. I debated. I do not wish him a bad life. As a matter of fact, I still believe he can change, with help and if he wants to change. She told me that had been on dates and she saw my name on his Facebook page. I decided I owed it to my friend to honestly tell her of my own experience. Not because I think he is evil, rather because I think she is deserving of truth and goodness. Like everyone, she will find her own path but I hope she’s more confident in herself than I was.
I know this experience has been healing (in the craziest way) to me because I have learned a little more of my own value and what self-respect and dignity mean in my own personal life.
There are details I might share one day, but at this time I am still a little afraid of disapproval and judgement. In truth, I am my own worst judge and jury and continue to work through guilt, shame and confusion. I became a participant in an emotionally abusive relationship. I, who spends her days working with all sorts of abuse between adults got wrapped up in my own unhealthy saga. I am still trying to talk myself out of this being a reality and I am sharing because I want to raise awareness. Getting into this type of chaos does not require impoverishment, lack of education or lack of resources. We all have a hunger for something and getting that hunger filled is temporarily heavenly. I am well educated, especially in this arena. I struggle financially at times but am certainly not impoverished. There is an abundance of loving support from family and friends in my world; as well as in my exterior environment. All of this, and it happened to me. I will be grateful to God every day that this was only a 6 month lesson that didn’t progress.
It was a slow burn but my heart is covered with the balm of healing and peace. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. Don’t lose sight of you in the chaos of someone else.