[CW: mental health, toxic relationship, emotional abuse, gaslighting]
It was about one year ago when I saw him for the last time. We broke up shortly afterwards. It was one of the most difficult and painful decisions I’ve ever made. But it was for the better.
Yesterday I met him again. Accidentally as we both wanted coffee from the same place. We recognised each other and I secretly hoped he would ignore me. He didn’t.
Romance Is Real
I never believed in Hollywood romance, in love for the first sight. I always thought being lovestruck is a hyperbole created to sell movies and books to desperate people longing for something that life would never offer, so they keep trapped in a vicious circle of consuming the bitter-sweet love drug. But then I met him.
It began like most of my stories with a more or less motivated OkCupid message. Less motivated in this case. I came across his profile and I actually have no clue why I messaged him. He was cute but his profile was filled out carelessly and didn’t really gave a hint who he was. But I messaged anyway even though I’m usually not the one who messages first. But I did. And I got a reply which was as hollow as his profile – not unfriendly but also not outstanding. So we kept texting and swapped numbers to move our conversation to WhatsApp. And there it hit both of us.
Changing the medium brought our whole conversation to another level and three word messages grew to walls of text. After only a few of those messages I said to Katrin: “If this doesn’t change, I’m going to marry him.”
Oh sweet summer child.
A Month In Texts
It was the festive period and during this time he still lived in London, preparing his relocation to Edinburgh within the next 4 weeks and I just had moved to Scotland’s capital a few months before. Everything was new for me and he reached out for new contacts in his soon to be home town. We both found something stable in a time of change and uncertainty and we both enjoyed it.
He was busy working night shifts but we still managed to text daily and we also touched topics I usually don’t talk about with people I don’t know for a very long time. Our connection got deep very quickly and we looked forward meeting each other – even though it was still a month till he would arrive in Edinburgh and of which I would spend most of the time with my family and friends in Germany. This time seemed like eternity.
After only a few days we decided to spend New Years Eve together. Katrin and me had tickets for the Hogmanay Street Party (seriously don’t do that if you are an introvert like me) and I just invited him to join in. He booked his ticket and here we had our first date and still three weeks to go. Something fixed to look forward to.
I have a clearer perspective on this month of texts now and even our start was unhealthy. I spent almost three weeks in Germany and I haven’t seen my friends and family for about 4 months by that time. I was road tripping the UK and made a massive bunch of new experiences I wanted to share with everyone and I also wanted to know how their life was going during my absence. But instead of being fully present my thoughts were focused on him. Yes, that’s partially my fault because it’s never healthy to make another person your main focus in life. But he also dragged me into a role where I was his only source of comfort and I was happy to provide. I liked him a lot and he took advantage of it.
So I couldn’t wait to get back to Scotland when I actually was supposed to enjoy my time at home. I should’ve given my friends and family the priority because they are still part of my life and they are going to stay.
When I now think back I can see the warning signs pretty clearly. Even in our time texting he tended to push me away and pulled me back again a few days later. He even hinted his difficult relationship with his family and he always seemed annoyed by his friends. I blamed his intense working hours and the upcoming move but actually it was him and just him to blame. But I needed months to find it out.
The First Date
I was irrationally nervous to meet him and to spend New Years Eve with him. The prospects of spending the turn of the year with him were slightly too kitschy for me and obviously for the universe as well. He cancelled because he caught a flu and even though I was slightly sad I also felt relieved. I wouldn’t need to face him in the middle of a big crowd where I usually tend to be very tense (I’m not sure why I even considered attending the Street Party in the first place but well).
Even during this night we kept texting and sending pictures of fireworks or ourselves. Everything was extremely cute. But again my focus was on him and not entirely on the time I spend with Katrin who is certainly one of the most important people in my life.
We rescheduled our date and three days later it finally happened after over a months of texts. I was nervous because I had expectations and I was sure his were just as high as mine. Also the pressure was pretty high because we already had this connection and so I didn’t want to be a disappointment. So I got ready and headed to the bar and thought I’m going to vomit because I was far too excited and nervy. Also my dating experiences were quite limited back then so I actually had no clue what I’m doing – plus English isn’t my first language and I wasn’t that confident with my communication skills as I am now. Too many reasons why I thought the date could fail.
When I arrived he already was waiting for me at the bar. I saw him and the nervousness faded. We clicked immediately and even though it was early afternoon we shared a few pints together till dinner time when hunger made us move on to my favourite pizza place. We constantly had something to talk about and there was no awkward silence. Usually I always find something to complain about when I date someone but not with him. It was a perfect date. He was cute, interesting and I found him extremely attractive.
Eventually we took a taxi to his place and spent the night cuddling on his sofa, watching a movie before ending up in his bed having sex. We immediately were close and for the first time I wasn’t afraid of it.
The Morning After
We had to get up early and I tend to hate this moment. Often the air is filled with regret and the certainty that we will never meet again. But not that time. There was no morning-after awkwardness. It felt cuddly and happy, as it were meant to be – till I was on the bus and got a message from him.
He told me how much he enjoyed our date and that he liked me a lot but he wanted to take it slow as he wasn’t ready to get involved. This definitely was another warning sign which I ignored because I already was too invested. So I explained him that him dating me, having sex with me, opening up the way he did made him already involved, if he wanted or not. I also assured him that I’m certainly willing to slow down so he could settle down in his new life first.
And there it was. The tiny voice in my head telling me to run as long as I can. Telling me to better be the one who doesn’t want to get involved because this wouldn’t end up in something good and that you can’t force someone to commit who isn’t ready for it. I ignored it. Not because I was blind for that warning, but because I’ve always been over-cautious. I’ve always been afraid to love to such an extreme extend that I believed love doesn’t exist. I just didn’t want to be afraid anymore. And I wanted him to be the one who proves me right.
A Beautiful January
He didn’t want to get involved. He did want to take it slow. But he wasn’t able to act on it. Only two days later we met again. I went to his, he made food and we spent the whole night talking and fucking. It was clearly the best sex I’ve had so far – and not just because he was skilled, we just clicked. Because yes, being in love, having an intimate connection has a massive impact on sex. Also something I dismissed as over-sentimental shit made in Hollywood. But nah, it was very real, very beautiful.
But even on our second date a black veil started to cover the experienced beauty. When we didn’t fuck we talked and I quickly discovered darkness lurking behind his angel face. He clearly had family issues involving parental substance abuse in his childhood, disappointments and missing affection. His past has also been a wild ride between enormous highs and terrible lows leaving a broken adult trying to live a normal life, chasing the dream of stability in form of an own house and family. Even after discovering his darkness the thought of settling down didn’t scare me. I still don’t know how he has done it but he tore all my walls down in no time. And I had confidence that he would be able to overcome his issues – slowly but surely. Otherwise he wouldn’t get himself into this relationship, wouldn’t he?
During January we got closer and closer but I also got a deeper and deeper glimpse on his dark side.He drank a lot, even for a British guy. He wasn’t able to maintain close relationships to others. And he was running away from his life back in London in the hope to find a better one up here. I discovered his demons but I ignored them in the hope love would tame them. Also the time we spent was too magical so it was easy to sweep away all worries. Something that feels so right couldn’t be wrong.
On our last date we got up early in the morning and went to the beach for a walk. He was distant. His lease was about to expire and his job was frustrating – so he looked simultaneously for a new flat and a better job. But there was more, I just couldn’t explain it back then, it just felt odd.
After that day I didn’t see him for three months. The only things I did see were his desperate antics on Instagram. He was too drunk too often, deleting the evidences again in the morning. I tried to stay in touch with him and was caught up in a vicious circle where he either held me close or pushed me away. Every time I voiced my concerns about his ability to continue with our relationship he told me I’m exaggerating and this all wasn’t true and he’d do his best to be in a better place soon. Classic gaslighting but I believed him. Why should he want to harm me?
He also told me how important I was to him and that he surely would have time for meeting up again soon. Pushing away, pulling back. Constantly. But I didn’t notice. I blamed my own insecurities instead of questioning his behaviour.
At some point he stopped talking to me and his escapism recorded on social media peaked. He was at a dark place, unable to let light in. So he faded without even one word, leaving me alone without letting me know in which part of town he moved or if he had found a new job. He just left me with the feeling I have failed him. But actually he failed me, I unfortunately was too caught up in his toxic shit-show to see it.
These months were the most horrible time since my teenage years. I constantly hoped he would come back, I constantly blamed myself for not being stronger, for not being more supportive, for not being enough. I cried a lot, I was constantly tired and just completely miserable. I felt like a huge disappointment.
It took me till May to actually get a bit better and this was the time where my sadness shifted to anger. Yes, his behaviour was motivated by his mental health problems but it still was shit, he still hurt me, he still played with me. I was patient, I was understanding but at some point it just was too much for me to not be angry.
After months of just seeing him on Instagram I finally met him again. Friends were visiting and as we entered a bar for a few pints he was suddenly standing in front of me when he wanted to advice us a table. He was totally pale and clearly didn’t expect me there. I was calmer and felt somehow superior entering his comfort zone. We hugged, had a short chat and as soon as I went to our table he left his work place but dropped me a text saying it was good to see me but his shift had ended. I didn’t believe him but this incident made us talk again.
I still was a bit cold and reserved but we somehow managed to meet up again. He showed me his flat, we talked a lot about his thoughts, mental state and how we could make this relationship work. I was definitely willing to cut back my expectations and to accept compromises in order to make this whole thing easier for him. I wanted to go that way with him but in the end he couldn’t make it work.
After our last date he was the same old guy again – no time, no commitment. He spent his nights in bars getting wasted but wasn’t able to see me. Holding me close, pushing me back. That was the point where I had to protect myself even though I still wished I would’ve been stronger. As much as I hate to break up with someone over text I did it with him as he wasn’t able to make at least one hour time for me.
At our last chat we texted a lot about our relationship and about our wishes but in the end we weren’t able to meet in the middle. He accepted my final message without a reply and wasn’t even able to give me closure. But I was free. I felt massively relieved and knew everything could get better again.
It is difficult but I don’t blame him anymore. I do understand that he gave what he was able to give under the current circumstances. The only thing I blame him for his inability to give me a clear no. A clear Elsa, I can’t be with you. Let’s end this. He never did that. He always kept me at arm’s length, pulling me back when he needed words of affirmation even though he knew that this would break me. Just as the women before me. And this is what still makes me angry – that he played with me. And that I wasn’t strong enough to leave earlier.
One Year Later
And so yesterday we met again. After one year. After all this shit. When he noticed me it was probably his British politeness that made him interact with me. A short hello, some small talk and a shallow ‘See you’ – it was massively awkward. I’m sure he realised how little I wanted to talk with him. And I really hope this incident won’t encourage him to text me again.
Because seeing him again re-assured me that I don’t want him to be in my life ever again. It reminded me of my own worth and that nobody who treats me like that deserves being part of my life.
I wish I weren’t angry anymore but I still am. And I’m actually sure he deserves all my anger. This feeling will fade eventually, I know it. But I won’t suppress it, I suppressed too much in this relationship – so I now allow me all the emotions.
And in the end this shit, as shit literally does, made me grow, made me connect with myself and gave me a new focus on life It made me brave enough to explore love, sex and relationships outside social norms and my comfort zone – and that’s beautiful.
I’m not scared to love anymore. I’m not scared to be hurt anymore. Because I know I will survive.