I’m writing with tears in my eyes, not because of what was done to me, but because of how overwhelmed I am with gratitude. I’m not sure I would’ve had the strength to leave without your voice ringing in my ears, like the fierce Midwestern mother I never had. You probably hear this all the time, but thank you for what you do. Thank you for telling it how it is. Thank you for saving me time.
I was a primed, ready-made chump. I grew up as the scapegoat child of a narcissistic stepfather, and was taught very early on that my needs and emotions didn’t matter. It took getting to the age of 30 to realise that I didn’t deserve any of the violence and emotional abuse I endured, and that actually, I’m not bad at all. I’m a kind, bright, funny, and thoughtful person, with strong morals and a lot of love to give. I’ve worked so hard in the last 5 years to champion my self-worth and advocate for myself, but clearly I’ve got a bit more work to do.
I was single for 10 years before meeting my most recent partner. My previous relationship was at the age of 23, with -– surprise, surprise -– a narcissist. He beat me and abused me terribly, and after several attempts to leave, I finally got out of there after he strangled me. Suffice to say, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about relationships for a long time.
Then along he came. My “diamond geezer” I called him, because he had a little diamond tattoo on his temple. He’d been a victim of a narcissistic stepfather too. He’d been abused in previous relationships like me. He got it. He was so overwhelmingly kind and considerate towards me, and I fell hard in love with him. I couldn’t believe my luck — and one of the best things? He introduced me to his mother.
Why’s that a big deal? I’m a feminine male and often attract guys that are into transgendered women too. As any trans woman will tell you, they’re often kept a dirty little secret in their relationships. My romances have often gone the same way. So to be acknowledged in this way (and get a new mum!), to walk around in public with my man, felt amazing to me. I finally got to experience what other people do. And I was so grateful.
I could bang on about how beautiful the relationship all seemed, but I don’t think the wear and tear on my keyboard would be worth it. It WASN’T what it seemed. In hindsight, it was completely lop-sided, and I simply didn’t notice. I feel like a fucking moron.
While up to my arse in deadlines, I handled all the cleaning, all the laundry, and all the cooking. I was always up for sex, and he had blowjobs on tap (honestly, I was on my knees that often during the honeymoon phase you would’ve thought I’d converted to Islam) and he had no shortage of affection. I worked daily to build him up. All he had to do was worry about his job. I gently encouraged him to quit the dead-end career that made him so miserable, rewrote his CV and cover letter, and helped him apply at a new place. A year later and he’s a manager there (I don’t take credit for that though, he did work really hard). Case and point: I gave this man everything I could, for two and a half years, and it still wasn’t enough to make him value me. But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? It’s never about how much or how little we do for them.
My story plays out like so many others -– we all know how boringly unoriginal they are. He was being shady with his phone, became cold and distant for months, and deflected my concerns and attempts to fix us with lies, deception, and gaslighting. As soon as my trust went, I couldn’t look at him in the same way. It all came to a head this Sunday when I asked to see his phone for the first and only time. He’d always had access to mine. I told him that if ever he felt insecure, he could take a look when I was in the shower or something. I gave him total transparency, and like a dumbass, didn’t care that he never returned the gesture.
He refused to show me. I knew he wouldn’t. Any thoughts that I might be paranoid or wrong disappeared. The fear of ruining my relationship vanished. And I saw those big blue kind eyes I’d always loved, become little pools of manipulation as he desperately tried to lie his way out of the situation. I can’t even find the words for the revulsion I felt towards him –- how much it rattled me to see him put his empathy aside so easily, while I was falling apart. I don’t get it. I’m glad I don’t get it. I told him I was going to take a shower -– and that as soon as I closed the bathroom door, anything he tried to show me on his phone would become obsolete thereafter.
SPOILER ALERT: As soon as I was done showering, he offered to show me his phone! (I can hear your eyes rolling). “Oh, HOW CONVENIENT!” I yapped, and told him I wasn’t interested. He sobbed and left the room. I put on some make-up for composure, spent an hour packing up all my shit (while he stood there crying with puppy dog eyes, telling me not to go), then left. I don’t know how I did it.
I lost it and became hysterical as soon as the taxi rolled up, but I did it. I didn’t speak to him for five days. I sent a farewell letter (I know it’s ill-advised, but it was for MY closure, not his) and he responded by saying all he’d done was “flirt inappropriately” (we don’t even need to put that one through the Bullshit Translator). It just reiterated everything to me. I quickly realised that it didn’t matter to me whether he was sexting, having an emotional affair, or enjoying wet weekends with the Whore of Babylon. My feelings were never his priority, while his feelings were my only priority. And that was a very hard pill to swallow.
Fortunately, I’m a flaming homosexual, so I’m quite good at swallowing things.
My takeaway from my experience is this: FUCK love. Not completely, obviously. Love’s awesome. I’ll love again one day (after a lot of work on myself of course, because I am still broken). But fuck love, in the sense that it doesn’t mean anything when it’s not reciprocated. Sure, I’ve lost my home and partner, my daily dose of laughter and in-jokes. Takeaway and film nights. Gaming sessions. Cuddles, when they were a thing. And the coolest fucking mother-in-law I could ask for. But for the first time in a long time, I had a good night’s sleep. In my weakest moments (because I am quite a fragile person), I force myself to remember that I’m no longer feeling unwanted or living in a state of distrust. I’m not on high alert anymore. I’m not wondering why I’m not enough. I feel RELIEF. And if that means losing all that stuff –- with a liar –- then it’s actually a very good transaction.
I know I’ll be ok in time, and you’ve played such a huge part in that Tracy. I’ll never be able to repay you either, because few things in this life are as valuable as time.
As comedian Dawn French would say, thank you from the bottom of my bottom!
Thank you so much for your kind words! Stories like this keep me going. The credit, however, is all yours. That was YOUR bravery on display. CN and I validated what you already knew — that you deserved better than his bullshit.
It took a lot of guts to get in that cab. To step into the unknown and give up the security of what you thought was a committed relationship. You didn’t spackle. Or fold your needs into tiny shapes and stuff them into the recesses of your soul. You ACTED.
I suspect you’re not as damaged as you think, and much stronger than you ever knew.
If I could quibble here: Love isn’t the problem. Your love is top-shelf. It’s investing in someone who doesn’t invest back. Well, not at the same level anyway. A gazillion people make this mistake (really, my blog numbers are crazy!) The only thing you have to learn is how to find another giver. Someone as good as you are. That’s it. That’s your assignment. You’re not broken. You’re not the asshole!
Had you been the asshole here (your ex), you’d have to learn a much harder lesson — how to be honest and reciprocal. How to give up all the perks of entitlement. How to properly adult and write your own CVs. Much bigger learning curve!
You just have to surround yourself with people who give as much as you give. And they’re OUT there. This is not an impossible thing. And seeing as you’re such a gifted writer, and hilarious, and probably gorgeous, I don’t expect you’ll be alone for long.
And if you happen to tangle with a fuckwit — you know how to dismiss them. Important life lesson.
Thanks for a Tuesday morning dose of mightiness.
P.S. No more closure letters! No contact from here on out, okay?
Your Midwestern mom, Chump Lady