His version of our fight, though pained and insightful, lacked significant moments and my emotions, so, with great difficulty, my replay of October 18, 2017:
My on-and-off again boyfriend, of two years, and I have a misunderstanding about attending a friend’s wedding. I come over the next day, using the key he gave me for Valentine’s Day, but decide to drop the matter, afraid of his reaction. Funny I should have that fear at all, right?
Well, he brings it up himself. “Do you know why I’m not going? To teach you a lesson. To not get your way. So you know what ‘no’ feels like.” I tell him he doesn’t have to go, explain how I misunderstood, that this isn’t how to treat a partner, that…
He gets up and says, “Okay, stop talking and get the fuck out of my house.”
Why is he so quick to anger? Is something else bothering him?
Now, our “resolution styles” differ: I want to nip things in the bud while he wants to drop them for another time. We’ve developed a good balance over the years, but tonight is different; I can feel it.
“Please, just sit…” He raises his voice, “Do you think I’m kidding? Get the fuck out!”
“But, baby, you got so mad so fast. Calm d…” He jumps onto the bed to cover my mouth with his hand, pushing me against the headboard. Staring hard into my eyes, he says, “Shut up! Stop talking! Get out!”
Deep breaths. He wasn’t trying to hurt you. Just wanted you to stop talking…
He breaks my train of thought by tossing my belongings outside. He comes back in yelling, “Why are you still here?! That’s it, I’m calling the police. You’re an unwelcome guest in this home.” I protest, “Hey! I’m your girlfriend, not some stranger!” He yells, “Stupid BITCH! Are you a dumb bitch who doesn’t understand the words coming out of my mouth? LEAVE!”
He’s never called me a bitch before…
And then he did something next that I didn’t think he was capable of doing.
With one swift motion, he pushes me off the bed. I fall painfully onto my side, and before I could get up, he drags me by my ankles across the floor as I scream, “What are you doing?!” I kick free, brace myself against the doorway, and run away from him. He comes toward me and does another unthinkable.
He lunges at me, grabs both of my arms, and shoves my body against the wall, pinning me with a strength I have never known. His nails dig into my skin, drawing blood, his face centimeters from mine, his body shaking as hard as my knees. With dark, hollow eyes, he grunts, “Don’t. You. Get. It? I. Want. You. To. LEEEAVE!!!” With tears in my eyes, I whimper, “Baby, this isn’t you. You’re scaring me.”
His grip, eyes, and voice soften. “Please leave. We will talk some other time. For tonight, stop talking. Get out.” My mouth opens, to talk or take a breath, I don’t know, but before anything, he chants, “Get ouuut! Get ouuut! Get ouuut! Get…”
“I hear what you are saying but you are not listening to what I am saying.” He says, “Yes, that’s true. Now get the fuck out.” He begins to pick at my insecurities–life, family, friends, career, us–ruthless. I think he finishes, but, “Oh, I can keep going.” He does, even threatens to break up, an old tactic, but tonight is different; I can feel it.
Between sobs from the pain of his words and my now throbbing arms, I hear him say, “I’m going to grab something from the kitchen, and if you’re not gone by the time I get back, I will be forced to use it.”
Grab what? A knife, a bottle? He loves me. He would never hurt me… but he already has. Would he really hit me? He loves me. He would never… but he already has. Is this how I die? He loves me. He would nev… but he already has.
As his footsteps near, I throw my hands over my head, eyes shut tight, not wanting the image of what stands before me to be burned into my memory. Through my weeping, I plead, “Baby, this isn’t you. You’re a good man. I know you won’t hurt me. This isn’t you. Please put it down whatever you’re holding. You’re a good man. This isn’t you.”
His heavy footsteps retreat. I gather the nerve to step outside, and find him on the couch with a frying pan, defeated. I sit across from him on the coffee table. He picks up his phone, but I gently push it away. “Enough. I’ll leave. Just tell me we will talk about it, that everything will be okay.” He agrees.
I spend the next 20 minutes in my car wiping away blood and tears, wondering if that last hour was even real.
We talk two days later, but everything is not okay. We break up, spend hours talking about our flaws, which he agrees were fixable, but he no longer wants to put in the work. That he is at the lowest point of his life and blames me 100%.
I admit I’m no innocent, but that we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. “Maybe, but I don’t care. I am fine walking away from this believing it is all your fault.”
“I’m sorry for not leaving, so why can’t you be sorry for your role in this?” He sees my bruises. “Are those from that night?” I nod yes. “Well, I hope they heal soon.”
“These aren’t the scars I’m worried about.” I stare at him staring into his hands, and that’s when I see it. He’s not going to apologize. Does he not see how he betrayed someone who entrusted her life and heart to him? That I stayed, not to “resolve,” but rather out of fear and confusion? Or maybe he’s just afraid.
From this, I know he was right to break up–we’re not in the right place for each other, or anyone, for now. I’m too naive and pompous in thinking I always know what is best, that love is enough, even if I mean well. I gave too much of myself to another and lost myself along the way. I’m not ready for a he or an us until I come back to me.
He’s too stubborn and selfish to compromise, thinking that being alone is enough, even if he means well. He gave too little of himself to another and lost the other person along the way. He’s not yet ready, willing, and able to receive, and earn, the love of someone in return. He’s not ready for an us or a she until he can let go of being “just me.”
The two people that broke up that day are gone. I neither expect nor hope for them to make it work. I only hope their future selves will be better, wiser people, and that maybe then, will they become the people they each deserve.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know this: to this day, I have never judged him, that a part of me, scared as I was, still love and believe in him. I just hope he believes enough in himself to change, to stop fighting against it. We have reasons for what we do and who we are. Let them not be excuses, crutches, or hindrances to self-reflection and accountability.
I also know this: I was fighting so hard for the relationship, but realize I was also fighting for myself, someone who stands up for her beliefs. He may be a good person who made a mistake, but he’s an emotional and mental abuser to keep people at arm’s length. Hopefully, he sees there’s always work to be done, and realizes one can be independent and in love, and give wholly to another without losing any part of oneself.
He showed me I could be happy again, and I was really happy. He taught me I could love again, and I was really in love. He reminded me that heartbreak can hurt, and I bottomed out. But I don’t regret it. Any of it.
Do I regret not leaving or listening to my partner’s need for space? Yes. Is it my fault that I didn’t have more control to remove myself from a precarious situation? Yes. Is it my fault that he chose to put his hands on me? No.
Could he have compromised or listened to his partner’s needs? Yes. Is it his fault for not having more control to calm himself down from escalating to a precarious situation? Yes. Is it his fault for choosing to put his hands on me? Yes.
Will we ever let that happen again? Never. But the question is how.
Is my “resolution style” the best way to grow from this? Well, I’ve been staring it in the face, and it’s extremely difficult to take in all at once. Or his? Well, seems like he’s been more avoidant, which isn’t healthy either. Maybe we should put that developed balance to good use, huh? This is different; I can feel it.
Maybe we’re neither apples nor oranges.
Photo credit: The DI