Self-confidence Sunday #14: You Will Never Steal My Joy Again

In the midst of this awful ordeal concerning my ex-boyfriend (which keeps getting worse the more I discover, but I digress), I had a very empowering moment.  I was driving to coach on Wednesday afternoon, simply letting my thoughts go where they would, when I quite suddenly and clearly thought at him, “You will never steal my joy again. You will never steal my joy, my laughter, or my love ever again.”

It isn’t easy yet…but I am free. Free of wondering when he’d call or make time for me. Free of trying so damn hard to accommodate his needs, which I could never do in the first place seeing as his overall purpose appears to be hurting as many women as possible. Free of all the things I did for him because I loved him, from the cooking to the surprises to the cleaning to the lingerie to whatever else in the world I thought could help make his life easier or more pleasant. Free from the anxiety about social media because of all the women…at least now I know that he really was sleeping with them all.

Most of all, I am free of the pain and the confusion, free of the dreams that will never come to pass, free of the lies. So many lies. I am free of the hope, and that was probably the most important part of letting go of this man who was bitter poison packaged as a sweet, soothing antidote.

You will never steal my joy again…and that is quite an empowering thought indeed.

A Stunning Betrayal

My entire relationship was a lie.

It’s Friday now; I found out Monday night. Since then, I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions: shock, numbness, anger, sadness, despair, determination, hope, regret, incredulity, wistfulness, pure unadulterated pain… You name it, I probably felt it this week.

On Monday he posted a ridiculous and sexist video on his Facebook page, on which I commented. One of his friends (about whose relationship with him I had several questions) replied that she agreed with me, and we had a short conversation. She suggested that we should be friends…and then we found out. He had been carrying on full relationships with both of us, purposely leading us to believe that he was fully committed and faithful, and then ended both in February (and of course, contacting us many times since the breakups, and not always platonically).

Seyi and I dated for almost nine months, and during that time, it is quite certain I was never the only woman. He was seeing other women at the time he initiated contact, courtship, and dating with me, and he then continued that same cycle with other women during the course of our relationship. He aggressively pursued and began seeing her in early August.

Unfortunately, this also wasn’t run-of-the-mill cheating: this was the calculated act of a sociopath. This man enjoys causing women pain. The more we put all the pieces together, the more we began to understand that we had been involved with a sadist. He is easily the best liar, manipulator, gaslighter with whom I have ever come in contact.

We met and talked for several hours the evening after we found out. We shared some tears as we exchanged stories, answering many questions the other had had during her relationship with him. I was the reason he was 1.5 hours late for their first date, why he’d backed out of having dinner to celebrate her birthday, why she didn’t see him for Halloween and New Year’s… And she was the reason he was absent and silent for days at a time, why he had to rush away several times, why he was constantly late, we he wouldn’t let me come meet him at Starbucks to work with him.

He fed me the food she made him. Cookies, apple pie, lasagna, cupcakes. He hid my toothbrush and cheer shoes every time she (or any of the other women) came by, and he always had them back in their places by the time I came back. He did not slip up until once in November when my toothbrush was in a case instead. This is a man who has practiced this for years.

The underwear was hers. The tank top and athletic shorts were mine. He kept my lingerie hidden away where she never saw it. He explained my coffee away by saying it was for the friends who had come to visit him from the UK, and told me her shampoo belonged to those same friends. He let them speak on the phone to her…and then called me and told me he missed me. He sent her family wine and a card for Christmas, and spoke on the phone to her mother. He came to my family’s house very late New Year’s Eve, came out to celebrate my sister’s birthday with us (though quite late, and I suspect he was having sex with another woman because I was completely unable to get in contact with him), met my brother and his soon-to-be-fiancee, came back home to play cards with us…and then contacted her as soon as he’d pulled out of my parents’ driveway. Now we finally understood why he was so diligent about having freshly laundered sheets on his bed when we arrived.

Her stories hurt. They were much like mine, though different too. He criticized us for many of the same things, none of which carry weight and which spoke more to his need to feel superior than to anything about our personalities or character. He made each of us feel so special, safe, protected, at peace. He danced with her in a parking lot and talked about wedding songs, asked how she’d feel about marrying him. He showed vulnerability and asked me if he were perfect for me, if I thought he could make me happy forever. We thought he hung the moon. But good God, we were sleeping with the devil.

She said another woman was waiting on his doorstep once in September. Walked right up to her and introduced herself, then argued with him–yelled at him–for an hour (he brought her outside so they could not be heard). She said she thought the woman was a bit crazy at the time. When he returned, he told her that he had dated the woman in June and July (yes, also while he was dating me) and that he was trying to be friends with her and she “just couldn’t handle it, couldn’t let go.” He told me (when I confronted him Tuesday) that they had stopped dating the previous January…

She asked him directly if he were dating me after she saw a picture of us out for Halloween (he had told her he could not spend it with her). He said he was not interested in me at all, that he was just being a good friend because Halloween was a bad night for me, and told her she was welcome to speak to me and I would assure her that there was nothing going on between the two of us. He also told her that her body type–quite different from mine–was his preference, and that made it much easier to believe him when he said he wasn’t interested.

In truth, I had wondered some about his body type preference. We argued once when he said he had no preference, and then again in the future whenever we returned to that discussion. When I pointed out that all the women he had dated since moving to the U.S. had been women who were much larger than I, he scoffed at me and then reminded me that his ex-girlfriend had also been a cheerleader and that “obviously, bigger isn’t [his] preference.” It was always back and forth…but I still wonder if maybe he did prefer women who were overweight. He always asked me for photos in athletic clothes and such, but he seemed to be all over photos (on social media) of big women. She’s larger than I, and it seemed that he fawned over her body in a way that he had not with mine since the first four-ish months of our relationship. I told him once in December that I sometimes felt like he didn’t think I was attractive the way he used to, and he got quite irritated with me about that. Once he was no longer angry, he did plenty of reassuring and convincing, and reminded me of paid compliments that “should have” quelled my worries. I guess I just knew deep down that I wasn’t the only one he had eyes for, even if I didn’t know what was causing the unease.

There were a number of times I felt that he either wasn’t interested anymore (early on) or that he wasn’t as committed, and each time I had a discussion with him about it and/or asked if we should call it quits. Each time, he reassured me, chided me for worrying about things, continually reaffirmed his interest. He did this on purpose, and he never came clean or took responsibility, even when we spoke this Tuesday after (part of) the truth came out. He would never fess up to how many other women they were, though he did slip when he admitted to keeping “everyone,” and then had to backtrack and say he didn’t mean “literally everyone.”

When I confronted him about the other women, there was always some sort of alibi or explanation. She experienced the same thing. He had the kindest eyes, and they completely skewed our normally sharp intuition. He tried to make us think we were crazy and paranoid; we were neither.

He created an entire persona around honesty, faithfulness, selflessness, love, commitment, diligence, patience…and every single moment of it was a lie. He told so many stories–fed us so many lines–about his belief in fidelity, love, and commitment. He showed anger when discussing men and women who were unfaithful; once, he told me he wouldn’t leave me unless I cheated on him or something of a similarly grave nature occurred. All the hours of watching Disney movies and musicals, watching sitcoms centered around love and relationships, time discussing communication and compromise…it was all a lie.

He never existed.

Self-confidence Sunday #13

Although losing him has been hard, today I am reminded of the fact that I can turn this heartbreak into a learning experience and further enrich my worldview, my capacity for empathy, and my understanding of myself. We’ve all been in that place where we thought someone deserved the world and we ultimately ended up rejected, often seemingly out of the blue. It hurts, but it’s an opportunity to take a deeper look into what we want and need out of relationships, what the other person wasn’t giving us that we at first did not acknowledge, where we have room to improve…and where, perhaps, we need to learn to know our own worth and expect more out of the other person. Sometimes, I think we actually get left when we do not expect enough out of our significant others, although that can be a scary thing to do.

I know that after being rejected by someone you love, it can be so difficult not to lower your standards and expectations in fear of being left again. But this time, and going forward, I am determined to stand firm and refuse to settle. It will be a long time before I am ready to love again–or indeed, even to come around to looking at another man that way–but when I am, I intend to do it right.

Readers, what have been your experiences with love lost? What did it teach you, and how did you use that lesson later on? As I go through this process of moving past my own unrequited love situation, I would love to hear from people who have come out the other side and/or are currently working toward doing so. =)

Marvin Gaye, Piano Bars, and Nostalgia

Sometimes the nostalgia is cozy and warm, and sometimes it hurts like hell. Today, it makes me want to curl up in bed and take a nap until either I don’t love him anymore or til he comes back (with his act together). Thinking like that isn’t necessarily conducive to healing or happiness, but it’s just where I am right now. I’ve wanted to write this for a while–since it happened actually, because I never wanted to forget the most minute of details from that night–but maybe now is the right time to share about my favorite memory with him.

It was this summer, just a couple months into us dating. He had asked me a couple days prior to keep the evening open but hadn’t told me yet what we’d be doing. I got dressed up and drove to his place, and it turned out we were going on a double-date with one of his teammates (J) and J’s girlfriend, both of whom I’d met previously and liked. We went out to eat and then ended up at a nearby piano bar afterward.

We had a fun evening drinking and singing along with the pianists (though he made me bring his song request up to them, because he said I was “the beautiful one here”), and eventually, his friends decided to call it a night. Being the night owls that we are, we stayed a while longer to enjoy the music. Right after they headed out, however, the musicians decided it was time to have people come up on stage for a bit of interactive entertainment. He called for three guys and three girls, included one guy who was having his bachelor party there that night.

But of course, he scanned the room and his gaze settled on us, so he called us up and said that he needed at least one set to “actually be a couple.”

It turned out that we were all competing to gain the crowd’s approval through a series of dances to whatever the pianists played and specified. We went through and showed our best “white people dances” as requested, including the sprinkler, the lawn mower, etc. After each of the first two full rounds, the crowd voted. Of course, the bachelor had his whole cheering section, but S. and I are competitive and were pretty determined to head back victorious. As soon as they started playing “Let’s Get it On” and we were all instructed to simulate having intercourse, I knew we were about to have this one in the bag. 😉

Both of us being athletes, including a cheerleading background for each, we figured there were a couple things we could pull out that might seal the deal. I looked up at him and told him to get ready, because I was about to throw my leg over his shoulder for this one (side note: he’s a foot taller than I am, so it’s lucky that I used to be a flyer!). The crowd, of course, loved that–and thankfully, not because I was revealing all my lady parts, since he made sure to gather my dress to protect my modesty!

He looked down at me and told me to be ready, because he was about to pick me up and put me on the piano for our grand finale. He lifted me up and over his head, my hands firmly on his shoulders, and all I remember from that moment was feeling absolutely beautiful, safe, and blissfully happy as I looked down at him and he twirled me around. If ever there were a moment to describe how he made me feel, why I fell for him and loved him so hard, it was this one.

As predicted, the crowd (and our musicians, who were quite amused) definitely loved our “performance.” When they took the final voice vote from the crowd, the pianist looked at the bachelor party and said, “Sorry guys, normally there’s no way this win would not go to the bachelor…but we just can’t argue with those two down there.” I got on the tips of my toes and kissed him right there on stage; he’d never looked so handsome. Then, before we got off stage, a guy in the front row handed me a napkin with his phone number on it–citing my leg-over-the-shoulder prowess–and S. and I cracked up.

We stepped down to go get our reward (a refunded entry fee) and I remarked to him that there sure were a lot of jealous women in there tonight. He responded in something of a scoffing manner and said, “Women? There are a lot of jealous men! You’re the one getting phone numbers on napkins…and look how they’re all staring at you.” He was right, of course, but so was I. In that moment, I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I still felt that way every time I got to be with him after that…but I suppose that wasn’t reciprocated, then. That’s a hard thing to swallow.

Maybe I’m a Sentimental fool, but good God I would have loved you forever.

 

Everything Changes

One thing that has really struck me about the process of moving on (or whatever it is that I’m doing) is that my emotions and energy can vary extremely widely from day to day. It seems that this often is dependent upon my sense of control over the situation and whether or not we have interacted (or interacted positively). When I am patient enough to let all interactions be initiated by him, it is a lot easier to feel competent, confident, and in control of what “us” is for me and of my life overall. He no longer dictates my emotions to that degree if I let him be the one who approaches me.

Last night, even though our team lost, I had a wonderful evening after coaching just hanging out at a bar in uptown with other members of my city’s alumni network. I met other former Vandy athletes as well as talked to a couple older alums, one of whom immediately got my contact information and has already mentioned several ways in which we could work together. I remain absolutely blown away by the genuine caring, helpfulness, and selflessness of the other VU alums with whom I have interacted. This job search process has been hard, and sometimes it really takes a lot of the wind out of my sails, but the reassurance, planning, and networking other grads have provided has really been the equivalent of a life saver. Someday, I will have my career together and will be able to do the same thing for other emerging professionals. <3

Last night, he texted me while I was out at the bar, and then for about a couple hours afterward. With the way he was talking, it made it sound like he was missing me, but I was careful not to get into anything similar to talks of “us.” He was a bit less careful, but that’s fine (and I played dumb when necessary). The ball is in his court as far as that goes; I’m not going to pursue him. It’s just so dumb that hearing from him through any medium still makes me happy, still makes me feel reassured and at peace. -_- Dumb man…

I got to stunt and tumble some at open gym tonight after work, and I left with this nagging need to get my head on straight and get all my skills back (and then some)! I’ll work with the other coaches when time permits, but I’m considering asking him (yes, seriously) at some point to work with me… He still wants to get together and stunt again, so I may as well ask for him to help me get rid of the mental craziness I’ve developed around my tumbling while we’re already out and sweaty.

He may be a ding-dong sometimes in relationships, but he’s also an incredible coach, sooo… I think I’ll hold off on asking at least until he contacts me again though, since that seems to be better for me. Maybe I can offer some of my editing and marketing skills in exchange, which he could surely use for his business? Then it would be less of a favor from a friend/ex (or whatever we are) and more of a business “deal.”

I know I’ve had some rough knocks this year, but it just feels like life is about to get so, so much better. Everything will be sorted out, I’ll be working in a job that will provide me with challenges and opportunities to learn new skills, I’ll be coaching, out exploring all that Dallas has to offer… Goodness, I just can’t wait to be on salary and able to help my parents financially instead of just around the house. I’m planning on taking my first “real” paycheck and fixing the plumbing in their front bathroom. Someday soon, I will feel like a “real person” again. 🙂

 

Running on Empty

Today was a little hard. I got two hours of sleep, the address for my job interview ended up being in a field, and I’m missing you.

When bad things happen, I instinctively reach out for you; now, you’re not there. When good things happen, my impulse is to call you. You said you wanted to know about both…but I don’t need to depend on you for love, support, or encouragement if you won’t be there through thick and thin.

Can’t have your cake and eat it too, m’love.

Here’s hoping life looks better in the morning (after a much-needed extended nap!), at which time I can celebrate all the positives from today. Right now, I think I’m going to sit with my sadness, allow my mortal wounds to sting a bit, and then recharge my battery to take on another day. Things will get better, and soon. They have to.

Self-confidence Sunday #12

I’ve talked a lot about how the break-up affected me (although there’s still plenty left for me to say about that, don’t worry/sorry 🙂 ), but I think I hit a bit of a turning point very recently. Tomorrow will mark one month since he left me, and I’ve decided that tomorrow will also mark the day my life begins anew, the day I will let my tears begin to water seeds that, once nurtured, will blossom into grace, wisdom, empathy, resilience, and opportunity.

Losing him hurts, but not because we were perfect together and I was just blissfully happy 24/7 and thought we were going to be together forever, etc. For me, it was more the hope and the promises and the plans, the feeling of time and money “wasted,” the rejection and wondering why he didn’t want me anymore…and that Lord have mercy, I was going to have to continue missing the man.

Much of our relationship (the last few months especially, as his jobs and business hit their busy season) was marked by me missing him. It was a blessing in some ways, because when we broke up, the first week didn’t feel like that much of a difference. But what hurt when we were together still hurts now that we aren’t, and it’s a confusing experience.

I tend to cut people off after a relationship ends, in order to fully heal and move on. He didn’t want that, and his worry when we broke up was that I wouldn’t be in his life anymore. I’ll continue playing that by ear, depending on how things go for us both moving forward, but maybe that won’t be necessary this time.

As for me and the “new life,” I accidentally have a date set for Tuesday night. I thought I was just going to casually meet up with the guy after I finished coaching, but it was made clear later in the conversation that that isn’t what he has in mind. So what the heck, I’ll give it a go! I have decided that I don’t have to forego meeting new people and having new experiences simply because I am hurting. Quite the contrary: I think that is what I will commit to doing. I keep coming back to the fact that there are so, so many things in life that I have yet to experience, and I don’t want to miss my chance.

This week is big for me, filled with interviews, phone calls that will hopefully turn into interviews, coaching, that date (crazy to even think about that), events I’m working, and more. It may not be easy, but I am determined to get up, dust myself off, and begin working full-tilt at making my life the one of which I have always dreamed.

No Greater Agony

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” With this, I wholeheartedly agree. Lately, when the hurt feels like too much, I have this unmitigated need to put it all on paper. The problem is, I have to give myself permission to write about the things I want to write about and then brace myself for the waves of emotion that will come as a result. I have to admit, I am much better at weathering storms when I can stand out in the downpour alone where no one can glimpse my tears. If I write about them, there is evidence forever that I am not invincible and that things hurt more than I prefer to remember or admit.

Plenty has happened even in the past three days, and I struggle with whether or not to put it all down in black and white, a permanent reminder that I am human and sometimes weak and sad and hurting. Most people don’t see that side of me. When things get hard, I work harder, hit the squat rack, and run lots of sprints. Everyone tells me I’m so strong and that they wish they could handle life’s “minor” hurts the way I handle tragedies. But they don’t understand that sometimes, it takes more strength to acknowledge and show your weakness than it does to push through.

Maybe it will be good for me to get the feelings out. As far as S. and I go, I keep coming back to some of the wonderful memories I have with him, the way he’s made me feel…and I wonder if it’s okay to let those thoughts come up and appreciate them for what they were or if it’s better to remember that things weren’t what they seemed and try to avoid any extra mourning if possible. Perhaps I shouldn’t have let him reel me back in the other night. I suppose we both had our moment of weakness, but I certainly don’t regret it.

He’s a good man. I wasn’t wrong for loving him, and I wasn’t wrong for loving him fully. It isn’t my fault that he hasn’t learned to return that kind of love, that he hadn’t had anyone do those things for him before. But Lord have mercy, sometimes it sure would be easier to chalk all of these things up to me being stupid or naive rather than admitting that you just can’t love someone enough to make up for their lack of communication, for them lacking the courage to give of themselves as purely and freely as you. God, I just thought that he was strong enough.

I can’t hate him. He wants to be in my life (and as he said last night, he cares about how everything is going with my job search and he cares whether or not I’m off “hurting myself”–i.e. tumbling, stunting, etc., he cares about my cat and my family, etc.)…and I just have to decide what is best for me. I usually cut people off after we break up so that I can actually heal. But if there is the possibility of us rekindling something later (if we both want it, which would remain to be seen, of course), I don’t want to shut my heart off completely to him. More than anything, I don’t want to lose him from my life. His presence, his voice, just him, make me happy and at peace even though we aren’t together right now.

I think, more than anything, I need to spend as little time thinking about him as possible and focus on accomplishing as much as I can, improving myself as much as I am possibly able. Maybe that will make the hurt go away, and one day I’ll just wake up and not need (want? whatever, either way) him anymore. Either that, or I’ll simply be carrying on with all these untold stories.

Self-confidence Sunday #11

Courage is Like a MuscleToday hasn’t been altogether easy. I think I got so used to seeing him on Sundays that my heart is still in that routine. It’s the third one without him though, so maybe it will get easier soon. We talked a bit last night, and texted a little this morning. It’s always good to hear his voice.

And that’s great and all, but I think my next step needs to be to learn to bask in this pain, live in the Longing for a while, and then use those miseries to motivate myself to make my life one that I love, that I’m proud of. No matter what…even if it all starts off as a way to ease the agony of this loss.

Maybe things don’t need to be easy. Maybe I needed him to come into my life, make me happy, make me hope and dream and love and plan…and then leave me, making me feel so out of control that I am desperate to make needed changes to my life. Maybe someday, I will thank him for this.

Sometimes it feels impossible, but then I remember that I’ve done this before, it will get better, and that I won’t ever let myself be down for too long. I have books to write, a full-time job (in a new field) to find, abs to recover… You know. And just in my city, there are so many lovely restaurants and coffee shops and museums and attractions to visit! Let alone the fact that someday I want to travel the world.

I still have so, so much life left to live, with or without him; I just have to have the courage to try. And, as the meme above so eloquently reminds me: “Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it with use.”