The man I married turned out to not be a very nice man. Once I made split pea soup for supper. He raved about it. It was such good soup! He’d never had soup so good. I should definitely make it again. How did I even do that? I was pleased, of course, and basked in his praise. So the next week I made it again. I didn’t change a thing. This time he wasn’t hungry – he’d eaten a late lunch at work. But when I reheated it the next night, and he still didn’t eat, I asked why he wasn’t eating it. He sheepishly admitted it wasn’t very good. It was missing something, and he was sorry, but he didn’t know quite what. It hadn’t been good the first time I made it.
Once we bought three boxes of jars at a yard sale. They were dusty, but they were jars. Easy to clean up. When we got them home, we found a few mouse turds in some of them. A few as in, between three boxes there were approximately 15-20 mouse turds. He wigged. He ranted about hantavirus. Since I was pregnant, I was absolutely forbidden from touching those jars or the boxes they were in. He would take care of them because he couldn’t run the risk of my getting infected. So, they sat in our garage for months. And months. Eventually, I washed the damn jars and threw away the dirty boxes. And he thanked me. “Those have been weighing on my mind so much. Thank you for taking care of that for me.” Um, you’re welcome?
After 18 years of marriage, and countless other incidents, similarly and otherwise horrible, I’d had enough, and I divorced him. I’m sure there will be more on that in future posts.
Right now I want to talk about the man I recently dated. He contacted me on a dating site. We chatted there for a few weeks, during which time he began greeting me each morning and saying goodnight every evening and I responded in kind. He called me “pretty lady”, “sweetheart”, and other pet names. He told me how much he appreciated my openness and honesty. After our first date he told me I was much more beautiful than he expected. He told me that the women who contacted him on the dating site were always scammers, and that he hadn’t been able to find anyone promising locally. He said I had made him very, very happy. Everyone at work, his therapist, everyone could tell how happy he was. He took me to eat pho and see Cirqu du Soleil, and we had sex better than I knew sex could be. He continued to talk about how wonderful I was, how happy he was that he had found me, how beautiful I am. We talked about how my kids feel about me dating and he said that hopefully they would see that mommy’s boyfriend made her happy. When he went to a conference he’d scheduled months before we met, he talked about how much he wished he could spend time with me instead. We exchanged gifts for Valentine’s Day. His note said that the fact that when he reached for me I was already reaching for him was magic in a dark world. When we cuddled, and I snuggled into him, he was surprised, saying that he wasn’t used to having someone actually want to touch him. He told me that now he was invested in hoping for a cure for my chronic illness. He acted as if he were besotted with me, and I loved it and responded in kind.
And then, he didn’t seem comfortable with me visiting him. When I asked, “So, what are we, exactly?” he dodged the question by saying, “Weeee’re dating.” After the visit, in the comfortable distance of a chat box, he said that he could tell I wanted to be serious and he was sorry but he didn’t want to be serious. He wanted to date casually. He didn’t want commitment or exclusivity. I told him he was assuming my desires – I had been responding to his cues, not making my own demands. But I liked him and didn’t need to be exclusive. I was definitely not going to have sex with him because I’m monogamous and when I use that word I mean it. I wasn’t going to pour so much time or energy into something that wasn’t exclusive. Saying good morning and good evening every single day isn’t something I can do for multiple people, going down a checklist of names. And pet names, especially sexy ones, aren’t things I give to people with whom I’m not having monogamous sex. So those were out. He agreed to my terms for more casual dating and after a hiccup or two, we began chatting again.
I did, indeed, still like him. He has a great sense of humor and we shared some great stories. Once or twice he told me I’m beautiful, but there was more restraint between us generally. The things we shared were less intimate.
One night he sent me a text that was clearly intended for someone else. I asked what it meant and he said autocorrect had gotten him, he had no idea where that had come from.
I told him I thought I would like to learn to play his table-top role playing game of choice and teach it to my kids as well, and he had a starter set for it sent to me. (No, I wasn’t fishing for gifts. I didn’t expect him to do that.) I asked if he’d like to come teach us to play and he said yes. I said I was serious, but only if he really wanted to. He said of course he wanted to. He couldn’t do it that weekend, but next weekend should be good. The next week I asked if we were still on, and said it was fine if we weren’t. He said he was having a senior moment, was this when we were supposed to get together for the game? Yes, but if you have something else on, it’s fine. No, no – we’re on. When he was almost here he sent another text that should have gone to someone else. It said he had been “talked into” teaching someone’s kids to play, “Lucky me”. When confronted he said he was sorry, he hadn’t meant for that to sound as if he didn’t want to come. He really did want to come.
I should have turned him away at the door and said that I would figure out on my own how to play the damn game. That I don’t need two-faced so-called “friends” in my life. But I need time to process the things that happen to me, and while I process, life keeps happening. So we ended up wrangling over it for several days. Sniping at each other. But it unraveled quickly and I ended up realizing that while he’s not brutal like the man I married, he’s every bit the insincere liar.
The moral of this story is something I knew but hadn’t experienced, at least not in this way. You have probably heard it before, too. When you finally free yourself from a toxic relationship, you’ll have to practice freeing yourself from similar forms of toxicity or abuse several times before you’re finally completely finished with it. You have to be so good at beating it that you walk away from it before you engage it. I’m not there yet. But I think spending 3 months in a battle is a damn fine improvement over spending 20 years in one. So while I’m sad and I’m doing my share of crying, I’m also taking this as a small victory. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m improving. I may make some of the same mistakes again, but I won’t make them all again. I’m strong and I’m getting stronger. Onward ho.