Typing out the above headline instantly brought tears to my eyes. Please, before reading this blog post, there are a few things I want to clarify and make clear.
- Many people reading this blog post will be fully aware who the other half of this relationship was. It’s really hard for me to convey the distress, sadness and stress I felt over these two years, whilst also trying to respect and not over step my mark in damaging the other person’s reputation. This isn’t a blog post about them, this is a blog post about my perspective. I am in no way trying to damage the reputation of the other person, and I’m not trying to sway anyone’s opinion about this individual.
- The reason I am sharing this experience, is not ‘for attention’, but to hopefully help someone else. I spent the majority of this relationship confused, lost and desperately seeking out information to help me to process what was going on. If you’re going through something similar, or have experienced something similar in the past – I hope this blog post can help you. Additionally, if you’re fortunate enough to have never experienced anything like this, then maybe you can learn from this writing and spot any red flags in future relations.
- This is a blog post, not a book. There’s only so much I can write in a blog post, and there are going to be lots of things left unsaid or not fully explained in all the depth. There are some amazing books out there that cover this topic much more immerssevely than little old me with laptop and wordpress site.
- There is an obvious trigger warning and sensitivity warning for the content of this post. I often share my experiences with mental health, as it’s not only an outlet for myself, but it’s a way of helping others feel less alone. However if you’re not comfortable reading about mental health, or you don’t have the compassion or empathy to understand someone else’s difficult feelings, please re-consider reading this.
I’ve always struggled with relationships. I say that, because I spent a lot of my teenage years ‘wanting a boyfriend’. This was a theme perpetuated by going to a school where everyone was in a relationship and changing boyfriends every six weeks. It was also further strengthened by living in a single-parent household and my mother’s constant expression that ‘when she had a man, she would be happy’ (mum, if you’re reading this, don’t worry – Psychology dictates that everyone’s parents screw them up somehow.)
I fancied people at school, got rejected over MSN a few times and dated the odd person for a few weeks in my first years of university. From 2017-2019 I spent a lot of my mental energy swiping on dating apps and asking Straight White Men with names like Josh, Sam, Kyle, Matt, Jack etc etc how their day has been and what they study at university. Same old same old conversations punctuated with the odd date at a bar in Nottingham. Nothing really amounting to anything other than ghosting or awkward it’s not you, it’s me texts.
I frequently felt frustrated and hurt, as I am such a loving and caring person. At 21, I was confused and upset as to why nobody wanted to be with me. I was kind, outgoing, fun, I wasn’t unattractive, I was ambitious, I was clever and there was more to me than my bleach blonde hair and sarcastic banter. But for some reason, my dates all failed and my love life was drier than my split ends.
Then it all changed. In April 2019 I met someone. I met someone who actually seemed interested in me, asked me questions about my day, replied to my messages at quick fire speed, was attracted to me, I was attracted to them. This person seemed to have it all, attractive, sociable, funny, understanding, caring, good with money, hard worker, ambitious and easy to talk to. We bonded over our similar interests, sense of humour and preferences in life.
I’d never felt this way about someone before, and I’d equally never had someone feel this way about me either. 5 days after meeting him, I went on a trip with university to Germany and The Netherlands for a week. The whole holiday I spent with my iPhone charger in my bag, scoping out the nearest plug socket so that I could keep my phone powered and continue messaging this person 24/7. Despite the fact that I’d been looking forward to this trip for months, I counted the days down until I could go back to Nottingham and meet this person again.
At this point, I didn’t really feel like I had anything to second guess. I was finally finally talking to someone who ticked all my boxes, and then some. At the time, I had a fitbit watch (a fitness watch which tracks your heart rate), and my resting heart rate quite literally increased in the weeks after meeting this person, my heart literally raced for them. This was it, this was the one.
Three weeks after meeting him, he told me he loved me. At the time I thought this was romantic and worthy of a Disney story. Looking back, I realise this was the first red flag. Although I felt very strongly about this person, and I had lots of nice feelings about him, I wasn’t sure if I would have said it so soon myself. I later learned that saying ‘I love you’ too soon can be a big red flag and a sign of manipulation (not always the case though).
Over the next few weeks, red flags started to appear more frequently. However, I had rose tinted glasses on, so I didn’t see them as warning signs. Despite saying he loved me, was only dating me and only interested in me, he would frequently go on tinder whilst I was sat with him. He once blocked my phone number before he went on a night out, because we had a mini argument. The next morning I woke up at 8am, took the tram into city centre and brought him breakfast to his flat, to apologise for arguing with him. In later months, I learned that he’d slept with a girl that night, blocking my number so she wouldn’t find out about me.
A month after knowing him, I raised £180 and ran a half marathon for an eating disorder charity. My first car broke down and had to be scrapped. My 89 year old grandma passed away. I got into lots of debt. My final year exams were approaching, and I was falling behind academically. Everything was crumbling around me, but at least I had someone who loved me and cared for me. I clung onto him like a lost baby kitten. And he promised to be there for me. He’d buy me gifts, take me for revision break lunches and make exciting plans with me to keep me happy.
I’ve later learned that a lot of this is called Love Bombing. Showering someone with endearment, gifts, love, affection and promises. Not only does the recipient feel good, but the person doing the Love Bombing feels better about themselves and they can use it as a way of erasing any guilt they feel for their wrong-doings. (E.g, a love bomber will make their partner feel really special and incredibly loved, in order to cover up any hurt they feel from a wrong doing)
However the whole time, he was cheating on me and I knew it. I raised the issue so many times, but he just told me that I was wrong, I’d got my wires crossed and I was over thinking. At the worst of times he would get angry at me for being so anxious about the relationship and that I was ruining his life. He would delete my comments on his instagram pictures. He would message other girls whilst I was with him and lie to them that he was ‘with his mum’. I once knew he was on a date with another girl (he told me he was going for drinks with his housemates), because I saw someone post a snapchat video, where he was visibly in the background with the girl I was suspicious of.
Why did I stay with him? Why didn’t I just leave? Because I couldn’t. I have countless screenshots and saved chats where I’ve spoken to my friends about going to his flat that evening to end it. I’d break up with him then and there, but he would always, always find a way to manipulate me into staying. Whether that was him “proving it” to me by deleting all the social media apps off his phone, crying his eyes out about how sorry and regretful he was, telling me how amazing and fantastic I am and that I’m too good for him (I am). Each time I tried to leave, I’d be love bombed and I’d have my thoughts literally maniuplated.
I once got an 10am train to Sheffield, to meet him half way to discuss our breakup (after another cheating session). I boarded the train with a script and a plan of how to end it with him. A Boss Bitch Spotify playlist in my headphones. We sat in Starbucks for 5 hours and I boarded the train back to Huddersfield, still in a relationship, planning our future together.
Or, on the days I was lucky, I’d break up with him and spend about 3-4 hours being single, before he’d send me a Shakespearian paragraph via text and blow up my phone with calls and facetimes about how much he needs me. ‘We can work through this.” The ‘we’ also referring to me, like I had a great role to play in all of this? Sure, I had my weaknesses, the main one being that I see the good in everyone, and I hold onto that. I loved and cared about people unapologetically, and I was willing to sacrifice it all for the happiness I could have in this relationship. (Upon reflection, I am fully aware I had a part to play in this. I should have left countless times, but I was incredibly emotionally vulnerable, depressed and I had no external support outside of the relationship.)
I also didn’t value myself enough to leave. I still thought that being in a relationship was the goal in life. I thought that once you’d found your person, you stay with them through thick and thin. I still think relationships have issues, but acceptable relationship drama is arguing over who takes the bins out or whether to watch netflix or go see a film. Not whether you can risk being cheated on for the 7th time.
Another factor was that nobody (other than my very close friends) knew what was going on. Everyone said we were a match made in heaven, me the ying, he the yang. Knowing of how much I struggled in my dating life, friends and acquaintances actively congratulated me for finally ‘finding someone to make you happy’. I reinforced these beliefs by documenting our dates and banter through an instagram lense; the happy couple selfies and the hungover brunches (note, it would take an entire year before I ever featured on his instagram. Even then, I only featured on his stories or grid posts once he had delted/blocked/muted any girls he had on a side plate).
I just want to regroup and make one thing clear. I did have happy moments. In fact, a good 75% of the relationship was nice. I had a best friend, a partner in crime, someone to call at any hour of the day. I gained a lot of self confidence through watching him go through life in a confident manner. I really liked his family and I was truly grateful for many of the fun experiences the two of us had together. The issue is, I tried to fix him to make that 75% into 100%.
25% of the time was gut wrenching, heart breaking, angry crying, heart racing, fists gripping pain. I screamed and cried and sobbed into my duvet for hours. I neglected 4 months worth of university work. I drank most nights to cover up how I felt. I felt my heart drop whenever I saw “1 Message Request” in my instagram DM tab (this was usually a girl telling me that she was either dating my boyfriend, saw him kissing someone the previous night, or sometimes just an elusive screenshot of his tinder profile). I felt like a walking fraud most of them time when the two of us were around my close friends or housemates; the people who saw me in pieces crying over him one night, then making coffee together and laughing with him the next day.
After a year or so, the cheating eventually stopped and he agreed to finally prove to me that he was working on himself. This is another note. It was always a case of him “proving it to me”. Therefore I felt I couldn’t leave – because what if this really was the last time he’d cheat? What if this now meant our future would be perfect? Was I going to throw away all our potnetial?
Lockdown 2020 came into action and we then spent the next few months living in close proximity. We had a few near misses. By near misses, I mean exactly 365 days ago I confronted him about the fact that he was clearly messaging a new girl. To which he admitted he was. I then tried to book a train home, but the already turbulent northern rail service to Huddersfield was fully suspended in May 2020. We ‘broke up’ in the usual screaming, crying and endless promises and then proceeded to carry on living with each other. I don’t actually think we even officially ‘got back together’ at that point. We just morphed back into relationship mode.
It seemed that I was always trapped. There was always a “but if we break up then XYZ”, whether that be a holiday we had booked, the endless promises he had made, the national lockdown, bumping into each other at the gym/nights out, the friends we shared. There was always an excuse that I couldn’t leave.
This is emotional abuse, as I never felt like I was in control of my emotions or my life. The ball was always in his court. I stayed for the potential. The promises made, the pleas and the hope and the the fact that I was convinced I couldn’t survive alone.
I often describe this relationship/person as a drug. Whenever I felt an uncomfortable emotion like sadness, or anger, or worry, or fear; this person would make it okay. They helped the bad feelings go away. But then they started to create their own negative impact on me. They started to create the very feelings they soothed. When I felt upset about the relationship, they helped me feel better.
Withdrawal and time away from this person made the hard emotions so raw and real, and I’d forgotten how to deal with things alone. It was much easier to pick up the phone and talk to them. There’s also reference to be made to the fact that this person became my only social circle. I lost contact and passion for a lot of my own friendships. Even when I did see friends, I would talk about him the whole time, or see him after, or message him during my outings.
Like most people, I started reading a lot more in lockdown. I started to read novels, feminist texts, poetry and self development books. I meditated everyday, practiced self compassion and even did 3 months sober from alcohol. Slowly, things started to add up. I started to identify with characters in books who were in abusive relationships. I’d read beautiful, empowering pieces by women journalists and realised that I was trapped in a bad relationship. Meditation helped me to cope with negative emotions myself, rather than using my relationship as a soother.
Over time, I started to use my voice more and stand up for what I believed in. But I was still trapped. We started talking about renting a house together in summer 2021, and I just knew it couldn’t happen. I knew I had to leave and get out, because I was finally realising how unhappy I was.
I felt at a war with myself, because my intuition was screaming at me to leave. I felt depressed and miserable and trapped in this partnership. But the vulnerable, empathetic side of me wanted to stay. I loved this person, I cherished the happy times and I worried that if I ended the relationship ‘for no reason’, then I’d be a bad person.
As history always repeats itself, in February 2021 he cheated on me again and I saw this as a golden ticket to get out with the last scrap of self respect I had left. I could lie to you and say that it was heart breaking – but by this point I was numb to it. Numb to him cheating, but also numb to the process of the girl messaging me with a huge apology, numb to the rants I’d go on to my friends, numb to the standard break-up-routine me and my boyfriend would do (cry at eachother, say lots of big long sentences, struggle to sleep, cry some more).
I could also lie and say it was a clean break. It wasn’t. As I’ve said before, the break up never goes smoothly. But this time I knew I wasn’t getting back with him (whereas previously, I’d always thought “well… I guess, because he’s promised XYZ”. Since February 2021, we have still seen eachother a few times, had a few phone calls and things have been messy. But as of this week I’ve finally cut contact. I’m thankfully in therapy now, where I can unpack the mess this relationship has left me with. Each session I have with my therapist is a revelation, and things slowly get better.
I think I kept holding on to the really nice things about him. Because, don’t get me wrong, he has lots of great qualities. I ignored the part of me that hurt, the part of me that was scared, vulnerable, worried and sad. I erased the memories of sitting in Nottingham City Centre, screaming and crying in the rain at 3am, because I’ve just watched him leave a nightclub in a taxi with another girl. I ignored the longing I had for a partner that respected me. I ignored the care, warmth and energy I’ve put into a person who dismissed me when it pleased.
I’ve finally stopped ignoring myself, and started ignoring the people who aren’t right for me.
If any of this blog post resonates with you – I’m sorry. I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. I’m barely figuring this out myself. But please just take one step at a time. Don’t expect yourself to wake up tomorrow morning and be free. Just take the small and necessary steps for a future you deserve.