As many of you know, I am writing a book. The book is designed to be a conversation with myself about my relationship with myself and others. A prominent figure in the story will be my ex-husband. If you haven’t read the post About that book… you may want to. It offers a brief explanation of what I am doing and why I am doing it.
This post is a description of where I was in my life prior to meeting my EH, and our first major argument. In terms of significant events in our relationship, this is the first one (chronologically).
During the summer of my nineteenth birthday, I ended a terrible relationship with a morally-questionable man. I felt confident about my decision – though I was embarrassed about my behavior before and during the relationship – and I was ready explore new romantic options. My attitude toward dating and relationships, at that time, stemmed from a desire to avoid loneliness. I sought companionship in an effort to always be with someone so I didn’t have to be alone with myself. In retrospect, many of the poor choices I made (in regard to relationships), I made because I wanted to be with anyone rather than be by myself. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, or where I was headed, but I felt certain that if I could at least hold down a man, I could feel good about myself.
During that tumultuous summer fling, I befriended the man’s younger sister. She was younger than me and reminded me of my kid sister. We hit it off immediately. Even after he and I broke up, she and I became closer friends, even living together for a while. She introduced me to my (now-ex) husband.
I remember she told me she had a single, male friend whom she thought I might like. I don’t know what her intentions were, but I can imagine she ended up regretting setting us up in the first place. I don’t think anyone thought I was capable of getting married so young, to such a questionable young man, but I did anyway. If they had known, perhaps they would have introduced me to nicer guys. But, she didn’t know any of this. I don’t think I fully understood it either. And so, when she told me she had a single friend, I told her it was okay to give him my phone number.
As with most nineteen-year-old boys, he sent me a text message. I don’t remember exactly what the message said, but I remember it had a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. A u for you and a c for see… that kind of thing. I remember thinking to myself that it was beneath me to even entertain the idea of meeting someone who couldn’t even type a complete sentence. However, I wasn’t exactly in a position to be picky. I had been alone a full month (the horror!) and needed someone new. Also, I was still riding the righteous high that comes from a bad relationship ending. I felt daring and spectacular. I could handle anything.
We exchanged a few text messages and he invited me to his apartment to meet him. I remember driver there after work and he met me outside. He was tall with red hair. He had tons of freckles and sharp bluish-green eyes. He had excellent teeth and a charming smile, as well as high cheekbones and a strong jaw line. He was lean in the waist with broad shoulders and massive muscle. I couldn’t see an ounce of fat on his body. Naturally, I was immediately attracted to him.
We went inside and sat on the couch, talking about this and that. I had just left work and still wearing my scrubs. My hair was in a ponytail, I wore no makeup, and I was wearing a pair of sneakers. I felt pretty average looking. At the time, it was deliberate to arrive looking like that. I wanted to present the real me to him – without the bells and whistles – because I didn’t have the patience to try to win him over.
I can’t remember what we talked about. I’m sure we went over our life stories in an attempt to learn more about one other and bond. We talked for hours and at one point the conversation dwindled off. We sat together, in silence, enjoying the moment.
It was in that moment that I felt a warmth and comfort with him. Even though we had just met, it occurred to me that it felt like I had known him my whole life. During the course of our relationship, I never forgot or dismissed that feeling. At times when our relationship was tough, I reminded myself how amazing I felt the first time I met him. He was charming and funny. Tough, but sensitive. Incredibly honest. I remember him telling me how he loved text messaging and talking about his feelings.
My previous boyfriend – the mistake of 2008 – was either emotionally (and sometimes physically) unavailable or overwhelmingly sentimental. The back-and-forth of his emotions and behavior both confused me and charmed me. I soon found I could not get enough of that summer fling, just for those moments of sentimentality. After six months, I was too emotionally wrought to continue, so I stopped seeing him. After that summer fling ended, I knew I wanted to be in a relationship with a man who was sensitive and candid. I didn’t want to have to guess what he was thinking.
Kyle was the perfect example of what I wanted. He seemed to be the kind of boy who wore his heart on his sleeve. He had lots to say about everything and was an attentive listener. We started spending a lot of time together. I began blowing off college classes to spend time with him after work. Soon, I began sleeping over. A lot. My grandparents, whom I lived with, took issue with me always being gone overnight. It wasn’t long before I stopped going to school altogether. We partied every weekend and I became very popular with his friends. I cleaned, I bought case after case of beer, and I bought pizza almost every night. My 3,000 credit card was soon maxed out. It didn’t matter, though. Kyle adored me and everyone knew it. Soon, our peers took notice of our unwavering adoration toward one another. I was determined to do two things: be a “guy’s girl” – the girlfriend all the male friends hope for – and to have the respect of my peers for my perfect relationship.
After I dropped out of school, I moved in with my ex’s sister. We “lived” at her parents’ house, but spent almost every night in the same apartment; our boyfriends were roommates. As it goes with young women, she heard a rumor about me and kicked me out of her parents’ house. By that point, Kyle and I were spending pretty much every night together, so I put all of my stuff in my car and slept at his apartment. I did our laundry and contributed to the house, but I didn’t pay rent and I didn’t officially live there. Thinking back on it, I probably should have paid rent because when you sleep somewhere every night, you do live there, even if all of my possessions were in my car.
Kyle and I were always fighting. I got mad at him over lots of stuff. He drank too much and was too clingy. He was an asshole when he drank and he was always suspicious of my behavior. We fought about money, about our friends, and about a lot of things. When you’re nineteen, you don’t know how to have a healthy fight. You don’t understand the finesse of an adult argument. What ends up happening is a lot of yelling, slinging insults, and seeing who can talk the fastest and use the most cunning argument.
I didn’t mind the fighting so much, at the time. I knew I was smarter than him and I knew I was better than him. I felt I had more of my life together. Sometimes I had drama with work or my friends, but for the most part, I believed I was inherently better than Kyle on a cellular level. He would never be my equal. I regret feeling that way, because I am sure it affected the way I spoke to him. I know I was flat-out wrong. I understand now that every human being has intrinsic value, and no matter what else happens, it is not wise to maintain an elitist mentality.
Shortly after Kyle and I met, we had our first knock-down drag-out argument. The relationship should have ended that night. It might be fair to say that it should have ended as soon as we discovered each other, but it didn’t. For all intents and purposes, this is the first concrete red flag of our relationship.
Kyle told me, when we met, that he used to be in the Marine Corps reserve. He had been honorably discharged. When I asked him why, he told me he worked in Administration and did paperwork all day. He told me his security clearance kept increasing (for the paperwork he had to do). He claimed he was flying all over the country to do special paperwork for the Marines. This sounded fishy, and I didn’t know what to think, so I talked to my uncle. He was in the Air Force with my dad. I couldn’t talk to my own dad, but didn’t want to ask myself Why. In retrospect, I knew that my dad would call me out on this red flag, and I didn’t want to hear it. My uncle told me that Kyle’s story was bullshit. It didn’t add up, and the military just doesn’t do things that way. Kyle insisted that was the truth was angry at me for questioning him. I let it go and we didn’t talk about it, but I always had my doubts.
Then, one night, Kyle told me the truth about the Marines. I can’t remember how it even came up. I remember we were lying in bed. I remember my grandparents were out of town on a vacation, but I was already living with Kyle at that point. I may have confronted him or he may have just told me the truth. Either way, the truth was that Kyle was Marine Corps reserves. Earlier in the year, he had received paperwork for deployment to Afghanistan. He panicked and didn’t want to deploy. So, he stopped going to the monthly Marine training weekends. He stopped answering their phone calls. He went AWOL.
I was instantly angry that he lied to me. It hurt my feelings and made me furious. I didn’t care that he went AWOL. I could empathize with him. But, I was furious that he kept secrets from me to manipulate me. I admitted that if he had told me, I might have liked him less or left him for doing something so cowardly. Because he withheld information, I couldn’t make an informed decision. He stacked the deck in his favor, and I was furious.
After yelling at him for a while, I decided I had had enough and I was going to leave. He did not want me to leave, and seemed panicked I would leave him without resolving the problem. He wanted me to stay, and when I tried to leave, he blocked my path. His bedroom was in the basement. We weren’t the only ones home, but we were the only ones downstairs.
I got so angry I started screaming at him. I was freaked out and felt trapped like a pet dog. I felt so powerless and it pissed me off. It pissed me off more that Kyle wasn’t listening to me tell him to move, he was just arguing with me about something else. We were having two parallel conversations, wherein I would say MOVE, JACKASS and he would say I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WON’T TALK TO ME. Eventually I yelled for one of his roommates to come down and help me. Once I got out of the apartment, I ran to my car. He followed me and stood behind my car, trying to convince me to stay. I started backing out and forced him to move. Once out of the apartment complex, I raced to my grandparents’ house. They were in Florida on vacation and I had a key and the alarm code. Since he knew where they lived and had a car of his own, I needed to hurry.
Once I arrived to my grandparents’, I parked directly in front of the garage and ran to the door, punching in the code. My heart was pounding and I kept looking to see if his car was barreling down the long driveway. I ran inside and upstairs to my grandparent’s bedroom, setting the house alarm using the keypad just outside their bedroom door. I chose their room because it was the safest room in the house. It was safest because it was a giant master suite with three adjacent rooms in addition to their bedroom. There were lots of places to hide. There was a dressing room, a walk-in closet, and a huge bathroom with an additional room just for the toilet. I knew that one of the walls in the walk-in closet popped aside and there was a crawl space there. I used to play there as a kid. In case he came after me, I could hide in the crawl space and be safe.
Reflecting on this memory now, I find it interesting that in that moment, I had to run into their bedroom. The locked doors weren’t enough, nor the state-of-the-art alarm system. I was so freaked out that I had to run into the safest place I could find – the fortress within the fortress. I had to put five locks between us, with the potential to hide in a crawl space. It makes me ponder why the story doesn’t end here.
But, the story doesn’t end here. I slept in their bed that night and woke up feeling exhausted and resenting the idea of a breakup. I had just found him, and I did not want to be alone again. I was afraid of what I might find if I had to be with myself. I wondered if perhaps I had acted too harshly, too strongly, and if maybe we could have a conversation about the argument and come to an agreement: under no circumstances can you trap me. Ever.
Of course, Kyle and I sorted things out. The experience was exhausting and I wanted to let it go. I didn’t want to break up, I wanted him. In retrospect, it wasn’t him I wanted. He was the default. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first significant moment in my relationship where I should have left him and didn’t. It was the first of many. There is more story to tell.