I Lost Myself in His Version of Love
How the fear of being alone can take you to the dark place. And how it can give you the push to get out.
For a while, he was everything. His charm was perfect, his confidence high, his affection overwhelming – in a good way.
He waltzed into my life and gave me lots of attention from the start. It was nice to feel wanted and I immediately got swept up in it, having just moved to the area and started a new job. He had a similar job working for the same company, so I saw him fairly often. Cliché as it sounds, deep down I had a gut feeling that he wasn’t right for me, but I chose to ignore it because I didn’t want to be alone.
Funny how the fear of being alone leads us into the deepest, darkest places.
From the beginning I was insecure about our relationship, but he made me feel so attractive and needed and wanted that I let every warning sign slip by. And there were SO MANY SIGNS.
Even now it’s hard for me to look back because I’m so ashamed of the parts of myself that I lost for him – things that were so common sense and so engrained in my sense of morality, that the fact that I let them go makes me question every molecule of my soul.
My friends didn’t like him. Pretty soon after we started officially dating they didn’t want to hang out anymore, but at the time I assumed it was just because I was spending so much time in my relationship. When my best friend told me hesitantly she thought he wasn’t a good idea, I didn’t want to hear it. I laughed it off.
His attention was addicting, and for a long time it felt like a lovely dream. Until I started noticing tiny details that turned into a toxic pattern.
He was very clingy and controlling, but I didn’t realize it for months. He’d question me if I didn’t respond to his text messages right away, and if I made plans with anyone else he wanted to know who it was and if there were going to be other guys there. All the while he would turn it around and make it seem like he was being rational and I was the one acting crazy, like he was only acting as a concerned boyfriend and I was freaking out over nothing.
He’d say things like, “Our relationship is a work in progress” or “We’re not perfect but we are still getting to know each other, and relationships are hard”, and all the time I would agree with him when in reality I was thinking, ‘okay but a relationship shouldn’t be this hard’. I mean at what point do you say, “Well we disagree on literally everything, so this doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be”?
But I continued to let it go because he was there for me, and I didn’t want to upset the peace.
On the night before I broke up with him, my department had their annual baseball game event. It was something my coworkers and I looked forward to for months. On that day we got off work early and all took the bus into the city to socialize at a bar and then go to an all-paid-for baseball game.
My boyfriend wasn’t invited because it wasn’t his department, and I told him I didn’t know if I’d be coming back to town that night because the party often went really late and many people just crashed with friends who lived in the city. This was completely rational and my coworkers had been doing this the past few years in a row, but what I didn’t realize was that the fact that I “didn’t know if I would be coming back to town that night” would set him off on a jealousy rampage.
From the first hour I was gone he wouldn’t stop texting me, asking me why I couldn’t commit to coming back that night, who I was with, why I wanted to spend the night with someone else and not him, etc.
I started getting frustrated and telling him to please leave me alone because I was just trying to have a good time (with my coworkers, mind you, nearly all of whom were in relationships too), but he refused to let it go. Eventually I got fed up, texted him that I was turning my phone on airplane mode because I didn’t want to be glued to it anymore, and left it alone. Then I went and danced with my friends, had a drunken yet PG-rated good time, and didn’t check my phone again for a few hours.
When I did, I had ten missed calls and seventeen texts.
He was obsessed with the idea that I was going to hook up with someone else, and was spouting paranoid speeches about him being an “abysmal asshole”, and saying other things that I understood to be him breaking up with me. I was shocked and appalled by how much he had freaked out, and I was furious, so in my intoxication I went outside and called him.
I’ve never been so angry during a phone call in my life.
Immediately he started insulting me and demanding answers, and he told me flat out that he had been looking at my phone the entire few months we were dating and had taken screenshots of texts I sent to my best friend to use against me. There was one in particular I had sent to her in which I was ranting about boys in general (before we were dating), which he had taken very personally and threw back in my face during that phone conversation.
At that moment when I realized he was quoting my own private texts, I was sickened and filled with uncontrollable rage, and started screaming at him on the phone. Something I have never done before.
I didn’t know I had that monster inside me until he let it out. And once it was out, he had control over it and I somehow still needed him.
Sometime during that furious conversation he manipulated me into telling him where I was, and told me he was coming to pick me up, even though it was almost three in the morning and a forty minute drive. When he got there, I was still filled with red-hot rage, and that was the closest I’ve ever come to punching someone in the face. In retrospect, I wish I would have, because then maybe it would have been truly over.
One of my coworkers insisted on riding back with us, because she clearly saw how angry I was and also because she had never trusted the guy, and I’m glad she did. She has since told me that it was most uncomfortable car ride she’d ever endured, and I will never cease to be ashamed that I allowed that to happen.
But I also believe she may have saved our lives.
I didn’t realize it at the time because I had had a lot to drink and was tired and furious, but my boyfriend was very drunk. He had driven all the way into the city, picked us up, and drove back with us in the car, all while intoxicated. I remember thinking he was going really fast and there was one time he ran a red light, but it never crossed my mind that he would actually putting our lives in danger. In my mind, someone who cared about me wouldn’t do that.
And in between all the anger and insults, he was still spouting phrases of love.
Thankfully we made it back, and we fought again upon arriving at my apartment, but I somehow still didn’t believe he could be so cruel to me. I’m ashamed to say this, but he ended up spending the night.
I again allowed his manipulation to be my normal.
The next morning after he left, things got even worse. I got a knock on the door. It was the neighbor, and she told me a terrifying story of a young man who had been hanging out around my apartment until all hours of the morning, drinking, climbing onto my two-story porch, and leaving belligerent phone messages for someone named Samantha (me).
The neighbor, a middle-aged woman, had been scared of him and threatened to call the police, and he’d apparently ignored her but stalked away, before driving away with his beer. So she had come to warn my landlord/roommate and I about him, and told me to lock the doors. Thankfully my roommate (the only one actually on the lease) was out of town, and so in my horrified haze of trying to process what my boyfriend had done, I shakily thanked the neighbor and didn’t disclose the fact that I knew the guy.
After I closed the door I immediately started having a meltdown. I was in full-on panic mode, because I knew as soon as my roommate found out she would kick me out of the apartment. We had been disagreeing on a lot of things lately and I’d already told her I was looking for a new place in the next few months, but this event I knew she would not tolerate.
I had brought a belligerent, potentially dangerous man into her home and he’d come there when I was gone. I hate to imagine what would have happened if she’d been home that weekend and she’d woken up to find him drinking in the dark on her porch. She had never liked him either.
At that moment I decided I needed to get out, right away, and not stay in a place that had been tainted and where I no longer felt welcome or safe.
When she got back on Monday I told her my friend had had a room open up and I was moving in with her. She was very grumpy about it but gave me my deposit back (which I did not deserve), hence ending an already stressful living situation.
The shame of what I had gotten myself into was so overpowering that I turned to the one person who I knew would still take care of me, despite his appalling behavior. He told me it was his fault that I had to leave my apartment, and that I should come live with him for a while.
My nerves were stretched thin, my willpower had gone out the window, and I was overwhelmed with my lack of control, so I agreed.
By some stroke of luck, within a week I heard from someone that he had been talking to my coworkers – about sexual things and my skills, or lack thereof – and that was the tipping point I needed to get back up and leave him for good.
In my weepy fog of humiliation and fury, I knew that was the lowest I had ever been. But from there I managed to gather my things and get out.
In tears, I swallowed my pride and went to my best friend, who had told me from the beginning that the guy was bad news. She welcomed me with open arms, and I will be forever in her debt for standing by me as things got progressively worse.
I had broken up with him but things hadn’t ended. He refused to let it go. For some reason the words “I don’t want to be with you”, “I have no feelings for you”, and “No, we are not getting back together” had absolutely no effect on him. It was insane to me how persistent he was, and the fact that he wouldn’t take no from me was extremely frustrating.
I had never felt so degraded.
And the fact that I knew I had allowed this to become my reality was even worse.
There was one point when I was texting him again to leave me alone and I didn’t want to talk, and he kept flat-out ordering me to answer his calls. I said no in my texts multiple times, but he was so hung up on the idea that I MUST be with another guy, because in his mind that was the only possible reason I would refuse to call and talk to him. From then on, all his texts and voicemails were a mixture of both ends of the spectrum. He would say, “I love you, I would never hurt you – why won’t you give us a chance?” and then turn around and end with, “He deserves you, bitch. I hope he fucks you good”.
In his mind, I was never alone. There always had to be another “him”.
It was a psychological hell, and I could absolutely feel myself unravelling.
I was crying every day, and looking over my shoulder everywhere I went. I blocked his number, but he could still leave me voicemails (an absurdly infuriating flaw in technology). As a result I then had my best friend call me thirty times to fill up my voice mailbox so he couldn’t leave any more messages. Thirty times. Even though his number was blocked and wouldn’t give me a notification, it would still show up in my call log. The numbers were absurd.
He then sent me multiple emails, and I blocked each the addresses. He made up a new email account, and I had to block that one too. He would sit at the gas station in front of my house every day before work, and only leave after I left for work too, following me down the street. When I confronted him about it, he said he just happened to like the coffee at that gas station and claimed that it had nothing to do with me.
I saw him in the grocery store a couple of times and he tried to talk to me; I obliged the first two times because I desperately hoped things could somehow be smoothed over, but he ended up making a comment about wishing he could commit suicide. And he alluded that it was my fault. Always playing the victim.
This completely rattled me, and I cried hard that night, thinking I had affected someone’s life that much in a negative way.
On Thanksgiving, almost two months after I had firmly broken it off, he appeared at my front door and told me he still loved me and wanted me back. I told him he was not respecting my wishes and that he was scaring me, and needed to leave. I had already told him multiple times that he was scaring me before that, to no avail.
After that he made up yet another email account and sent me several emails saying he wished things were different, and then prodding me about a random guy he thought I was into. He literally found harmless information on this other guy and emailed me to “let me know he may not be the one for me”.
This was now three months since we had broken up.
On the day he came to my house and sent me more emails, I responded with a very strongly worded message. I won’t recount the entire thing, but I basically told him to get the fuck out of my life and leave me and my friends alone.
I told him he hadn’t respected me as a person at all since we stopped dating and had intentionally been very cruel. Why the hell would I want to be with someone like that, and how the hell did he think his behavior these past few months was in any way acceptable?
In my mind, I already knew the answer. Because that was how I had allowed him to treat me for so long.
My shame was unbearable, but I had had enough and stood firm.
I said if he ever came to my house again I would call the police, and if he ever went to my friends’ houses to look for me, they would also call the police without hesitation. I told him that if he approached me at work with anything not directly work related, I would report him.
My friends had been telling me for MONTHS to get a restraining order, but I think that whole time I was still in denial that this was a big deal.
Looking back, it was.
Even if I wasn’t in obvious physical danger, he was still messing me with my head and controlling what I felt, to the point of making me feel like I was actually going insane. I lost weight, cried every day, skipped work, alienated my friends, and felt like a horrible, despicable human being. Looking back, I realize now that I should never have let it go on that long, and maybe if I had gotten the authorities involved early I could have nipped it in the bud.
I didn’t see him for months after that, because my seasonal job was between seasons and I moved to the opposite part of town. That spring when work started back up again, I did see him, and he approached me.
He actually apologized. He told me in a single sentence that he was sorry he had gone so crazy over the fall and winter when this had happened, and would like it if we could be friends.
I told him I didn’t ever want to be friends, because he’d burned every bridge he ever had with me and all of our mutual friends. I told him if he ever tried to contact me in any way outside of the minimal contact at work, I would immediately report him for sexual harassment and tell my supervisors everything.
Maybe that would have been a bit too far, but with this person I couldn’t take any chances. Any leeway I had given in the past taught him to walk right over me. Every time I tried to be cordial or nice in any way after the breakup, he would take it as “interest” and instantly contact me again.
He had no self-control, so I gave him no margin whatsoever.
I haven’t seen him since that day. It’s been years now and I still have nightmares about him following me, needing me, waiting for me to fall back into his expectant, controlling arms.
And I still have nightmares about the woman I became with him. The dark side that he brought out of me should have been a warning sign in itself. I’ve never let myself be as angry with anyone as I was with him, and I never let myself become as weak as I did with him either.
Before now I’ve never told anyone the full story; every detail of how I lost myself in his fucked-up version of love.
How can someone says he loves me, and then in the same breath make me feel so vile and worthless? How can someone says he cares so much, and then turn around and immediately tell me he hopes the imaginary guy I’m with “fucks me good”? How can someone say he loves me, and not care about anything else that comes out of my mouth?
That’s not love. Manipulation and longing don’t equal a relationship, but instead a recipe for each other’s dark sides to collide.
And fear of being alone isn’t a reason to let someone hurt you. It’s an excuse not to face who you really are. I fell for it. I allowed myself go down that hole, and when I finally looked in the mirror I couldn’t face who I had become.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I have yet to decide whether or not I agree with that. Maybe I wouldn’t have learned my lesson had I never met him, but at the same time I wish he’d never set foot in my life, so I could still be the sweeter, less scarred version of myself.
But that’s the thing – I’ve learned that you create your own reality, and you teach people how to treat you. I lost myself because I let myself get sucked into someone else’s version of what they thought love was. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I let him teach me everything.
Maybe I still have some learning to do, but at least I know not to ignore the red flags, and I know now that I have to fight for who I am. If it feels like someone else’s version isn’t good enough, it probably isn't.
Listen to that voice and don’t lose yourself in the process.