by: Mark Nott
I started dating my ex-boyfriend the summer of my sophomore year of college. I had recently gotten out of a 5 month long relationship with an attorney who liked to pretend that I was invisible and tell me that my life’s passions were stupid and pointless (who gives a fuck about phenomenology anyway.) So, when my ex showed up, a gorgeous hunk of man who did nothing but tell me how beautiful and smart, I was… well let’s just say it wasn’t very long before I was completely in love with him. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as free to love him as I would have liked.
The problem with loving this man, who I was sure was the man of my dreams, was simple: he already had a boyfriend. Not just a boyfriend. A partner of 6 years. The terms of their relationship specified that they were allowed to sleep around to their hearts content. Loving and being loved, however, was strictly forbidden. So, I did what any rational twenty-something would do: I continued to shop around and sleep with other people. He encouraged me to do this as well, but secretly. Jealousy would later become our favorite bedfellow.
A month into our fling, my ex put an end to it. He couldn’t stand the thought of me being with other men. He just didn’t think it was healthy for either one of us to stay together any longer. This was through no fault of my own, it was simply a product of our “situation.” I was sad, of course, but I just kept doing what I was doing, burying the feelings I had for him deep inside myself like any good catholic boy does with his emotions. This wasn’t to last long though; a few days later he contacted me again expressing how much he missed me.
Things started back up just the way they always had. We continued to sleep together every saturday and sometimes during the week after work. We would text all day long; we were inseparable. I slowly began to realize what was happening, my feelings becoming too deep to bury. Once again, like any rational twenty-something, I kicked my testosterone into overdrive and started fucking anything that would climb into bed with me. And then they day came: my ex and I were talking and we came to the conclusion that whatever was happening should be happening with just us. We were to be exclusive. I was now having an affair.
I forgot about all the other boys I had been seeing, been promising to go on dates with again. I deleted their phone numbers. I ignored them on the street. For whatever reason, I decided that I would rather take my chances with a man who couldn’t give himself to me completely. He was the one that I wanted. Not my sweet neighbor with the beautiful blue eyes who held my hand in Lincoln Park and told me he had never met anyone like me. Not the kid who whispered in my ear please promise you’ll call me tomorrow as we fell asleep in each others’ arms. I gave up these guys for someone who already belonged to someone else. Deep down in my heart, I knew my ex and I would be together. I loved him. And he loved me. And we came close. Once.
On a particularly blustery October night, I showed up at a club to dance with him. He had begged me repeatedly to come and see him. So I did. When I showed up he was high on whatever the drug cocktail of the evening was. We danced together and followed each other around like puppies. Unfortunately, his partner was following us around as well. Confrontations were had and I ran home. He followed me home. And he stayed. For four days. I’d never been so happy. The moment I wanted was coming true. Or was it? He went home on the fourth day. A few days later he was out dancing again and approached a kid he knew I was seeing before we became exclusive. They talked. And the emotional abuse began.
I was sitting at home, most likely eating junk food and watching Murder, She Wrote, and he called me. In his puffed-up, drug addled, proud way, he informed me that he had talked to the kid. We had slept together and I hadn’t been honest. A fight ensued. A big fight. One like I had never experienced before. Amplified by his drugs and my anxiety disorder, we started screaming over the phone. I was screaming apologies, he was screaming obscenities. Finally I screamed, God, I’m just so sorry. This makes me just want to kill myself! To which Maybe you should just do that, Mark was the response.
The good thing about having an anxiety disorder is that sometimes you are so stressed out, your mind is racing so quickly and your body is trying to adapt to whatever the hell is happening to it, that your brain forgets to create memories. I can’t recall what I did after he told me this. I know I woke up huddled on the floor of the bathroom, my phone clutched in my hand. But there are hours that cannot be accounted for.
Those words were the last I had heard from my ex. Maybe you should just do that, Mark.
A week later a note was slipped under my door. Pages and pages of apologizes. Of explanations of what the drugs can do to you, of what he was thinking and what he was feeling, and how he misses me so much and how he wishes that he had finally said I love you when I did. And so I did want any rational twenty-something would do. I took him back.
Love can be a funny thing sometimes. Sometimes you can love something so much and want something so much that you have no idea exactly how bad it is for you. My love for my ex was a dangerous love. A wreckless love. Nothing meant more to me than that love. I pushed aside everything. Sacrificed school, a career, friends and family, for that love. My ex was everything to me. He told me I was beautiful and smart and took care of me like no one ever had. This was what love was supposed to be like, right?
The week that my ex abandoned me after telling me I should kill myself, I made a ridiculous promise. I grabbed my rosary, performed the prayers a few hundred times, looked up at my ceiling and said, God, if you’re up there, I promise to be a better catholic if you bring him back to me. God did as I asked. And I need to fulfil my promise. I went to an Ash Wednesday service at a beautiful church in Lincoln Park. I got there early to meditate and pray. To my absolute horror, a guy I had went a terrible date with came and sat down next to me. I had never had sex with the guy, never touched the guy in anyway. We had just hung out a couple times. He was annoying and I felt weird sitting next to him. I got through the entire mass. It was time for communion. I spotted my ex. He had come to surprise me. He, once again, had given his partner the middle finger and left to be with me. Hope springs eternal.
After mass I tried to break away from the annoying guy sitting next to me, but it was too little too late. My ex spotted me politely saying my farewells and rushed over to inquire the who hell I was talking to. We get to the car and his fury is unleashed. He screamed over my sobs as I sank into the passenger seat attempting to explain that I had no idea that this guy went to this church. That I had never had any sort of thing with him. Screaming and screaming. People outside the car tried to look away as I wailed uncontrollably as my ex pounded his fists on the steering wheel. Finally I got out of the car and ran. Ran as fast as I could, sobbing, down the streets of Lincoln Park. I calmed myself down. He found me. Got me back in the car. Hugged me and told me it would be okay. I slept for hours that night.
Our routine was always easy to settle into. He would just leave and I would be alone. After every I love you, every embrace, every fight, all the screaming, no matter what it was, it always ended the same. He left. And I was alone. Sometimes being alone is harder than being yelled at. Harder than being accused of being a cheating bastard. Harder than being called a liar. It’s even harder when you’re left alone so the other person can go be with his other boyfriend. His real boyfriend.
Mistress. Whore. Wicked. Immoral. Homewrecker. These are the things that echo in your head when you’re left alone. These are the things that no one can tell you aren’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re the nicest person in the world, if you’ve never done an evil thing in your life. Society tells you that you’re a slut, that you’re bad, solely based upon the situation that you’re in. And I was all of these things.
One night my ex came to visit after leaving a party. He missed me and wanted to say hi. For whatever reason he decided I was hiding something. That something was on my computer. Earlier that evening I had engaged in some lite internet porn, not realizing he was coming to visit me. I may not have closed all the windows, I thought, as he reached to investigate my laptop. I playfully snatched it away, quick to make sure all the windows were closed, when he angrily grabbed the machine out of my hand and demanded to go through my history. I fought him, in an attempt to stand up for myself and my privacy. He shoved me. This was the first time he had ever made any sort of physical aggression towards me. I flew into a panic. This only made things worse. Again, my memory fails me. When I came to my senses I was standing next to Lincoln Park Zoo in the freezing cold. I trudged home. He was waiting. Ready with a lecture on how he will never be able to trust me.
We broke up numerous times. And we always got back together. He traded dirty pictures with other guys; cheated on me in Provincetown; would stay out partying for 3 days straight; he left me alone every night. Every night for 2 years. He promised me he would leave his partner, then he would take it back. He told me he would marry me. He would take it back. Of all the forms of abuse you can commit against someone, taking away their hope is the worst.
I decided to make my own hope. I started writing. I started working for a blog. This blog. And I found courage. He left me for a month to go on a cruise. An entire month he was gone with little to no communication. When he came back we ended it. Via text message. Two years of my life and I was afforded a text message break up. He went back to his sex and his drugs and his parties. To sleeping with whatever supermodel-esque guy he could find. And I was left to pick up the pieces of myself.
Looking back, I realize that I could have left at any time. I could have said no, told him that I wasn’t interested in the life he was providing me with, told him that I wouldn’t stand for his abuse any longer. But I didn’t. I loved him. I wanted to change him. Make him better. I couldn’t make him better. I could never change him. And in trying I lost two years of my life that I can never get back.
Everyday is a struggle now. Trying to justify my feelings for him to myself, my friends, and my family. When I go on dates with new guys and the topic of ex boyfriends come up, I have no idea how to approach it. How do you tell a new love interest that your previous love interest abused you for two years and that you never stopped loving him because of it? How do you tell them because of him every potential new relationship frightens you? How can you explain that anyone time someone raises their voice, shouts at you, flashes of him send you into crippling panic attacks?
But I do explain it. I explain it and I keep moving forward one day at a time, holding tight to the realisation that I deserve better. That I am worth more than false promises and stolen hope. That one day I will have the family I want, the husband I want, the life that I want. I make my own promises now. I make my own hope.
Mark Nott is the Director of Business and Legal Affairs for In Our Words. He is also a career undergraduate student. After a brief spell studying Music Theory at the University of Cincinnati, he went on to study Music and Philosophy with the Jesuits of Loyola University of Chicago. After spending a quarter at Truman, he is an incoming transfer student at DePaul University, where he plans to study Philosophy and participate in the Pre-Law program. Fret not for his artistic side: every now and again he’ll sing a few bars from Matthäus-Passionand and whack you with his conducting baton.