Trigger warning: some of the events may be triggering for victims of domestic violence.
I’d been in my new city for about half a year now. In-between adjusting to a new schedule, a new job and an overall new life, I hadn’t truly made the time to commit to dating. I went on dates and kept some suitors around longer than others, but none of these affairs had exclusivity. Everyone went in knowing that while there was a possibility that they COULD become the only one, things wouldn’t begin that way. Playing the field was fun, and so was knowing I could catch a vibe with more than one person to figure out what I really liked.
But then, there was a standout. A guy who made me cock my head to the side and ask myself “What IS it about him..?” Over the course of time he had shown me charm, a deep love for family, patience and so many other things that I wanted for myself. When I asked him if he wanted to make things exclusive, he responded that he had exclusively dating me since the beginning. I took a breath, informed all my “others” that we had to call it off and decided to fall all the way into the possibility of commitment.
I did things that I never did. I informed my family about him. I began spending the night; then bringing an overnight bag; then, leaving a few “just in case” clothes over his crib. Not only did I regularly engage with his friends, but I allowed him the privilege of meeting mine. Before I knew it I had met his mother, I was sharing difficult things about my past so he could see all of me and I had developed comfort in the fact that he was now part of my daily routine. I had converted from the girl who didn’t even want men to stay over to someone who loved going to work just to be with my man right after. And for the first time in forever, I wasn’t afraid of it; I embraced my feelings for him and cherished his for me. I slowly forgot about the “past” he had informed me of. And when we did have small conflicts I was more willing to work through them, rather than throw the entire situation away.
I thought about this the night that he came home drunk and I watched him become someone I hadn’t seen before. As he slammed doors and kicked things over in his apartment and went from tears of joy for overcoming his obstacles to rants of anger about the things he had been dealing with before me, I reminded myself that this would be something we would try to get through. When he grabbed me to pull me closer to him much more forcefully than usual I told myself to stay calm so he could stay calm. I didn’t flinch when he informed me no one would love me as hard as he would. And as my once gentle giant sat across from me and asked “If I took my fist and punched you in the throat right now, what would you do?”, waited for my answer while I broke and came close tears begging him to calm down and not do anything to me, then laughed in my face because he found the whole thing funny I tried to remember that this was not who he always was, and that there was a chance we could conquer this.
I laid in his bed that night with my eyes wide open while he slept, confused as to how the same person who held his arms around me at night was now someone I feared would lay hands on me. I knew he had a difficult past and that there were things that I didn’t agree with, but I never thought that a few drinks would bring this out of him. Part of me was convinced that this was a one time instance that would never happen again; the other part was certain that this was a preview into demons he had been fighting that I could not conquer with him. By the time I woke up, I decided on the latter. While he still slept I packed all of my things, even my “just in case” clothes, and left shortly after.
I texted him at work and told him I wanted him to think about last night, hoping he would have an explanation worthy of another chance. What I got instead was even worse: his questions of what “really” happened that night exposed that he didn’t even remember. In my frustration, I ended the conversation for the day and tried to revisit it later. He remarked that he’d never been shown in the light I showed him in. And because I was afraid at how he could’ve forgotten yet he was afraid I would never forget, we decided it was best to call it quits.
As I slowly got around to informing my friends of what happened, they told me how proud they were of me that I had gotten out when I did. They encouraged me and loved me in the way that true friends do. And inside of me, I knew they were right. But the silent thought that loomed in my head disagreed. “I left him and I didn’t even give him another chance. I left him vulnerable and now he’ll never open up to anyone again. He didn’t REALLY hit me… that grab didn’t hurt that badly. What if he needed me? What if he NEEDS me?” In my life, I had always found myself “saving” other people: extending my stay in their lives even when they didn’t deserve me, just in case there was more I could do to help. But now here I was saving MYSELF from someone, and I felt… selfish.
I remember laying in my own bed nights after this incident and decided to close my eyes to pray. I asked God for patience and direction, and for Him to guide me on a better path. As I muttered the words “Allow me to love me enough to move forward” tears began to stream down my face. I was so low after doing the right thing that all I could do was ask for God’s covering.
What I slowly began to realize is that signs are there for a reason. That night was meant to show me that there are some things I cannot fix or heal, and that there are some battles people have to fight on their own. His past flared up and cause him to act out of character in a dangerous way that I can’t save him from. What if he actually HAD hit me, hurt me or something much worse? I cannot beat myself up for leaving a situation that required more than me to fix. And while I had reached a level of care for that person that I had yet to reach with anyone else, I knew that I had to care about myself even more and stick with my decision.
After that prayer, the days have gotten much easier. I don’t regret my decision and now see it as proof that I’ve grown in love for myself to see red flags and run past them. I prayed for Him, too; I hope that he receives the resources and love he needs to have what I could not provide. While I am a bit more guarded in my dating life, I’m not completely turned away; I know that “the one” is out there for me but it may take more time to find him. For those who read this, if you ever see or have seen the signs of a potentially toxic situation, you have every right to leave with no regrets or remorse. There are battles, demons and pasts that we cannot fight for others. Loving yourself is the most selfish act that you can do; do it anyway.