A cue mark. Photo Credit: /tv/ archives from 4plebs.org
This is the conclusion of my reflections on my most recent (and hopefully) my most damaging relationship. Apologies for the wordiness – it was hard to get into the normal length range. I’ll preface the end of this story with some wisdom a kind co-worker gave me which was:
“Hurt people hurt people.” This has brought me a lot of peace.
There were the worst of times…
The day I found the message from R on J’s computer, I felt as if I were walking through a movie. Literally. Before they switched to digital film, there used to be that black dot, a cue mark, in the corner of the screen that was supposed to be a noninvasive, imperceptible signal to switch reels.
I had that feeling in the back of my mind throughout our relationship, that subtle distraction. Now it was as if this black mark was swallowing my entire screen. I hadn’t read the message from R, but told J that I was trusting him to tell me what was going on.
“We’ve reached the point in our relationship where we shouldn’t hide things from each other anymore,” J said as he dropped me off at my apartment after another fight on the matter.
The fuck? I thought we were there when we said ‘I love you‘, but okay. J had called me out other times before – asking if I was pulling away, why he had seen me texting another guy, but this was all months ago. That night, I drank away my sorrows at my friend’s place and angry-journaled until I passed out until the next morning. Still tipsy but mostly hungover, I awoke to a text message that read:
“I’m going to tell you everything. Even if it means losing you. I want to do what’s right. Can we meet somewhere to talk?”
Fuck that noise. If you think this was an honest attempt at reconciliation, absolutely fucking not. Why should I be the one to cause a scene in public for something he did? I blew up J’s phone, call after call going unanswered, and was met with lame excuses like “can’t talk now, walking the dog.” Crying and panicking, I begged hadn’t I been through enough? Did I really need to wait to meet on his terms? J finally agreed to facetime.
J had been in a relationship with R when we first met. He admitted to cheating on R, repeatedly. For months. For some reason out of all the women he was cheating with, he pursued a relationship with me. Something about making him want to be a better person. I said we were done. I said if he truly wanted to make things right, he would contact R immediately to tell her the truth. Bile rose in my stomach in disgust as he made excuse after excuse not to, until he was finally able to reach her and explain.
R, I don’t know you, but I am sad today that even at that moment, you still asked him to stay friends.
I’m still not sure why getting J to confess was so important to me. He cruelly accused me of wanting to inflict hurt on others. I don’t think that’s the case—I felt more like a babysitter, telling a child to apologize for stealing another kid’s things. In time, he further admitted to offering R a green card marriage, as well as meeting up with a former hookup while I was gone in South America. But I still cared to make J to feel accountable, and on some level, still believed he was redeemable. That he truly wanted to “be better”, whatever that was supposed to fucking mean. Jfc, I had him tell his mom what happened.
I can’t say I wanted to hurt other women, but I can say I wanted to hurt J.
I had never felt such an out of control rage in my life. It bubbled from my gut into a constant ringing in my head, buzzing like an incessant swarm of wasps. After I hung up, I immediately downloaded Tinder. I included a new profile photo of us together, circling his head with the caption “Explicitly trying to hurt this cheating lying piece of shit.”
Recklessness gripped me as I texted friends who I knew liked to party, who could find me harder substances to numb the pain. I gave J a play-by-play as things began to escalate, rising to a climax when I shot off a text to the person who raped me a few months prior. S and I planned to meet up the next night.
Admittedly, J stopped me from going back to my rapist. J probably stopped me from doing a lot more damage to myself then. But for once, with all the shit that I’d been through…
If I was going to hurt, I was going to be the one in control of how it happened, damnit.
After a week away where I self-medicated/inebriated with family, I returned to the Bay. It was then I decided to give it another shot with J (this was not a smart idea). He seemed truly remorseful, but also, strangely broken. In the months that followed, he maintained that what I had done, by weaponizing my rape, was more harmful than anything I had done to me. My actions had intent; his were merely blindly selfish. I was the ugly one, the monster.
I internalized this message deeply, feeling responsible for J’s near constant panic attacks. He was nearly obsessed with comparing himself to S, needing to hear that I hated my rapist more than I did him. I resisted the idea of spending more mental energy thinking about being fucking raped, but J insisted that I reassure him who was worse. J needed to control my relationship, even in my own, private thoughts, with my rapist.
I have a distinct memory of J coming back from a walk with a friend, saying he was planning to make a list of the non-negotiables in our relationship. That I was the one who had treated J badly. In my mind, continuing to work at the relationship meant I could repent for my alleged crimes.
It’s been extremely difficult to untangle myself from this insidious lie. For months, both during the farce of the remainder of our relationship and in the aftermath, I questioned myself. I wondered if I was in fact an abuser, as J had implied in comparing me to his physically abusive father.
I know at some point, when I’ve made more progress in moving on, I’ll more readily accept that this lie wasn’t personal. It is simply something this person does. It may just be how J is as a human being.
I learned this because like a crazy ex-girlfriend, during one of my lowest times after the breakup, I reached out to J’s previous partner, D, on Facebook through some possessed, crazy ex-girlfriend level stalking. When she finally replied, I found myself sitting at the airport gate while fat, ugly (and again, crazy person) tears streamed down my face as I realized D and I shared so many common experiences.
In many ways, J was a parasite. In both “relationships” with D and me, he effectively lived out of our respective studio apartments. He slept over everyday not out of some romantic feelings, but simply because existing accommodations with his parents were not ideal. J was unemployed for most of our time together, and with D as well. D was also a student, just like me, and I suspect she also shouldered a lot of date related expenses. J failed to organize any couples trips or big outings (I was responsible for all of that), and definitely didn’t post any of them to social media, because this poor other woman and I were never considered true girlfriends, not in J’s eyes.
The three meager photos posted that I could lay claim to were immediately erased after J dumped me . Meanwhile, the pictures with R, even during the period where she and I overlapped, were restored. J was hiding D and me from the world because deep down—even though he couldn’t admit it—he knew he was using us as some perverse placeholder for true love. And he was ashamed.
I spilled my heart out in the coming months to anyone who’d care to listen – friends, coworkers, strangers from the internet. There’s a Breakup Whatsapp group worldwide with over 200 members. The threads contain some of the most intimate, yet somehow endearing pains we all individually suffer through. In this time, I received a lot of support, all kinds of different advice, and most importantly, wisdom.
The one that stuck with me most was:
“Hurt people hurt people.”
While I wish I hadn’t lived through this hell, these words have given me solace in attempting to make sense of it all. It’s part of why I’m wary of relationships, and it has reinforced my skepticism of monogamy and traditional marriage. Most importantly, it’s reminded me of the work I want to put in to heal myself, which includes sharing these experiences with the world.