Reflections on love, chaos and dignity.

abusive relationship, gaslighting, abusive love, toxic love

Like every love story, this one starts with joy. This surprising, unexpected flutter of happiness at the thought and the oh-so-blessed sight of the loved one. You see life with rose-coloured glasses, no matter how chaotic it is. In spite of the warning signs, in spite of the fact that nothing, in this relationship, is normal, or remotely healthy. So what if we can’t be out in the open? you tell yourself. We don’t need to be public in order for our love to exist. The long-distance factor begins to insert itself in every phrase, every excuse. 

And little by little, you give up thing after thing, and you’re expected to keep your mouth shut like a nice little girl. When you don’t, everything becomes your fault. You’re the one who pushed her away because of your temper tantrums when, after a tantalisingly long wait, you realise she’s not coming to see you over the vacation. You’re the one who are making her fall out of love with you, because you’re this petulant, childish, despicable excuse for a human being. You’re the reason her mental health issues are worsening. You’re the reason why she’s no longer into women. 

And you don’t even have the courage to ask yourself what the fuck you are doing in this relationship that is non-existent except by name and is killing you little by little. You sink so deeply into depression that the only thing you look forward to is the daily rendezvous on GChat that she no longer wants, that, she says, are holding her hostage, are preventing her from sleeping, and that become shorter and shorter. You die a little each time you end the conversation with “I love you <3” and she responds, “Goodnight."

You lose your taste for life, yet still proclaim to your friends, who urge you to get out of this unhealthy situation, that true love is your raison d’être, and that they don’t know how it feels. That love means sacrifice, commitment. For the sake of which, you grow a pair and come out as a lesbian to your Middle-Eastern Catholic family. And when you tell her how, miraculously, it went well, she hints that it’s putting pressure on her to do the same, and she's not ready. She claims her Muslim parents are not homophobic (the good old “we have loooots of gay friends” excuse never gets old), which makes you wonder that the reason she’s not coming out to them may be because you’re not the one worthy of it. And the thought itself kills you. 

You live on a cocktail alcohol and sleeping pills that can barely afford you short hours of sleep where all is well like the first days, until you wake up to the grim, unappealing reality that everything’s a fucking mess. Your hair is falling out by the handful, your skin’s a fucking mess. And yet you fool yourself into believing that being in a relationship is better than being alone. Never mind the fact that you're lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely... 

When friends tell you the relationship is abusive, you storm off furiously. How can it be abusive? Abusive means a boyfriend who beats me. She’s my Love. I’m the bad seed who doesn’t deserve her. I’m the one who gets angry all the time. I’m the drama queen who can’t control her emotions. When she’s angry, you deserve the verbal lashing, and when she’s not, well, it is called constructive criticism and you should learn to take it… Why are you so sensitive? Jesus Christ, one really can't have a conversation with you! 

And then the blow happens. The break-up that, of course, you brought upon yourself by pushing her to her limits. It was not her fault, after all. You have too many insecurities that can be triggered, it’s not her job to avoid them. Even if you begged her not to do this one thing that is so dehumanising. Especially when other domains of your life are crumbling apart. You’re so complicated and dramatic. She’s always walking on eggs with you, for God’s sake. 
You beg. You send emails and emails and she responds with excuses citing her friends, whom you don’t know, whom she only told about you when problems appeared in the relationship. They all told her to end it. You overanalyse every word, every nuance. You wonder if this thread of hope that she gave you, saying she judged you harshly, means you have a slight, faint chance of getting her back. And part of you wonders if she’s loving this, seeing you making a spectacle of yourself, abandoning every shred of dignity to beg her not to leave you. 

And after many episodes of alternating joy and trauma, you pull the plug. Completely. It’s time to LIVE your own fucking life. 
Some time later, while you’re still trying to make sense of a life that feels amputated, you meet someone. Unexpectedly. And without even considering falling in love with this woman as deeply as you did before, you realise how, even as a friend, she treats you differently. Humanely, almost. And you realise that you should have never, ever settled for anything less than that. Because, as your very good, wise friend who supported you faultlessly through this hell puts it, the notion that love means suffering and sacrifice is BULLSHIT. 

And this is how you realise that you are slowly falling for this new woman whose life could have never crossed yours, this woman whose existence you were unaware of when you were at the bottom of the well. You feel younger, which, at twenty-two, is a funny thing to say, but you feel like you’re no longer a hundred-year-old ruin. You live life fully in the moment, you regain taste for the things you love, you laugh without faking it. Your heart skips a beat at every text message, your phone rings and you start jumping up and down, by this act terrorizing the aforementioned friend's kitten. 

 Because you realise at last that there may be no such thing as only one "Love Of Your Life”. Love stories end, new ones begin. But the core value that always must remain, the thing that is in fact quintessential to love, is dignity. And that is something that cannot be negotiated. Love cannot exist without it; otherwise it is not love. That is the pure and harsh truth. But I also think it is beautiful. 

Note: the above text was written several months ago, but I only found the strength to post it now. Certain changes have taken place since, including the person owning up to her actions and taking responsibility for them and steps to fixing things, but despite that I have still chosen to post it, if only as a way for people who lived something similar to relate to, and maybe find hope and peace in knowing that they are not as lonely as they feel. 

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