This is an airing of dirty laundry, I suppose. But rather than spend the next however many weeks making subtle daggers on Facebook or posting leading quotes on Instagram, I figured it would be best for me to get my feelings down and out. If you read this, I’ll assume you wanted to. If you didn’t, then simply don’t read it.
I fell in love with an addict in recovery. At his best, he was honest, charming, trustworthy, kind, funny, sweet, endearing, charismatic, emotional, heartfelt, optimistic, and down to earth. I was so lucky as to see that for the majority of our relationship. At his worst, he was sneaky, unfaithful, dishonest, disrespectful, thoughtless, depressed, and impulsive. I saw and recognized these flaws, and loved him anyway. Some who read this know him, many don’t. I fell in love with a man separated from a high school sweetheart, who had two beautiful children, and a laundry list of baggage from that relationship that I acknowledged, and trusted him to work through. Not for me, mind you, but for himself. Nobody deserves to carry that heavy a load.
From the day that I saw him again, I knew that he had a spark in his eye for me. I was fully aware of it and chose to ignore it to the best of my ability. I downplayed the flattery, ignored the flirtation, and fully believed that as his life moved forward, he and I would likely never speak again. But he persisted and found me online and reached out and I found myself falling. I was on my phone all day, laughing those serious stomach-clenching, face-turns-purple laughs that are often times hard to come by with people you don’t know all that well. I started accepting his flirtation and I flirted back. We talked until 4 a.m. those first few nights, never running out of things to say. We watched movies from our beds and laughed about them, making jokes about the hair gel budget for the Percy Jackson movies and the abomination that became City of Bones (seriously, what the fuck you guys?). I had ideas of us grabbing coffee and getting to know each other slowly and maybe letting it blossom into something. I forgot the impulsivity of addicts. We met, hiked, and he kissed me at the summit in quite possibly the most romantic way possible. We spent the rest of the night together, giggling and touching like two kids in high school. I imagine that’s probably what’s going on now, with her.
Within a week or so, he had me calling him because he wanted to tell me that he loved me. It’s crazy, it’s way too soon, I don’t even understand how this is happening or how I feel this way – that kind of “I love you.” And though I didn’t say it back at the time, regardless of my feelings, it was there. I had loved him the first night that I spent at his house, watching him run around cooking for me. I loved him when he lay down next to me after sleeping with me, uttering comments about how he’d never experienced anything like this before. I loved him with all of my stupid, stupid heart.
Our relationship progressed and everything was…I mean, it was perfect. I laughed with him all of the time, had the most amazing sex life a 24-year-old could dream of, and was awestruck with gratefulness that I had finally found someone who could be so wonderful to me. When we argued, we argued with purpose. When he was down, I was there to lift him up or at least stay on the phone with him until he lifted himself up. When I was down, he reassured me and helped me to see another perspective. He told me I was beautiful almost every day. He told me I was the last woman he ever wanted to sleep with, that he wanted to marry me, that he had never felt this way about another human being. He called me his soul mate. And I believed him. I still do, to an extent.
I met his children, earlier than I would have liked due to the brevity of the relationship, but I trusted him and I fell in love with them. The two sweetest, most amazing children. He held his daughter and me in his arms and called us his two favorite girls in the world. He almost cried when he saw me holding his daughter, dancing with her and kissing her cheek. I almost cried when his son told me he loved me. I loved them fully, without condition or explanation.
And then something unexpected happened. And it shook our relationship, made everything very serious very fast. He supported me, to the best of his ability, through it. But I think something during that broke the pedestal he put me on. We were both very human. One night, we argued horribly and I had ended up enunciating that I was not his ex. And he hung up on me. Then called me back. And we talked about it, because that’s what people in healthy relationships do. But I had to say it, because I’m not. I am a confrontational, upfront, honest person who will tell someone exactly how I feel and I have always been this way. She, from what I have been told and what I observed during their regular (she saved them for the weekends when she knew he was with me) screaming matches on the phone, is far more passive aggressive. So when he would accuse me of not meaning what I said, I took offense. I realized, and he acknowledged, that the relationship he had with her was all he knew of relationships and he was still learning that not all relationships are like that. People aren’t always snide or cruel during arguments.
But then, she wanted to talk to him about the kids. I encouraged it; after all, I fully believe two people can co-parent and be adults about it. They were going to meet somewhere in public and talk. They didn’t. And while I was at a work function, he slept with her. The woman he had done nothing but bad mouth for the last six months. The woman who had tried to keep his kids from him, who had turned his mother against him, who had done nothing but belittle any accomplishments he had made. Who, while I fully believe that she loves him in her own way, told him that she hoped I got pregnant and stalked my Instagram, and watched his house as I left one day. The woman who made him scream “CUNT” in the hallway and I had to follow him outside and peel out of him what was wrong, before he and I ever got involved. And then he spent Easter weekend with me like nothing had happened.
He slept with her again and finally told me about it two days later. I gave him credit, most people hide it for far longer. Almost relapsing will do that to you, I guess. That night, I raced down to his house and held him. And the next day, he broke up with me. After a slew of excuses, he used his infidelity as ammunition to make me hate him. And I was broken. What had happened? Only a week and a half ago, this was the man who drove and hour and a half down to take care of me when I was sick with the stomach flu on a work night. The man who even that past weekend told me I would make a wonderful stepmother. A woman sitting in the car next to me at a stoplight saw me crying on the phone with him. She stared and I just didn’t care, because my life was turned upside down.
Few know my story, who I was and who I am today. He didn’t even really know. If he had met my friends from college, they could’ve told him all of the changes I made being with him. I spent my weekends changing diapers and watching Pokemon, for Chrissake. The latter wasn’t as out of the ordinary, but still. For the first time in my adult life, I had truly known what it meant to be in love with someone else. As shocking as I found that, I accepted it. As surprising as it was to hear a man tell me he wanted to marry me and sing song what my married name would be, I accepted it. And I believed it. My happiness had shined out of me like a homing beacon. It was ripped away from me.
While I laid on my friend’s couch sobbing that night, he laid in bed with her posting Facebook statuses about butterflies and deleting any acknowledgement of our relationship from social media. God forbid should they acknowledge that he had loved another woman, right? I tried to make sense of what the actual hell had just happened because everyone was blindsided. Everyone. I thought of the last time he broke up with another woman to go back to her, the last time they separated, and wondered if maybe she wasn’t so crazy as to throw things at him. The next day, I gathered all of my things from his house and gave him back everything while he worked. I cleaned the dishes in his sink and put a load of laundry in his washing machine because, well, I reasoned that it was the decent thing to do. I’m still not sure why. I broke down crying in his living room seeing everything we had built in piles. His roommate’s dog came over and laid on me and licked my face while I gathered myself. I went home and texted him a goodbye that night.
The next day, he asked me to call him and told me that he still loved me, that hadn’t changed, that he may be making the biggest mistake of his life, that he was sick over what he did, and a barrage of all of the things that I wanted to hear. He started calling me my nickname and asked me to come up to an event with him. He told me she hadn’t changed, he had no idea what he was thinking. He asked me to see a movie with him, asked if I would spend the night. I obliged, the optimistic idiot that I am. And it was perfect, because of course it was. He ran to me in the rain and kissed me and held me so tightly I couldn’t breathe for a moment and it was glorious. I was shining again. We said we had a lot to work through, a lot of honesty needed to come back into our relationship, and we spent the night like we had never lost each other in the first place. He asked me if I was excited about the beach trip we had planned with his friends over the past few months, that was due to happen…today actually. I held onto him tightly and said that of course I was.
By Sunday morning, he was moody again. Conflicted, pushing down his feelings and trying to generalize everything. Said he needed to work through his emotions. And then he said he had to go start this mysterious new second job but no, he didn’t want me to drive him. When I suggested that I would wait around for him, he looked alarmed. “Here?” he asked, gesturing at his house. I shrugged noncommittally, because I had friends in town I could visit. Before I could even sit down to lunch with said friends, I received a flurry of texts explaining that he was going to Hershey Park with his ex, whom he had said he broke things off and who didn’t want to talk to him, because his son wanted him to go. He said he wouldn’t stay long and it was for his son. I asked about his job and he said he was already off. I told him it made me uncomfortable, but I wanted to rebuild trust so I trusted him, and I wanted him to make his son happy. He made me wait until she dropped him off to come back over to his house, like a mistress. We ended up arguing that night, horribly. I cried in the fetal position, finally saying what I hadn’t wanted to: That he devastated me. That I had trusted him, implicitly, and he violated it. He shattered it. And then made a joke about the infidelity after spending the afternoon with her. That he should, for once, put himself in my shoes.
The next morning, he needed time to think. That Wednesday, he asked me to come down because he needed me to hold him. I intended for it to be a night where we hashed things out because he said what likely caused his infidelity were resentments about a choice I had made. When I got there, it was clear sex was his first choice and then afterward said he didn’t want to talk about anything, he just wanted to have a good night. Like someone can just push aside all of those thoughts and feelings for the time being with no regard to them. I had told a friend on the phone the day before that I had a feeling he hadn’t actually told his ex he didn’t want to be with her, and my friend said, “Alyssa, what have I always said about your intuition?” I swallowed dryly and replied, “It’s right.” So I asked him, point blank if he had after he tried to dodge me hearing him call to his kids to say goodnight. He said that yes, he had told her he didn’t want to try to make things work and he didn’t want to be with her. He had said this on Friday, but what I had started noticing were his actions didn’t follow his words. And I believed him, because I wanted to trust him.
That Saturday morning, he broke up with me again. On Facebook. And when I tried to call him to figure out what the hell had happened, he refused to answer. It broke his heart hearing my voice, it killed him to do this. He needed to focus on himself. Little did I know, he had spent the night before with her. I had laid at home, anxiously wondering why he didn’t want to talk to me again, while he was sleeping next to her.
I found out Sunday for sure. And since then, I have been back and forth with everything. My heart keeps telling me to hold out because “look at what we had!” and “he says he still wants you in his life!” and “he says it makes him sick to his stomach to not have you in his life!” and every other various thing he had said to me. Meanwhile, he’s still sleeping next to her and she has no idea that this is going on.
I recollected my things this past week and during the conversation, he painted a picture of wondering. He wondered if their failed marriage had been entirely his fault (of course it hadn’t). He told me all of these things that reassured me what a good person he was, and that he did care about me.
And then he took her on our vacation. And I spent the entire day on and off seething, depressed, confused, and powerless. I felt so completely disrespected. And I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the lines, I realized something.
I was in a relationship with an addict in recovery.
He had every opportunity to make different choices, every opportunity to be honest, every opportunity to show me even the smallest amount of respect and time and time again, his actions spoke completely differently than his words. Time and time again he continued to sneak, lie, and hide things so that everything would be “easier”. He masked his lies as not wanting to hurt me. He blamed others for me finding out about his bullshit relationship changes instead of blaming himself for posting things to social media, or better yet, doing them when he knew they would hurt me and supposedly didn’t want to. He wanted me to stay in his life but didn’t want to make any effort to give me a reason to stay. He consistently, and without fail, tried to replace me with her. Because it was easier. It was easier than admitting to her that he was conflicted and needed to be alone, easier than admitting to me that he didn’t end things with her because he wanted the best of both worlds without having to deal with the wars within them. He wanted the relationship he had with me, with her. I will never know why. And it’s not worth me losing my self-worth over finding it out. He lied to the woman he is supposedly trying to make things work with and still likely is because it’s “easier” that way. I can’t hate her for that, it’s not her fault.
I will also never know who he was telling the truth to, in the end. Was his confusion and soul-wrenching pain genuine or was he bullshitting to make things easier? I will never know. I told a friend tonight that wishing away your past, that pushing it away, will never make it go away. And that is especially true in this case. None of us will ever be able to truly forget that he and I were in love, that we had made plans mostly laid by him, that he had told her he didn’t love her anymore.
That doesn’t mean that I should spend my days waiting and trying to figure it all out. I deserve far more than the way I’ve been treated, but beating a dead horse will not bring it back to life and it certainly won’t answer any of my questions. Hoping that the honest man I knew comes back will not bring him back and I cannot love him into anything. That no matter how sweet, kind, wonderful, silly, handsome, and honest he was to me – he cheated, lied, and disrespected more than enough to make up for it over the last month. And I can’t deny it anymore. I can’t pretend like he didn’t, or like I’m okay with any of it, or that it will go away if I show him enough love or support. And that if he wanted to be with me, he would be with me. Nothing is stopping him. That if he is miserable, it is nobody’s fault but his own. It is not my job to keep him happy, it never was, and it certainly isn’t now.
Anger doesn’t help. Anger causes me to blame people, myself especially. It is useless because no matter how angry I am, things are the way they are and I cannot change them. They are out of my control. And the only way to take back control is to eliminate what’s making me angry. In this case, it’s him.
I tried bargaining with myself, even with him. Told him that I would stay in his life if he rethought his decisions. I told myself that if I didn’t contact him, he would contact me. Told myself that if he did come back, I would make him wait months until he hit a year of sobriety. Bargaining puts me back into the sick cycle of wanting and not having and wondering. I begged God for him to forgive me (HA!) for my choices, for him to see me. Bargaining is painful. And pointless.
I’ve been depressed. I cried every day, at first, though now not so much. I didn’t eat. I felt worthless; why would he cheat? With her? Why would he hurt me like that, after going on for ages about how he would never do something like that to me? Why Why Why until my head felt like it was exploding. Depression stunted my ability at work, encouraged my codependence, made the genuine things he said and the bullshit meld into believability, and made me question what was wrong with me. He cheated, he lied, he failed as a faithful, honest person and I felt like there was something wrong with ME? WHAT?
So, at last, I’m reaching acceptance. I cannot change what happened, I cannot go back to the way it was. He did irreparable damage to something wonderful because he. is. an. addict. And addicts struggle, intrinsically, with instant gratification, self-worth, control, and impulsive decision making. One in recovery usually makes a daily effort to work on all of those. He may be now, I don’t know, but he certainly wasn’t. And, like I said, I cannot love him into understanding what he did, I cannot support him into wanting to love himself first, and I cannot make him see what everyone else is – that he made a huge mistake. And I cannot wait around to see if he figures it out. Because that won’t help him, sure, but most importantly, it won’t help me. Banging my head off of a wall won’t end his headache. He disrespected me over and over again, apologizing but continuing to do it. And maybe she can ignore it and pretend like he doesn’t do it (to both of their detriment!), but I can’t. And I love him, and myself, too much to encourage that kind of mindset. He wants to live the life he pictured for himself at 18. Maybe it will work out in his favor; some relationships that begin with lies and cheating end well, I guess. But it is not my job to make sure he does anymore. It is not my job to worry about him. It is not my job to love him, or encourage him, or hold him when he is sad. And it was wrong of him to use me as that, even as he was telling her that he wanted to make things work. But being angry at him for it will not make me feel better.
I deserved the openness and honesty I saw in him before I ever loved him. I deserved the respect he showed up until the day he impulsively decided to sleep with her “because they were getting along.” I deserved him to look me in the goddamn eye when he broke up with me, rather than Facebook messaging me after a date night with her. But I didn’t get those things. And sitting here waiting for god to knock some sense into him will likely only leave me more angry, sad, and hopeless.
For better or worse, I have to love him enough to let him go and make the mistakes he wants to. I can still pray for him, but I need to let him go. Because no matter what he said to me, he took all of those things back when he slept with another woman, regardless of their history.
I am posting this, though not on Facebook, because others who are going through a break up should read this. Take peace in the fact that eventually it will get better. It’s not better for me yet, but it isn’t as bad as it was and I have faith that it will be. Because whoever you are, you deserve someone who will be honest with you. Always, not just when it’s convenient. You need to know how valuable you are. You know that he made the world’s biggest mistake and even if he doesn’t, that doesn’t matter. Someone being unfaithful makes them less of a woman or man, not you.
So, if you read this and you are the man I spoke of, I want you to know: I’m not angry anymore. But I will not be a party to any more of your inability to live an honest life. Because I love you too much. I am moving on with my life. Maybe one day things will be different, but they are not, and I am not going to wait for you to realize anything else. I deserved the man you were, not the man you are right now. Remember the story of the wolves? Try to remember which one you’re feeding. And again, unlike her, I love you enough to let you go. I am finished. This is finished.