After my successful Kilimanjaro hike and dating hiatus, I had downloaded Tinder on my phone and became instantly addicted to the speed dating style of it. It was an instant ego stroke with every match. It wasn’t long before I had started a regular dialogue with one particular guy out of several matches I had acquired. His pictures seemed current. He was in shape as evidenced by his mountain climbing pic (if it was, indeed, current). He did have a pic with a giraffe and one with a dolphin, but I hadn’t started analyzing pics that much at this time. We sent messages via Tinder for a week or so before agreeing to meet up for a drink, on a weeknight (making a safe excuse to cut it short).
We met and once he spoke I heard the British accent. I had no idea from his texts that he was British! Funny how you imagine someone’s voice and then it’s completely different once you hear it! He had moved to the states with his wife and later divorced (which I found out later was a lie- they were separated, not divorced). He was some sort of tree/plant specialist doing work for the zoo – hence the animal pics. He was funny and charming and a gentleman, walking me to my, car but also pressing for our next meeting.
Mid-week he changed the plans for our next meeting and insisted upon coming to my place right then to just “chill” and chat a bit. It was odd and I was uncomfortable with it but he seemed a little upset and desperate and I suppose I felt concerned to some degree. I agreed in the end and he called when he had reached the lobby of my building so I could let him in. When I saw him he seemed a little disheveled and was standing outside his vehicle. I went outside and he showed me the damage of where he had just been involved in an accident! He said that the other guy had been drinking and didn’t want the police involved so they agreed to take care of it between themselves. I asked if he was worried the guy wouldn’t pay. He told me they both agreed to take care of their own cars. Strange. He seemed completely different than our previous meeting, but I attributed it to the accident.
Things continued to progress and occasionally I would stay at his place since he had a dog. We were seeing each other maybe 2-3 times per week. One night we had no plans to see each other, it was after 9 pm and he called begging me to come over. Again, he seemed a bit distraught and sad. I went. When I arrived he was playing his music very loudly! He lived in an apartment complex with pretty thin walls. The neighbor was pounding on the wall. I told him to turn the music down. He suddenly got extremely angry saying “Fuck the neighbor! I can do what I want!” As I insisted that he turn the music down he turned his anger towards me! It was then I realized he was drunk! The police came (for the second time I learned) and he finally turned the music down. I addressed the fact that he was really drunk and he became belligerent with me, calling me stupid, trying to fight with me. I should have called it quits right then and there but I felt sorry for him. I didn’t know what was making him drink like this.
Eventually, he told me that he had received the divorce papers from his soon-to-be-ex. So, he had lied about being divorced. The sadness and drunken nights I attributed to the impending divorce, oh and that she was pregnant with someone else’s child. And still I stayed.
A couple weeks later he took me out to meet some of his friends, a married couple, and play pool at a local bar. Very nice people. This seemed encouraging as it was more social than he had ever been since I met him. I had hope that he was moving on past the divorce. I didn’t realize how much he had been drinking until he came up to me and said in his British accent, “what is this you’re wearing?”. It was winter, I was wearing a black turtleneck, jeans, tall black boots, and a short grey coat with a faux fur collar. I didn’t respond. He then says “What do you think you are? A fucking Bond girl? A Russian princess?”. I was speechless and embarrassed in front of his friends who just had that pitiful ‘we feel sorry for you’ look on their faces. They saved me by calling it a night and offering to drive him home so I wouldn’t have to. Later on, the woman had friended me on facebook and warned me to beware of him and not to think I was the only woman he was seeing.
I started thinking about the pattern. He always had his “guys nights out” to go drink a couple pints and I wouldn’t hear from him at all on those nights. Then there were the “guys nights out” that ended with drunk pleading for me to come over which usually ended up with us getting into a massive fight. There was the double standard that he could have his guys nights out but I could not go out with my friends without it turning into a fight. There was also the tell-tale warning (I had never experienced this before) of always silencing his phone and keeping it face down. And still I stayed.
One night after he passed out from one of his binge-drinking nights, I picked up his phone. There were several messages and missed calls from some girl, Marisa, Maria, something like that. I confronted him the next day. “She’s someone I saw once but she just can’t get over me” he told me. There were so many warning signs and I was ignoring all of them!!! I knew in my head that he was a cheating alcoholic. A binge drinker. A liar. Why was I staying? Because, I finally realized, I had a pattern of being with people who needed to be “fixed”. The problem is you can’t fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed. People have to realize their own issues and try to fix them themselves. Those of us who form relationships with people who mistreat us are called codependents. We feel the need to be needed, but we are almost always disappointed because we can’t “fix” them. (There was Husband #1 – the narcissistic financially irresponsible ass, the fire hazard hoarder, Crybaby, and now the binge drinking Brit.)
During all this drama, the lease on my apartment was almost up. I had begun to search for a new place when the Brit suggested I move in with him. I thought this was a bold move on his part considering his cheating. Perhaps I was in love with the idea that he was changing his ways for me, for love! I wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea given his past behavior, so while I did stay with him and gave up my apartment, I put all my things in storage and casually continued to look at apartments after work.
Sadly but not surprisingly, his behavior didn’t change once I was staying there each night. In fact there were a couple nights he never came home. I couldn’t sleep and worried all night trying to call. The phone instantly went to voicemail. The next day he would show up saying he had gotten drunk with his buddy and passed out on his couch, oh, and his battery had died. I would go to work exhausted from having no sleep. Meanwhile, I kept secretly searching for an apartment. I had to be discrete as any suggestion of me regaining my independence would send him into a rage.
Our deranged relationship came to a head on my birthday. I had asked him to take me out for dinner that night. Just the two of us, as his friend “B” would often be invited. The Brit used “B” a lot. B was a very depressed, young, lonely, sad, gay man who had a crush on the Brit. I knew it. The Brit knew it too, and he would use B – for a ride to the bars, to take care of his dog, and for an alibi. Anyway, I came back to his apartment after a hair appointment to find that he had already been drinking and was well on his way to being drunk. He opened another bottle after I arrived and started telling me Happy Birthday. I knew we were not going out that night for my birthday. And in fact, guess who shows up at the door that evening? Yes, B. He had been told that he would be going out with us, and be the designated driver. The Brit was already too drunk and I had no more desire to go out with this whole arrangement. It wasn’t long before the Brit became belligerent again. This time he was showing off for B, so he was extra nasty to me. But the final straw came when he called me the “C” word. I punched him right in the face! I think I said something like “Nobody ever calls me a “C”! He said it again! I punched him again! He started to open his mouth again and I punched him yet again! My rage had taken over and I didn’t stop punching him until he went down to the floor. I even broke one of my fingers! (I never had it fixed because I didn’t want to explain how it happened.) Needless to say, B left and the Brit passed out on the couch. I stayed just because I felt so guilty about hitting him and I wanted to make sure he woke up the next day. The next day had a somber feeling with heavy tension in the air. We barely spoke. He never truly apologized for his behavior. Still I stayed. I knew I shouldn’t have, but even though I was still apartment shopping, I was dragging my feet waiting, hoping for a miracle.
I suppose he was sensing that I was getting tired of his crap. His divorce was finalized. He suggested that we go on a ski trip together and get away from it all. Maybe this was my miracle! First day, great skiing, great food, lots of fun, not too much drinking. Second day, as I went down one of the trails, he went down another. When I got to the bottom I tried to call his cell. No answer. I went down by the lift and waited more than a half hour to see if he showed up. I called his phone several more times, and now it was just going straight to voicemail again. I gave up and skied alone and we met up at the room at the end of the day. He gave the same old lame excuse that his battery had died and he couldn’t find me, blah blah blah. The third day he wanted to hang out at a bar and watch the soccer match. Okay, whatever, our lift tickets were only good for 4 of the 6 days we were there anyway. The bar was set up in a large oval, tv screens overhead on both sides, seats all around, bathrooms on the opposite side from where we were seated. I excused myself to the restroom. As I came out, I could see across the bar that he was looking at his phone. No big deal, it’s what we all do, right? I walked normally all the way around back to our seats and as I pulled the bar stool back to get seated, I saw the name at the top of the phone. It was that M name again, Marisa, Maria,… He continued texting even as I sat next to him. I finally said “Really? On our vacation to work on ‘us’ you are texting this girl again?” He was startled and then angry and said “You tricked me!”. TRICKED HIM??? “Yes, somehow it’s my fault that you were texting another girl.” I didn’t want to make a scene so I left the bar. I was done with his lying, cheating, and drinking. He didn’t follow me.
I went back to the room, changed my flight (earliest I could get was the next morning), scheduled my shuttle pick up, called the apartment manager of the place I had liked best to see if it was still available. It was, I just needed to fill out the application which I could do online…so I began on my iPad. After an hour or so, the Brit returned to the room bragging about the great massage he had just had and that I should get one because I needed to relax. I ignored him. He asked what I was doing as he saw how intently I was working on my iPad. “Filling out an application.” “For what?” “For the apartment I’m moving into.” “You’re going to lease an apartment you’ve never seen? Brilliant!” he said in his British accent. “What do you think I’ve been doing after work the last few weeks? Oh, wait, you wouldn’t know. You were too busy cheating or drinking.” Then came the degrading…”You’re so stupid”, “You’re an idiot”, etc. I said “You’re right, I’m an idiot for having stayed with you as long as I did.” That’s when I started packing my suitcase. “Where do you think you’re going?” he asked. “I’m leaving in the morning. I have a 5:30 pick up so I need to pack tonight.” This sent him into a rage, but I had found such calm with knowing I was getting out of this hell that I didn’t even flinch as he yelled at me and called me every name in the book. I finished packing and grabbed my coat and purse to go out to eat. “And where do you think you’re going now?” he demanded. “Remember that restaurant I told you I wanted to try? Well, I’m going, alone. Don’t wait up!” I grabbed my key and left before he could say another word.
When I arrived at the restaurant and found myself feeling very alone. I had just broken up and walked out on my toxic boyfriend! I decided to eat at the bar as there was plenty of traffic, mostly people waiting for tables. I had an incident in the past when I had broken up with a boyfriend, went to a bar, and became “that girl” sitting at the bar crying with the bartender comforting me saying “he’s not worth it”. I was determined not to be that girl this night. This guy certainly was not worth one single tear! I ended up having a great time talking with the bartenders, other patrons waiting for tables. The hilarious part was many people asked if or why I was alone. I would say, “well, my cheating boyfriend is in our room but I wanted to have an enjoyable dinner.” That made for lots of conversation and lots of “cheers to that!”
As I prepared to leave the next morning the Brit again tried to plead with me to stay, tried to sabotage my time so I would miss my shuttle, but to no avail. I arrived home and immediately went to sign the new lease agreement and get the keys to my sanctuary. A work colleague came to help me move the few things I had at his apartment. I scheduled the movers to get my furniture and things from storage by the weekend. Another friend, E, loaned me her air mattress so I would have something to sleep on until I got my furniture. It was so peaceful and relaxing. I was ecstatic!
I would like to say I never heard from the Brit again, but I can’t. Just like a fungus, he too was hard to eliminate. He tried to call “to talk” but I was over falling for his pathetic routine. The final call was a drunken night at a bar. Apparently he had used his friend B again as designated driver, but B got mad when the Brit was trying to pick up women at the bar and left him there. He called begging me to come take him home. I guess he wasn’t charming enough to go home with the woman at the bar. I was so proud that I had not one ounce of pity for him. I simply said “you are not my problem anymore” and hung up. (That’s a line from “Ever After” just before Anjelica Huston sells Drew Barrymore to Monsieur Le Pieu.)
It was the most tumultuous 4 and 1/2 months of my life I think. Husband #1 came close, but that was spread out over 9 years. While it was a horrific experience and I wish it on no one ever, I was able to let go of a little piece of myself, that codependent part of me. I let go of the part that could still be belittled, guilted into doing things, shamed into not doing things for myself. Any bit of self doubt I had, I let it all go. I would never be made to feel badly about myself again. I would never let someone shame me for the way I dress or the expectations I had for a relationship. I would never again be faulted for someone else’s poor choices. I would never again take responsibility for someone’s problems they clearly didn’t want to correct. I was free! I was free to be me! No longer would I stay.
[photo credit: YourHealth.net.au – The Cost of Alcohol to Health]