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To the Woman Who Didn’t See the Signs

They say it’s better to have love and lost, than to not have loved at all. I disagree. 

I wish he had never seen me in 7/11 in buying ice cream. I wish he had never seen my sad demeanor, my ripped stockings, my oversized sweater, or the thick black bow wrapped around my neck. I wish he had never noticed me because then I wouldn’t feel so horrible. 

I once described love as a battlefield, where the player always loses. I thought that my anxiety and my past made me perceptible to never finding that happy ending every fairytale fed me, every lie that I thought everyone else swallowed like a Xanax, hoping that it would make them complete. I wish I had never looked up from the ice cream, never gazed into his blue eyes, those gray, green, blue eyes that singled me out. It was like an 80’s romantic comedy. His gaze penetrated my soul, and mine his, and for a second, I thought we were the only people in that convenience store. I wish he had never made me laugh when he asked me if I liked Ben & Jerry’s. 

I wish we hadn’t gotten stuck in the snow together because that was the day that I knew I loved him. It came down like little white miracles, kissing our cheeks as they fell from heaven. I always considered snow as a sign, and as we stood outside my house, with me in his sweatshirt and my Bean Boots, I felt it. I felt that sick, gut wrenching feeling, that made my knees weak. I loved him.

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It was during the snow that I should have known. I should’ve known by the way he didn’t care about my feelings, how he put his ideas before mine. He roared his insecurities and I roared mine, but he never heard what I said. I made excuses. I said that it was because he was a war hero, that he was put under harsh conditions. I made excuses and forgave him when he grabbed his clothes and told me we were over. But I let him come back and we kissed and made up and said it was the miscommunication.

I wish that I hadn’t told him about my anxiety and my past because I let down those walls that I spent years building and repairing and strengthening. I was invulnerable to the outside world until he came along. I told him my ticks and weaknesses, as if I was permanently tattooing my social security number and my pin code on my forehead for everyone to see. My vulnerability made us closer, I thought. And when he came home sharing his day and his problems, I was ready to talk with him because to me, we had this deep connection that was incorruptible. Our love was going to overcome our obstacles.

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It was the night that I spent driving around looking for him that I should’ve seen. I had lost my temper and as a result, he told me he was going to kill himself by driving his car over a bridge. I remember my hands shaking as I kept dialing and redialing his number. I called him twelve times before he returned my call. To find out he was where it all began. At the convenience store where we met. When I told him that I had been searching for him, worried about what he would do, he trivialized my anger and sadness. He told me that he was never going to do it, and that I hadn’t been calling him because he never saw his phone ring with my name on the caller I.D.

But his ex called.

He talked to her for an hour, while I sat there, covering my face, hoping that people wouldn’t see the tears streaming as the man I loved talked to another woman about his PTSD.

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I wish that he had never told me how much he loved me, when he stroked my cheek and hugged me close. He made me feel safe, and I wanted to be with him always. We talked about leaving everything behind and traveling the world, visiting these extraordinary countries and living in tents. I had found my travel buddy, my soulmate. I had finally given up all my pessimistic beliefs about love, and was beginning to open up to him.

It was the night that he almost drove me into a golf cart I realized I needed to leave.

I wish I had seen the red flags, the threatening to harm anyone that talked to me, the overprotective nature when we left the house, the constant hovering, the drunkness that led him into a stupor, where I was expected to take care of him, but was condemned if I showed any slight hint of annoyance or anger. He claimed it was because I was his baby, and that no one should ever hurt someone that he cared for. I would try to reason with him, and blame the PTSD, but the signs were right in front of me. We were leaving my friends house and like a light, he went from being the man I loved to this jealous and horrid person. He called me names, which I spoke out against and – again – tried to reason with him. Blame the PTSD. He said it was my fault that some other man was sitting next to me, and that it was me who was being unfaithful to him. When I told him he was being overdramatic, his rage took over and he sped into a maintenance person driving a golf cart. At the last minute, he swerved out of the way, with me screaming at the top of my lungs to let me out. When I was gone from his car, I slammed the door shut and threw a drink that I had in my hand at the vehicle. He got out his car and chased me up against my car, threatening me to “shut up”, but all I could say was, “you have no disregard for me or my life.” At this, he said he wanted his clothes so that he could leave.

It was when he cornered me in my bathroom that I realized that I was afraid of him.

I threw his things in his face, hoping to increase the distance between us, but he cornered me and began punching himself in the face. The rings on his hands left welts and bruises, and my body trembled. He punched himself with such force like he was punching another man. He kept telling me to hit him, but the only hands that inflicted harm on him was himself. Eventually he calmed down, but a bystander who had noticed our fight outside, came in and asked him to leave. I packed up his clothes and blocked him from my phone.

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It was when he looked at me as if he had never loved me at all, that I realized I couldn’t help him. As much as I tried, as much as I wanted to make a safe haven for him, he was never going to be happy because he reveled in his own misery. He wanted to get a reaction out of me, especially if it regarded him ending his life. I had to realize that he couldn’t be fixed. Not by me. When he came to get the remainder of his things, I tried to get closure, but the way his face stayed ice-cold and his voice monotone, I saw the psychopathic tendencies that I had missed before. The manipulation, the pretend nonchalance, it all came at me like a slap in the face. I had wanted so hard to help him, to become his caretaker and make a better world for him, that I hadn’t seen his vampiric nature, his willingness to take but to never give. His way of bending the truth to sound like everything had been my fault.

I thought he was the one, but, instead, he was a lesson. A lesson to those who can’t see the signs because love – or what they think is love – has blinded them in a cloud of false bliss. For those who are too afraid to leave, I implore you to see the strength inside of you so that you can break free from this prison. Understand your worth, realize your potential, seize your chance to regain your freedom. I mean it when I say that I disagree with those who say that it’s better to have love and lost, than to have never loved at all, because it’s better to love and to be loved, by someone who does not make you question your outfit, who gets angered when denied sex, who uses his mental illness to control your emotions, who makes you afraid to get him angry.

It was when I wrote this, that I realized that it’s not love who is the demon but the camouflage to the insecurities that hide underneath it. I know that I am not an expert, and that all I can talk about are my experiences, but I hope that this not only opens the conversation about domestic violence but maybe helps someone who isn’t able to see the signs, see them, and hopefully, learn to love herself enough to break free.

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