I’m letting the title stand as my trigger warning here because I’m going to be writing about some things that have happened over the past month and years. I was in an abusive relationship. It didn’t get physically abusive, but toward the end I was afraid that it might. I need to write about it. It might come out disjointed. I’ll probably talk about my remaining partners’ experiences and feelings as I know them, too. Mostly, I just want anyone who reads this to know and have really fair warning that I’m going to be talking about this experience–for my own health and sanity if nothing else. And I’m a little afraid that said partner will actually come read this and say things or .. I don’t know. I have fears I don’t want to give expression to, I guess.
I broke up with my cishet white boyfriend on June 6th. We’d been dating for 5 years, maybe 5.5 years. I’d been feeling like breaking up with him for about a year, which my wife reminded me of the last time I talked about it with her before I broke up with him. I just kept giving him chances and kept taking care of his feelings and kept worrying about him.
I knew he didn’t see it that way. I know he still doesn’t see it that way. Of course he doesn’t. For so long, he had me to take care of him.
But, a few days before I broke up with him, something happened that shook me completely to my core: he exploded at me. That was May 31st.
It was completely unprovoked and without warning. And he purposefully exploded *at* *me*.
It was terrifying.
My mind, protecting me, doesn’t want me to remember too many details. It’s like that about my childhood abuse, too. But here’s what I remember:
My wife, my nb partner, and my cismale partner and I had all been talking over the course of our living together about things like emotional labor. (This is spread out over a year of in-person and FB chat conversations.) We all wanted to try to make our living space work well, since we shared 825sqft between 4 adults and 1 cat. We all talked about where we could do better and where we felt we were doing well. Maybe a week before Explosion Day, I had sent to the chat this comic about mental load and how it often falls on women to pick up that work, unthanked, and how exhausting that is. And we had talked about it in our subsequent group meeting (which we had fairly frequently, usually once per week–every other week for budget, the in-between weeks for general household maintenance).
The following Wednesday, which was May 31st, I came across this article, which is about emotional labor and relationships. I posted it to our FB chat, even though we were all home, because my wife and I were actively ill and my nb partner was recovering. Everyone looked in on the chat, and wife, NB, and I started chatting about the article. CM did not. He read along in the conversation a little bit, but about half-way through, he stopped even reading along. Wife, NB, and I kept talking about how the article was great, and it gave us perspective, and how we felt it helped us see some spaces we could each do better. And then, feeling inspired by the chat, I suggested something from our previous in-person group meeting that needed doing and didn’t seem too taxing even though it was a ‘big’ thing: redoing our group chore chart. I said, “Hey, what’s everyone doing? If we’re all here and no one is doing anything pressing, how do you each feel about getting together to redo the chore chart, and then we can have that big thing done?” NB and wife were in, but of course CM didn’t respond. So, I got up to go knock on his door.
I knocked, and he said, in his normal voice, “Come in,” so I pushed his door open. And I held up my phone, and knowing full well he hadn’t but trying to keep it light and friendly, I asked, “Hey, did you read the group message?” And he laid his eyes on me, and I saw them flash as soon as they landed on me.
And that’s when he EXPLODED at me. He yelled, “WHAT?!?!?!?!” and then a whole bunch of other things that I don’t really remember. I felt shocked, and I felt like I floated half-out of myself. And I froze, physically. I was in his doorway, and I started noticing details pretty quickly, and running through a litany in my head. And the litany went like this: ‘He’s putting on shoes. Why is he doing that? Oh, he has therapy today. Right, okay. Is that why he’s mad, because I forgot? But he hadn’t read the messages. That doesn’t make sense. Okay. Also, I’m in his doorway. I’m in his way. I need to move so that he can get out. But I’m afraid to move, because he’s yelling and moving like he’s wild, and if I move, he’s going to get madder, and I don’t know what he will do. So not moving isn’t right, but moving isn’t right.’
That all went through my head in a flash, even though it sounds longer. And I just kept staring at him while he yelled. And then he got quiet, but he was still angry-moving, like a dangerous animal does. Quiet, but ready to strike. And then…because bodies do things…I swallowed. And he saw it. And he said, “See?? You’re scaaaared.” In this really snarky, snotty, un-nice voice.
Of course I was scared. I didn’t say that though. I swallowed again, but tried to keep everything else about me completely still. And then I said, “[Name], I am standing in your doorway. And apparently moving is not the right thing to do, because it makes you angry. But not moving means I’m stuck in your way, and so that’s not the right thing, either. So please tell me what to do, and I will do it.” I said it so calmly, so evenly. My wife heard this, and she started to come down the hall then (she’d been in the kitchen). And CM said, “Okay, you can move.”
So I did, but not very far–because I wasn’t sure how far was ‘okay.’ I just moved enough not to be in his way. I waited until he brushed his teeth, and then he left. And then I used the bathroom–because sudden urges–and then I told my wife what had happened. She wanted to kick him out then. But I was still shocked, and taking care of him. So I waited until after he was out of therapy (for him to tell us he was out), and then said, “Hey, can you be home in an hour to work on the chore board?” and he said okay.
So he did come home in an hour like he said, and we did work on the chore board. He really didn’t want to take on much responsibility, though (par for the course), and he got a little angry when I gently pointed out that the rest of us had taken on multiple things, so maybe he could take on more than one thing, too.
After the chore board work, I went to the room that my wife, nb, and I shared (CM is the only one who had his own room) and sat in my computer chair. CM came by and stuck his head in, and I said, “Hey, do you have a moment to talk about this morning?” He said, “NO! Because you’re just going to yell at me!” in this really snotty voice. I didn’t respond. I just sat there waiting, as he waffled in the doorway, because either he was going to come in or he wasn’t. Finally he did, and he flopped back on the bed all dramatic-like. He didn’t say anything, so I said, “Okay. I don’t want to yell at you. I just want to ask: why did you get so angry earlier?”
And he talked, and talked, and talked. He told me that he felt like the articles were pointed at him, that we were making fun of him, that we had been talking about him. All of this was super untrue, and he could’ve verified by reading the chat himself. I told him, “Okay. I understand that, though we weren’t attacking you. We are all trying to do better together.” He didn’t seem to accept this. He just kept on about how he felt so attacked. So I let him talk about it a while longer. And then finally I said, “I don’t think you understand what it does to me when you explode like that, but it can’t be happening.” He kind of looked at me, and I said, “I know you don’t know abuse on a cellular level like I do. I know you haven’t been through what I have, and I’m glad you haven’t. And also, I know that you know on an intellectual level what I’ve been through, because we’ve talked about it. And when you explode like that…it really harms me.” He looked pained. And I said, “Do you remember when you got really upset about a month ago?” and he shook his head no. I said, “I can’t even remember what you were upset -about-. I just remember that you suddenly got super-explode-y upset over something that wasn’t all that important, and it scared me so badly that I ended up sitting on my butt for a month watching Netflix.”
He kind of looked at me, and I thought some more, and I said, “I’m trying to remember what it was…you were cooking something?” and then it came back in a rush: “pizza rolls! and they burnt.” And the circumstances of how they burnt–he’d either not set an alarm or didn’t hear the alarm, and then he blamed both myself and nb for the pizza rolls burning in the oven. And, nothing caught on fire. No smoke alarms went off. We had more food in the apartment. But he was so, so upset, and he refused to take any responsibility for it, and he kept pushing the blame onto me and nb. Anyway, I said, “The point is, you exploded, and it wasn’t directly at me, but it was pretty scary, and I couldn’t stop myself from sliding into a hole, even though I tried.” And he nodded a little bit. And we talked some, and then he started talking about how sad he feels because his money is always so tight, and people at his work tell him to buy himself treats, but he can only ever buy himself gummy bears. Which…yes, money has been tight-ish around our apartment, but nothing like the ‘tight’ I have known in a large portion of my life (certainly much larger than the 3 years he’s lived with me). And also, there are things he could do to help that tightness in his wallet–such as trading in his luxury sedan for a cheaper car, which would also lighten his insurance payment. And every time I *tried* to help him with the tightness in his wallet, he got angry about it. Or he ran away from it. Or he made me feel really weird about it–“I’m doing this for youuuuuuu, it’s your gift, I don’t want to stop because it’s for you” for fun things, but then not wanting to pay for needed things (like when our cat was in desperate need of medical care, or his own medical care, etc).
Anyway, so, I listened to that, and he seemed to feel better, and he told me about a woman he’s flirting with in a social game we play, and then he got up and almost bounced out of the room. And I sat there feeling drained and not really better. And my stomach began to hurt. And over the next week, it just kept hurting worse. On the 4th, we had a group meeting, and he apologized to the whole group for The Explosion, and then he said, “And I apologize for it if happens in the future.” And I had a full-blown panic attack. Because no. Because he’s giving himself permission. Because in my experience, anyone who can explode like that, with no provocation and no warning, can move pretty quickly to physical violence. I was able to choreograph that all in my head not just from knowing *him* so well but from being so well acquainted with abuse. I lived with it from my early childhood. My stepdad is an abusive asshole. I know this too well. And I just. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like my chest was crushed. I felt like if I moved, the world would crumble apart, but it was already crumbling apart, because even though we talked, he’s sitting here giving himself permission, in our living room.
My wife started taking care of me immediately. NB was confused, because they didn’t have full context. Wife eventually got me to…to move, I think? Maybe? Another room? CM, for his part, got up unconcernedly and loaded the dishwasher. And made jokes. I can still hear his laughter. Like he didn’t even realize? I’m pretty fat, though, kinda hard to miss. And like, I’m not self-conscious about the fatness, just–I do take up space. I was trying to be quiet, though, because who wants to trigger abuse? Still. It was surreal.
I don’t really remember much of the rest of that night. I know that wife featured as go-between between CM and me. And I know she talked with him, and I believe that was on the 5th? And she told him that I was in pain, physical pain, and scared, and etc. She did a lot to take care of his feelings. But she was also straightforward with him–he had really hurt me. And he cried on her, and he ‘felt so bad.’ Which, well, he should feel bad for doing that to me. He needed to know, because he wasn’t getting it. Not if he could sit there blithely saying he apologized in advance for future such occurrences.
On the 6th, he was home, and I was home, and I knew he planned to go out at some point for groceries. I’d woken early, because I was scared. And I knew what I needed to do: break things off with him. I waited until I heard him up and moving around, and then I knocked on his door, around noon. He said I could come in, and he’d been crying, and I tried to just, move beyond that, because there’s never a good time to break up with someone, and also, I matter. And I said, “Hey, can we talk a minute?” and he said, “I need to shower,” and I said, “Okay, that’s cool, can you spare a moment before your shower?” because I was thinking that he might like the time and privacy in the shower. So he said yes, and I said, “okay, so…” and then he broke in with how my wife had supposedly told him that he was just like my stepdad, and everyone hated him, and he was a terrible person.
So right out the gate, I’m having to caretake him. I’m saying, “No, no one thinks that, no one thinks you’re him, I know she didn’t say that, she told me what she said to you, she reminded you of my past and how I experience your explosion as similar to that….” And so we talk like that for a little bit, and he’s crying and doing this stumbly thing he does when he wants people to feel bad for him. Finally, I say, “So, I have given this a lot of thought, and this isn’t out of a lack of love. But I don’t think I can give you what you want, and I really want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy. And I don’t think I am that for you. I think you want monogamy or monogamish, and I am never going to be that. And I think we tried, and that’s just not working for us. I will always be poly. And it’s cool that you want what you want. You should have it.” And he cried more, of course, and then he agreed. And so we were broken up then. And he wanted to talk a little more, and eventually he says, “I was going to propose to you,” and I was like, “Oh. Huh.” And he shows me a ring on his phone, and I was like, “Well, the last time we talked about marriage, you were all freaked out by the idea, over a year ago, so huh.” And he said, “Yeah, I guess I knew.” So I said, “I am going to get out of your room now so you can have your space and get yourself together and do your things. I figure you’ll want your space today.” And I got out of there.
I’d thought maybe my stomach would stop hurting, but it didn’t. I kept waiting, but I just felt…like he was still around. So, on the night of the 7th, I asked NB and wife if I could book a couple nights at a hotel for myself, to try to get out of the stress. I’d planned to take NB with me, because I’m kind of a traveling nightmare nowadays: CPAP, cane, I’m a vampire thanks to my blood pressure meds + a natural sun allergy…. So I figured NB would fetch food for us, and he could do his work from anywhere with a connection. They agreed, so I found a hotel in distance of eateries and a Target, and booked it. Then wife talked with CM and told him I was going (so he wouldn’t be surprised), and suggested it would be difficult on me to go, so CM ‘volunteered’ to go in my place–he just has a small bag of pills and his laptop to take with him, it’s much less of a task. SO he did, and like magic, my stomachache subsided.
While he was gone, the whole feeling of the apartment changed. Wife, NB, and I realized how much we’d been boxing ourselves up for him–how much everything had to be CM’s way, how he got his own place but only paid groceries, how he dictated even whether NB and I had sex based on CM’s comfort level (even though CM long ago stopped having sex with me due to…well, a lot of things, though he fat-shamed me about it, multiple times). Anyway, realizing that, and how happy we were without him around to dictate, we knew he couldn’t stay. I mean, that shouldn’t have even been a consideration, but I just kept trying to take care of his feelings, so it had been. So when he got back, he told wife he was planning to stay, and she said, “Maybe you should rethink that.” So that was the 10th.
So he probably knew on the 6th he needed to get out, and on the 10th he definitely knew. So he verbally tells us a couple days later that it’d probably be a couple weeks, his dad is in the hospital, but then his mom will come pick him up. But he doesn’t start packing. And he starts working on transfer paperwork at work–his retail job.
On the 19th, he sends us written notification that he will definitely be out by the Friday after the coming one, if not sooner, and that he has a place to stay in the city if his parents can’t come get him. So, it’s already been about a week since he first said ‘couple of weeks,’ and that gives him an extra week on top of that. But now we have a date. As of the 22nd, he hasn’t packed anything, so I finally break my friendly-distance thing to say, “So, about that packing–not that I’m trying to chase you out, haha, but we need the space for putting boxes, and also, your move date is coming up.” And he says, “Oh, I’m off the next several days, gonna use that to pack.” And I say, “okay.”
But then: on the 23rd he ‘tweaked his back,’ and so he didn’t pack. And I’m not unsympathetic to disability and pain (I have multiple disabilities and live in daily pain myself). Also, there are deadlines, and moving is one of them, and I’ve been packing for *our* move through my considerable pain (yeah, that stomachache that went away? I developed a *literal* pain my neck pretty soon after, and it stayed for *weeks*). (We are moving to a first-floor apartment that will be more accessible for both myself and my wife, and will hopefully be cooler–and also, this is something CM was supposed to help us make happen *last year*, but did not do. His work experience specialty is relocation, which he loves to tell people, but when we sent him to talk with apartment management, he came back empty-handed and saying it was impossible. When wife and nb went, they came back rife with information and possibilities. Yeah.) Anyway, so, on the 23rd, he sat around not packing. On the 24th, he went out all day with mutual friends. And, okay, he was doing things he wanted to do, and also he wasn’t here, but also: not packing. He didn’t come back until 9ish or so? And didn’t pack at all. On the 25th, I got up to go to the bathroom, and on my way back, he says to me, “I got called into work.” I said, “…okay.” Because 1) I really don’t care about his work schedule beyond ‘is he packing?’ and 2) when we told him he needed to go, he started complaining about how ‘expensive’ his move would be (he’s moving 4.5 hours away, and as mentioned, his parents are coming to get him–no moving truck required, so, I don’t really understand how it’s so ‘expensive’), so we said, “Fine, stop paying the one thing you pay, groceries.” So his work schedule literally has nothing to do with me. But I went in to my wife on the bed and said, “…he’s going to work. Which means he’s not packing. Again.”
So, she got up, and went to him, and said, “So, I wanted to double-check with you, because NB and I are making the weekly meal lists. And you’re not here past the 30th, right, so past then we don’t need to include you, right?” And he got -angry- with her. Started growling at her. And then he started getting ‘sad’ with her. And then he tried to claim that he had only said he would move out then ‘if things got awkward.’ Which, no, he didn’t, and hello, they were awkward. He’d verbally abused me, given himself permission to do so again, and we’d broken up. That’s pretty damned awkward. (And none of this takes into account the bullying to NB he did. Or the mild transphobia toward my wife…..) So my wife says, “No, you said you were moving out then, on the 19th. So I just wanted to double-check that was still your plan, since you haven’t seemed to pack or anything.” And so he muttered something, and then crashed out of the apartment to work.
He came home that night crying, but he did start packing. And he packed the next day, and the next. And he kept trying to catch me alone to talk with me. And one day, he caught me to say, “Hey, that 5 Love Languages Book? It may’ve saved my parents’ marriage.” And I said, “Oh. Well, that’s good.” And he went on to talk about it in what we’ve dubbed his Ally Cookies voice, and I just kept looking at him and thinking, ‘Dude, I tried to read that book with you, but we got 1 chapter in, because you groaned and complained so much. You don’t actually know what you’re talking about. You just want points.’ And it was so weird to see through that so clearly. So wibbly.
At some point during all this, he and I talked about his desk. He planned to leave it here. So I said to him, “Oh, good. I have severe carpal tunnel, and my current desk doesn’t have a slide-out tray, so I can use yours.” And he said, “Yeah, that’s cool!” And he seemed genuinely glad. But then on the 29th, he brought his friend over to help him move his boxes out, and after they were done, and left, I walked past him room…and his desk was gone. No conversation, no warning. This also happened after he had dropped on us, “Hey, I’mma take the router, and oh by the way, my parents have a router and I’m going to live with them and plug into theirs.” And I had told him that we’re looking at being -$200/month without his income. So, how are we supposed to afford either a desk or a router? The router issue was solved by a good friend, who, when I told her about these things, was like, *poof, have a router*. But the desk…..
CM came back later on the 29th to ‘pick up more of his things.’ Which, okay, cool. And since he and I had had a specific agreement about the desk, I summoned my courage to go talk with him. So I knocked on his door, and he said, “Yeah?” and I said, “Hey, so, about the desk…it’s gone?” And he said, “Yeah?” and I said, “…I thought we had an agreement about it?” And he started crying. Like I was hurting him. I hadn’t said it meanly. I was really soft about it. So he says, “Well, I need something to put my computer on at [friend’s house I’m staying at for maybe 2 weeks].” I said, “Okay. Some warning may have been nice.” So he says, “Plus, [friend] can use it.” And I said, “okay,” thinking about all the times he’s told us said friend is independently wealthy. And then he says, “I told wife I was taking it,” and wife pipes up from the hallways, “No you didn’t.” And he starts talking about how he could bring it back, or we could go get it from friend after he’s left (which…wouldn’t friend be surprised??). So I said, “No, it’s gone, it’s done now. But going forward, if there are things we’ve had agreements on, or family purchases, and you’re thinking of taking them, can we at least have a conversation before they disappear?” and he wibbles and wobbles on it, and I say, “I just want to know, so we know what we need to take care of.” And finally I get him to agree. And then he says, “Well, I’m leaving the router.” and I say, “Oh. Well, you said you wanted it, so we have one on the way. It arrives tomorrow.” He looked So. Surprised. Like we had just taken all the power away from that move. Like, how could we take care of ourselves without him?? I wish I’d taken a picture of that face. But it stopped him crying for that moment.
Anyway, so he’s pottering around putting things in boxes. And then he gets to his big bath towel, and he starts crying again, and he says, “Do you have my matching towel?” and I say, “Yeah, I can get that for you,” so I do. And then he starts sadly patting it, like it’s a dying cat, and he is going on about the matching hand towels, and I tell him honestly I’ve never seen them. He says, “Well, it doesn’t matter,” in the saddest voice ever, and I say, “Well, if we find them, we can send them to you,” and he pat-pats his towels again and says, “No, it’s okay” in that woe-is-me voice, and I say, “No, really, it’s clearly important to you, so if we find them, we will send them to you.” And he says it again, that it’s fiiiine, and so I say, “[CM], I don’t know if you’re aware, but when people break up, there’s usually a time when an exchanging of stuff happens like this.” And again, he looked like I’d poked him with a hot poker! And he stopped crying, and just stood there shocked. So I was like, “Anyway, I think I’m probably not helping much here anymore, and I just wanted to have that conversation with you, so I’ll let you get back to what you were doing,” and I got out.
Not too long after that, he decided he was spending that night at friend’s house, so wife gathered up his apartment keys from him. And he sad-tromboned his way out of the apartment (“Well…. I guess I’ll just… leave the door open…..”).
So on the 30th, he still had stuff to get. And when he finally came, around 3pm, we thought he’d be here longer: his room was a mess, and we’d asked him to clean up his trash. Only fair, especially since he rarely did even the communal chores he signed up for, and in his room he basically would sometimes empty his trash (but more often, NB would get it). And his communal chores were: empty dishwasher, sweep/mop floors (two hard floor spaces, both pretty small), clean microwave, get groceries. He got the groceries, but also, he worked at the store where the groceries were, so….. The others, he was either super inconsistent on (dishwasher) or nonexistent on (floors, microwave). The rest of us did handwash, loaded dishwasher, cleaned counters and stove, did inventory, planned meals, kept receipts, vacuumed, folded socks, folded laundry, changed bedding, scrubbed down the bathroom, took out trash and recycling, dusted, tidied, did the windows, and picked up what he wasn’t doing. Anyway, so the point is, it’s really really fair to ask him to pick up his own trash while he’s moving out. So he comes at 3…and is gone by 3:30.
So we go to his room…celebrating that he’s gone…and he’s left so much stuff. Pillows he said he wanted. Trash everywhere. Sunflower seeds ground into the carpet. Things he said ‘needed to go to Goodwill.’ His torn, dirty bed sheet. The mattress topper that he said he wanted. Stuff in his dresser drawers, including identifying information and mementos. So, I started tossing it all in a box, because I was pissed. Because how dare he try one last time to make us deal with his shit?? And he still had clothes in our dryer, which we’d been washing for him, and he’d said, “Just call me when they’re done, and I’ll come get them.” So we filled garbage bags with all this stuff he’d left behind, including some of the actual garbage, because fuck that noise–and it was the only time we got petty in all of this–and then when his shirts were done, we stuffed those in the bags, too, and then wife called him. And he said, “Oh, I’ll come by when I’m going out for dinner.” So a couple hours later, he lets us know he’s coming.
So he’s expecting 4-5 shirts, and she goes out there with 4-5 garbage bags, and NB and I stay inside, because CM is kind of afraid of wife, even though CM is big and muscly from his retail job (seriously) and wife has a brain tumor and tires really easily from physical exertion. And she meets him, and she tells me he immediately gets his straight-mouth angry look, and he’s like, “Oh, thanks,” and she’s like, “You’re welcome!” and turns around to go, and he says, “Thank you for ruining my life!” and she just waves over her shoulder and keeps going.
So, he’s officially out, and we’re all exhilarated. And we order pizza–just cheese for the first time in forever!!–and just hang out a bit. And we unfriend him all over the place. Wife and I do, anyway. NB doesn’t, not yet, because one of CM’s ways of bullying NB was ignoring them, so NB feels pretty safe that CM is going to continue that practice. But I unfriend CM and his family I have friended, and just kind of breathe a little.
The next morning, I wake up and find out that CM got nasty on social media:
Which…a) I used to unfriend the people who were ‘mutual friends’ who loved on that post/commented on it in support of him but didn’t come check with me (because if you’ve gotten to know my character and then you see something like this, and you just believe it? Okay, I don’t need you in my life.), and b) contains some really weird shit and some inaccuracies (to be nice).
So this ‘might be a surprise’ thing? His parents and siblings knew. His hometown friends knew (I’d met them in person, slept in the house of one, played board games with them, been to the wedding of two). His work buddies knew. Though, to his ‘credit,’ he did cheat on me at least twice during our relationship. And his cheating was the kind where he would both not tell the other woman I existed (quite often) and not tell me she existed. In fact there’s a Captain Awkward post about a guy like this, from the point of view of The Other Woman, that I read and thought, “OMG, is she writing about my relationship???? Is…is that us? Does he have someone else, and plans with her?” Because I couldn’t actually put it past him. And I’ve never actually felt like that about one of CA’s posts before. I’ve felt like some of her advice applies to my life, or like some letter writers have lives that are similar to but not parallel with mine. But this just felt so…so eerily similar (“You make me smile” and “it’s been a long time coming” being two especially strong phrases sticking out to me)…. Anyway, the point is, who the hell is he telling that our relationship might be a ‘secret’ to?? After almost 6 years, 3 of which we’ve spent in the same apartment? After having talked this over with wife several times, she hit on something I think might actually be the Thing of it: that he’s saying this to make the people he told feel like The Super Special People He Told. Like they’re In The Club. Which, given that most people knew….that makes sense.
Anyway, how he was treated? We were super-respectful, right up until the trash bags. He’s the one who kept trying to pull shit on us. He kept claiming untrue things, trying to wriggle out, trying to pull power moves on us and looking shocked when we got out of them. He got mad that we made him stick to his deadline of moving out. Oh, yeah, when he would catch me alone in the hallway? Sad Eyes and “You want me to goooooo.” To which I would stoically say, “We need the room for boxes, dude.” That was my standard reply. That, and, “We’re all moving out, soon no one will be here.” I was *not* getting sucked into Feelingstown with him. I knew he was trying to get me to take care of him/pull me into arguments and blame games. I didn’t want it. So yeah, the trash bags probably weren’t super-respectful, and also, he was super shitty to us all along: taking the desk he’d agreed to leave; trying to power-move with the router; not cleaning up his own damned trash; trying to make us get rid of his junk (which we are sure he would’ve then claimed we’d gotten rid of something super important); trying to wiggle out of his own stated move date; etc.
As for wasting his life with me? Well, he can feel how he feels. While with me, I taught him about social justice, got him into therapy, made sure he knew how to cook, encouraged him to go out, encouraged him to find a DND group, encouraged him to find jobs he loves, supported him through a firing, went to him when we needed to talk about difficult things, encouraged him to come talk with me (he never did), did my best to go out with him when my body worked properly enough because *he* likes going out, made sure he got to visit his other girlfriend when he had a serious one, tried to help him figure out financial things, tried to trade off entertainment with him, kept a set date night with him, gave up having sex or cuddling with my other partners for his comfort, let him fat- and mental health-shame me, taught him about sex toys and kink, encouraged him to have dreams and goals, met his friends when he made plans to do so, hung out at a wedding virtually without him in his hometown while he acted vaguely ashamed of me, encouraged him to share his feelings freely…. I mean, I’m not perfect. I spent a lot of time in bed, due to disabilities. I got angry and frustrated. I cried, because my grandma got deathly ill and then died. And then my cat did, too. And my wife developed a brain tumor. But…I tried. So, if he feels like he wasted his life, well…okay. Though, like I said, it was 3 years of living here, and about 2.5 before that. So…that’s kinda dramatic. He’s 36. His life isn’t over.
And then this bit about sitting in his friend’s spare room while he works to get out of StL. So, you read all that about how he’d had plans with his parents, etc, for getting out of here, right? Yeah, we didn’t just kick him out suddenly (although, with the verbal abuse, and especially with the subsequent ‘apology’ that promised more, we would’ve been within our rights). From the 6th to the 30th is almost a month. From the 10th to the 30th is 20 days–still almost a month. And as of the 19th, even, he’d had plans with both the friend and his parents. So, it was by no means sudden like he’s making it out here.
Then the pity party about us cutting him out of our lives on social media. First, it’s pretty common in a break-up for people to cut off social media contact. That’s just normal and healthy. Did he think he’d be able to moon around and snoop at me? I’m not stupid. I don’t want him monitoring me. I’m not giving him that control. After I unfriended him, I set myself to friends-only. And after I saw this post and used it to unfriend the people who didn’t even have the decency to check in with me despite the tripe, I blocked him on FB. And yeah, my wife did, too. Because of course she’s Team Me. And also, like I said, he’s mildly transphobic toward her–he hits on pretty much every other woman, but not her. And she’s pretty: tall, thin, big blue eyes, blonde. Super soft skin. And he’s just like….nope. Which…. it’s just a difference in how he treats her. Like he’s mildly skeeved by her. Not okay. Anyway, so of course she cut him off. And NB, like I said, hadn’t yet…and like I said, CM just….said what he said, because NB has never mattered as a person to him. NB has mattered as a *threat* to him. Not because NB has threatened him–they haven’t, actually, and have tried for peacefulness really actively–but because NB’s anatomy threatens CM. So, yeah. It’s untrue that we’d all ‘cut him off,’ but even if it were true, so what? It’s normal and healthy. And also, this Captain Awkward post beautifully explains that friends of victims should always cut off abusers. Always. And CM? He’s abusive. The Explosion crystallized that, but he is.
Sorry, that was supposed to be just memory of The Explosion, but…once I got going, it just kept coming. And about the abuse….I’ve mentioned the shaming. That kind of thing would happen every so often. Usually, it happened if I came to talk with him about something, like our sex life. I’d try to talk with him about it being nonexistent, and he’d say, “Oh, well, you’re too fat for us to have sex.” Which…no? I’m super bendy, and also, curvy women are sexy. All women are sexy, but given thin privilege, I specifically want to say that fat women are sexy. And he would say, “Well, you’re so fat, it hurts my back.” Okay, so, go get your back checked out? Because that shouldn’t be a thing, and I’m not a mountain. I’m not asking him to pick me up and swing me around. I’m even on top a lot. So…?
Or, if I tried to talk with him about talking about things: “I can’t talk with you because you have depression, and it might hurt your feelings.” Which is just so inappropriate. Everyone in this apartment struggles with depression and/or anxiety. And wife, NB, and I all manage to talk with one another. I managed to go talk with CM. But he would throw my depression in my face like that. Not cool.
Or, his creepy laugh…which he didn’t start out having. And when I say creepy laugh, I mean the type of laugh that says, “I’m sexualizing you.” My wife specifically asked him to stop doing it, and he specifically did it right back when she asked.
Or when I held up a mailer from a store I like and said, “Hey, what do you think about this shirt?” and he responded, “Once, years ago when I worked in McD’s, a girl came in, and she was wearing a sheer shirt like that, and I think she was supposed to have something on under it, but she didn’t, and I’ve carried that memory with me ever since.” And I said, “…okay.” and turned back around and flipped through the rest of the mailer without really seeing it until he left the room, because EWWWWW EWEWEWEEWEEWWEWEW. (I am shuddering as I write this.)
Or how, when we did manage to attempt to have sex, he couldn’t do it without watching either digital representations of people or porn. Never me. Just me was not good enough. And when I tried to talk about this, he got sad. And then he blamed NB for being in the same apartment, so NB offered to leave or wear noise-canceling headphones, and still CM wasn’t okay without pixelated people. And I don’t want to shame anyone for their sexual preferences, but the inability to talk about it was difficult. And he just kept blaming NB for being present, and being sad if NB and I had sex, or if I even cuddled with my wife.
Or how he would be so eager to talk with me whenever I was frustrated with NB, and that made me not want to talk with him about it, because I knew it was just that he thought I was going to break up with NB, and that wasn’t it at all. And how he would berate NB all the time, and pick on NB for having beautiful hair (threatening to cut it off all the time, which he said was ‘just a joke’), because CM is ashamed of his own small bald spot. And how he was *only* eager to talk with me about being frustrated about NB.
How he groomed me in appearance–in virtual games, prior to him, I always chose ethereal or fae creatures, fauns or other non-human avatars. But he would only compliment me if I looked fully human. So I started doing that. And then he would compliment other women’s avatars that were these beautiful creatures. How I came home one day with dyed red hair RL, which I did ‘on my own’–but he loves red heads. I’m naturally a brunette. And I kept that up for a while. But prior to him, the only hair dying I’d done was colored streaks–blues, purples, greens. And once, full blue for my sister’s wedding. I still actually prefer the rainbow hues. And all the batman wear–he loves Batman, and I don’t actually like Batman, but somehow I ended up with Batman underwear and Ts. Because of trying to appeal to him, to make him like me, to make him pay attention to me.
How he got his own space with a closeable door for the price of groceries, and the rest of us shared one bedroom. How when we tried to broach that with him, he cried. How, when we faced monetary difficulties because NB lost his job and I said “Hey, we might have to cut out the internet,” he hit the roof and started yelling because the internet was more precious to him than…food, I guess? than rent? I dunno. He didn’t pay for it.
How every time I tried to talk with him about something, it would always involve so much caretaking of him: “hey, do you have a moment?” and he would go into closed-down expression, flat eyes, slumped in his chair, flat-line mouth. And would be sullen, and “oh, no, you’re coming to break up with me,” every time, which…over 5 years is a long time. Even over 3 years, if you just want to count the in-person stuff. and I would have to tell him no, and/or make jokes to lighten the mood, and so it would take forever, because first doing all that, and *then* the subject matter, and then attending to his emotions around said subject, and then I’m not actually allowed emotions…..
How hard it was to convince him to see a doctor, ever, for anything, but how eager he always was to buy ‘fun’ things…even expensive ones. Like the TV he bought when he moved in. Which I didn’t need or want and had expressly told him not to buy. And how sad he was when I was not as thrilled with that gift as he wanted me to be. And how I had to pretend. And we still have that TV. But I wished we’d gotten the money back, because I knew we would probably need that money. Or the rokus–which, I like roku, and I’m glad to have it. But he was way eager to get that, and not so much to see doctor/therapist/etc.
Or how he would constantly complain about money, but refused to use coupons or shop at cheaper stores or even look at ways to lower the food budget. And how he just kept buying name brand even though we kept telling him not to. And how he would eat so much of the food we made, that we almost never had leftovers, and so the grocery bill was so high. So yeah, he paid a lot in groceries, but also, he refused to lower it in any way. And we kept trying to help him lower it, including taking it over and then he could just pay us back what we spent, but he refused.
How he told me I liked sex too much, that I was a sex maniac.
How he would do things for The Cookies, but never really put in the labor to learn on his own. So even though I’m bi/pan, and one of his metamours is trans, and another is nb, he just kept on floating along like we would just tell him everything. And even though we live in StL, and have lived here through all the Ferguson things, he’s not really done more than set his radio to NPR. Which…? I’ve pushed him to come to protests with us, and he’s said, “I have work,” which, okay, but when he knows way ahead of time and doesn’t schedule off, and then says, “I didn’t know”? But I know he did, I put it in all the group chats and on all the calendars and talked about it at all the group meetings? So then he finally goes to one, but leaves early?
How he seemed happier with me a despondent, debilitated mess on the couch than as a functional, boundary-setting, independent person. And that’s just fucked up.
How I kept saying, “I don’t want to be your mom and remind you of things, please set reminders of your own,” and he would say, “But I like it when you remind me,” and i would say, “Right, but I don’t want to, it makes me feel shitty, so set your own reminders.” And then he would make me remind him anyway. Because without me telling him to do the thing, he wouldn’t do the thing. And when I stopped reminding him, the things just didn’t get done until someone else did them.
How he tried to make me adhere to One Penis Policy even though a) my wife and b) I’m bi. And when I didn’t, he claimed I’d ‘changed the rules on him,’ and how dare I go falling in love with someone else?
How I did say when he moved in we might exercise together; but then also, I fell very ill and was in bed for most of a year (when not taking care of my deathly ill grandma). And then he said, “But you didn’t live up to your promise of exercising with me, so it’s your fault I don’t exercise.” Because using someone’s disability/illness against them is his thing. Blame is his thing.
How he’s never forgiven me for being poly, even though that’s not a thing I need forgiveness for.
How he’s fetishized my sexuality, even though it’s not for him or about him.
How I have had to police my clothing around him, whether I wanted him to like me or felt like I had to cover up.
How only his feelings have ever mattered.
How our schedules have revolved around him: when he needed a shower, when he needed dinner, when he worked.
How I wasn’t even allowed to load the dishwasher the way I wanted without him hovering and telling me I was doing it wrong–despite that he had apparently had no training in such (his mom was SHOCKED when I met her and told her he had specific dishwasher-loading protocol) and I had many years of training in such, both on my own with E and growing up as a kid with an intermittently working dishwasher.
How he groaned if anyone else picked the group entertainment.
How he wanted family stuff so badly that he forced it upon us multiple times, even times when the rest of us were so exhausted we were almost falling asleep during.
How he wouldn’t stop telling us how great his hometown was, or how badly his missed his parents. So I would say, “Okay, go visit? Or get to know StL and make it yours?” and he would refuse.
How he would complain about not having a degree, so I would suggest he get one, and he would refuse based on money, and I would say, “We will work it out.” And he would still refuse.
And just…on and on and on. He was so fragile. So so fragile. And I just. I can’t remember everything. And yeah, there were good things? But just….that’s how abusive relationships are. There’s good mixed in, and there’s this slow reveal, and then things start happening more and more. And I was so afraid, after that big direct Explosion that what would be next would be physical. And I may be fat, but I’m not strong–not physically. So I got out.
I got out.
I’m trying to hold on to that. I keep going back and forth in my head, because even now–probably for a long time–there is a big part of me that wants to protect him, protect his reputation. But I also worry: about his next girlfriend. About whether he will continue therapy to get better? I don’t think he will, though I hope he will. But I’ve also been able to predict his actions with 100% accuracy since The Explosion, and it’s been weird but also freeing and sad. Because it means he does fit that pattern. I don’t want him to. I want him to be the person he presents on the surface. But without serious work to get at what’s underneath all that…that’s just not happening. So….
Anyway. My fingers hurt now, so I think I’ll stop. But just…I got out.
I got out.