Category Archives: Dating

That One Time: Signs You’re Dealing with Abuse

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Three years ago my therapist told me I was in an abusive relationship.

I didn’t believe her.

I didn’t have bruises on my arms, my face or my legs and my boyfriend had never hit me. Yes, there was that one time he punched a hole in the shoddy wooden door in his dorm room, and that one time he pushed me up against the graffiti-covered metal door of a closed storefront in West Philly when we were in the middle of a fight, and that one time he slapped my hand for picking up his phone to check the time. But each of those things only happened that one time.

I did not, by any means, feel abused.

But I should have.

The signs aren’t always as obvious as a black and blue mark. The signs are subtle – so subtle that they often go unnoticed by even the smartest most insightful people.

The following list is an attempt to help others recognize signs of an abuser that I wish had realized sooner than three years into a relationship.

1. He will knock you down to pick you up: sometimes literally, other times not. He will find what pulls on your heart strings and take over as puppeteer in order to get under your skin. He will then use this power to bring you to your lowest point. The minute the tears begin to well in your eyes he will tell you not to cry. He will tell you that everything will be okay because you have him there to fix things or help you be who you want to be because…

2. He is always the hero: and without him? Well, you would be lost. There you would stay crying on the bathroom floor if it weren’t for him to pick you up, wipe your tears and bring you back to bed to finally get some sleep.

3. He will make you feel guilty: unnecessarily so. Did you go out with your friends for margaritas during the week? Did you friend another guy on Facebook? Because if so, he will ask you if you did even if he already knows that you did and he will ask you why you did it. Note, no answer will be reasonable. Did you order his burger medium-well because you couldn’t remember if he likes his meat bloody or burnt? Because if you tried to do something nice for him like have dinner waiting for him when he got home, well then he will yell at you because you should have ordered his burger rare. How did you not know that he NEVER eats his meat anywhere close to well-done? But when you try to play the questions game with him, you’ll never get anywhere because…

4. He will do whatever he wants, whenever he wants: he’s allowed to after all because he can do no wrong and he definitely doesn’t have to answer to you. He will go golfing all day Saturday and Sunday, show up late for dinner and expect you to be there waiting for him with open arms. He can go out with his fraternity brothers, text you incoherently, flirt with other girls and you best not say a peep about it lest you want to start a battle you will ultimately lose.

5. He will make you question your sanity: because you are the crazy one, not him. He will be so far inside your head that you’ll start to believe him when he tells you you’re the one to blame for his sudden outbursts or unexpected withdraw from the relationship. No, it has nothing to do with his general unhappiness with his own life but has everything to do with how crazy you are and thus how crazy you make him. You’re the reason things were never going to work out.

6. He doesn’t give second chances: because it’s always too late. He will tell you what you should have done differently but not until he’s already out the door – that if you had only turned left when he told you to turn left then he wouldn’t be leaving you. But you went and turned right instead so, now it’s over.

And the cycle will repeat that one time and that one time over again.

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Speculating Damaged Goods

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If I could be a jar on any shelf, I’d like to be the jar of speculoos cookie spread that you keep in the cupboard next to the crunchy peanut butter. I know how much you love your peanut butter but I think you’d rather have speculoos despite your aversion to sweets.

Plus, peanut butter is a safe bet — everyone and their mother keeps it on hand. I’d rather be your special treat; your guilty pleasure; the one you can’t get enough of; your sugar high; that sweet taste left in your mouth; the creamy, sugary goodness that keeps you coming back for more.

Unfortunately, when taken off the shelf and consumed, I’m not all that good for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The thing about sugar is that it causes highs and lows: I will bring you up only to bring you right back down with me — not on purpose, of course. It’s just the way I was made and packaged. Damaged goods, if you will.

When did damaged goods get such a bad rap anyway? I remember going to the Pepperidge Farm outlet as a kid to get a discount on goldfish because the boxes were dented or had expired. I’ll have you know that the goldfish always tasted the same. So what if a heart has some minor bruising, tears or dents? You’re getting a deal on what’s inside: an enormous amount and ability to love without which, that same heart would never have been in a position to get bruised and dented in the first place. Damaged goods might be the result of high passion but at least you can be sure you’re dealing with someone who loves all in.

I understand if the highs and lows that come with damaged goods don’t suit your taste buds. I don’t blame you for wanting to reach for the old tried and true peanut butter. There’s a reason why every mom’s go-to lunch is a PB & J sandwich oozing with gobs of peanut spread: it reliably satisfies hunger for long periods of time — much longer than speculoos cookie spread ever could.

But speculoos is just so damn good it’s hard to say no.

Is it Love or Is it Lust?

“If love is all you need, why do we want something more? If love is the answer, why are we so unsure?”

I wrote these lyrics months ago when I was single and questioning love. I’ve since fallen in love and I’m still questioning it. It seems like no matter who you are, whether single or taken or somewhere complicatedly in between, we are all questioning our love statuses. Or maybe it’s only those of us who have been strung along and dragged down the path of bruised and broken hearts who are insatiably curious.

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Is it love, or is it lust? Inquiring minds would like to know. In a recent musing with my best friend about love vs. lust, I came to the conclusion that those of us who have been through the relationship ringer are incapable of knowing the difference between love and lust. We will always question and we will always feel conflicted. The inner cycle of contradiction for those who have really had a time of it goes something like this: the gut instinct assure me it’s love, the fickle heart taunts me to go big or go home and the rational mind yells at me to slow down. So where exactly do my best interests lie when instincts can be wrong, hearts break and if it were up to rationality, I’d never take a risk?

It seems to me that after being repeatedly broken down by love, we’ve lost the ability to trust the most important person in a relationship: ourselves. We don’t trust that we will make sound decisions in love and  we don’t believe it when we tell ourselves that we are capable and deserving of being loved; thus, we are completely unsure if you are the perfect fit for us or if you really are a good guy. And we definitely don’t believe you when you tell us you love us.

How can you be so sure of love let alone be so sure you love me? You fell so swiftly and so hard that it couldn’t possibly be love. It must be lust. You couldn’t possibly have simply fallen in love with me just like that because I’m such a great catch. No way – it’s lust you’re mistaking for love. You didn’t ask me to be your girlfriend to make sure you locked it down; instead, you asked me to be your girlfriend because you wanted to ensure a steady shag. You couldn’t possibly be laughing at my jokes because you think they’re actually funny.

There’s just no way you love me.

Not only am I skeptical, but I’m also jealous. Jealous that you can love without inhibition – that when you fight for love you’re fighting because you are love’s champion, not because you could never put aside your pride. Jealous that you had good experiences in love – so good that you know how to be a friend to someone you’ve seen naked and that someone still wants to be friends with you. Most of all jealous that you don’t sit there tormented by this inner dialogue.

Sometimes I wish I had never been hurt so that I could feel how it feels to love, no questions asked.

Troubleshooting

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There is no troubleshooting life. There is no Help Wizard. And unfortunately, I’m not savvy enough to make the error messages in my head disappear. I keep clicking the little x in the top left corner of the box but the same message reappears: Something is off. Yes, as a matter of fact, I would like more information. What is that something and where is the on/off switch?

This is my first attempt at really writing. I’ve been writing songs for over a year now but the thoughts circuiting my brain have grown too large to be limited to 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I need more space and time to figure out how to turn that something off on – that thing inside me that is off but has somehow had enough power to hold me back.

Writing seems to be the only thing that can move me forward when my system fails. I can ignore it all I want – read advice columns, play silly games, or click the minimize box – but the error message remains, blinking in my toolbar until I face it head on. The only Force Quit option is to write…to open the documents slowly, sift through the data, and spit out words that offer an explanation, even if they only make sense to me.

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Every model is different – I have to keep telling myself that. I’m an upgraded version from who I was two years ago and he is completely different than my old worn out hard drive. He doesn’t overheat when things get hard, freeze when he’s tired, or crash when he simply can’t take it anymore; he is a quality, reliable find. Still, I can’t help but remember what happened with the old machine every time I stroked a key too hard or raised my voice because it just.  wasn’t.  working. I will never forget how he gave up and threatened to leave me alone so many times.

The scars are stored, buried now under new layers of happiness, but filed forever nonetheless. All it takes is one simple search item followed by a strike of the return key to recover them and I can’t will my fingers to stop. I tell my mind to quit dwelling in past folders but it won’t obey my commands. Instead, it processes new input by comparing past and present data and uses it to predict the future. These faulty analyses will not hold up long term. They can’t. Of course the past can be helpful for learning, but it can also be destructive if we wallow in it.

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I refuse to wallow. I’d rather troubleshoot with words.