As I was driving up I-77 last night, a friend’s voice filled my car: “This seems a little crazy, but also epic at the same time.”
Yesterday morning, I decided I’d drive to Green, OH, to visit my favorite my clothing boutique. It would be an 8-hour drive non-stop, which meant an 11-hour drive, if done right.
I had no place to stay, and as I needed to work Monday, it’d be a turn-and-burn. Of epic proportions.
After agreeing to couples counseling every Monday night, he made other plans for the following two Mondays. Let’s begin in July, he said.
One of his conflicting “appointments” was a four-day roadtrip with his oldest son to visit family and hike a Virginia mountain he did when he was his son’s age. It would be a rite of passage.
He left me sick in bed with a fever. I can care for myself.
But over the next four days, there would be no phone calls from him. No messages sent asking how I was feeling. Nearly two days after he left, he asked me how my day was, and when I responded that I’d spent the day home from work, he told me where I could find some NyQuil in our kitchen cupboard. The check-ins were sporadic. There were no “I love yous,” and as he was driving home and I told him I’d missed him, there was no response.
Withholding of affection. Again.
At some point, I said I’d like a date night that week. His response was, “Yes! Where are you taking me?”
I replied, “You’re taking me.”
Later, he’d cancel saying I was manipulating him, that I should be doing something nice for him. He did pick up the tab from our dinner the night he returned home. I offered to pay, but he declined. And he cooked dinner the following night for me, his daughters, and their friend, which I thanked him for, though he made snide remarks, to suggest I was unappreciative of him.
“Your good-for-nothing boyfriend is cooking you dinner.”
I replied minutes later, “I’m sorry you feel that way about yourself.”
He canceled our date night the same day I sent a Facebook friend request to a woman whose only mutual friend was him–and she immediately blocked me. When I let him know what had occurred, and asked him why she’d do that, he immediately shifted the blame onto me: It must have been something you posted or said.
He never would answer how much interaction he’d had with her. And he wasn’t going to engage me on the topic any further. He shut me down. Quickly.
As I met with three good friends over ice cream that evening, one shared with me that he’d seen him messaging other women while driving home from a recent beach trip.
He’s still predominantly friending 20-something single women. As he’s explained, he likes to keep his options open. They’re fun to look at.
After hearing he’d been messaging other women, I asked him if the offer stood to still look through his phone. He said yes, but that he’d have less respect for me. Though it lie next to him within arm’s reach, he made me get out of bed, and walk around to retrieve it. I found nothing. No messages to other women.
He was upset. He said he wanted out of this so badly sometimes. Then he moved to the couch, insisted on my giving him back his phone–right now–and told me he didn’t want anything more to do with me.
Because I’m codependent and cannot easily let go, I eventually went to him, asking him to talk. He repeatedly said, “It’s all your fault.” He said I was the one making this a bad relationship. He would not comment on his withholding of affection from me. He accused me of being Hitler. And then he shut down.
The following morning, I apologized. He accepted without returning one. He got aggravated again. He told me I had acted like a bitch the night before, that I was never satisfied, that I was unappreciative of the fact that he bought our dinner and that he cooked me dinner.
And then he pulled out of couples counseling. He was angry, banging his hand on the coffee table to drive in his point.
“I’m not going to do counseling. I don’t want to do it. I don’t need to change.”
I calmly reminded him that couples counseling was my condition for reconciling.
“Then I guess we’re not reconciling.”
The couples counselor–who began meeting with me individually, until or in spite of whether my boyfriend “decided to get with the program,” stresses the importance of listening to my body.
I was listening–and I could not stop shaking. I realized that I’d been shaking for more than 24-hours.
I knew I could not stay.
“You’re making me question my entire reality,” I told him.
I’ve never more powerfully felt the effects of gaslighting, and I felt just hours or days away from a mental breakdown.
I packed my bag, shaking.
I walked past him, shaking.
I announced my intention, shaking.
I sat down, shaking.
I nearly didn’t leave.
The typical paralysis set in.
But I did.
I walked to my car, shaking.
I drove to a meeting at the bank, shaking.
I set off on the highway, shaking.
I stopped at a gas station, shaking.
I crossed the stateline, shaking.
But, as I put more miles between us, the shaking lessened.
I listened to music.
Stopped when I needed.
Backtracked to find an amazing taco shop.
I did not cry until I hit the Ohio state line and realized that while he’d interacted with my Facebook posts, he had not reached out to me. No phone calls. No texts. I was devastated.
But I made it.
And I arrived not shaking anymore.
I found a popular lakeside bar and grill and ate an amazing burger with peanut butter and jalapenos, at the bar, on a large outdoor deck with lights strung overhead, boats motoring back and forth, and the roar of a packed house.
I found an amazing hotel.
And for the first time in days, slept deeply.
Today, I shop.
Today, I eat tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch.
Today, I go home.