I recently dated someone who was absolutely wonderful to me. He treated me the ways I had always prayed someone would treat me. There was no abuse, there was no misery, there was no scam. There was only me feeling safe with this person knowing he was honest and appreciated me.
At first, I was confused and unsure. I KNEW that he was a gift from God. I knew he was a catch. I knew that I’d be a fool to lose him. But, I was so used to predators wanting to push romantic lines, that I didn’t feel that instant charisma and magnetism that we feel with an experienced player. I kept holding out knowing that character matters more than magic, and that the instant “magic” is usually fleeting and false. I wanted to grow to care for this person rather than jumping in and getting burned. My friends encouraged me to learn what normal and healthy feels like and really encouraged me because they had all worked to push me away from abusers when I couldn’t read the signs for myself.
There was no love-bombing, there was no early declaration of love or that we were soulmates. There was no rush. There was only respect and thoughtfulness. I didn’t wonder why he ignored me for hours. I didn’t wonder if he was cheating. He stayed in touch, wished me good morning, reached out to let me know he was thinking of me, and left me with no anxiety. It took some while to get used to it, but I was so fully grateful the entire time. I would sometimes tear over feeling so happy that I’d finally met someone who really cared. And I still have no doubt he did.
The only thing that bothered me was that we were moving very slow. I started to worry. I was so used to abusers pushing me that I really didn’t know what normal felt like, but after several months, we weren’t moving at what I thought must be a normal pace. I still didn’t know any of his friends or family and had only been to his home once. He always drove the long distance to me. I felt like he had a wall around him and was holding me at arm’s length.
For my birthday, we took a wonderful dream trip and he spoiled me the whole time. He said he was proud to be with me, and I started feeling more and more comfortable with being treated well.
But here’s the flip side: before we met, he had been in a very cruel and abusive relationship. I could see his brokenness and respected it because I had been there. He was so used to walking on eggshells, that he was timid with me. He would ask permission for everything, and he would apologize all the time. He was used to being criticized and attacked when he wasn’t perfect. I let him know he was safe with me and I wasn’t going to attack him for being himself. I think he was doing better. He said being with me made him happy and he was cutting back on therapy. Together, the two of us as abuse survivors started to feel more safe and comfortable and to really be ourselves. I was content. I liked this quiet growing friendship more than the drama and “romance” that starts an abusive relationship.
After the trip, I came home on cloud nine. I had accidentally left something with him, so I offered to drive to him to get it, knowing that he had driven so much on our trip. He panicked and rushed the hour+ drive to me instead. I suddenly felt hurt that he didn’t want me to go to his home like normal couples would. I suddenly felt anxious that he was keeping me at a distance rather than letting me in his life gradually. Why couldn’t I hang out at his house some nights? I confronted him and asked if we were ever going to go anywhere. He assured me he was serious but needed to move slowly. I tried to feel okay.
The next day, he dumped me. Then a few days later, he said he’d realized he made a knee jerk reaction based on his own fear from his previous relationship. Something I said reminded him of his ex, and he realized it was unfair because I had not been like his ex. But, he concluded that just the fact that his fear blew up and made him dump me without thinking made him realize he wasn’t healed enough to date, and he might hurt me.
We spent several weeks trying to be friends with each of us feeling miserable. He said he wanted to date me but knew he had to heal first, and I wanted him to do his healing while dating me. Now all his feelings of insecurity are back, and mine are too. We are hurting each while trying to be kind because our fears are triggering the other person.
I’ve never had a break up like this where I liked someone so much but their unhealed wounds were hurting me. It’s really painful.
I hate that I met a wonderful man–who was wonderful for so long to a woman who terrorized him–who cannot be with me now because someone ELSE hurt him. I wonder how many wonderful men I missed out on after I was abused. Men who missed getting to know me because I was scared. It’s a very sad world.