It seems like a given doesn’t it? That your partner should support what you do; whether it’s sports or nerd culture or singing or dancing or writing? I was once in love with someone who most definitely did not support me in the things that I love; the things that make me who I am. When I think about an abusive relationship I think about people who cheat, who yell awful names, who physically hurt their partner. But the truth is it was abusive. It was abusive on a quiet, calculating, invisible level.
I am, probably first and foremost, a writer. I wrote my first novel at 11 years old. I wrote it out by hand and worked on it at the computers at the local library, saving it on a floppy disk each day. And from that time on I continued writing; not so much because I enjoyed it (I enjoy writing about as much as doing homework) but because I couldn’t not write. I just have to do it; when I don’t do it I feel anxious and stressed. Writing also stresses me out but I think writing is slightly less scary to me than not writing. Does this make any sense or am I just a crazy person? Probably crazy. Okay, let’s proceed.
When I was sixteen years old I met a boy whom I fell deeply in love with. He was handsome and I had thought him out of my league. He was a little older and had a car. He was in university while I was just in high school. He was sporty but also a bookworm. He liked country music like I did. He’d flirt with me and make me feel special; he’d flirt with other girls too but assure me I was the only one he was interested in. I would often find myself waiting on him and I was never sure where I stood with him but I thought if I just played my cards right, if I was just perfect enough he would fall in love with me and then he would treat me the way you treat someone you’re in love with. I would no longer wait by the phone, or only see him when he felt like it, and I could ask him to stop flirting with other girls and he would, and I would finally have the security and the support that I craved.
It was the summer after grade 10 when I met him. I remember I gave him a manuscript that I had written in grade seven called Ketchup Cowboy. It was approximately 70,000 words, a comedy. He never did say much about it; he didn’t seem impressed that I’d written four or five books in my short lifetime but I didn’t think anything of it. I was blinded by that giddy, dancing feeling in my heart… I believe they call it “stupidity.”
I also write country music and because I’m a romantic he was often the inspiration of my songs. When I wrote him a love song he told me it was cheesy and that he didn’t like it. When I wrote him a song about how I’d always love him even when we fight he got angry at me for mentioning in the song him locking me outside. He broke up with me a few times then wheedled his way back in, and by wheedled I mean he said a couple words to me after months of not talking and I’d run back like an idiot so grateful that he’d have me. After one of these such times I had recorded a song in the studio about my heartbreak after him leaving. I had received a government grant to record 3 songs. When I played him the song I had worked so hard on (called “One Last Time”) he shrugged and said ‘it could be better.’
When I met his roommates after 3 years of dating they did not know that I sang or wrote; they knew little more than my name. He never played my music for his family and I wonder if anyone in his family even knew if I did not mention it. I would tell him of an idea for a book and he would tell me it was stupid. I would have him read a chapter and knowing better than to ask what he thought I began asking “what did you like about it?” He never could tell me a thing he liked about it. Not one sentence. Not one word. He was not interested in trying to see the good in anything I did. He would say “I do support you” yet everything else he said was to the contrary. He would say ‘it’s not my thing’ or ‘I don’t like it.’ Or that I should “just write something I (he) would like.” I tried. For five years I tried to just write something he would like. I prayed that one day I would show him something and he would say, “that was amazing” or “I really loved that.”
I went into myself; I lost my confidence. My family and my friends all noticed and hated him for it. We spent a week at my aunt’s house and I was so pleased with him being on his best behavior; I thought my aunt would love him. She did not: she told me she heard him say a million things I could not do right and not one thing I could do. I got the same response from everyone: that he constantly put me down. That any ‘compliments’ were really backhanded remarks. Another aunt told me it seemed as if he would starve me for attention then throw me crumbs; just enough to keep me hoping, just enough to keep me there. And act like I should be so grateful he ever looked my way.
Five years in I was a wreck. My life was consumed with wanting his approval. I tried to stop writing altogether so that we wouldn’t fight but I couldn’t choose between the boy that I loved with every fiber of my being, and the one thing that I had to do; the one thing that made me who I was. He never once told me I was beautiful or that I looked nice, other than once in a while as a nickname (“hey beautiful”) even though I told him constantly how gorgeous he was and how handsome he looked. I began to hate myself. I would pick apart physical details of my body, I would hate that I was a writer, I would hate that no matter what I did I was never good enough for him. The fight that ended it all seems stupid but it was the straw on top of so many other things that broke the camels back. He refused to follow my youtube page. He would follow the pages of other young female singers who sat and sang their songs in their bedrooms but not mine. He told me it was because he only followed pages he found interesting. Already crying I said “so you think my singing is boring?” and he replied in his signature snide way, “No I said your writing is boring. See? You never listen to me.”
By this time, around age 21 I had written a novel with the lead character inspired by him. Surprisingly I do love the story even if it was borne out of my love for a man who never deserved it. I remember feeling so helpless, sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing and feeling completely worthless. I don’t think I wanted to kill myself; I was afraid I won’t lie. I was afraid it would hurt; I was afraid I might change my mind and it would be too late. But I didn’t know what to do anymore. It just hurt so badly never being good enough for the only person whose approval really mattered. I swallowed 15 advil; I went to the hospital in an ambulance and it was all very embarrassing. I lived in a crowded all-student apartment complex near the University of Guelph.
These same people may have witnessed me laying behind his car in the snow begging him not to break up with me a year before. He had left me that day. And he had wheedled his way back in to beat me down a little more.
I never did see him again after that day when I took the pills, save for once when I was stopped at a red light. He said he could never be with someone who could do that; that I had hurt him and that he would never do something so selfish to me. I begged him to take me back, I cried for weeks, months, maybe even a couple of times the following year. Maybe more than a couple times the following year. But I got stronger; I began immersing myself in the things that I loved. I wrote my eighth novel in the span of 3 months. I began doing singing gigs. I turned my heartbreak and my anger into songs. And I learned that I am talented, and beautiful, and that I deserve someone who values me and who builds me up not breaks me down.
When I started doing really well again he tried playing his old tricks; being the “nice guy.” He said he was happy that I was “back to my old self and doing well.” He even tried to go so far as to say that he didn’t like that I stopped doing all those things at the end of our relationship like singing and writing that he had fallen in love with me for. I could see through it all now, I was not going to run back this time; not now, not ever. I never thought I’d say this but I thank God that he let me go. I never would have left him; not for anything. I’m a big believer in commitment no matter what. But if it hadn’t been for him being stupid enough to throw me away I wouldn’t have known how happy I could be.
I’m now writing and singing my little butt off. I’m learning guitar. I graduated from my English Literature program with honours. I’m saving to buy a house. I’m working two jobs and will soon begin learning French so that I can get into flight attending. I have a new man in my life now; one who makes me wonder why I ever spent so much time with someone who never wanted or appreciated what he had. He amazes me everyday with his kindness and support. He loves my writing and my singing; he shows it to everyone and even gives my dad a run for his money when it comes to being most proud of me.
I wrote this boy a song called “He Wears Combats, She Wears Cowboy Boots.” I held my breath as I played the song for him (less than perfectly on my guitar) and he told me it was “amazing” that he loved it and that he couldn’t believe someone would take the time to write a song about him. That’s probably one of the greatest moments of my life. He is so kind and loving towards me and he appreciates every little thing I do for him, and I realize now that this is what a relationship should be. And I feel like I appreciate him on another level because I spent years just begging and longing for those simple little things that he just does. That he just does because he wants to, because he loves me. I feel his support and his adoration every day (and yes, I adore him too).
I’m now writing my 9th novel called “The LDR Diaries” (LDR stands for Long Distance Relationship. My new man lives 3,000 miles away… wonder where I ever got the idea for this book?). When I asked him how he would feel about me naming a character after him, he said he would be “honoured.” God I love him, and I’ve never been happier :).
I hope that this might help someone out there going through something similar. When I was with my ex, if you asked me if I believed he loved me I would have said yes. He loved me as much as he was capable of loving someone. But if you had of asked me if he made me feel beautiful or special or good about myself, my answer would have been a reluctant ‘no.’ I know now that that is not okay, that I am worth more than that and so are you. Feel free to share your own experiences here…