For over a year, I’ve been in a relationship that I never would have imagined myself accepting. Maybe I should have known after the first time I saw his rage. A couple of months after we started seeing each other, I invited him to meet up after my friend’s going away party. That night he was out with other friends, and I was too shy to ask him to leave his group to come join us. Still, I was in touch– calling and texting him until we went to bed, separately. The next day I stopped by his work at the pizzeria and brought him a pastry that I know he likes. He was completely distant and kept saying I should find someone my own age to be with (he was 33 and I was 25). I told him I didn’t want to be with anyone else and that he was hurting my feelings by saying that. The conversation was going nowhere productive, and eventually I lashed out, telling him about how I had seen a certain subway driver multiple times by coincidence and finally asked for his number… preemptively following my then-not-even-boyfriend’s instructions to find someone else. I know it was immature, but that comment unleashed a fury of rage that lasted for days (months). That night I ended up following him around the city as he got drunker and drunker, telling me how I am too affectionate when I talk to his friends, grabbing my chest in the way I apparently do to his friends when we talk. I told him not to touch me if it wasn’t out of love. He kept doing it, and I pushed his arm away, accidentally smashing his drink all over the floor. Every time he walked away, leaving me alone in the street, I followed him. He walked away again, and I started walking home. Thirty seconds later I already had 3 missed calls from him. I ended up having to beg for his forgiveness, for assuming he wouldn’t want to leave his friends for us, and for lashing out in an immature way. He barely recognizes the hours of drunken rage that he subjected me to, and justifies it all as a reaction to the way I mistreated him.
Since then, not much has changed.
It’s been over a year, and he still brings up that very moment- when I didn’t explicitly tell him to meet up with us and then flaunted my encounter with the subway operator while he was busting his ass at work.
It made me see a different side of him, a side of him I fear. It manifested in different ways, from me being worried about telling him who I was with, or him seeing me talking to a guy– even asking one of my male coworkers for help on a project became a source of suspicion for him. I was afraid to ask him for what I wanted in bed. I was afraid to tell him what I didn’t want. This has escalated to times when just asking him to do it softer has made him get up, turn on the light, and sleep completely separately from me.
Maybe he acts this way because he is “tired of feeling rejected” or he is dealing with a job where they won’t give him a contract, he has no passport, no documents in general, and with his baby’s mom who is struggling with alcoholism and uses any opportunity to wield her power over him and his life. He hasn’t seen his family in 10 years because of legal and immigration issues, and he says can’t waste his energy in conflict with me because he has important things to deal with and problems that he needs to face.
There’s definitely a bright side– he always has an idea or plan for what to do, and I am so happy to go along with whatever he chooses. I love spending time with him and his kid, and I think they have fun with me, too. Until suddenly, he gets angry because I never propose ideas for what to do. Maybe it’s true. Even if he has made mistakes, I still want to be aware of my own and keep growing as a person. I’m definitely socially lazy and mostly rely on other people to figure out what to do and where to go. I’ve gone on trips with my friends, but I’ve never proposed a getaway for us two, or with his kid. I can think of reasons why– he works weekends, his kid’s schedule is based on Mom’s whims, it’s hard to find time we are both free, but are those really good enough reasons? I also have always had this looming fear of his anger that I couldn’t forget. Maybe I tried keeping my life with my friends separate from him, or maybe I just found convenient times to see them alone while he was busy. After he angrily accused me of keeping him isolated from my world, I saw what I had been doing, whether it was intentional or not, and I made more of an effort. But every time I invited him to meet up with us, he said no. Either it was too last minute, or too far in advance, or he couldn’t or didn’t want to. He was also upset that I had confided in my friends about our relationship, and I told him that they didn’t think I should be with him. But they trusted me and always welcomed him for dinner at their place or chatted with him at mine.
A pattern I’ve noticed is accusations. He accused me of isolating him, so I organized a series of communal dinners at my place. Then, he said we can’t just have dinner alone, that 50 people need to be there for me to be happy. I felt like it was never enough, that I never quite got it right.
I got tired of feeling like I was constantly walking on eggshells, that I wasn’t worthy of his trust, that I had to ignore my own desires and discomforts to please him. That if he got home from work at 3 am and wanted to have sex that I couldn’t say no. Or if I did he would accuse me of having slept with someone else. I know these feelings created distance for me, and I know I have expressed it in many ways that have hurt him or made him feel unappreciated. I just recently broke up with him for maybe the 5th time, and I think this time it will last. But I know I have thought that before, and have ended up in the same cycle, listening to his monologues about all the terrible things I’ve done to him, and if I try to say something or explain my perspective, it’s just an empty excuse.
Of course all the conflict has been intertwined with sweet moments, him taking me to the doctor, introducing me to his friends, showing me places I’ve never been, and welcoming me into his family. He says he always made sure that I felt I had a place in his life, something that he never felt with me. But in the end, we aren’t making each other happy and never could.
Erica wrote this piece for Flux, a forum for those of us encountering adulthood. She is a person working as an English Language Teaching Assistant in Madrid, Spain; Erica has lived there for nearly 3 years and still has no idea about anything. She recently learned she is an ESFJ and Capricorn and is not sure how she feels about that combination, even though it might be a painfully accurate description of her personalty.