An Honest Conversation with Erin on Unhealthy Relationships

Erin's experience with unhealthy relationships. 

It’s hard to leave. To accept that now what is best for the both of you is no longer each other. When it starts, it feels like the best thing in the world. To one another you are new and exciting, illuminating, even. He’s your best friend. Over time maybe things change, or maybe you do and he doesn’t. His home life is hard for him, and you know for a fact you’re the first thing he’s ever truly loved. You carry the weight of all the people who don’t love him like they should, but mostly you carry him. You start to check in on his schooling. “When do you have a test?” and “How did you do?” are regular parts of your daily conversation now. He didn’t ask for it, but you carry the weight nonetheless. Eventually, without realizing, you stop carrying yours.

You don’t think he knows how to push himself, you don’t think anyone else actually cares enough to get him there either. Although you know it’s not that they don’t care, it’s just that none of them know how to face their problems, none of them seem to know how to step back and assess. And so, he never learned to either. You love him, so unconsciously you’re trying to teach him. Except you’re not his mother, and you shouldn’t have to teach him these things. It takes you months of arguing and being upset to realize you’re his safety blanket, and maybe that he’s yours too. What used to be talks about the universe becomes sitting on your laptop watching Netflix while he plays video games. You know he loves this, that in a lot of ways he needs it; you don’t know how to tell yourself you need something different now, although there was a time not so long ago when you loved it too.

You don’t know how to tell yourself that you need to be alone for the first time in a long time.

You love him so much, you always will. The way he smiles and the things he knows about the world that you never thought to look up. When he lights up talking about science or the way he looks at you on the mornings you wake up slowly together.

He makes you so frustrated. The way he’ll wake up in the morning and immediately crack open a beer; the way you feel you have to worry that he’s going to become something you know he hates. You see the best in him, always, but get so disheartened when you feel like he can’t ever see himself, not enough to grow and not enough to appreciate.

You tell him it would be sweet for him to buy you flowers; you know gift buying stresses him out and think the suggestion would be helpful. Flowers can be cheap; you’ve made it clear you aren’t a roses kind of gal. After years together, never once do you get flowers. Your dad remains the only man who has ever brought you any. It seems small, maybe even materialistic, but eventually the complete disregard of you and what you say becomes too much, you feel like you don’t exist anymore. The flowers are just the one concrete example you have to stick evidence to your hurt. You think you’re communicating the absolute best you can to him. His reactions make you feel like maybe you really are that word you hate…crazy.

You aren’t crazy, but you won’t see that until after you end things.

When he finally stops being passive aggressive and addresses things you’ve done that make him upset, you try to address them immediately. You always go straight for a solution. You feel terrible because the last thing you ever want is to make him sad, or hurt, or upset. After a while his crude comments about you going out and what you wear will make you stop going, will make you feel like you can’t or shouldn't, will make you stop hanging out with your friends, will even make you feel like you need to shame them for it. Will make you feel shamed. Will make you try too hard to figure out why he doesn’t trust you, why he lumps you in with “everyone” when he’s supposed to be the person that knows you the best, who knows you’d never do something to hurt him, when he’s seen you go through that before yourself. You wonder what you did to cause all of this in him, why it’s your entire fault.

You stop doing certain things because after a while you know those things mean arguments, and you’re so tired of fighting.

After almost two years of dating he’ll fail to show up to your birthday celebration, he won’t even remember to call. You know then it’s over. That he isn’t ready to admit it yet, because change is scary, but that it’s obvious to both of you that it’s time to let go. When you break up, you sugar coat over things you wanted to say to him, because still you’re looking out for him first, trying to keep him from getting angry or upset. You won’t say “I’m worried you have alcoholic tendencies, you’re a mean drunk half the time,” you won’t say “I think you need to go to therapy, not because you’re crazy, but because you need to turn to a professional and not me, because I can’t carry more than just myself right now.” You won’t say what you can’t put into words in front of him, which is that you think he fails to take responsibility for his shit, to learn. That even when he missed your birthday, he had excuses. Terrible ones. That when he missed a week of school and missed assignments that it was his own fault, and that’s okay, but stop acting like he couldn’t have done anything about it. That he doesn’t like his friends but isn’t doing anything to make new ones.

That as much as you love him, you can’t be with someone who can’t admit if they’re wrong, who can’t grow away from what they don’t like, who can’t accept change just as badly as you can’t sometimes.

When you walk away, you’ll feel like you aren’t really leaving, because you know how much you truly love each other. You won’t know how to process it, so you don’t. You will throw yourself into school and work and making new friends, because if you stop moving you will suffocate from the worrying, from the feelings of responsibility, guilt, and upset that crashes over you when you think of him. When your best guy friend asks you to hang out, you’ll wonder if you shouldn’t, even though you’re only friends, just to save your ex's feelings. When the nice neighbor boys ask you and your roommate over to hang out and listen to records until 3am, you worry he’ll see you’re somewhere boys are on snapchat and be upset. When your other roommate breaks up with her long-term boyfriend, the two of you will sit drinking coffee in the living room, wondering if the two boys you love so much will make it without you. And that’s when you realize you were being his mother and not his girlfriend. That’s when you realize you stopped having your own life to accommodate his version of you.

You will finally realize it’s okay to do whatever you’d like, because you deserve it just as much as he does.

You’ll wonder what will happen in the future, if the two of you will grow separately in ways that one-day mesh back together. You’ll know it won’t happen anytime soon, that growth like this takes years, that both of you have lots of growing to do. That it’s not just him who needs to work on himself, but you as well. You’ll wonder if he knows he’s family, whether in a romantic sense or not, and that that’s for life. You realize you have to let go because if you’re carrying him this much now, and he never learns to do it himself, you’ll be carrying him forever, and he’ll never become the man you know he’s meant to be. So you let go, and it hurts, but you’re both better off for it in time.

Mothering a boyfriend is not what a relationship should be.

Partnerships are teamwork, you’re meant to both carry one another.

- Erin

Editor's note: small edits have been made to the original for readability or understanding