The thing is that you brought this out in me. How could I want it with anyone else?
– J.M. Storm
TW: emotional and psychological abuse, gaslighting. Sorry that I’m writing so much about my abuser right now – I’m processing some things and writing helps.
“The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever love anyone else the way I loved her.” I remember saying this to one of my play partners, a year or so after the relationship with my first girlfriend ended.
“You won’t,” he said, surprising me. “What you’ll eventually realise is that that’s a good thing.”
I didn’t understand exactly what he meant then, or for several years afterwards. In fact, I don’t think I fully grasped the whole truth of this statement until I left my last abusive partner.
My play partner was right. I’ve never loved anyone else exactly the way I loved her. That would be impossible.
Firstly for the obvious reason that no two people are the same, so how could two relationships or two types of love be the same? But secondly, because she and I represented a specific moment in my life. I was very young, just barely over the cusp of adulthood, and still a baby queer barely peeking a toe out of the closet. She was the first. She was the person who took my hand and guided me through those early, tentative explorations.
No-one else can be that, nor should they try to be.
What we had was many things. It was beautiful and it was terrible. Sometimes, as we struggled to communicate and connect in a world that was very much against our brand of queer, polyamorous love, I felt like I might die. Other times, I was sure she was the one great love of my life. But there is one thing it was not: sustainable.
When I met my abusive partner, in some ways it felt similar. He gave me the same dizzy, giddy, love-drunk feeling. Kept me slightly off-kilter. Made me feel like I was losing my mind.
What I didn’t realise then, that I know now, is that with her those feelings were the symptom of first love between two people who were trying their best but were ill-equipped to handle the intensity. With him, though, they were symptoms of deliberate manipulation. I was constantly off-balance because he put me there.
I often felt like I was dying when I was with him. He was the oxygen I needed to breathe, and held the absolute power to cut off my airways if I displeased him. (Despite my best efforts, I often displeased him.)
One of the things I mourned when it all went so badly wrong was what we’d had in the beginning. At that stage, I still romanticised the sleepless nights, the desperation to drop anything and everything else to please him, the way he made me feel simultaneously like a precious but fragile doll and like his saviour.
What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that that wasn’t romance. That was grooming. That was textbook lovebombing, holding me up on a pedastal so I’d be disorientated and broken and compliant when he inevitably threw me off it.
Maybe you’re just not who I thought you were, he’d say. And that was all it would take to have me desperately trying to prove that I was who he’d said I was on one of those early dates where we’d stayed up all night talking and fucking. Because I wanted to get it back. I wanted those soaring highs again. I wanted to love like that again.
Now I realise that I never will. But I never will because I am older now. Wiser. A little more jaded, perhaps. But I can protect myself now. And that means I will never again allow myself to be taken in by superficial charm that masks something much more sinister.
So no, I’ve never loved anyone else quite the way I loved her, and that’s okay. I’ve never loved anyone else quite the same way I loved him, either – and that’s a good thing.
Have I loved just as hard, just as deeply, just as wholeheartedly? Yes, absolutely. But the same? Never.
This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!