[Quote Quest] The Way I Loved You

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.

The Quote Quest badge, for a post about never loving anyone else the way I loved my first girlfriend or my abuser

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!

[Quote Quest] Breathe

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”
Louis L’Amour

TW: this post contains discussion of abuse in relationships

Leaving an abusive relationship is like relearning how to breathe.

People talk about learning how to trust again. I’m still working on that one. They talk about remembering how to sleep through the night, how to stop jumping at shadows. For me, it was relearning how to breathe.

Being with him felt something like the emotional equivalent of being trapped underground, where the air is dirty and the roof is made of rocks that will come tumbling down on your head if you make one wrong move. Like having a crushing weight pressing down on your chest, which is slowly suffocating you but which you think will kill you if you remove it.

Leaving was like emerging into the sunlight but not knowing how to breathe air that is clean and safe.

The truth is that, for many survivors, the point of leaving is the beginning and not the end.

And not just because the point where we leave is statistically the most dangerous.

My ex didn’t come after me physically after I left him. Violence was never his way. Psychological manipulation was his game. He was clever enough to be the master of the mindfuck, and I was naive enough to let him far enough into my brain that he’d rearranged my psychic furniture before I knew what was happening.

So no, I never feared he would kill me. But he kept playing his head games with me, finding ways to make sure I never felt safe. He emailed me out of the blue for the most spurious reasons, throwing unfounded accusations of infidelity and betrayal. He demanded money. Then he bullied his way into access to my home. He, or one of his friends (I’m still not sure which) kept tabs on me via a sockpuppet account on Fetlife, tracking who I was dating and which events I was going to. On one occasion, my current partner and I caught him driving past us multiple times while we were out in a way that made me feel like I was being watched.

Is there any wonder I didn’t feel like I could breathe freely until I saw definitive proof that he’d moved to a different city hundreds of miles away?

It was difficult for me to claim the label of abuse and apply it to that relationship, because he didn’t hit me. I wondered if I was being whiny, if – as he said – the only reason I felt like my mind was being systematically broken was because I was crazy. Even once I left, I asked myself if what I’d experienced was really that bad or if I’d deserved it because I pissed him off.

So no, leaving isn’t the end.

It’s the beginning of a journey of healing that can take months, years, whole lifetimes. I will never be the person I was before him. My life can be divided neatly into three parts: before, during, after.

Leaving is the first step on a long, long, long road of learning how to be you again, free from your abuser’s influence. It’s the first tentative grasping at the straws of, “maybe I’m not crazy. Maybe it all really happened exactly as I experienced it. And maybe, just maybe, that wasn’t okay.”

Leaving is the first gulp of clean air into lungs that have forgotten what that felt like. It’s feeling your chest expand as that crushing weight gradually lessens and then lifts.

It’s relearning how to breathe.

The Quote Quest badge. For a post titled Breathe

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!