“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
— Albert Einstein
I have a cycle. I feel like we all have patterns in our romantic relationships that we repeat over and over again that cause us pain. Sometimes, we’re able to recognize these patterns of toxic behaviour and break free from the endless loop. Sometimes, we pretend not to see it, or we think, maybe this time it’ll be different, as we attempt to navigate old problems in new ways. But even when we add different people to the equation, if we don’t change ourselves, the situation never changes.
My cycle involves me putting myself in situations where people emotionally use me, rather than choose me, whether it is conscious or not. I keep ending up with people who are emotionally unavailable and/or do not have the desire to choose me as a romantic partner. What becomes truly damaging for me is these people want to keep me in their life, because they value the connection we have and/or the way I make them feel. They prefer to keep me as only a friend, even if sometimes our friendship crosses into grey romantic/sexual areas.
My love life began when I was 19 years old. I started a new retail job, shortly after moving away from the state where I grew up. I always tried to keep to myself, do my work, and leave. There was a guy (we’ll call him Jude) who would incessantly tease me. Jude would make fun of my voice most often because to him, I didn’t ‘sound black.’ I dreaded going to work because of him.
About a month after he began tormenting me, Jude’s friend approached me and told me Jude liked me. I was confused, because this guy made my life hell at work every day. I told his friend that I didn’t believe him. His friend said that making fun of me was Jude’s way of flirting. I told his friend that Jude needed to say all of this to me, himself.
Following that, for the first time, Jude was super sweet to me. I told Jude what his friend said, and Jude, to my surprise, admitted that what his friend had told me was true. In hindsight, what I should have done at this point was walk away, but this was the first boy that had ever liked me. I didn’t think I could do better, so I went with it. I wasn’t even attracted to him at first, but he was decent looking and smart, so I decided to get to know him.
We made plans to meet up one night when neither of us was working. At the time I lived with my father, but he worked overnights, so I was able to coordinate a time to meet with Jude. He came to my apartment building, and we talked on a staircase. Jude kissed me, and it was aggressive and sloppy. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, so I tried to mirror him. It was gross, but I wanted him to like me. Afterward, we moved to underneath the staircase he asked me to go down on him. At that moment, I knew my boundaries, and I didn’t want to do that. I said “no.” He tried to persuade me, but I was firm regarding this particular act. So, he said he would “be okay” with a hand job, I gave in and did it.
Afterward, he mentioned us meeting up again, but only at night; ‘it was our secret,’ he’d say. In the back of my mind, I knew why he wanted to keep us a secret. He was ashamed of anyone knowing we saw each other. He was ashamed of me.
At work, we would bicker and fight over the silliest things. Jude started making fun of me again to ‘show face’ around his friend, so I ended things between us. He was fired from my workplace, and for months, I didn’t see or hear from him.
After some time had passed, I became good friends with a girl who worked there and was also friends with Jude. She’d deliver messages between us. I grew wrapped up and addicted to this idea of him and I in a relationship. Eventually, she helped us coordinate a way to see each other.
He came over, and this time I allowed him inside my apartment. He asked me again to go down on him, and this time, I did. I didn’t like it. I remember feeling insecure about what I was doing, and I wanted to get it over with as quickly as it started. I didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t feel loved. But I did feel like I needed to do this, to be desirable.
He asked for us to have sex, but I was a virgin at that time, and I knew I wasn’t ready. I told him, ‘no.’ When I asked him to go down on me, he refused. I was upset, but I just tried to enjoy the company and physical interaction I had never experienced, so we just chilled on my bed and watched a movie. I wanted him to stay the night, but he said he had to leave.
It’s worth noting that he and I never actually dated. To this day, he has never held a title in my life. I wanted a partner, but I definitely didn’t receive that.
Following this night, we got into a massive fight again, and I ended it for good this time. Shortly afterwards, I found out that Jude had never really liked me. He pursued me because he saw how smart and innocent I was. He wanted to see if he could outsmart me and take my virginity. To him, it had all been just a game.
This knowledge tore through me like a knife. The fact that Jude wasn’t even attracted to me was what hurt most. He didn’t want me; in fact, it would have been better if all he’d wanted was just sex. But I wasn’t good enough to even be wanted for sex; instead, he wanted power over me, dominion over my mind. This revelation made me feel ugly, fat, disgusting and unworthy of any love.
Although much of my trauma is rooted deeply in my childhood, my experience with Jude triggered the beginning of a cycle that would follow me well into adulthood. It’s a cycle that continues to affect me to this day, 13 years later.
To be continued…
Profile Photo Credit: The Divulge Project