Self-love and a Sandwich

There is usually at least one pivotal moment in a relationship, one instant that shines with crystal-clear clarity, that either propels the relationship forward or lets you know that it isn’t going to work. Sometimes there may have been lots of little moments that made you pause and take note (or that you chose to ignore), yet doesn’t really give you the information that you need to make a decision.

With my last relationship, the many overlapping circles of our lives made our meeting seem almost serendipitous. Stir into the mix that I really wanted to move on from my last relationship QUICKLY, add a handful of propensity to date “men with potential”, a pinch of sheer lust and a sweet glaze of starry-eyed wonder at meeting a man who was talking commitment to me and my kids…well, it was a recipe for delay and denial.

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea to have our first “date” be the same day I angrily cut ties with the man I’d been involved with off and on for ten months.

Those odd moments when he came across as superficial, unconscious, arrogant and self-absorbed…yeah, I really shouldn’t have dismissed as “quirky” or “just a blip”. If those things showed up on date two or three, what did I expect to happen on date 30 or 300?

When he finally talked me into sleeping with him, then later confessed to me that he felt a bit frustrated and pissed off because it had never taken him that long to get a woman in bed…well, I really should have taken note and not tried to focus on his good qualities. Nor should I have told myself that he was trying to change from his former bad boy ways, so I should cut him some slack.

When he wanted to have sex for four to six hours EVERY SINGLE TIME, instead of thinking he was just really sexual, perhaps I could have wondered if his former penchant for self-medication with alcohol had turned into self-medicating with sex instead.

The first time that he called me a “dirty, fucking bitch” in bed and spanked me while saying, “Fuck you, bitch”, I wish that I had allowed that little voice in my head to speak up loudly, instead of shushing it with, “Maybe he’s just role-playing.” The next time he said it, I did speak up and tell him that I wasn’t comfortable being called a bitch in bed. To his credit, he listened and stopped. Next time he changed it to “Dirty, fucking whore”. By the way, it was apparently a role he liked, as he continued to do it over and over again.

He ate his food like a starving man, almost mechanically shoving the food into his mouth as quickly as possible. I told myself it was a small thing. I got up one night to lock the door after he left and noticed he had taken 9 cookies from a plate on his way out. I convinced myself that it wasn’t a big deal.

His irrational anger over small things, I chalked up to miscommunication.

Yet he also kept telling me that I was beautiful and smart and funny. He told me that he’d never met anyone like me and that he wanted a future together. Not only was he not afraid to talk about the next date, he wanted to talk about the next year. He brought gifts, lovely and thoughtful gifts, to me and my children, even though he’d never met them. He talked about getting a family plan at the local fitness center. He seemed very intent on being with me and wanted to be monogamous. It was like a balm to my bruised heart. Plus, I knew his family! Our circles overlapped! Surely the serendipity of the situation couldn’t be wrong…

Then a total breakdown: He shuts down emotionally, out of the blue, and walks out of my house one night. No explanation. The next evening, he rips into me on the phone with all the ways that I had erred the previous day. As he cited item after item, I was completely bewildered. Even when he outlined how I had “rejected him as a man” and “let him know that I didn’t want him there” or “refused to be in the present moment”, I was still bewildered. Yet it was enough to throw him into a rage so severe that he felt that he had to leave my house, so that he wouldn’t irrevocably destroy the relationship. My attempts to communicate fell on angry ears. Six hours of sex every time? It’s never been a problem for anyone else, why should it be for you? Besides, he only got to see me a couple of times a week, so I needed to make up for it when he did. The rant went on and on with all the ways that I wasn’t good enough, didn’t understand him and wasn’t like the other women he’d dated.

I hung up the phone and knew that I was going to end it.

When we met to “talk”, his attitude was completely changed. Humble, sincere, deeply apologetic. He said the entire scene was completely his fault and he fully expected me to end things. He talked about how much he cared about me and how much he wanted to be with me. He was willing to do the work necessary to change his behavior so I would want to be with him.

Now, I’ve always had a firm belief that if two people are willing to do relationship work, they can accomplish anything. So by the end, my heartstrings and dewy-eyed idealism was in full-force; I agreed to try again.

By god, I did, too. I went into the second attempt determined to put my all into it and accomplish great things!

Who would have thought that some self-love and a sandwich would be the things that tipped the scales?

My first moment of clarity, that took me halfway toward a decision, came one night after a wonderful evening of love-making. An hour and a half, I didn’t get called a “dirty, fucking whore” and we both fully enjoyed ourselves. We’d agreed to keep our love-making sessions to an hour or two as the norm. I was glowing and flushed with post-coital happiness as we cuddled afterwards. After about ten minutes though, I begin to notice rhythmic motions under the covers. I pay it no attention at first; just continue to lie there beside him, contentedly. Then the motions increase and become difficult to ignore. Then he throws the covers back and I see that he is masturbating! Stunned and a little confused, I decide to involve myself in the situation, to make it less awkward. This led to another hour and a half…Now I’m not opposed to someone bringing themselves pleasure during the sex act, nor am I a prude. Still, it was disconcerting to me and frankly, upsetting, that he felt the need to masturbate immediately following sex. More especially that he did it without a word being spoken to me. It felt…obsessive and compulsive.

The realization that I really wasn’t having a very good time in this relationship and that it was bringing me stress began to build. I was beginning to have doubts not only about our long-term compatibility, but also about whether or not I even liked him! His ego, his unconsciousness and the theme of selfishness that seemed to run through the core of his being was asserting itself more and more.

Even then, I simply was stalling on the inevitable.

Until one evening he came over and I fixed delicious portabella mushroom Panini sandwiches. They were large and I served them with a delicious side of rosemary roasted oven potatoes. He wolfed his food down like usual. I ate half of my Panini, then thought to myself, “Oh good, I’ll have lunch for work tomorrow”. I asked if he was still hungry, to which he said, “No.” I carried our plates inside, noting silently that I would wrap up my sandwich after he left.

We had the required sexual acrobatics, with me being twisted into every position in the Kama Sutra…twice. Then he left. Overall, it had been a fairly good evening. I get up and go into the kitchen to wrap up my sandwich. However, in the place of my beautiful Panini, I discover only a tiny rim of crust! Somehow, at some point (Maybe when I had gone to the bathroom for 2 minutes? Maybe when I turned my head to look outside?) he had crammed the rest of my food into his big, fat mouth.

Apparently, I can tolerate unconsciousness, selfishness, irrational anger, a huge ego, verbal abuse during sex, sexual obsession, constant reference to other women and poor table manners; as long as you promise forever and accept my children. However, jerk off during post-coital cuddling and steal my sandwich and you have crossed the line!

In all seriousness, after I made the decision that his issues were simply too intense and deep for me to deal with, I found myself doing some research. Borderline Personality Disorder has his name written all over it. I felt sadness at hurting him by ending things and sadness for the loss of my lovely little dream. However, I mostly felt relief at making the decision. His subsequent emails to me afterwards reinforced the rightness of my decision.

I also learned a lot about myself. I need to be willing to trust my intuition more, because it told me very early there were big issues. I need to be ready to be alone, rather than settle for someone who isn’t right. I need to stop dating “men with potential”, or at least be willing to let them go when I recognize that the potential is unrealized, rather than waiting around for them to do something with it.

Mostly I realized, I am afraid to be alone. That fear, that I will be alone forever or that I am somehow less if I don’t have a partner to love me, has kept me in some very unhappy situations. It has made me accept treatment and behavior that is unacceptable. I have to find a way to be okay with being alone.

Not to mention, singleness apparently guarantees that your leftover food stays on your plate!

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