I fell for my first love and I fell hard. Against my better judgement, I felt an unyielding devotion to an obvious commitment-phobe. He came from a family full of dysfunction, regularly skipped school, partied as often as possible, and had even been to jail a few times.
I was a girl who he could hook up with and who would ask nothing of him in return. Needless to say, our relationship imploded.
When we moved to different cities, I had hoped to maintain a long distance relationship, even driving cross-country to visit him one weekend. He didn’t feel the same.
He stopped answering the phone and returning my calls. He didn’t need me anymore, so he cut me off with no explanation. I was more serious about the relationship than he was, and I figured that more than likely he had found a girl (or two) in his new city.
As I’ve written previously, I was completely devastated. For months I was depressed and practiced self-harm. It took some time, but I found healthy ways to move on with my life, and over the course of a couple of years I moved cities for a clean start, made a strong group of friends, and got some good counseling.
Life was going well, my heart was healing, and I was happy. And then he came back into my life.
Three years after freezing me out, he had the audacity to pick up the phone and call me. As it turns out, he had done a longer stint in jail where he had reevaluated his lifestyle and had decided to make positive changes.
Even after all that time, he still thought of me when he thought of the life he wanted to have. I couldn’t help but feel flattered and validated as he spoke of his regrets—including how badly he treated me—and of how he couldn’t see what a good thing he had until it was too late.
I couldn’t deny that I still cared about him in some way. When you love someone you can’t stop wanting good things for them, even after they’ve done you wrong. I wanted the positive changes he was hoping for to work out, and I knew he didn’t have the support system he needed to make it happen.
I agreed to meet up with him, but with the stipulation that he come over to my house at a time when my roommates would be home. I didn’t trust myself to be alone with him. I was afraid I would fall back into old patterns, that I would not have the willpower to make good decisions about getting physically intimate with him.
We hung out for a while, but I immediately noticed I felt differently about him. I had changed and matured by leaps and bounds over the past three years. He hadn’t quite kept up with my pace. He said he was hoping for that change, but he didn’t seem willing to go to counseling or sever ties with his trouble-making friends.
I knew he couldn’t leave a life of substance abuse and delinquency without taking those big steps. I believed that his desire for a better life was sincere, but I knew I wasn’t the one to help him. He did not need a co-dependent romantic relationship, he needed counseling and true friends he could rely on. But he wasn’t interested in those things; he just wanted me to be his girlfriend again.
I was surprised by how easy it was to say no him. I had done so much emotional and spiritual work on myself by that time that I knew exactly what I was looking for, and I knew without a doubt that my ex wasn’t it.
I wanted an equal partner, someone who I wasn’t constantly helping, but someone who could also help me when I needed it too. Eventually I found that in the man who would become my husband, and we’ve been there for each other, equally, ever since.
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