I still remember that dreaded day when my summer love—I’ll call him Tyler—left town. He went to his grandfather’s because he had gotten into some trouble and I was left devastated. I tried to move on, although I failed tragically. Even when I was with someone else, I still found myself thinking about him so often. Despite the fact that I had said I was done with that unhealthy relationship, my heart was with Tyler and it was not budging. I found it very hard not to wonder what could be. I wondered so much that I found out. Never in my life had I cheated on someone until then.
Of course, after that incident all my feelings for Tyler came back ten-fold. I was so confused and knew that I needed to end things with my current boyfriend—what I was doing to him was not right or fair to him. But my boyfriend refused to break up and wanted to go on like nothing happened. I found myself hurting more each day and becoming distant from my boyfriend. We started to fight a lot—to the point of domestic violence—which led to a horrific break-up.
During one of our fights, Tyler just happened to be stopping by to check on me. He stepped in and stopped the fight from going any further. This would be the first of many times that Tyler would save my life. I left my ex and moved in with Tyler and his family. I got close to his family, and his dad became a father-figure for me. In the years to come Tyler would also help me when I overdosed, and eventually he and his dad escorted me to rehab. In many ways, he was there for me when I needed him most.
But the status of our relationship was confusing because he never wanted to say that we were together, even though we were often romantically and sexually involved. I’d try to move on, but then when I’d get with someone, Tyler would get really protective. He’d be the first one to jump up and say he was going to hurt my boyfriend if he ever did anything to hurt me. He’d flirt and joke and drill me with questions about who I’d been with. That gave me mixed messages, and the connection between us just didn’t go away. It was just back and forth, back and forth.
Basically, there was never closure to the confusing “non-relationship” that we had. At that time, he literally held my world in his hand and he knew it. And I should have never let him know that. He’s not a bad person, but the way we functioned was not healthy at all. I was always left with the same feelings—trapped in the cycle, going nowhere, other than spiraling back down in my past, wondering and struggling with hopes and expectations that he did love me. And so I never created the boundaries to officially close the door on the possibility of a romantic relationship with Tyler.
Thankfully, since then I’ve learned a lot about codependency through a recovery group that I was part of, and I’ve learned to set boundaries every day. Because I am still close with his dad, I do still see Tyler sometimes. Just before we talk I have to remind myself, “This is my past. This is a part of my past that I don’t want to repeat. As much as I care about the guy as a person, we have to stay as brother/sister and friends. Because if we don’t, I’ll end up right back where I was.” I also don’t hang out with Tyler alone, and I’m open and honest with my boyfriend about the past nature of my relationship with Tyler and the boundaries that I want to keep.
I learned the hard way that it’s one thing to say you are done with a relationship, but another thing to actually close that door. I said I wanted closure, but I did little to actually get it. And leaving that door open often meant that it swung back to smack me in the face later: I had difficulty moving on, and felt haunted by the past relationship. With boundaries and support, though, one closed door can mean the freedom to open another.
Photo credit: Ben Seidelman/Flickr