If it’s too hard for you to say, “I’m the one with the problem,” maybe try starting with, “I’m someone with a problem, too.”

 

I’m very careful with how I talk about it, jumping right to the moments he broke and not mentioning everything I did to wear him down.

Almost immediately, he hit all five love languages: words of affirmation, touch, acts of service, quality time and gifts. I’ve never felt more loved by one person, so completely, and I’ve never distrusted the love from one person more than I distrusted his. It was too good; it felt rehearsed. He had honed these skills on other women and he was using them on me. I had always wanted to be loved like that, but it felt different than I expected it to. It felt false. I didn’t know how to trust it so I didn’t trust it. I wondered how I’d let him know I was on to him, that I knew I was just another person to practice on, perform for, leech admiration from. If I couldn’t say that directly, I could temper my gratitude for the love he gave me, so he wouldn’t think he had suckered me completely. I held back and I surveyed the scene and searched for holes in his love for me.

I am constantly starved for purity and I am forever digging for darkness.

To get a full picture of a person, you have to observe them when they’re out of their element, when their pride is on the line, when they’re weak and saving face. I do pretty well most of the time, in the presence of most people, but that’s only a piece of the picture.

I’ll tell you about one of my breakdowns.

The first time I was to meet his friends would be at a Halloween party with a Religious! theme. The invite suggested we dress as a member of our favorite cult, or maybe a follower of our least favorite religion. He read the lengthy and lighthearted invite aloud, “What a great theme for a party!” he laughed. But I didn’t think it was a great theme for a party. I had a complicated relationship with religion and I assumed I’d be the only guest who did and I assumed I’d be the only one having trouble taking it lightly. These weren’t my people, but this was my topic. I didn’t know what attitude was expected of me. I envisioned a demand to be heavily educated on whatever religion we dressed as, I remember the invite mentioned something like that and I didn’t know how seriously to take it. I pictured standing in a semi circle of his friends, friends who mentally occupied the same pedestal I had him on—they’d be older, more educated, overflowing with culture and knowledge and talking points that were so articulate they’d seem rehearsed. I’d be the only American, I thought, and they’d challenge my knowledge of world religions and it had been 10 plus years since I’d taken that class and I’d never been out of the country and that would somehow probably come up and I’d seem young and dumb and he’d be embarrassed of me and I’d go to the bathroom and they’d ask him, “Why her, though?”

I couldn’t stop picturing a disaster; this felt like all my fears uniting and disguising itself as a party. Fitting, for Halloween–my personal hell dressed up as Open Bar Fun.  He and I were tasked with outfitting four of his friends and ourselves and I lagged through the trip to the costume store. I’d typically be very excited about being in charge of creating a costume, but my anxiety crippled my creativity and I moped around behind him, sort of nodding at his suggestions and saying I didn’t care so that maybe he wouldn’t want me to come and I wouldn’t have to say I didn’t want to. It didn’t work. I made it as far as the car on the way before I resorted to my last ditch effort of being aggressively unpleasant. I picked a fight, but he didn’t bite so I had to go straight into a loud, “I don’t want to go to this awful party. I hate the theme and I’m already uncomfortable and I don’t want to be there. Take me home.” I was crying, as if something bad had already happened and I assumed he’d be overwhelmed with how ridiculous I was being, happy to be rid of me, and we’d both get what we wanted.

(I fall in love to rescue and I fall in love to be rescued)

He didn’t take me home, he rescued me, which I always secretly want but am never truly expecting. He swerved to pull his car over and ran around to the passenger side, opened my door and climbed in. He flipped so quickly into savior mode that it took me a moment to realize it wasn’t becoming a fight. He crammed himself between my legs to kneel on the floor in front of me and he held my face and he kissed me. He told me that my fear made so much sense, that if he had been raised the way I was, he’d dread a party like this too. He said my anxiety about new settings and new people was natural, considering my experiences, but that he knew me and he knew I possessed the ability to go to a party, absolutely. He reminded me of the reasons he loved me and said he refused to let me allow my anxiety to keep me from the experience. He wanted me to show myself that I would be okay, and he promised that I would be and he was very convincing and I believed him. I stopped crying and said okay and we went to the party and he was right, it was a party and the people were people and it was all fine and not a thing to be scared of at all. Of course.

I thought a lot, many times over, about how he handled me there, and I was in awe of it, but because my love function is broken and my distort function is turned all the way up, I fashioned it into more fear for myself to feel. What if he experienced a breakdown and needed me the way I needed him in that moment, would I ever be able to be as good for him as he was for me? I assumed the answer was no and then I learned the answer was no, when he gave me the chance to save him.

(He falls in love to rescue and he falls in love to be rescued, too)

I’ll tell you about one of his breakdowns.

We were cooking together in his kitchen, or maybe he was cooking and I was eating bits of food before he used them, as was our tri-weekly ritual, when he started to cry unexpectedly. I freaked out on the inside because nothing had happened to cause the tears and I asked him what was wrong and he sobbed and said he needed me to be nice to him. He dropped the knife and folded into himself and begged me, “I just need you to be really nice to me. I need you to be really, really nice to me right now.” Now, something happens to me when someone asks me to do something specific for them, especially in desperation or when their happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction is on the line–I become paralyzed, because in my mind, a request for something specific carries with it an expectation and if I care about the person, I’m instantly afraid I won’t meet it. I’d rather a gesture come from me than be asked to offer it up. If what I was already doing wasn’t nice enough, I didn’t know what nice meant to him and I couldn’t imagine what I could do in that moment to fill whatever hole he was crying from. More accurately, I didn’t know what I could do that would be the equivalent of pulling the car over. My fear of letting him down was stronger than my desire to help and my fear won. I ignored what he asked for and flipped into rational mode, “I am being nice to you.” And after some silence, “There’s nothing I can do to fix this right now. These tears aren’t about me. We should talk about this in a real way later and figure out why this is happening, but I am being nice to you, already.”

And like, however rational that might have been, it isn’t what he needed from me. He needed compassion, not rationality. He needed to be rescued the way he rescued me. He needed someone to pull the car over and kiss him on his face.

 

 

(I’m going to learn to be the one who knows how to pull the car over)