I didn’t want love, because love makes you weak, I told myself at the time. I didn’t want to be vulnerable, couldn’t be vulnerable, because vulnerability gives other people power over you.
When I left P, I told myself, “Never again.” I was determined that I wouldn’t end up with someone who cheated on me, lied to me, abused me, or hurt me in any way. My ego was so wounded after years of infidelity, guilt trips, harsh words, sex deprivation, and the absolute “joy” of living with an egomaniacal narcissist.
At first, I opened up multiple online dating accounts. I wanted to prove to myself (and to my jackass ex-husband) that men desired me. It was a “look at me, I’m sexy” move that I had hoped would build up my torn down spirits. I was wrong.
Entering the world of online dating, for me, was like leading a lamb to slaughter. Those websites should come with a sign that screams, “Here there be wolves” in bright pink letters. I was a veritable, raw, victim-in-waiting in a sea of men who’d say anything to get me to take my pants off. And take my pants off, I did.
I wanted comfort. I wanted attention. I wanted compliments. I wanted to feel sexy. Most of all, I wanted sex.
After each encounter (and there were only a few), I felt less and less. Meaning, I felt like less and less. It was as though these men were draining away the last vestiges of who I was as a person. We’d have sex and then we’d never talk again. I was giving them what they wanted while getting nothing back. The cycle of flirtation felt amazing. The first date and inevitable sexual encounter, not so much. It felt horrible.
After the last “date,” which was an utter nightmare (he choked me), I decided it was time to close up shop and dust off the old “not open for business” sign on my lady garden.
I went celibate.
I went celibate and it was the best possible choice I could have made for myself. I spent two years reflecting on who I was, what I had experienced, and what I wanted out of life and love. I put myself on a man diet.
And then I found J. Nearly three years into my so-called celibate life, I found someone who made me feel things I forgot I could. He was the first real person I had a profound interest in. J was the first person worth ending my single life for.
I was enthralled by his intelligence and wit; turned on by his mind, his sense of humor, his life story, and his body. I didn’t just want him physically (which I dreamt about constantly), I wanted all of him. I loved spending time with him, learning from him, and just being with him.
It has been nearly three years now since we spent our first weekend together and though our relationship has changed from those frenzied beginnings, it has changed for the better. Being with him has changed me for the better.
I am eternally grateful to my past self for having the courage to say, “enough is enough.” Spending all of that time alone gave me the opportunity to address my shortcomings as a person and a partner. I was able to find and love myself again, which is something I hadn’t been able to do in nearly seven years. I found solace in my own presence and regained control of my life. I was able to finally make decisions as a person (a “me” instead of a “we”) with my own interest in mind.
When I left P, I thought for sure that I would end up with someone exactly like him. I was so afraid that I’d end up a victim of another abuser and that I wouldn’t have the ability to extricate myself once more from an abusive relationship. I didn’t want love, because love makes you weak, I told myself at the time. I didn’t want to be vulnerable, couldn’t be vulnerable, because vulnerability gives other people power over you.
It took nearly three years of being on my own to fix the shattered remnants of my heart. I learned very quickly that happiness is of our own making and it takes a profound measure of effort to do so. So thank you, past me. Thank you for being brave.
Sarah Blohm is a pseudonym for a woman living in the Pacific Northwest.