I had a bit of a breakthrough last night.
I was lying in bed, and I asked myself, how far back does my relationship-pattern issue go? Like, has it been there my whole adult life, or what?
And the answer came to me: Stevil!
Steve is my next-door neighbor. I met him while walking around the block with Echo, the springer spaniel, back in March (circa) of 2012. He and I became friends and started taking long walks together.
To give some history, 2012 was a very hard year for me. In late February (circa), my sister assaulted me by throwing me into a wall. She continued to live downstairs until June (circa), when my dad finally realized I was terrified, so he kicked her out. (She loves living in apartment complexes, but she wanted to live with us to save some money. Worst roommate ever.)
So that spring was the worst possible time to try to forge a relationship with my neighbor. Not only was I terrified of Ellen, but I had no other friends nor any support system in place at all. I was living in pure fear, the sort where the person living downstairs is a psychopath and you have no one to report her scary behavior to. Like, today, I could easily email a half-a-dozen people and report on something awful Ellen might do. Back then, I had no one. And that was the way my life had always been.
But things went wrong with Stevil, and honestly, I’d put a lot of it on Stevil himself. I liked him more and more, so after many fine walks, which would last for hours and go everywhere, and we’d talk about everything, I asked him out.
“No. I’m sorry. You’re best friend material, but not more.”
He hemmed and hawed and finally said he couldn’t go out with me, because his girlfriend would dump him for sure.
Fair enough. Except that he’d never mentioned having a girlfriend thus far. Um, hello?! You have a girlfriend, and you never mentioned her?!
Yeah, that was cold. It’s so easy to casually mention it. “So, do you have any fun plans for this weekend?” Followed up by, “Yeah, actually, my girlfriend and I are going to…” And then I know he has a girlfriend without any awkwardness having ensued. It’s a good system. He failed to use it.
Well, I was mad. We argued. He said, “You seem to have anger issues. Were you molested as a child?” He hinted to me that he’d been sexually abused by his older siblings, a brother and a sister.
I answered honestly. “No, I wasn’t. But I was physically abused.”
“Pssh,” he said. “So your parents spanked you? That doesn’t count. Whatever. I got paddled at school, and it turned my life around. I knew the principal cared enough to set me straight.”
I was horrified and stunned. “I was sometimes naked,” I added lamely. “And they’d beat me for long periods of time.”
“Yeah, that might be sort of bad. But not really.” He shrugged.
And that was when my relationship issue became cemented. To this day, eight years later, whenever a guy rejects me, I hear him saying, “I’m rejecting you because you deserved to be beaten. And it pales in comparison to whatever bad things I’ve experienced, so get over it already.”
So, when a guy rejects me, what my parents did to me isn’t what’s being triggered. It’s Stevil. He hurt me so much, and so unexpectedly with that conversation, that now I raise my arms in defense whenever a guy rejects me, terrified he’s going to add that I deserved to be beaten, and that that’s why he doesn’t want to date me. I’m terrified that being rejected means that I’m not being rejected–rather, my horrific experiences of physical abuse are being rejected. Stevil! Damn that man. Damn him to hell.
I just wrote and mailed him an angry letter saying as much. My dad found out and was horrified. (He’s always afraid I’m going to get myself in trouble with the law, or whatever.) But my dad has taught me well how to express anger without adding any illegal threats. Nothing in the letter is actionable. Not even close. It’s extremely angry, but not illegal.
In retrospect, I realize that Stevil asked if I’d been sexually abused because he himself wanted sympathy. Kind of like this:
Person 1: How’s your day going?
Person 2: Great! How’s yours?
Person 1: [Burst into tears] awful!! Thanks for asking.
I don’t judge Person 1 in that conversation, but the way Stevil used my own trauma against me in order to elicit passive-aggressive sympathy for himself was unconscionable. And it screwed me up in the head. Gee, thanks, Stevil.
So that’s what it all goes back to: Stevil.
My dad said, “But what good can come from that letter?”
“I don’t want anything good to come from it. I want him to realize the seriousness of his bad attitude, and how much he hurt me. I can’t guarantee that’ll happen, but he needs to know how awful he was.”
Stevil was also the guy who confessed he didn’t want to date me because I’m not pretty enough. I always “hear” guys saying that, too, when they reject me. “Sorry, I’d be interested if you were prettier.”
And then, back in 2012, Stevil accused me of planning to throw a Molotov cocktail onto his house. I had to google that–I had no idea what a Molotov cocktail was. I was horrified. What the hell?! I’m angry, yes, but I’m not evil.
My dad explained that Stevil’s afraid of the world. If my letter makes him even a little bit more afraid, then today has been a success.
If anyone out there has any advice for how I can quit the pattern, I’d really love to hear it.