Looking back, I think I can pinpoint the exact place in a relationship where I should have walked away. Of course, I have never been the kind of gal who gives up easily. I think this has served me well in many areas of my life- being in for the long haul and not walking away when it was time to put in the hard work- after all, this is what got me my college degree, eventually. This is what gave me the tenacity to not give up on things I wanted to do but it also meant I beat on dead things for a while before I let go.
I also remember the places where the relationships died for me but I didn't hang on for too long of a post mortem. I remember the point where apathy took over and I realized I could walk away. The point of no return was a relief in most cases. I admit there was a time I looked for it in this relationship- instead of me knowing it was over, I reached a point where I knew it was solid. I reached a point where I realized that all of the crazy hormones wore off and I didn't think I wanted to leave. I reached a point beyond where I had ever been before and realized the deepening of this love was the real thing. All the bluster and desperation and oxytocin spikes were no longer leading me around. I stepped back one day and realized this was it, this thing had quietly come. The newness had worn off, the insecurity had worn off, the terror, all of the things that caused me doubt and angst had worn off. And then I had survived the boredom, because believe me, the boredom will come- and beyond that was- this incredible and completely unexpected other side of a deep and abiding love.
And this was the transcendent thing.
Beyond the fighting and the bickering is a quiet and abiding commitment to not give up on one another and underneath that is this beautiful friendship. I don't know how romantic it is. Sometimes it's very romantic and sweet- sometimes it is warm and comforting- sometimes it is dull and quiet- and other times it is laugh your head off.
I like it. But I know it is not for everyone.
I don't know if I would have gotten here without those learning points. It all seems so completely obvious in hindsight- it would be amusing if it had not been so darned tragic!
I've gotten good at a few things in hindsight. I can see really clearly how quickly it was wrong...
If you catch your boyfriend of two weeks making out with a guy- walk away.
Don't let him yell at you and act like it's your fault!
If a guy asks you to dance and then tells you he wants your phone number, but he has a girlfriend the proper response was "I don't date guys with girlfriends." (hey, I got that one right) and walk away. I should not have followed it up with "Call me if you break up with her."
Cause when he called me a week later, I started dating a cheater! (And here I was so proud of myself for sticking to morality and not dating a guy with a girlfriend)
When you show up at a party to pick up your boyfriend of three weeks and no one can find him at the party and he eventually comes into the kitchen where you are waiting patiently and he shows up disheveled, with his sweater on inside out, looks at you resentfully and says your plans for the evening aren't important enough to leave the party- doesn't invite you to the party and asks you to leave-
When your boyfriend thinks it's hilarious to grab the wheel of your car while you're driving to mess with you- and then gets all pissy and tells you that you have no sense of humor. (Might I add my infant son was in the back seat this whole time-) Walk away.
Now, nobody is perfect and we can't expect them to be but I had very deep conversations with all these guys and all of this happened within the first month of the relationships. They seem like obvious red flags, right? Most of them admitted to cheating in all of their previous relationships. Why I imagined I would be any different is beyond me.
Like I said, it would be funny if it hadn't had such stupid and terrible consequences. But you know- eventually I did walk away. I can tell you all of the points of no return- they make me sound a little less foolish. All of this happened before I was 22 years old, so I do have youth to blame.