Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ever Read Through Old Emails From Your Exes?

I finally escaped the toxic relationships of my past! 
I was looking at my old email inbox -- the one I haven't used in about 2 years -- because I felt it was time to clean it out and see if there was anything there worth saving. I came across a folder where I held all of the emails I'd gotten from an ex-boyfriend (let's call him "Bob") I dated many years ago.

Reading through them was hard, especially those where the relationship was clearly over and I was stubbornly hanging on. Even though several years have passed and I am happily married now, I felt physically stressed and upset after reading through them. I had to stop and find something fun to do just to get my mind off of it all.

It made me wonder why people continue on in toxic co-dependent relationships. It was clear from about 3 months into our relationship that "Bob" didn't know what he wanted and began to say things that made me question myself. I'll admit, I'm not the most tidy person in the world, but my fear of his disapproval had me frantically looking for tiny scraps on the floor just in case I'd missed something. One time, he complained that I left store tags on the floor, but then the next day he left his socks on the stairs. When I brought that to his attention, he'd say, "They're on the stairs because they're on the way to the washing machine. I'm doing laundry soon." And then he'd say my mess had no purpose and that I just dropped things wherever.

He may have been right about it, but looking back, it still didn't excuse his own behavior.

Everything became my fault. "If only you'd do _____, then I might love you more."

It was a classic case of me trying to jump through hoops and he was secretly enjoying every minute of it. When this behavior first started, it was subtle, and apologetic. I remember distinctly one day he couldn't bear to kiss me because I hadn't waxed my upper lip and some of the hair had grown back. He acted embarrassed about it, and said it was just distracting, so I ran out immediately and bought a facial wax kit. I wanted to look perfect for him!

It was really pathetic, and too many women fall for this, even the smart ones. Some women fall for this over and over again, and never find a man who really loves them for who they are because they're so focused on pleasing someone who will never be pleased!

During the latter part of our relationship, he'd send me copies of his resume and cover letter to look over. Being an employment specialist, I'd look them over and give him my opinion. Here's a typical exchange:

Click photo to enlarge

After we'd broken up, Bob continued to string me along for a while, making me think we'd get back together by spending time with me and inviting me over for the night. He always ignored me the next morning, as if I didn't exist, so I knew I had to break free from this cycle. I finally did, and opened myself up to being alone when I accidentally found my soulmate -- a man I'd gone to high school with.

When Bob discoveed that I was getting married a few months later, he didn't believe it. He was convinced that I could never let him go. What he didn't know was that by that time, I'd already let him go and moved on. I was only with him for 7 months, but he strung me along for another 5, and I'd grown tired of it. Bob knew through a mutual friend that James had spent some time living in a religious community, which is a communal environment where people live, work, and serve the poor. Bob continued to text me and email me, trying to convince me not to go through with it. When I made it clear to Bob that I was, indeed, marrying this man, he said, "FINE! Have fun with your Jesus freak!"

Funny thing is, James isn't what you'd call a "Jesus freak." He's just a guy who believes in God and thinks Jesus should be followed, not worshiped. There's a big difference in that line of thinking and I agree with it. Neither James nor I are overly religious, which made Bob's outburst all the more ridiculous. We don't even attend church, although I've visited a Unitarian Universalist congregation here, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After reading all of these emails and saved IMs (I knew I was saving them for a reason!), I realized how lucky I am to have gotten away from the toxic sludge of that relationship. I realized how truly gifted I am to have a husband who isn't above serving others selflessly. I realize how childish I was to cling to something that clearly wasn't working, and how the overall relationship was built on nothing more than flattery and sex.

My husband doesn't call me princess. He rarely buys me flowers (he's bought them once, on my birthday this year after I told him I'd really love some). He doesn't manipulate me. He doesn't play mind games, and he certainly doesn't compare me (favorably or unfavorably) to other women. He doesn't care if I forget to shave my armpits every now and then, and he isn't repelled by the fact that I've obviously gained a few pounds since Stella's birth.

He still sees me as the woman he fell in love with -- a chaotic, messy woman who couldn't balance a checkbook to save her life!