My ex was a sexy, tantalizing treat that I could never quite reach. Rather than accepting the fact that he was emotionally unavailable and damaged, I made it my personal mission to seduce and cuff him. Unfortunately, I succeeded. Turns out some people have very good reasons for not wanting to be in a relationship.
I didn’t believe him.
Maya Angelou used to say that when someone tells you who they are, you should believe them. When my ex told me he would make a horrible boyfriend and wasn’t in the place for a relationship, I thought he was just selling himself short. Turns out he had deep-seated intimacy issues and a drug problem. I desperately wanted to see the best in him, but I did so at the expense of my time and feelings.
I took it personally.
Rather than accepting that his issues were the reason he couldn’t be with me, I assumed I was being rejected, which made things personal. I conflated our relationship and his attention with my self-worth. That’s why I fought to the bitter end to make it work and why it was so devastating when I eventually had to walk away.
We were completely incompatible.
When we first started seeing each other, I told him I was just interested in sex, which was true at the time but eventually changed. Because our relationship was so rooted in sex, our hormones and sexual chemistry were running the show. I never really took the time to consider whether we wanted the same things or were even compatible. Spoiler alert: we couldn’t have been more incompatible. An ideal Saturday night for me would be making dinner and reading a nice novel. But for him, a thrilling weekend included cocaine, whiskey, and a literal gang bang. By the time we started officially dating, we didn’t even know how to spend time together outside of the bedroom because we lived such different lives.
He did not want monogamy.
He clearly wasn’t interested in monogamy, so at one point I tried the whole open relationship thing. Yep, I listened to all of the “spiritual teachers” like Teal Swan talking about how truly evolved people should have multiple partners and love should know no boundaries. Honestly, I was sleeping with other people to fill the gaps which were becoming excruciating in our relationship. He didn’t give me the amount of sex or attention I needed and we didn’t have intellectual chemistry, so I strayed. But since I was in such a bad place, my side piece was just as toxic, coked-up, and emotionally unavailable as my ex was. After finding condoms my ex had used with someone else in his bed, the situation became untenable.
We spoke different languages.
While it was literally true that speaking different mother tongues introduced a frustrating linguistic and cultural barrier, we also expressed ourselves (and love) in different ways. While my primary love language is words of affirmation, his was physical touch. This left me feeling like our relationship was purely physical, while my inability to register his affection made him feel frustrated and unappreciated.
My house was not in order.
Although I wanted a relationship, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t in the right place for one. The reason I chose someone emotionally unavailable, was because I was also emotionally unavailable. I had a lot of unresolved trauma and was not clear on my direction in life. My personal life was a disaster, my living situation a nightmare, and income less than stable. The only constant in my life was our relationship drama, which is partially why I held on for so long. Now, I have the perspective to know that until your life is stable and you are actively addressing your trauma, being in a romantic partnership is hardly appropriate. Yeah, you can force it, but the outcome won’t be pleasant.
I forced his hand.
Eventually, I lost patience with our ill-defined, on-again, off-again relationship. He came over one night after I had been out of the country for a few months and I gave him an ultimatum–a committed monogamous relationship or no more contact at all. I even set a timer on my phone and told him he needed to decide before the timer went off or I was kicking him out of my apartment for good. The tactic worked short-term and was the first step towards setting up boundaries between us, but ultimately he grew to resent me for the ultimatum and our relationship just became another constraint for him to rebel against.
Failure was not an option.
Rather than just accepting that some people shouldn’t be together, I saw a breakup as a cop-out. I hate admitting failure and to me, giving up on our relationship felt like a failure. We had great chemistry and a powerful connection, but ultimately, we just weren’t right for each other. Accepting that was brutally painful but in hindsight, it was actually a victory over the unhealthy patterns that had been dominating my relationships for years.
I didn’t see him until it was too late.
Throughout our relationship I projected my idea of who he was onto him rather than seeing him as he was. Because I was so caught up in trying to interpret his mixed signals, I was unable to see what was so clearly in front of me: he was emotionally incapable of a relationship and in need of serious psychological help. I was also unable to notice when he genuinely showed me affection or understand what he needed from me. By the time I realized this, I was too exhausted to try anymore and we ended our relationship within hours.
Tall, dark, and handsome.
Yes, my ex was all of these things and more, but at the end of the day, bad boys and emotionally unavailable men just don’t make good partners. What you want in a partner is someone who will clean up after you when you’re sick, send you an Uber when it’s snowing, and listen to you complain about your roommates. Bad boys might be great for a romp in the hay, but they’re not going to show up on your doorstep with Chipotle and chocolate when you have your period. The most they’re bringing to the table is emotional turmoil and a few new strains of HPV. Sometimes you have to let the one who got away, stay away.
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