This past year I read a trendy book that I know many ladies have also read or are reading. Girl Wash Your Face. It’s one of those books that I wouldn’t have picked myself, but that’s the beauty of book club, you read things outside of your norm. For me, this is a book that I applied the take-what-you-can-and-leave-the-rest philosophy. Having said that, there was one story in particular that really let me down. I’ve felt compelled to write about it ever since.
The story I’m referencing is one about an unhealthy, romantic relationship the author had with a man who was also a co-worker. Rachel described the rollercoaster that is inevitable when two unhealthy people come together. As I read the story, my heart felt for her as I, too, have experienced those serious rollercoasters of emotions from more than one relationship early in my dating history.
I cheered with her as she made the choice to not go back. She stood her ground and told him not to call. As I read her words, I felt the empowerment that comes with “not looking back.” I even said out loud “You go girl!” But, as I turned the page, my heart sank. She went on to explain that “that boyfriend” showed up at her doorstep, begging for her forgiveness and to allow him the opportunity to change. “That boyfriend” is now her husband.
Not Real Life
Um what?! I mean, good for them, that’s great. But as that story took a turn, I set the book down, unable to return for days. The ending to this story feels too much like a fairytale. Sure, she does say this isn’t the norm, but a part of me feels so angry with her for sharing that because I know all too many girls (the 23-year-old me to be included) who would hold on to that. “If it happened for Rachel, it could happen to me too…” And we could all live happily ever after. Yeah, right. As I read this story, I relived my own version. But my story has a different ending.
My Unhealthy Relationship
From the get-go, the relationship was unhealthy. We were both volatile emotionally and the rollercoaster ride left my stomach in knots most of the time. Most friends and family didn’t approve, so we ended up meeting secretly most of the time. Not a great way to get things started. My family so strongly opposed that I shut them out for over a year as I sunk deeper into the relationship.
After a year of pushing away anyone who disapproved of or shared concern about my relationship, I finally came up for air. What I discovered was that my circle of people had been narrowed down to two. Him and my dear mentor/friend. All of this had been my choice, my doing. Thankfully that mentor kept dropping one simple line that, after months, I finally heard.
How can you find Mr. Right if you’re always with Mr. Wrong?
Seeing the Light
We were driving to his apartment one day, not speaking because I’d done something to annoy him. My gut was churning as it did most of the time we were together. I kept trying harder, placing my hand on his leg, telling him something I thought he’d like to hear. I felt myself sinking into the gap between us. After a stint of silence that seemed to last forever, I looked at him to say something, but no words would come out. My eyes filled with tears and I heard “He’s Mr. Wrong.”
Now I know the Holy Spirit was speaking to me and causing the pain in my stomach to make me so uncomfortable that I would walk away. But I still couldn’t. This only made time with him more awful. I’d given up so much, invested so much, I couldn’t walk away. As I fought the truth, I appeared needy. The neediness caused him to pull away. We became more volatile than ever and an extreme sadness came over me. At one point I thought, this is as good as it’ll ever be and I’m stuck.
We took some time a part. One month. I started a new job and began my new “lifestyle” of 5am workouts. As I look back on journal writings from that month, I can see that healing was happening. It is now clear how deeply I was suffering in that relationship. With my new found freedom, I started to allow my schedule to fill up with social things and had a longing to help others I hadn’t had in quite some time. I felt like I could breathe!
As the story goes in rollercoaster relationships, he got bored, or missed the drama, or maybe he really did miss me. Whatever the reason, he called. We started to hang out again, slowly. This time, I put some boundaries in place I didn’t have before and helped things. At first. As the weeks went by, my boundaries were weakening and I could see myself slipping back into the old routine, and the sadness. My heart ached for something more, but all I heard was the lie that, “this is the best you can do.”
Time to Walk Away
One afternoon, after another squabble over the phone, I stopped by his apartment to clear things up. His response was cold and he said,”This is the way it is and if you don’t like it, you can leave.” He’d said similar things before, but that day, with everything in me, I said, “Fine.” I walked out of the room and out of the sliding glass door of the apartment. As I crossed the threshold, my eyes weld up with tears. I walked quickly to my jeep, kept my eyes low and drove away.
I don’t know if he followed me because I never looked back. Keeping the tears at bay, I cranked the radio and belted out the lyrics to the absolute most perfect song for that moment — Red Light by David Nail. This is how it ends. This is what I don’t love you feels like. My world crashed down on a Sunday. Four minutes later, I pulled into my parking spot, turned the car off and sprinted up the stairs to my apartment door. I couldn’t get it open fast enough.
As I shut the door, I fell to my knees and the tears came like the dam had been lifted. Before long I was wailing. It was a year of pain flooding out of me. Yes I did the ugly cry in the mirror, you know the one. As the sobs started to subside and I was still feeling strong, I pulled out my phone and deleted his number. Emotions continued to flow out of me the rest of the evening. Everything in me knew I was done, yet another part of me sat on edge, hoping he’d come knocking at my door.
No Fairytale Ending
The knock never came. Nor did a phone call or text. For weeks. Some nights I’d even pray and beg God to fix it, to make him forgive me (really, what had I done?), to bring us back together. Still nothing. So, as the weeks past, a new life was being created around me. Friendships began to form, work ramped up and I was working long hours, my healthy lifestyle started to be a big focus. My heart was genuinely happy for the first time in a long time.
Almost 3 months passed before I heard from him. But sure enough, on my birthday, he reached out. At first I was happy. I felt like I’d won a prize. We exchanged text messages throughout the day and I went to bed with a smile. The text messages continued for another week with a phone call here and there. But with each interaction, my gut started to churn once more. This time, the feeling was very unwelcome. I’d gone months without it and when it returned I knew I didn’t want to go back to that place.
Almost two weeks after my birthday, he called once again. A knot grew in my stomach as I answered. I choked back tears and reminded myself of the icky feeling that came when we spoke. I answered that last call robotically. He knew right away something was up. I kept it short and simple. I didn’t allow him a chance to respond, I knew if I did I would be sucked back in. We hung up the phone and I fell a part. But this time, it was out of relief. I felt free. He hadn’t changed, but I had. And it was good.
On to Mr. Right
This is one of many examples of God answering my prayer with a big, fat NO. And I’m so thankful He did. Because, unlike Rachel, he was definitely Mr. Wrong (for me)… and because we walked away from each other, I did find my Mr. Right. Not right away, there was more work to be done inside of me. But when I was ready, and Mr. Right was ready, God was faithful to us.