Most people are surprised to learn that I’ve only been in three relationships in my life. Which is weird to me because I think three boyfriends is a lot. I know people who have only had one relationship because they find romantic relationships difficult to navigate. To me, romantic relationships are not necessarily hard to navigate. My struggle has been in navigating the break up. The whole point of this series is not to expose my dark secrets or to expose the men I’ve been with but to self reflect and find an easier way to deal with the hardships that come with dating. Since I am someone who wants to get married eventually, I have to be okay with the possibility that the next man I date may not be my husband and have enough self awareness to correct the things in me that are not conducive to a good relationship. But it’s hard and I struggle just like all of you.
In the first installment of the series we explored my first heart break and how that changed me physically, emotionally and mentally. I sat down with my ex to talk things out. It has been almost 10 years since he and I were together and I was expecting to gain some insight into why he cheated and what lead to some of the unfavorable things he did. To my surprise, his answer to a lot of the in depth questions I had were simply, “I don’t know.” or “I was young.” I had to take what he said at face value because the truth is, just because I was ready to be honest doesn’t mean he was. So, to get the answers I seek about why people cheat, I had to look at myself because I’m a former cheater. My first love taught me how to set boundaries about who I allowed myself to date, my second relationship taught me who I would allow myself to be in a relationship.
Romantic relationships are probably one of the few things in modern life that is older than dinosaurs, the theory of evolution, & even the creation of The Bible. So, you would think we would have the proper way to navigate through these relationships down to a process of science. WRONG! If we do the math, it has only been popular to date/marry for love for about 60 years. Before then, your family chose someone for you or you married to increase your own net value.
So, what do us modern gals and guys do when we have to break up with someone we once cared about or even worse, when we get our own hearts broken?
I did some research and I found that the average American has five relationships in their lifetime. In other words you have to go through four break ups with four people and hope that the next one is your spouse. I don’t have the emotional energy to go through another break up to find my forever husband. My emotions are exhausted just thinking about going through that again. I’m an Aries so I have a hard outer shell that’s hard to crack but if you are one of the lucky few who sees the core you find it looks gooey like lava. Although I rarely cry, I’m really sensitive and my feelings get hurt very easily.
When I was younger, I was unaware that acting tougher than I actually am affected the people around me and caused me to push good, well meaning people away. In fact, after my relationship with Isaac ended, I was left feeling more guarded than ever. I didn’t trust anyone. I purposefully pushed people away when I felt they were getting too close to me. I thought it was the right thing to do after having my heart shattered. Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way that this was counterproductive to being a better person with my second boyfriend from college, Tyreek.
It was sophomore year in college, I was bouncing back from the end of my relationship with Isaac. I was more vibrant and was able to suppress my depression enough to be able to socialize more. I met more people in my class. I met a guy named Tyreek. He was the opposite of Isaac and looking back that’s probably why I liked him so much. He was brown skin, tall, smart and could dress his butt off. The brutha could wear a suit! He was the type of gentleman that opened doors and paid for meals and held your hand when crossing the street. I remember one time I was sick and it was raining badly outside. I had to get my laundry done but I had no coins for the machine. Without me asking, Tyreek got in his car and drove down the street to a couple stores to get enough quarters. I met him at the front door of my building to get the coins and was surprised to see he had brought me food as well. I kissed his cheek and thanked him. I liked him so much but there was something missing from our relationship. He didn’t understand me. Anytime we talked about anything from our past, or about lacks in our character he could never understand my point of view It made me feel like he was always taking everyone else’s side but mine. He had a group of friends who’s main priority was underage drinking, smoking, and wilding out. And yes, I know ‘everyone’ was doing it in college. But remember my three rules (see part one). I was not that girl. I didn’t drink at all in college. In fact, when I went to house parties if the host knew I was coming they would have sprite and water in the fridge on the side for me to enjoy. Everyone knew I didn’t drink.
Instead of listening to the red flags of incompatibility, I continued to date Tyreek well into the summer. We lived 45 minutes away from each other and he would often drive across the Potomac River to see me or come to my family’s functions. In all the time we spent, there was still only a surface level emotional connection. Both of us knew that emotionally we needed two different things in a partner but we liked each other. We broke up and got back together several times. When we finally got back to university, I was confused about my feelings for him and had developed a resentment that he did not understand me. I didn’t want to break up with him but with my new college cheer body (which was BANGING!) I was attracting more attention from upperclassmen and I wanted to soak up as much attention as I could…so I cheated. I cheated often. I would leave study hall with Tyreek, take a shower, and go see my side guy. I cheated because I think secretly I wanted to get caught and for him to notice I wasn’t happy and to change that. I was such a sloppy cheater that one day his female best friend caught me sneaking past her dorm room to see my upperclassman boo, and I told her I was going to go cheat. She was just as shocked as I was that I told the truth. I’m not sure how long the cheating went on before I grew tired of the monotony of my scandalous behavior. I finally broke up with him and honestly, to this day I don’t think he’s recovered. Out of my three exes he’s the only one I currently have no contact with and from what I hear, he became a playboy after my departure. He hates my guts. I mean seriously hates me to this day.
Until that point, I had never hurt anybody before and I was traumatized by the pain I caused someone I cared about. Once again I searched the internet for a temporary pain reliever. I went to Tyreek’s tumblr page and I found a poem he wrote about me.
She broke up with me….. she broke up with me…….. she broke up with me.
Not mad just in shock, why did it have to be this way. But this was just day one. Day two he thought, deep in it. Concentrating on pinpointing exact feelings instead of ideas. And to just grasp the concept that your own hand participated in your own demise. And that it was so much deeper than just a relationship.
On day three he breaks. Wakes up feeling automatically wrong and lost. That feeling of knowing you lost something but not knowing what it is. The feeling of reaching for that thing and it not being there. So he broke. Not only because she was gone but because he was the reason she left.
Hurt so bad seemed as if my legs were taken from under me. But he needed that. No one wants to learn lessons the hard way but that’s the only way for some stuff. First approaching the situation with frustration and disgust. Then greeting everything with a understanding and appreciation for the messages that were delivered to me.
I appreciate/love/care for you.
After I read his post, I sat on the floor shaken. My mother’s words came back to my memory. Stay silent. Your time will come to speak. Right now is the time to cry. So I did. I cried long and hard. I cried for myself, I cried for Isaac and Tyreek. I cried because each relationship changed me & showed me something new about the world of dating. I had become what I despised. I had done to Tyreek what Isaac did to me. I didn’t want to be a cheater. I wanted to be a good person. Someone a man would be happy to bring home to meet his family. This is the first time I became familiar with the phrase, “Hurt people, hurt people”.
While in the moment, I didn’t know that I was still hurt from a combination of confusion, daddy issues, and hidden regression. I was so emotionally traumatized that I never allowed myself to truly and genuinely open up to him. This was the reason we could never fully connect on a level that was beyond the surface level. It wasn’t that Tyreek wasn’t willing to work, it was that I was too scared to let him. Instead of working on my obvious character flaws, I brought my baggage to an innocent person and began metaphorically dumping its contents onto this gentle soul.
Although it took me awhile to forgive myself, I have found comfort in knowing that I have evolved. My first instinct was to call Tyreek and tell him of my epiphany. But I did not want to get back together, I simply didn’t want him to hate me and see that I was sorry. I stopped myself. This was Tyreek’s time to cry not mine.
In this new age of technology we are so quick to do and say things without the wellbeing of others in our thoughts. We do things with good intentions and do not realize that good intentions can hurt people too. The biggest thing I learned from this failed relationship was learning that boundary. If you haven’t already figured it out, if I had successfully reached out to Tyreek it would have made things worse. It’s like when you go home for a holiday or celebration and your favorite uncle brings up the time you peed in your pants at a basketball game when you were ten years old. Although it has been quite some time since this event, the shame, embarrassment, or anger from remembering this event can return at an instant. You may have even thought because you’re successful now that your uncle would simply forget but recounting that story takes you all the back to those bleachers in your soaked clothes.
It wasn’t fair of me to force Tyreek to recount whatever emotions he was probably trying to process and heal just because I was going through a period of enlightenment. So instead, I wrote a letter to Tyreek that spelled out everything I had learned, how sorry I was, and how I hoped one day he could forgive me. I put the letter in an envelope, and I burned it. The same freedom I would’ve felt telling Tyreek of my triumph was the same euphoria I felt burning the letter. It helped me to start the healing process and begin to forgive myself simultaneously.
k, good talk.
*Some names have been changed to protect identities