Relationship & Love Series: I Am In Pieces
In my own case, I didn’t rush into this relationship. I’ve always been a cautious person, and right from my younger years, I knew how delicate relationships could be. I wasn’t even pressured to be in a relationship or actively searching for romance. But Love came my way, and I hopped on it because I realized that this was something I deeply craved. At the whiff of it, I recognized that primal desire we have to love and be loved, to have one special person to call our own in this world.
I consider this my first serious relationship. Before this, I’d only been in fleeting ‘entanglements’, crushes, and near-relationships (different story there). I’ve been around friends and family, and observed the intensity and trajectory of their romantic relationships. I had a realistic idea of what I wanted because I had observed, learned, and formed opinions from my observations. And I expected to do better, from all I’ve seen and known. But I now realize that there are things we only truly understand from our own experience.
I met Precious (not his real name, of course) from my job. I was a young graduate, undergoing NYSC, and mostly working remotely. One day, I had the task of making some inquiries from another company. He was the contact person for his company (in a different city), and after interacting with him on the phone about the work, we both had each other’s contacts saved. It was purely work, and although we constantly saw each other’s status updates, we didn’t get to interact again until much later.
Our first chat was about books, in which we had a shared interest. He was a voracious reader, and I simply loved to get lost in the world of pages. We found each other intriguing, and I was drawn to his wealth of knowledge and his calm, articulate demeanor. (Yeah, I have that sapiosexual thingy). Besides, we had checked each other’s pictures and drooled in approval. From books, we talked about ideas, concepts, interests, beliefs, and personal experiences. We hadn’t met physically, but we enjoyed each other’s company a lot in our calls and chats.
The friendship bloomed, and an undeniable attraction set in. In contrast to me, he preferred phone calls to chats, and he assured me that we’d never run out of things to say. And so, our long calls began. We talked night and day, for hours on end, about anything and everything. We couldn’t get enough of each other. Soon enough, he asked that we take our friendship/attraction seriously and put a seal to it. So, we started a romantic relationship, and I had him as the center of my attention. The distance didn’t seem to matter to us, and we looked forward to the time when we would get to see and how beautiful our future together would be. In fact, it made it seem more special, because we considered our attraction stronger than just looks. I avoided telling people we hadn’t met physically because people tend to immediately tag it as ‘online dating’, ergo child’s play.
Michael, you’ve got to understand. It was all good at the start. Nobody is perfect, but I saw the sincerity in what we had. Our love was expressive, heady, and seemingly larger-than-life. We often wrote each other letters, where we expressed thoughts at length and poured out feelings of love. It seemed so deep. Sharing the same faith, we committed the relationship to God and made a resolve to remain celibate until marriage. We bared our vulnerabilities, appreciated each other and talked about our hopes and plans. He was my Always and Forever, and I could see no wrong. But perhaps I saw some wrongs and chose to dismiss them because I certainly had my flaws too.
The highlight of our relationship was when, after some months into the relationship, he traveled to see me on the occasion of my sister’s wedding. We had planned our meeting for ages, and we could barely contain the excitement. It was a long journey, and I was more than eager to see him. He was not a social person, and so I could see it was an effort for him to be in that bustling environment. But eventually, after all the activity, we found some time alone to catch up in his lodging. The attraction we felt over the phone multiplied in person. It felt great, finally being so close, talking and holding hands.
We exchanged the little sentimental presents we brought each other, then shared our first sloppy kiss. It felt so surreal. He was a better kisser, but I soon caught up. With the physical attraction we’d developed over the months, we ventured a bit farther, and we were soon making out. When you are in that kind of atmosphere, Michael, there are some parts of your body that just ache to be touched. It was hard to hold on to our decision not to have sex.
We were excited because the chemistry was indeed present, and our attraction wasn’t just emotional or intellectual. But as the physical intimacy began to get heated in the few days we spent together, I had to rein in how far we could go in making out. He was gentle and respectful. He liked what he saw. We stood in front of the wall mirror and looked at each other from it, and we were talking about everything we felt for each other.
By the time we were done, it was past midnight already. A simple check-up visit to his room had turned into an intense four hours of making out. By that time, I did not know how to go back upstairs to my sisters. I went anyway and knocked on the door. There was no response. They were all asleep. And we could not make too much noise because that would wake up my parents. Then he suggested that I go back with him to his room and spend the night. There was really no choice so I returned.
I was worried. How would I explain to my sisters that I had spent the night with him? So I returned to his room with him and we slept side by side each other as spoons.
Our make out sessions were intense and pleasurable, but I wasn’t ready to go all the way in having penetrative sex just yet. I expressed that to him, to which he conceded. Things started to get a little strained because of this, but he remained respectful and loving. Overall, it was a beautiful time, but it had to end.
After his visit, it seemed to fall on me to make the next move to visit. I did not see it that way. I did not think we had to do the turn by turn thing. I preferred we made it a matter of convenience. Whoever was free and available should make the move. Problems started to surface from this point, because I was living with my family. And being the Christian /cultural parents that they are, they denied me permission. Precious was displeased, and I was dismayed as well, because I had raised his hopes. From then on, little problems began to surface, straining the relationship. I feel like that was when he started to lose faith in the relationship. Meanwhile, it was still young in my eyes, and things were bound to improve, with time. Naturally, we missed each other, and craved physical company, and even sexual intimacy, but our distance made it impossible. Video calls were insufficient, he often felt alone and single.
He complained about not being priority to me as I was to him, about me not being matured enough to sustain what he wanted- a committed relationship. He expected me to convince my parents that I needed to come over to his place. He felt like I was comfortable with us being just call buddies. I started flailing, trying to prove my commitment to him and making the relationship work out. I acknowledged that our unideal distance was difficult but not permanent. I urged him to see it as a temporary situation, while we prepared for our future. But my stance just seemed too uncertain, too weak-willed. I didn’t know what to do. It seemed like I was always apologizing, because he could always express his grievances clearly, while I stuttered, sighed, and got short of words while trying to express the thoughts I felt so sure about.
Over quarrels, Precious would warn me about ‘losing him if I wasn’t careful’, and how completely my attitude or actions could make him turn away from me. I started to walk on eggshells around him, losing myself. There were a lot of conditions I was trying to fulfill, and the more I tried to adjust, the more I felt insufficient and insecure. Whenever I brought up my fears and insecurities about the relationship, he would get upset and opine that I didn’t understand many things- such as the depth of his feelings for me. It seemed like loving me was an immensely difficult, sworn duty for him. I didn’t like that idea, because I seemed to be thanking him for being with me. I wanted us to be together out of desire and choice, not out of a ‘sacred honour’. In passing, he’d often comment on how many girls around him he could have, but he chose to love me, despite my being so far away.
Also, Precious was a strongly opinionated person, and he was displeased that we didn’t share the same basic interests and viewpoints on everything- books, TV shows, celebrities, politics, name it. While his viewpoints were mostly intellectual and valid, mine was dismissed and sometimes scorned, like they were substandard. It also seemed like I wasn’t in tune with him, or we weren’t an ideal couple. My preferences were mine, even if they were for emotional reasons. For instance, he always expressed that he had a thing for confident, independent and sassy-looking women. I, on the other hand, was more of a placid and introspective person, one whose confidence stemmed more from my unique personality and thought process. A bit socially prudish, yes, but I certainly wasn’t lacking in beauty, or confidence. He would often send me photos of his favourite models and actresses- pointing out their bodies and demeanors as ‘goals’ for me to take note of.
He sometimes dismissed my interest in feminism, painting some ideal standard that excellent women ought to be. Meanwhile I believe that women should be allowed to be- whether they chose to be conservative or radical in their life’s pursuits. I couldn’t emphasize it enough to Precious. He just saw me differently- almost insisting that he knew me better than I knew myself. I was always on the spot, like I was auditioning to suit his taste, constantly in need of an adjustment here or a total overhaul there. Physically, he’d compliment me, yet I’d always get the ‘but’ where he’d point out ways I ought to be fitter, or hotter, or sassier- something to suit his ideal woman profile. And he’d often talk about how he was building me, to make a stellar woman out of me. I liked the idea of maximizing my potential, but sometimes I just wanted to feel safe and breathe easy, without racing for a pass mark. My exasperation often seemed like I was against correction, and I could never get a right word out.
Michael, if I had to list out every way some things felt wrong, it would fill several pages. But trust me, it was a lot. Our relationship got strained by the day. And I couldn’t shake the thought that he was dishing what he wouldn’t take. One day, I looked through the media in our chats, and it was filled with pictures of his favourite celebrities, or exes, or different people he’d pointed out to me. I sighed, because some of my pictures had gotten pencil-marked to show how my ‘hourglass figure’ or ‘toned body’ ought to be. Many of his corrections seemed to be rational things, but they sometimes felt hurtful. Then I’d worry and chastise myself for feeling that way when I ought to be ‘grateful’. I couldn’t help how I felt. Now I know I ought to have paid more attention, but I attributed my feelings to a lack of a thick skin. I hope nobody ever has to believe less of themselves in that subtle way I started to do.
Eventually he started to take time off social media, where we communicated most. He said he often felt stifled, even though it was used mostly to communicate with me. When his phone went bad, I chose to be considerate, believing that his phone got damaged and he wasn’t indeed drifting away from me. He later came back to admit that he indeed wanted the time away (about a month). I showed that I was hurt by his growing disregard, but he complained about my cold attitude and lack of excitement to have him back. I was piling up hurt upon hurt, while he kept complaining about my reactions. Despite all of this, I kept hoping we would work things out. I wanted to communicate, but he wanted out altogether. A few times in our quarrels, he’d asked to break up. But I’d always been too distraught to face that reality, and I’d soon plead that we talk things out. I’d promise to do better, and he’d tell me the ways I could save the relationship, or else.
That cycle was draining, I tell you. I admit that sometimes I got exasperated too, but I was in denial. My faith in us dwindled, and I felt alone in trying to carry the relationship. So, you can imagine how my heartbreak increased when he consistently wanted out. He once said my actions made me become less of a priority to him; then on another occasion, he expressed he was falling out of love with me. He expressed that with the distance, he was unable to sustain his attraction to me. In our last fight, he told me clearly that he couldn’t continue, and that he didn’t want to be with me anymore. He said it so detachedly, I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt betrayed, disregarded and unwanted, in spite of the good qualities he said he’d seen in me. In many ways, I felt un-womanly and ashamed, as though I’d failed in keeping my partner happy and driven him away. I still made some attempt to salvage the situation, again. But this time it didn’t work out. I was really heartbroken by all of it.
He had become disrespectful and abusive at this point. He was trying to explain how had things were for him and how uncertain he was about us. At that time, I was also going through huge family issues and I told him this. That we could not continue fighting over little things and all. And that I already have a lot of uncertainties in my life and I did not want this relationship to be a part of the many uncertainties in my life. When I told him this, he took it wrongly.
He said I was trying to guilt-trip him with my family issues and asked why I had to bring it up now. He then started saying a lot of abusive words to him. His last words were, ‘Fuck you and fuck off.’
After the call, I allowed him to cool off and then I sent him another message and asked if he was ready to talk. Still, we made no progress. He said a number of hurtful things to me. he told me he did not want to be with me anymore. I felt empty. I have never had that kind of rejection before. I asked him about all our promises and all the plans we had for each other. Was this how he wanted everything to go down the drain? He said yes. He was emphatic about it, even sarcastic. I was in tears at that point. And that was how it ended.
I had to get help from trusted friends and family. I spoke to a friend and told her I was in pieces. I felt anger and resentment. I felt really hurt and ashamed. I felt some bits of it was my fault, blamed myself and thought maybe if I had not said somethings, it would not have ended that way. It took a whole lot to get through the days after that. I’m definitely still healing and learning from that experience. No doubt, I’m learning to see myself in new light, to unapologetically redefine myself, and assert that I’m an amazing person. I learned from the trajectory of my relationship with Precious, and I hope someone does too.