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Subtract the recreational drug use and manic, extreme decision-making and I know what it is to find love in a hopeless place. I met someone in the least attractive of ways, all signs said “NO!” Every angel guarding me tried to pull me away, but I allowed “lonely” to lead me to him. I filled my days and nights with him. Great conversation and intense physical attraction. Nothing but us. He adored everything about me, or so he said. How could something so wrong, feel so amazing? I was flying high, with a small storm cloud looming in the distance. But hey, it was in the distance so I willed myself not to worry about it right now.

He feigned interest in my faith and my concern for my health, but tried to feed me propaganda excluding the God I believe in and tried to push me into getting on birth control so he wouldn’t have to use a condom. Condoms “don’t be hittin’ right” as he so eloquently put it. He said he loved me just the way I was, but I noticed a pattern of the smallest, negative jabs he would throw whenever I refused to give in to his opinion on any given topic. “You’re stuck up,” “You probably wouldn’t support your husband,” “I misjudged how fragile your feelings are.” He found ways to belittle me whenever I stood up for myself and in my silly attempt to not seem so ‘fragile’ I just took it.

It was a constant tug-of-war. Was I going to make bad decision after bad decision, disfiguring my self-esteem and worth just to keep him in my life? Or was I going to lay my armor down and walk away? I had never had a man so blatantly play such mind games, disregarding my values and vulnerability in all my years of dating. I had walked away from him before so surely I could do it again and this time for good.

What many of us fail to realize in these sideways relationships is that it very rarely gets better. He told me once that just because he may have felt badly about the way he treated women in the past, it didn’t mean it changed his behavior for the better. That woke me up. A light bulb turned on and kept me awake. If he arrogantly acknowledged that he has been horrible to women in relationships but his behavior hasn’t/won’t changed, then what the HELL was I still doing there? Where did I lose my mind in thinking I needed this guy? I had enough. I told him exactly what I thought of him and where he could go. I took back what I never should have given away in the first place. The war was over. He could keep texting, telling me how wrong I was and how I had given up on us. He could keep trying to engage, but you can’t fight someone who steps out of the ring. He wasn’t worth it.

It’s easy to get caught up if you allow a moment of “lonely” to overwhelm you. You start fighting for something that never even proved its value to you. I used to judge women who kept sticking around the same manipulative, no good men. That is until I looked up and realized that I had become one of them.

We fail ourselves by confusing the fool’s gold shimmer of lust and a good time for something real. We find ourselves battling to keep our footing with a manipulator because they always come in an attractive package. And even though everything within us is screaming “DANGER!” we still step forward like moths to a flame, thinking that maybe this time will be different. What we must understand – man or woman – is that WE must hold ourselves in higher regard than to willingly become guinea pigs, testing to see if a cheater, liar, and manipulator has changed. If we can’t clearly see the change before we get involved, it has not happened and we are foolish to believe otherwise. Love doesn’t break down, it builds up. It restores. It heals.

He only went as far as I allowed him to go in my lapse of good sense. I can recognize, adjust and move forward now. I only fight when it’s worth it and the war is over.

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