In 2015, I met a guy named Abel and I knew as soon as I saw him that he was the guy I wanted. At first my approach was direct, aggressive. I was calculated, I was intentional, I was “randomly” in the same spaces at the same time, even made sure to get in good with the friends. I quickly discovered that I was reading the situation all wrong. For a guy who basically lived in the club, his aversion to my being in the same spaces was an unexpected curveball. And so I played it coy, played the new girl exploring a new city card and reassessed my plan of attack. Whatever Abel needed me to be, I was going to find a way to be just that. Finally a little nudge from a now mutual friend led him to ask me out on a date. Although it wasn’t the romantic, eye-opening first date I’d hoped for and would be rescheduled four times before finally happening, I was too caught up to be offended. The more disinterest Abel displayed, the more it became my mission to prove to him my worth. We would play a riveting game of “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” over the next few months. Abel wasn’t romantic. Wouldn’t call him affectionate either. Neither domestic nor handy. And he was extremely forgetful, especially when it came to things that were important to me. He wasn’t a take charge kinda guy, I suggested, planned and coordinated all of our outings. And even though he entertained my efforts throughout the courting process, he made none of his own and he knew he he didn’t need to. Abel was the man of my delusions, and when you finally nab the man of your delusions, you’ll do whatever it takes to keep him.
I got Abel, finally. After 11 solid months of effort, Abel rewarded my resilience with the title of girlfriend and rightfully so, I had never worked harder for a collection of letters in my life. I’d grown on Abel, eventually he’d become fond of me. One day confessing that he asked me to be his girlfriend because I had proven that I was fully devoted, that he was certain that I was good for him. In my infatuation I mistook his words for a compliment. But over time I’d come to understand exactly what Abel meant. About a year into Loveland, the scenery was starting to look a little faded. The newness of my new love had worn and I was starting to see Abel not for the new creature I’d hoped he was becoming, but for the one he’d been all along. It wasn’t cute anymore that Abel couldn’t remember my birthday to save his life, anniversaries were a thing of the past. I wasn’t entertained by the uncertainty of Abel’s professional ongoings anymore. I was no longer invested in his quest for nightlife infamy, in fact, I was completely over his newfound career as a club promoter. I had made all of these adjustments to nab a guy who couldn’t see fit to make a single one for me, I mean he had grown to love me, why wasn’t that enough to make him see my side once in a while. In my mind, I had done so much to get him, he could do one tiny thing to suggest he cared about keeping me. But who was I fooling? I had never communicated that the maintenance of my happiness was on our list of things to do, now I was the one unrealistically expecting changes to occur that I never communicated I wanted. Abel had every right not only to stay the same, but to expect me to as well. Sure, I felt slighted by the short straw I pulled for myself, but I wanted this and I got it. I wasn’t the victim in this situation, I was a willing participant.
Abel never changed. In fact, Abel was taking it easy on me in the beginning. Over time his social obligations ballooned, his very few existing relationship obligations took the back burner. I felt guilty for wanting out, I convinced myself that Abel had the foundation for becoming the guy I could really see myself with. I was digging deeper into my delusion despite all of the obvious realities Abel was presenting me with. He was never going to be the guy I tried to trick him into becoming. Abel was who he was. I was so in love with the packaging that I thought I could swap out the contents without anyone noticing, even Abel himself. And when my plans proved ineffective, I wanted so desperately to be the victim because I didn’t know another way to end a relationship that I had no business starting in the first place. I complained to friends about just how fed up I’d become, emphasizing to them that I was fully prepared to walk away if Abel refused to realize what he had. It was obvious Abel didn’t care about me otherwise he’d put in a little more effort, effort that had I required upfront would’ve saved me the embarrassment of begging for it later. As I presented Abel with a new list of partner requirements based on the new and improved relationship I had concocted without him but fully intended to enter into with him, he politely let me know that I was asking for things he simply was incapable of giving me. I could take him as he was or leave him the way I found him. I told myself that all of the hard work I put in to get this man would be thrown out the window if I just let him go. No relationship was 100% perfect. Even my parents had sacrificed for the sake of theirs, was I shallow enough to leave someone who I once thought made me happy simply because I didn’t want the responsibility of my own happiness?
Abel and I lasted almost 3 years. We’d survive foiled engagement plans, a tumultuous year-long cohabitation, family tragedies, a pregnancy scare, and a ton of other life changing events. Through it all, I kept hoping that one of these experiences would knock some sense into Abel, that life’s ups and downs would open his eyes to the possibility of a relationship where both parties gave their all. It was Abel’s turn to work for me. I gave him an ultimatum, he could become more present in our relationship or I would no longer be present in his life. But I knew then that all of the change in the world wouldn’t repair what was broken, I was bitter, vindictive, hurt, disappointed. I was looking to friends to pacify my guilt, throwing myself pity parties to feel better about my failed fraud. We had all been there before, stumbling upon what we thought to be the perfect project only to find ourselves trying to keep up the facade of the perfect woman in the process. I myself had been on the opposite side of the scheme before, I’d met guys who played the part in hopes that my seeing them in their role would nudge me into the one they’d written for me. I too had been stunned to find that the vision of happiness my former lover’s envisioned didn’t include an authentic version of me. But despite having been someone else’s distorted vision of happiness, I convinced myself that it was different when the vision belonged to me. Those guys wanted me to change for the worse, I wanted to change Abel for the better, and the better was me.
I was no victim here. For once in my adult dating life, I was the villain. I occupied three years of a man’s life knowing full well that I was in love with the idea of who I thought he could become, and that had nothing to do with who he really was. I finally stopped putting in the effort and since he had never actually given any, the relationship crumbled. The breakup was painful, as would be any breakup after three years of intense emotional exertion, but I had no one to blame, I was dealing with the consequences of my dating decisions. I fell in love with a version of a man that didn’t exist while pretending to be a version of myself that never was. And had the nerve to be heartbroken that an authentic relationship wasn’t birthed from my inauthenticity. I wanted to be affirmed and loved by a man that I did neither for. I was chasing an idea and involved an actual human being in my game with no regard for how losing the game would affect all of the players, I deserved to feel every inch of this heartbreak. Women are often told that fully realized men are a thing of fairytales, we’re conditioned to believe our work starts after we get the guy, when it’s time to mold and shape him into the man we actually want. But in putting all of our effort into creating the men we want, we fail to be the women we need. I was responsible for creating a relationship that even I myself couldn’t be successful in. I missed all of my own teachable moments trying to force someone else’s curriculum down another person’s throat. Abel wasn’t the greatest partner, his flaws were what they were, but ultimately I tried to force a reality onto someone that they never agreed to be apart of, I tried to rebrand my self-centered desires as someone else’s salvation. I only wanted to change Abel where I felt it benefited me and that is a lot of things, none of which are love. The moral of this story is, sometimes you’re not the victim of some unforeseen, unpreventable heartbreak, sometimes you’re dealing with the consequences of your poor dating decisions just like me.