~Thursday, January 18, 2007

When love and hate collide

For another post, I had to remind myself who I was during a certain year. I thought I kept a diary that year so I walked into my bedroom, knelt in front of my small bookcase, and removed all the books on the top shelf. Then I reached to the back and pulled out my diaries.

I live alone and I still hide my diaries.

While it turns out I didn't keep a diary for the year I was looking for, I found the one I kept during the destruction of my engagement. In the face of a disaster, I chose to rubberneck.

With a fresher mind, a colder heart, and unclouded eyes, I relived those six months. In those pages I brightly wrote about how I was going to change for the boy. I encouraged myself and documented my progress to accomplish the goals that I set. That wasn't the difficult part to read. The difficult part was to slowly watch the boy completely change personalities as he slipped further and further into alcoholism. He'd abuse me emotionally, and the whole time I blamed myself. I hadn't changed quickly enough.

Only it wasn't me who had changed. It was the boy.

I've always blamed myself for the demise of that relationship. That's what he told me. He would come home drunk from the bar and scream at me -- he thinks he can do better than me, he doesn't want me anymore, that I didn't know what love is because he was the only person I had slept with -- and he'd wake up in the morning and not remember a thing. If he couldn't remember the night, I couldn't get upset.

So I wrote with more fervor, striving harder to reach my goals faster. I'd chide myself and took to heart everything he said to me. But no matter how hard I tried, nothing was good enough; I failed at maintaining the relationship.

His fraternity started calling me to tell me that he was different and had a problem. They'd take his car keys and he'd punch someone. They wanted me to intervene to save the boy, but I couldn't. The boy said the decision not to marry me was the best decision of his life.

I've carried that guilt around with me: I couldn't save him. I couldn't save him because he hated me. Because I wasn't good enough.

I don't know. Maybe I could have. Maybe if I didn't pay so much attention to myself and my wounds, driving myself crazy with little goals, I could have seen his earlier. But every night when he came home drunk, it grew to the point where I couldn't stand the sight of him. Deep down I knew that if I couldn't love someone at all times, then I probably shouldn't be with him. And I didn't love him when he was drunk. I hated him. I hated him and the words he spoke to me and the picture frames he threw at me.

The worst part: he still left me. I wasn't strong enough to leave the abusive alcoholic. He had quit loving me and I couldn't stop loving the person he used to be. I was going to marry and have a family with that person. It was hard to distinguish between the two -- the person who loved me versus the person who drank -- because the exterior was the same. The memories were fresh.

They still are.


M said...

the kicker is, we always think we can save the people we love but we can't, we can only ever save ourselves. That's hard enough...

It wasn't your fault, we're always so quick to blame ourselves in these kinds of situations - your wounds are just as worthy as his were. And he was destructive.

I will always hide my diaries.

There are things I won't talk about.

Amber said...

I don't think I can add anything to what Mez said - she summed it up quite well.

But I will say this:

I'm proud of you for opening up and writing that. It takes so much more to confront old demons; to turn around and face them instead of letting them chase us around. This entry shows courage and growth. It may not feel like it, but it IS there. Would you have been able to write this, say, six months ago? Sometimes you have to take a look back just to see how far you've come.

And you'll eventually get to wherever it is you're going, Sarah. I have no doubt.

pinkjellybaby said...

oh honey. :(
i think that's hard to read, let alone write.
as M said, we always think we can save someone.....but we can't, only they can do that.
don't beat yourself up for not being able to leave... you loved the man he was and didn't want to give up on that, it's understandable

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing! I am secretive as well and have a hard time letting some stuff to the surface like you because I am scared it will consume me.

I hide my journals too and I also live alone.

Sarah said...

M- You're right, we can't. But I really wanted to.

Amber- There were originally 2 other endings for this post, both ate away at me after I hit publish. This was the third ending, the one that gave me peace by admitting how I couldn't let go. I hope this means I'll be able to forgive myself.

Chopsticks- It's a tough subject, isn't it? :)

Pinky- Sometimes I wonder if he ever got help and became the person he used to be again.

Jen- I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in hiding things in my own apartment! I'm also glad someone else is able to identify with how I feel. :)

copasetic fish said...

oh darling. that's the worst, when you're so in love with who he used to be that you can't see who he has become. i feel for you.

Vinca Pervanche said...

I know how hard it is admit what really went on in a relationship. When I finally told my mother how bad my old relationship was, she was disappointed that I didn't come to her at the time, but I was ashamed that I had let it get that bad and that I didn't leave the first time he hit me. Or the second, or the third, for that matter.

But eventually we have to face the truth. If we don't, we live in danger of it happening again.

general_boy said...

Sarah, I read this post a couple times last week, but a hectic schedule last week prevented me from giving it the attention I felt it deserved.

I'm not even gonna pretend to imagine what you went through, and the sense of helplessness and guilt you must have felt. To crush someone's sense of themself and their own worth is probably the cruelest thing you can do to someone. As M suggested - the wounds are no less deep than those inflicted by physical violence. Some might say murder is kinder.

I think it took a lot of guts to post something so brutally honest, knowing how deep it cuts and how close to home it still hits. I feel somewhat humbled that you'd reveal something so personal and tragic with us, and thank you for sharing it.

Sarah said...

Copasetic Fish- It was awhile ago, so I'm just now starting to see it. Maybe this post can heal me like Amber suggested.

Vinca Pervanche- That's the thing, I'm so ashamed of myself for letting it go on for as long as it did.

General Boy- Well you were one of the ones who said it was okay for me to let it all out. I'm glad that you sympathize instead of thinking I'm a loser for not standing up for myself quicker. :)

The Dauntless Dater said...


That was a very powerful post. Your honesty is so engaging. I really enjoy reading your writing.

Sarah said...

Dauntless Dater- Thank you! I'm glad some good can come of posts like this!

Anonymous said...

The most terrifying thing about this post is that I could have written it.

He's my secret, the story I've never been completely able to tell and the years I gloss over in my life. Four years, the last two that almost destroyed me. No one would be able to reconcile the smart, funny, confident girl they know today with the girl I was with him, so I don't tell the story.

We didn't get engaged, we almost bought a house. I remember one night when I thought he would ask and I was terrified. Because I knew I would say yes.

He drank, far too much, and after me there was rehab. But the problem wasn't the alcohol, it was him, and even after rehab I recognized this when he tried to come back. But when he drank, those were the bad times, when the other person came out and he disappeared from his own eyes.

He slowly convinced me that there were all these things wrong, and I tried all the time to be better so that he would love me more.

I've honestly repressed a lot, but I remember how he used to point out every blemish I got and pull gently on the skin underneath my chin and remind me it would sag. I was convinced the world saw me only as flaws. He made fun of my intelligence, made sure I knew that I wasn't fooling anyone and that my 4.0 GPA was nothing to be proud of. Then he started to shove me.
Embarrass me more publicly. There was the time he slapped me in a bar and told me I had no friends there, absolutely preying on my weaknesses.

I wanted to leave and I couldn't, I was miserable. I would have been with him forever.

But you know what? He left me too.

I haven't been in love again, but I know part of that has been on purpose because to other people love is something beautiful that fulfills your life. To me it's dangerous and almost cost me an incredible life.

Sarah said...

Oh my gosh, anonymous, the similarities are downright creepy. As you were telling your story, it was like reading about my own in someone else's words, through a ghost writer.

Your story helps me to realize that maybe everything wasn't my fault. If how he changed is that typical, then it wasn't me. Hopefully, the similarities will help you realize the same. Us smart, funny, confident girls have to stick together.

You have truly touched me :)


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