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Remembering All the Times I Thought About Leaving You

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I remember the first time I thought about leaving.

It was a little over a year and a half into the relationship. I’d just gotten home from getting a new piercing and I was texting updates on my day. I was so excited. This was something daring and new and I still couldn’t believe I’d gone through with it. I remember weeks back when I was talking excitedly about wanting this piercing, you told me unprovoked how unattractive and unappealing you found body piercings but that I could do what I wanted, you just wouldn’t share in the excitement. I showed pictures of my piercings and let it be known that I didn’t expect my excitement to be shared so I didn’t expect your opinion. Things spiraled into a fight about me apparently not caring about how my partner felt and claims of me being mean. We didn’t speak for days until I felt overrun with guilt and I apologized even though I was still confused about how we even got there.

I remember the fourth time I considered leaving. 

It was two years in and my birthday. In the early stages of our relationship, you’d placed a boundary that you didn’t want to hear about me getting drunk since you had a lot of bad experiences with people while they were drunk. I assured you I had no problem with respecting this boundary since I never got drunk anyway. My best friend took me to dinner and bought me my first legal drink, the first and only alcoholic beverage I’d had that day. We’d been texting off and on all day and I told you about the wonderful dinner and things blew up with you telling me that I didn’t respect your boundaries since I mentioned in passing the one and only drink I’d had. If your boundary was just around alcohol in general, I never would have mentioned it. I even told you how I didn’t get drunk and that this was the only drink I’d had and the fight only got worse. I was once again guilt-tripped and gaslit into feeling like I’d overstepped a boundary. There was a part of my brain that knew I’d done nothing wrong, but you were really good at making me feel uncertain of myself.

I don’t know how many times I’d thought about leaving by this point. 

You randomly reprimanded me for not respecting a boundary and claiming that I agreed to an ultimatum that would result in me cutting off one of my closest friends because y’all had had a falling out I still didn’t know the context of. We’d gone back and forth for hours with you battering me down emotionally, claiming I didn’t care about how you felt. I sat on my couch, pulling at the ends of my hair in frustration and confusion. We’d never had this conversation and if we had, I would have already let you know I wouldn’t agree to this ultimatum.

I started to push back. I told you that you were being disrespectful in the way that you were talking to me. I reminded you of the way I communicate as you referenced a passing hypothetical general question as the day we’d discussed this ultimatum. A hypothetical question that I answered by telling you that I wouldn’t agree to an ultimatum from a partner asking me to cut someone off arbitrarily, especially if it was just because one of our mutual friends didn’t want to be friends anymore. No matter how much resolve I’d built up into defending myself over being gaslit and manipulated, I still wasn’t strong enough. Still wasn’t confident enough.

It had been four years of random fights, miscommunication, and misunderstandings. Four years of me being gaslit and having my confidence and self-assurance worn away when I brought up issues I’d had. Four years of being called a liar, a manipulator, mean, and uncaring.

It’s almost two years later before I finally leave.

We’re like a bomb with a fuse slowly burning. It’s only been two or so months since the first time I actually told you I wanted to end things. I was so scared, so unsure. You’d created the perfect environment for me to feel dependent on you. I ended up taking it all back.

This time was different.

It was like I’d been packing away little pieces of myself since the one big fight we’d had that changed everything. My trust in you was broken and my view of our future together was blank. I was trying so hard to make things work.

Then we had a fight.

I remember feeling so angry, so frustrated to be back at this point… So tired. I stared at my phone in my hands and I did something I didn’t usually do: I stopped fighting. I was beyond familiar with this game. I had memorized all the steps of this dance. As messages flooded my inbox, my phone buzzing constantly, I could feel a peaceful resolve wash over me.

I used to daydream about being alone. It’s a weird thing to envision when in a long-term relationship and it was the final sign I needed to finish putting away the last little bits of myself. I genuinely felt sad and mourned the peace I had before I entered a relationship, I’d begun to accept that I’d never have that again. That my future would look like this. No amount of good made up for all the bad.

So I let you talk to yourself as I stared at the wall in my bedroom contemplating, trying to conjure up the strength I knew I needed. My stomach was twisted, churning and I was nauseous. My hands shook with anxiety and anger but I did it. I closed the zipper of the metaphorical duffle bag in my heart and left it all behind.

I cried constantly for three days and on the third day, I danced.

I was free.

Getty image by Valentina Shilkina.

Originally published: March 22, 2022
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