Sisterhood Unraveled

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The majority of my closest friends have been in my life for longer than most marriages last. We’re talking twenty years, on average, for each of my best friends. One, now officially former, best friend has spent the past six and a half years ignoring me. There was no disagreement between us, we’ve never had a legitimate fight. Absolutely nothing occurred to warrant her going radio silent. This, however, is her behavior whenever a new man enters her life. It’s utterly baffling, and such an immense turn-off that she truly believes she can come and go in the friendship as she pleases. I’m a person; not a revolving door at a hotel or airport! It’s unacceptable behavior. So, I’m going to write my feelings out of my system today. I’ve never blatantly outed a friend in such a manner, but it’s time to light a Yarhzeit candle to the friendship. For now it is time to remember, and move on.

Here’s a fact about me: When I’m done, I’m truly DONE. I find it sad that after all this time, she doesn’t know me well enough to know that I will cut her out of my life permanently. She doesn’t seem to realize that I will exterminate her like a fucking termite. She’s gotten far too comfortable in the friendship, and has forgotten what loyalty and true friendship are, and for that, there’s simply no forgiveness left in me. From here on out, I will refer to this person as Two-Face.

Two-Face and I became instant best friends from almost the first encounter. We said the same things, thought a lot of the same things, had a similar sense of humor, liked nearly all of the same things, and she stood up to people who challenged my role in her life many times. We were thick as thieves; always laughing hysterically for hours on end. She called me her sister, often saying I was closer to her in life than her own sister could ever be. It certainly seemed that way, because her sister isn’t anywhere near as good to her as I was from day one, but apparently she forgives her sister damn near anything and has an extremely short fucking memory. I’m more like an elephant. I might forget that I left tea in the kitchen for two hours, allowing it to brew too long and go bitter, but I do not forget the long-term. In fact, it’s all so sharp and clear, it’s eerie.

For me, referring to any friend as family is the highest compliment I can pay someone because I don’t consider my own relatives “true family” most of the time, except for those who actually stand by me, as opposed to doing so merely when it is convenient for them. I have family that will call me family when they please, as opposed to daily. That doesn’t fly with me, which is precisely why none of those people are my true family. I share bloodlines with them, but beyond that? Nothing. I would not give them a bodily organ if they needed it and I was the only match on the planet; I’d give it to the stranger whose family needed them instead. Through time, they’ve shown me how little they value me, so why should I hold them in high regard?

It’s important to be careful how you treat your friends. Friendship is a delicate thing. It can wax and wane like the moon, but it can also grow stronger daily. My best friends, those who’ve never left, seem to know me better than she does. I often thought she & I were closer, not just logistically speaking, but because we shared such a daily chunk of each other’s lives that the others often miss out on. I was wrong.

I have never dropped a friend for a man, or for another relationship. Not ever. I might be happier, perhaps a lot more playful and silly, but my friends play a significant role in my life. I do not exclude them simply because I am in a relationship. I don’t ditch them for months or years at a time, as if they are toys to be placed in a drawer and taken out when I choose. I find that disrespectful, and incredibly unhealthy. I am at my healthiest when I have my girls to turn to no matter what, because I’m genuinely a Girl’s Girl to the core. Women supporting other women, in good and bad times, is a remarkable thing. It is something I respect wholeheartedly. Don’t get me wrong; I will tell someone they’re wrong when they’re wrong, regardless of gender. I have absolutely no qualms about letting people know I have boundaries and human emotions, but I’d never intentionally hurt a friend. If you do something once and you ask for forgiveness; it’s a mistake. We all make mistakes, no one is perfect. If you repeatedly do something ugly; it’s a pattern and a choice. I do not have to accept choices that are continuously hurtful. I have enough issues; I don’t need my friends to emotionally cut me to pieces, nor will I allow it.

Two-Faced, now on marriage number three (Which, at the point, means you shouldn’t even bother. Unless you have children together, are planning on having children, or it’s for insurance purposes, that piece of paper is clearly ridiculous. That’s my OPINION, but I also know her so well that I know the second the relationship crumbles, she will be back at my feet, begging for forgiveness. Her absence will be blamed on HIM, not on HER.), was married when we first became friends. Her husband was utterly lovely…and she treated him like shit. My first impression was that it showed strength (No, I don’t think it’s okay to treat your partner like shit. I did not see it for what it was initially.), but over time I realized they never should have gotten married, that they only did so out of family pressure. They didn’t want the same things. They grew apart. When she called to tell me they were divorcing, I was heartbroken for her, and very protective. They stayed together for a period of time to get their finances in order, and parted ways amicably. They didn’t have any children, so it was a clean break. It was harder for their families than it was for them, because her family loved him and his family loved her. I’ll give her one thing; she’s great at fooling people.

She moved to another city and immediately started dating. He was re-married to someone else quickly after they were divorced, and was expecting his first child. She’d disappear for short periods of time between boyfriends. It was utterly obnoxious, and I’d never seen this side of her before. I started filtering myself in regard to my own relationships because I was somehow able to manage more than one person in my life at a time, never making excuses. I could keep my friends, be a part of my family, AND keep a guy in my life, without issue. Why was this such a problem for her?! In fairness, I’d soon discover it was a problem for a lot of women, and to this day, I will NEVER be able to wrap my mind around that. Relationships come and go, they’re not etched in stone, but friends should be forever. Where are you in life without at least one true friend?

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She came to visit me at one point and was an absolute bitch for roughly 85% of the visit. Perhaps I should be ranking that at a higher percentage. I had the hardest time not knocking her teeth out, because I’d be appalled if I ever behaved that way toward a friend, especially in their home, and worse, several times in front of their family. Nothing was good enough for her, but in actuality I know that she was acting out, which is sad because by doing so, she ruined much of the time we spent together. When a major snowstorm hit the day before she was supposed to leave, resulting in approximately a foot and a half of snow, you would have thought I’d caused it by her behavior and attitude towards me. I had paid for her plane ticket and treated her like family; and in turn, soon after the visit, she didn’t speak to me for almost a year. I was utterly THRILLED when I dropped her off at the airport. Her behavior was SO awful that I honestly didn’t care if I ever saw her again. After 9/11, she e-mailed me to make sure that my family & I were safe. Our friendship resumed at that point, she seemed genuinely remorseful. “It’ll never happen again, Lisa. I honestly don’t know how I survive without you.” Whatever.

Maybe six months after flying out to visit her, she stopped speaking to me once again. I called her at work one day, after she’d been ignoring me for weeks, because my mother was in the hospital and I didn’t think she was going to live. I was devastated and needed my best friend to talk to me down off a ledge. She actually got on the phone and told me “I have problems of my own, I don’t have time for yours!” and hung up on me. In hindsight, I NEVER should have allowed her back into my life after that move. I should have ripped her to shreds, but I didn’t. My mistake, because that won’t ever happen again.

Maybe the following year I got a letter explaining that she’d hit a rough patch soon after I left, and decided to move back home to be closer to her family, and again, the friendship resumed with her, once again, pleading for forgiveness. “It’ll never happen again, Lisa. I swear.”

But it did.She never truly apologized for anything, not once. 

She met husband number two, who was moved in very quickly (She should get U-Haul discounts on how quickly she moves men into and out of her life. I’ve never seen anything like it. Why can’t you just date like a normal person?!), and this guy hated me. He didn’t want her talking to me, and he didn’t want me visiting. She claims he made her choose between us, and we’d lose three years of friendship to a marriage where I am almost certain of his verbal abuse, but even more certain that the abused became the abuser. I feel she’s always had that in her; and I am sure that is why her first husband moved on so quickly to someone who was so drastically different in every way. Poor guy dodged one hell of a bullet! 😦

Her relationships are what they are. It’s her searching for love in all of the wrong places, because, despite being eternally selfish to her core, she does not have the capacity to truly love anyone, not even herself. She puts on a good show though, an Academy Award worthy performance, but it’s all incredibly fake. She is, in essence, the Phantom of The Opera in his mask. So filled with self-doubt and internal torment, the mask is a shield to keep people at bay, to hold everyone at arm’s length, until it suits her to get closer. She’d openly deny this, because she is so blinded, she cannot clearly see herself. I find it sad.

At her best, she believes she’s a decent person and wants to be better and grow, but she always gets in her own way. I’ve been friends with her long enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly, so I am certain her relationship with me was borne out of needing someone stronger in her life to be friends with, because she has no other true friends who’ve seen it all with her. She has people she works with who only ever see the mask, but I’ve seen the pain. I’ve seen the roots, and I understand them, but I do not accept the fact that while she believes she’s “grown”, she’s truly still at square one. Other people who’ve gotten close have crossed boundaries and felt her wrath. There’s a reason I’m referring to her as Two-Face. It disturbs me that she can have two completely different sides to her and not own it. I know I have both darkness and light within me, and I am very open about that, but I am NOT two-faced. I am the same person at all times. I will always apologize if I’m brusque or bitchy without cause. Always. Sometimes I don’t hear how I sounded until 1-3 days later, but I’d rather apologize and own it than pretend to be something, or someone, I’m not. She thinks she’s the same way, but she most definitely is not.

Several years ago, I wrote her a letter and let her know precisely how I felt about the friendship and what she’d done/was doing to it. It took me almost a year to write it without being vicious, so even now, I’m trying to not be batshit crazy over how I’ve been treated. I laid it all out for her, and told her that this was unacceptable behavior, and that I knew for a fact she’d never allow me to treat her this way, so why was it acceptable for her to treat me so horribly? I even said we’ve never fought or argued, and that neither of us had done anything unforgivable (up to that point). I said it was all about communicating openly and honestly with each other, which we’d always done. I told her if she wanted out of the friendship, she need only say so.

However, here I sit six and a half years later and I find, I’m the one who wants out. I’m DONE. I was never anything but an amazing friend to her; loyal, devoted, present, caring, and generous. I loaned her money when she went through a couple of horrible years and had trouble making ends meet. I wanted to help her and keep her safe during that time because her family was refusing to do so (most especially, her sister, who is apparently a saint now.). I didn’t expect to be paid back, but when I think about the fact that it’s somewhere between $10,000-$15,000 owed, I do find myself wanting that money back. She always promised it would be paid back because it was a LOAN and not a gift. There’s a difference in the phrasing. I would already have sued her for it, if the state she resides in allowed people to be sued for small claims. It doesn’t, and I think we can all safely agree that the number is definitely NOT a “small claim”. I would even accept installment payments at this point. Unlike running out on a credit card; I am a human-being and I deserve to be paid back. I don’t care how you treat a billion dollar business, but I DO care how you treat me, the loyal friend who has stood by you when others, including your own family, have walked away or stepped back.

We were sisters, and I was always there for her no matter what. She didn’t just unravel the sisterhood, she broke it. She continued to hammer away at it until I said “Enough!” When I wrote that letter, I let her know it wasn’t an ultimatum, but that I wasn’t going to hold on to how I felt and allow it to continue to hurt me. She e-mailed me a month later and said she’d read the letter multiple times and would e-mail me in a few weeks after she thought things over. I never heard from her again. Knowing her; she lost the letter in her many moves since receiving it, and didn’t have the guts to get back in contact with me and face the issue. She can’t say she doesn’t have my e-mail address because I’ve had the same primary e-mail address for over ten years. Her cowardly behavior is another strike against her. You don’t let things slide and not apologize. It once took me eight years to apologize to a friend for potentially hurting her, but I apologized, and the apology was accepted. The friendship did not resume because, much like Two-Face, this person could not maintain a marriage, a family life, and a best friend. Apparently it requires a really high I.Q., multiple doctorates, and/or maybe some special gift I’m unaware of. I do NOT understand it, and I’m done trying to.

I hold many titles with ease, and Grace. Daughter, Granddaughter, Niece, Sister, Best Friend, Friend, Cousin, Writer, Editor. I hope to add other titles to that list, and I’m certain I left a few out because I’m focused on what I have to say, but my point is, I do maintain each title. I am still my parent’s only daughter and my Grandparent’s only Granddaughter, even in their physical absences. Two of my Grandparents have a second Granddaughter, and for that I apologize to them because she’s an embarrassment on every level as a human-being. I am my Aunt’s only niece and my brother’s only sister. I’m a best friend and friend AT ALL TIMES, not when it is convenient to be so. I try to be there for my cousins because I choose to have relationships with them, even when they’re not ideal relationships, even when the other person is difficult and makes me sorry I bother. I make an EFFORT. I’m imperfect, and in that imperfection, I am unique and solid.

When I think about Two-Face I am reminded of good times, of laughter, of travels, of so many hilarious moments and shared thoughts and secrets. I will take her secrets to the grave, but I will not allow her to harm me any further. She is the only person who, in the role of a friend, managed to turn something unbreakable into something broken. Her deep desire for self-destruction isn’t going to take me down with her. She is sitting somewhere now, possibly believing that she ended the friendship on her terms or that the revolving door with remain revolving, perhaps not even giving it a second thought. Ultimately, I am the one cutting her off and out. Permanently. I am not going to be vicious or vengeful. I am not going to allow myself to feel the hurt, anger, or utter betrayal a second longer than I already have. This, however, will take time; for I’m so angry as I write this, I’m shaking.

I am not going to cut myself off from who I am as a person, and what I have to offer others. I am going to continue being myself. I will continue to be intuitive and mindful of new people. I won’t allow anyone in my life when there are red flags of warning. I’m not going to stop being a loyal, damn fine friend to people. I am not going to allow this to turn me into a bitch, or allow myself to think that I deserve to be treated like that. I know better.

Friendships aren’t gifted to us so that we may irrevocably damage and break them. They are gifted to us in order to support us through thick and thin, and they are indeed a gift because true friendship is so unbelievably rare. I realize I am a rarity in how I handle my relationships with others. No matter how bad my life may be, and believe me when I say that it isn’t easy, I’d prefer to continue being the kind of friend I’ve always been to people.

She may have hurt me, but she did not break me. She did not win a damn fucking thing. When all is said and done, she will be as alone as she was when she came into my life; a broken child in need of a place where she belonged. I gave her that, and I never judged. I’m still not judging, but I am saying “No more.” I’m placing a wall made of concrete and steel between her and I from here on in. She can get through electronically, providing I deign to open an e-mail from her, but she cannot reach my heart or soul ever again.

There’s only so much damage I’ll allow. Breaking the bonds of sisterhood is on the list of “ultimate betrayals” for any female friend. She was given the choice to repair the damage, and instead, she chose something else instead of realizing she could have both. She chose selfishness. I am not selfish. In fact, on many levels we are polar opposites. Perhaps that is why our friendship was so incredibly close and was then twisted into something ugly by her. She doesn’t know that there’s no going back, that my ability to accept is gone. I feel sorry for her. She always comes back, but this time, she has no idea who the other person is that she’ll be faced with. I’ve changed for the better. Once I cut you off, there’s nothing you can say or do to get back in. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice and you’d better find another planet to reside on.

Interestingly enough, the last time I was this done with a person; it was a man. He’s in town this weekend and all I can think is “Motherfucker, don’t you DARE darken my door.” That I’d put them both into the same category today is interesting, because that’s how she & I became friends.

Never Again. Done means done. Friendship is an ultimate strength, NOT a weakness. Other people have stepped up in your absence and replaced you; something I once thought would be unheard of. Stick that in your bitch pipe and smoke it.

May life provide you with precisely what and who you deserve. I am off to light a candle and say my goodbyes. If you get in touch, expect a fucking bill.

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, in an extremely bizarre reality, I was in a relationship I should not have been in. The warning signs were there, but some people burn so brightly that you don’t seem to notice you’re going up in flames and turning to ash. Immensely large red flares of danger were being sent up so I wouldn’t get burned. Did that stop anything? Not so much.

He was the quintessential “bad boy”, complete with motorcycles, fancy sports cars, tattoos, multiple drug addictions, and a boatload of issues. Maybe the maternal, nurturing aspect of me wanted to fix or heal him. I don’t know, but whatever it is, I’m thankful every single day that it is no longer a part of my life.

Initially there was no reaction or emotion from me towards him. He was just a guy, a guy all kinds of women fell for, but I prided myself on not adding myself to the throng of fools. Until one day, when I was seemingly drawn in like a moth to a flame. Except I wasn’t a moth, I was a butterfly, and yet, I suddenly had to have him. The pull was intense. He was crazy about me; The only person who challenged him, who questioned everything, and who was not impressed by anything. The problems though, they were simmering under the surface, just waiting to come out, one by one.

They started relatively early. I had never been told I was “too skinny” before. Even as a former gymnast that had experienced bouts of bulimia on & off for about two years after realizing that I’d never be an Olympic anything. I did not consider myself “too skinny” or “too” anything, really. I had the mouth of a Marine on leave, a writing career that had taken off in an amazing way, and a guy who told me he loved me, but to this day probably doesn’t know the meaning of the word. You’ll find him in the dictionary, somewhere between the words “Douchebag”, “Hypocrite”, and “Liar”, providing you’ve opted for a Webster’s upgrade.

His career allowed me the independence and space that I like in a relationship. I can’t have someone in my face 24/7, nagging, or standing over my shoulder like a watch dog. It drives me insane. He respected that, until the possessive behavior became more than just one or two phone calls a day. At first it seemed like he was going out of his way to surprise me and brighten aspects of my life, but that wasn’t it. Not at all.

The man could spit out promises just as quickly as he broke them, I just didn’t know he was trying to break me in the process.

The criticism I endured throughout the course of this relationship was harsher than what I dealt with from my family, and even though I had a comeback for everything he said, the words still haunt me…

I went from being vibrant, smart, confident, & 100% in control to depressed, unhappy, paranoid, angry, & jealous. I was reduced to questioning why I was somehow not good enough for him. It was irrational and insane. There was always an inner voice telling me “He’s not good enough for you. What are you doing? This man is poison. Tell him to go to hell and walk away.”

I remember crying one night to my best friend at the time, after a particularly shitty thing he’d lied about. Here I was, the strongest, toughest, most direct chick people knew, asking “Why would he lie to me like that? Why would he lie about something so important? Why am I not good enough for him?” I was devastated by the pathological way in which he’d lie.

My best friend consoled me quietly, basically saying she didn’t know why he had lied or why he would, but months later she told me I was “Too smart, too pretty, and all around way too good for the likes of him!” She was furious that he would hurt me in such a manner and then behave as if all was right in the world, and her anger continued to fuel when he showed up at a work event we all attended with a married woman on his arm. “A friend”, he’d called her. More like a drug supplier he’d hooked up with. He was spiraling and wanted to take me with him, but I would not allow that.

For the record, I was already ass deep in alligators when I realized how big an issue the drugs actually were because they weren’t an issue at the onset. It went from being an old football injury to being an all-consuming, problem-inducing, complete lack of grip on reality. It started out small, as many addictions do, and escalated until it had to be confronted. I did not condone it in any way and refused to support the habit. I was not going to be in a relationship with an addict, period. I was the catalyst to get him into rehab, explaining in list formation all that he would lose if he did not get clean. But as most people can tell you, 30 days in rehab will detox you, it might even get you to talk about why you got into it in the first place, but it’s every single day after leaving a protected environment that matters most. If you have people who love & support you, you have a greater chance at remaining sober. You might slip up, recovery is going to be a constant for the rest of your life, but the effort you put forth is SO important. However, if you immediately return to the same lifestyle and friends you had during the height of your illness, it will revert you right back into it at some point, especially if you have no real desire to be clean, no willpower, and no real desire to live. It’s a way of committing suicide slowly, secretly hoping that one day it’ll all be over and you don’t personally have to do the heavy lifting, or deal with the aftermath.

Part of what saddens me about the relationship itself is that I defended, protected, and shielded this man. I was the epitome of devoted and loyal to the Nth degree. My love was genuine, and yet I was constantly criticized, going as far as to be told that I wasn’t good enough to be introduced to his parents, who for years, he told me were dead. I’d later find out he only wished they were. Our differing religions was the reason given when I questioned why I was somehow “not good enough” to meet his parents. Who the hell were these people? England’s Monarchy?! How isolated and ignorant were they to think their religion was the only one that existed in this world?! This was not the first time someone had taken issue with my religion and tried to make me feel guilty for it. I was considered “not Jewish enough” by one guy’s family, and now I was being made to feel like I was somehow inappropriate and shameful. And the worst part? He wasn’t religious, AT ALL. 

Suddenly, after years of knowing our religions were different, it became this big issue, and we fought about it a lot. Would I be willing to convert to Roman Catholicism? HELL NO. Would I sign a pre-nup? Whoa, where the hell did THAT come from?! You want to marry me. You’ve asked, I’ve accepted, but now you’re afraid I suddenly want to be with you for financial gain? Are you serious?! Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always taken care of myself. He knew that. I don’t expect a man to pay for my lifestyle. I’m fully capable of making my own money, buying my own clothes, jewelry, etc.  I think you should want to take care of your partner and be a provider, but relationships are give and take. I did not expect to sit on my ass and be given anything, so I waffled back and forth on that little tidbit. It is a deal breaker if it’s not a document protecting both of us.

The ever-present “Would you please eat?!” grated on my nerves. He’d bring me food for several years of our relationship, but not in a loving, caring, concerned way (I do like it when I’m sick and a guy has the sense to bring me soup or Italian food. There’s something very nurturing about that.), but in an extremely controlling manner. As soon as I gained about 15 pounds from this constant influx of food, I was suddenly told the exact opposite. Now I wasn’t thin enough, I was becoming the woman who he didn’t want anyone else looking at. What was so shameful about being curvy? He’d have a fit whenever we’d be somewhere and someone else would check me out. I was not the one doing the looking, yet he was suddenly paranoid that anyone who checked me out was somehow going to end up in my bed. It was eye-rollingly ridiculous.

He’d do something shitty, and I’d be “rewarded” with jewelry or flowers, sometimes both, depending on the situation. It got to a point where I began to loathe the pink & purple roses I loved so much. To this day if someone sends me roses, I cringe inside. He would promise to be somewhere I needed him to be, but was almost always off feeding his drug habit, or as I would later find out through a friend, a habit for other women.

It was demanded upon me that I be 100% faithful. That was not an issue because I’d never cheated on someone and wasn’t about to start, but because he was the one doing all the cheating, he started having people follow me to find out what I was doing every time I left the house. Stalker much?! It was sick. It was also an excuse.

I’d had enough after confronting someone he often had tail me, and I put my foot down. I’m not big on ultimatums, but he needed to hear what his behavior was doing, that it was unhealthy and damaging, and completely unwarranted and unacceptable. It came down to this: He needed to return to rehab, fully commit to it, and he then needed to be clean & sober for a year before I would agree to marriage. It was time for him to prove that he was worthy of me, not the other way around.

He went to rehab for a few months, coming back apologetic, and for a while things were simply tense. We talked, but clearly he was refusing to hear me. He was about to do something he’d probably been considering for quite some time, and simply hadn’t been man enough to say to my face. With marriage promised, it probably made me believe a slew of lies I was too smart to actually buy into in the first place, but there was something slightly blinding & intoxicating about it. But the truth of the matter is, it was just plain toxic.

The problem with relationships slowly turning abusive is that, initially, we think we’re in the right relationship with the right person, until suddenly, we’re not.

For years after this relationship ended I’d hear “Oh, LET IT GO!” whenever I mentioned how hurt, angry, or betrayed I felt; as if emotions could be turned on and off like a faucet. How could I not feel all of those things?! Saying “I love you” is not a cure-all. Actions speak louder than words. His actions were atrocious.

With a ring solidly on my finger, he married someone else, just weeks after saying we were good and moving in the right direction, that he was trying. I had to find out via an announcement his new wife was sending to friends & family. She was pregnant before they even said “I do.” He would go on to have several children with her, each time choosing names we had decided on for our future offspring. That was the icing on the cake. I seriously worried about my ability to be around him in any capacity after that, so I disengaged. I made sure that whenever he’d be around, I would not be present. Hurting someone you claim to love in such a manner is vile, but to then go on living your life as if said loved one never existed is even worse. I started to think I was losing my mind. If it had not been for the fact that I knew the relationship had occurred, and exactly what I had endured, I’d have felt like I was being erased, or replaced.

Up until a few years ago, he & I continued to have mutual friends. I finally got tired of hearing the lies and cut everyone off. “He asked about you.”, “He hopes you’re all right. He just wants you to be happy.”, “He cares about you.” PLEASE! He never cared in the first place, it was a fucking game to him. No matter how many times I would ask these friends not to relay anything he said about me, it would come up in conversation, until I finally changed my phone number and said “No more.”

Not one to eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, I have gone out of my way to avoid him since all of this went down. I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I didn’t do anything wrong, except believe in a person I shouldn’t have given the time of day to, but hey, we all make mistakes. Avoiding him is my way of remaining a healthy, non-toxic human-being.

I know eventually, at some point, we will run into one another, and I pray that I am not carrying a loaded weapon that day or wearing particularly high heels because even though people tell me I’m not a damaging, harmful person to be around, and that I’d never willingly hurt someone, I cannot promise the desire to harm him won’t be there. Some of the rage goes away with time, but any time the relationship is mentioned or I come across something from that time period, I am flooded with everything I thought I’d already moved past. For me, that lets me know the damage runs deep. It does not, nor will it ever, mean that I care about him. I don’t. I wouldn’t spit on this man if he was on fire.

Once I no longer love/respect someone, my emotions will often turn to pity, anger (at myself & the other person involved), & my anger is a burning rage that can simmer and bubble for years until it is truly out of my system. If the anger is unjustified, it eventually dwindles and the flames put out, but if it IS justified, stay the hell out of my way. I can go from zero to bitch in about half a second.

Unfortunately, there are so many different kinds of abuse in the world, that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint if you are the abused or the abuser. Sometimes you are simultaneously both, even if you don’t intend to be.

Writing this makes me feel a bit like I’m back in Psych class, but I’ve been revisiting certain things lately, which is why I am writing about such a personal, private matter. If what I’m saying helps even one person get out of a toxic relationship, then that’s important and necessary.

If you’re in any kind of relationship where your words and feelings are being defined in an incorrect manner, where you are constantly insulted and berated, it is time to take a closer look at this relationship. Thinking this person is “the best you can do”, having low, little, or no self-esteem, or coming from a “people pleasing” type of family are all potential signs you’ve probably overlooked. Most people do. When you’ve been taught that everything around you is “normal” and a part of your daily life, you stop questioning things. You begin to lose your inner voice. Once you lose your inner voice, you start to become everything the abuser has defined you as. Your thoughts, feelings, actions, everything is now completely defined by someone else. Moreover, you question yourself and promise yourself you’ll be better for them, that you will do everything right, not realizing that your life is your own, and it is not owned by someone else.

I am a product of abuse. Not just from the relationship I am talking about, but from my childhood. I am very forthcoming about that fact when approached, but generally I keep such things to myself. However, when a person comes to me and needs help, I am the first person to listen, and the first to say something.

For many, many years I handled the abuse (verbal, emotional, and physical) by throwing myself into my writing and my singing. One day I snapped; I’d had enough. I was 100% committed in the fact that I’d kill the other person and spend my life in jail, but I believed in my cause because I was protecting two other people. I took the brunt of everything so they wouldn’t have to. To this day, one of those people denies that 99% of the abuse ever occurred. It must be nice living in such a warped bubble of false memories, but I know what I lived, I know what I saw, and it is sad for me to see this person deny the abuse and become the abuser themselves. If you correct this person, or disagree with them, they will say YOU are abusing THEM. It’s a vicious cycle, however, I know that by standing up and saying ENOUGH, and being committed to putting a stop to it, that I did the right thing. If I hadn’t, I’d be in jail now. Or worse.

People are often shocked to learn that I’ve been through such things. I don’t deny being strong and confident, and I don’t deny that I will say something is wrong when it is wrong, regardless of who is saying it. I will admit to being wrong on the rare occasion that I am. But I will not allow myself to live a life of abuse. I won’t allow someone to define me, to disrespect me, to use me, to tell me what I think, to tell me where to go, or tell me what I am allowed to do. When someone behaves that way around me, I am very happy to show them the door. I know I deserve better.

I look for different things in people now, and I always pay attention to my intuition. It is an immense part of who I am. If someone or something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If something feels innately wrong, re-evaluate it and follow your instincts. Intuition will never lie to you, but the heart will. If your relationship involves young children, get out NOW. You do not want your child/children to be affected by the abuse inflicted upon their mother in front of them. I know people who have stayed in these relationships because they believed that taking their children out of the home during the formative years was the worst possible thing they could do. It’s not. The worst thing you can do is stay and allow them to think that what they’re hearing, seeing, and living is normal. If you get out early enough, you will save yourself and your child/children a fortune in therapy bills.

Once upon a time, I was a moron. It won’t happen again, because I am firmly committed to not allowing it. No one defines me, except me.

*If you need help getting out of an abusive/unhealthy relationship or are living with domestic violence and don’t know where to turn please go to any of the following organizations for assistance: http://soarinri.org/  http://leavingabuse.com/, http://www.thehotline.org/, http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/,http://www.teendvmonth.org/, etc.

Do not be afraid to search the Internet or the Yellow Pages for additional resources available to you in your area/country. If your abuser uses the same computer, always be sure to delete your browsing history to protect yourself from additional harm, or go to the library if available and search for information there.*

“Once Upon A Time”, and all material herein, unless otherwise indicated and credited to its owner(s), is copyright © 2013-2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.