Plenty More Fish In The Sea

Published in Dating and Relationships / Mental Health / Featured - 4 mins to read

Looking back at it, my first serious relationship was really, really terrible, even abusive. She would phone me up drunk to scream at me that she hated me, every night for a week. She accused me of cheating repeatedly and hated it when I talked to other girls. She controlled and emotionally manipulated me, and even hit me. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what exactly happened, and to feel able to admit any of it. I always reasoned with myself: “what she did was bad, but it’s not like you were any better as a boyfriend”. Part of me still somewhat believes that - I remember lashing out once and saying something unforgivable, which I don’t feel comfortable writing here. But I know that all I was doing was reacting to her, and everything she was doing to me - I thought if she could experience the pain I felt when she said and did those things, perhaps she would stop. I understand now that this is a normal part of the abuse cycle. I’m sure I wasn’t the perfect boyfriend, but I know I tried really, really hard to make her happy, and I loved her. I was incredibly depressed the whole time I was dating her, and in some ways I appreciate the support she gave me, I know it must be very difficult to date someone who is in that state - but I was vulnerable and can see now that she took advantage of that.


Even writing this, I feel myself trying to justify her actions as much as possible. She had her own mental health problems too, which I think are likely why she did what she did. I think the attempts at justification are partially because it is a natural part of the cycle - to refuse to accept that you didn’t deserve it - and partially because I am a man. It’s difficult to say “my ex-girlfriend abused me”, it feels embarrassing, even emasculating. But, given recent events, and my own need for catharsis, it seems important now.


I think it’s been three years since we officially broke up, and I still think about her and everything that happened every day. That’s the only reason I realised things were so bad, I am still so affected by what happened, such a long time ago - and that feels dumb. It feels like I should be “over” the girl I dated when I was 18, that at that age people shouldn’t have any understanding of what love is, that relationships shouldn’t count somehow. I tried opening up to a friend about how I felt a couple of weeks ago - I told her my ex had been on my mind a lot recently. She said “You could do better, always onwards and upwards.[...] I dunno what happened but it’s all done now, gotta keep pushing forward”. And I thought, I have been trying to push forward for three years now. I have anxiety whenever I get a phone call because of her. I feel deeply uncomfortable with any kind of physical intimacy. I’m scared to open up or be vulnerable with anyone, even my close friends. The last girl I was seeing, I had to end things because I’d have a panic attack whenever we had sex. And now I have to somehow travel “onwards and upwards”. I have been assuming, or perhaps naively hoping, that time would be a great healer, and given enough time, I would be ready to start dating or looking for another relationship again, but I’m not. I think when someone who you love hurts you, the pain is some of the worst you will ever experience.




So… what next? Giving up on relationships and sex age 22 seems depressing, even for me. I am going to have to try to rebuild my confidence, and find a way to heal. I feel like I am less emotionally articulate now than I was when I was 17, like I have regressed. Now I have to retrace old steps, and make progress somehow, although I am not sure exactly what to do. I do know it’s going to take a long time, and it’s going to be something I’m going to have to actively work on. Perhaps it will take someone patient and understanding, with an endless tolerance for whiny bullshit, to really fix.