If only picking out men was as easy as shopping at the supermarket. All the shit that’s bad for you comes with a warning label. Unfortunately toxic men don’t come with a little skull and crossbones sticker, they come with the kind of chemistry you didn’t learn about at GSCE.
It’s the guy that makes you feel “like you’ve never felt before”, he’s the pink Starburst after a string of yellow and greens. He’s the breath of fresh air after a dry spell, or awkward lacklustre men that make you snooze into your mojito.
He’s texting constantly, taking you on romantic dates, praising your mothering ability. You are “the most beautiful woman he’s ever met” or “the kind of girl he wants to marry”. I becomes “we” and “we” becomes the new fixture on your sofa. Cue cosy nights in, romantic meals, playing step daddy. He can’t get enough of you. You really feel as if you’ve found it.
Hold up. It’s only been a month. Your friends tell you to slow down and your mother catches her breath. They know it spells trouble, but you are too loved up to notice. What do they know? You think, as you blow off your friends for another night in with Mr. Perfect.
You look like a little family when you go to the park, you plaster sickening selfies all over Facebook and ooze quotes above love. You become aglow. You smugly think back to your ex and how rubbish he was, how he was lazy, sat on the sofa, never helped you with the kids. Now you know what a REAL man looks like.
Except the real man stops texting back after a few months. Suddenly you are chasing him. You are hearing excuses about why he can’t see you, why he’s “busy”, how he’s “tired”. You can hardly believe it’s the same guy who stayed up talking with you until 3am even though he had work the next day? He shows up for sex and then leaves. You keep sleeping with him but feel dirty afterward. The whole thing is starting to feel a bit wrong. He now barley responds to you, as you watch yet another episode of his favourite program. The prelude to the sex. A non conversation and staring at the TV. Then the inevitable walk to the bedroom. Where you try to tell him things haven’t been the same but you somehow just end up naked … you expected a heart to heart lying in bed, instead you got some bullshit responses and his hand on your leg. The kiss that takes your breath away, the reason why it just feels so right when you are with him… soon the problems fade into nothing. You forget all about his shady behaviour. It melts away in his arms.
He seems to want to get away from you. Takes ages to reply, his answers are short and the conversation is superficial and false. You force yourself to “be cool” and not confront him. He no longer shares his thoughts with you but instead gives you facts about his day. “I’m eating” “I’m about to go and sleep”. It’s infuriating. You look back at old conversations and you can’t quite believe it’s the same guy. In the end you boil over. He says you are acting “crazy”. He starts to talk to you like an ignorant child instead of an adult woman. You try to “be good” so you don’t scare him away, you busy yourself but the whole time your mind is on him. Every so often he will throw you a bone. A compliment here, a caring text there. Just enough to keep you invested. No matter how hard you try you can NEVER get a straight, honest conversation from him. He’s deluding himself if he thinks you know where you stand. He’s not man enough just to have the talk, as if you don’t know already that things have gone wrong. He’s happy to skip along on the rocky foundations of his lies.
You start to feel clingy, even though it was HIM who instigated the intense communication. You just went along with it. Now you feel like a nuisance. He no longer talks of marriage or holidays or anything, he just shows up sporadically and leaves. Whenever you confront him you get met with lies, he reassures you that you are paranoid, or makes up an excuse about why he can’t “be with you properly”. He starts to become critical of you. You feel uglier than ever. You feel as if you dreamt it all up.
You wait all day to hear from him and never do. Your stomach is in knots and you don’t pay as much attention to your kids as you should. The second your phone beeps you leap to it, hoping he’s there. He never calls anymore. You try to call him. He doesn’t answer.
You will get a causal text asking to “come over” or another excuse. You start to feel embarrassed about gushing to all your friends about him. You realise you haven’t seen any of his friends, or his family for that matter. In fact, you aren’t involved in his life at all but he’s heavily involved in yours.
Now you go full days without hearing from him. You lose weight, you look tired, you feel angry and upset all the time. Your heart literally aches. How could something that felt so amazing become such a nothing? Are you crazy? You start to feel it.
The second you get some balls and try to tell him straight he crawls to you, he reassures you. He comes over. He sleeps with you. It feels like all your worry is for nothing, you are safe with him again.
Only you aren’t because the cycle repeats itself. You never know where you stand. He just can’t tell you straight, he uses you and leads you on. You know it’s bad, but every time he comes round and looks at you, you remember why you fell for him in the first place. You reason that he will remember too.
Soon the girls start to pop up. He gets a passcode on his phone. He starts to take phone calls in private. He likes random girls pictures and doesn’t reply to you even though he’s online. He’s uncontactable for large chunks of the day and night but tells you nothing is going on. It’s “in your head”. You know deep down it’s not.
Things get worse as he appears and disappears. You feel guilty for having him in your child’s life. You reason that things will get better if you just hold on. You can remind him why you are right together. You can create happily ever after from a shitstorm. The dress you wear the next time you see him, the meal you cook, the smile you give him- he’s going to realise right?
Except he doesn’t. One day it snaps. You leave or he makes up a bullshit excuse(usually over text).
You cry and you cry. You sit in your pyjamas all day and you can’t take a bite of food. You just want to see him. You take through the whole ordeal in your head. Where did it go wrong? What did you do? You download dating apps but your heart isn’t in it, you just want him.
You think of the good times and obsess over the bad. You wonder what she looks like, the other woman. Is she prettier? You imagine so.
He wanted to marry you. He said he loved you. Then he treated you like a doormat. He used you as a convenience at you and your child’s expense. He took advantage of your love and you let him. You feel like a fool. He’s a coward, he couldn’t even tell you face to face.
Suddenly you realise: you have to choose between respecting yourself and respecting him. If you sit and disrespect yourself a second longer, you are giving him your self-worth on a plate. You don’t hold less value because you think he’s taken it. You had your value all along, you just placed him on the same level when he didn’t deserve it. To be with a man like that you had to delete yourself. You became a shell, filled with anxiety. Waiting for a text that never came or a relationship that didn’t happen.
You now see with clarity that the whole liaison was a lie. An addictive trap based on sweet nothings and a grand gesture or two. That he wasn’t really there for you when you needed him. That he brought out the worst in you for so long, that you had never felt so insecure and paranoid. That you could actually pass a girl on the street and wonder “Is it her?”. You reasoned that the sheer attraction you felt towards him equated to love. A man who is real, honest and decent won’t waste his time leading someone on. He’s got too much on his plate, he’s focused on his own life. If he’s after something cheap you are under no illusion that he wants something more. He lays his cards on the table and it’s up to you if you want to play. A toxic man doesn’t work like that. They have to break you first. Build you up, create a ghost of a future to keep you hooked like a fish. They have to have your heart because any less isn’t good enough. It’s twisted. It’s selfish. You wonder how anyone can do that to someone else and not feel bad about it. Remember that he’s the loser here, because only a loser plays games with a woman’s love. Only a loser goes MIA for days without the courage to tell you why. Only a loser shows up, tells you what you want to hear and then vanishes for a month. It says everything about him and nothing about you.
You can now breathe. For the first time in a year or in months you can fill your lungs with fresh air. You are free of his trap. No matter how it ended you won’t spend another night wondering why he doesn’t “love” you anymore, or why he’s switched his phone off. You won’t wonder why he was so critical of you after putting you on a pedestal. You won’t toss and turn over the time you spent together that became little more than a movie and a fuck. He’s gone.
He will be back. They always are- thinking that they will always have a warm bed at your house. A faithful woman who will spread herself like butter at a moments notice, a woman who will crawl to him on speed-dial. It doesn’t mean he loves you, it means he got rejected elsewhere. The best thing you can do is block him or leave his message on read.
There’s a man out there who wants to shout from the rooftops that you are his. Who will take on your kids as his own. He will honour and respect you for more than a season. He won’t give you cheap lines so you fall in love with him. He won’t be a coward.
Don’t let a man cloud your judgement. You KNOW when someone is treating you with less respect than you deserve. That’s why you feel anxious all the time; it’s your body screaming at you, telling you to run. Don’t let someone deny your truth. You’ve known yourself all of your life, he’s known you for a fraction of it. You’ve had relationships before and they never felt like this. You weren’t so “crazy” and “paranoid” then. It’s not your anxiety, it’s him. See how quickly it goes when he’s out of your life.
When he’s gone for good you will be a new woman, you will become more confident than you’ve ever been, be a better mother and a better friend. You won’t drone on about him like a broken record. You won’t look twice your age with stress. You won’t panic on the way back from work because you didn’t get a simple text from your “boyfriend”. You will become yourself again: only better ❤️❤️❤️