When I was younger, I had a boyfriend who I was sure was cheating on me with his housemate. I confronted him and he denied it. A couple of months later he broke up with me: “yeah, we may have been sleeping together…” he said guiltily.
The experience made me wary. I was more careful in future relationships; I kept my heart safely to myself until I’d tested the ground beneath me. And I trusted my instincts.
Blue Eyes and I have been back together for a month but things aren’t peachy. More and more I feel like she’s constantly checking out other women. If we’re out and there’s an attractive women in the room, I can feel her eyes slipping and sliding over her, can feel her drifting in and out of our conversation. On the tube or in the street, I catch her staring at women, brazenly.
I raise it with her: she tells me she’s just “looking around,” “it’s not sexual,” “she “looks at everyone,” but I can feel the weight of her gaze, its texture, is different. Things get worse. Every time we go out, we fight about it. She gets angry and storms off and I sit on the night bus home in sunglasses so no can see me cry.
I start shedding self-esteem like a second skin. When I look in the mirror I see only my shortcomings – the wrinkles and gappy teeth. She tries to reassure me: tells me I’m gorgeous and hot, I’m lovely, she loves me; but her words and her actions are two bits of a puzzle that don’t fit together.
“We need a break,” Blue Eyes says, and so we head to Barcelona: to Gaudi and flamenco and tortilla and fucking in a hotel room and cava on the terrace – and girls, girls, girls everywhere. She denies looking at anyone: “you’re crazy,” she says, “it’s all in your head,” “you need therapy.”
And then; this:
We fly home. She comes over to mine a few hours later, all worked up. She stands over me, with tight little fists, eyes swimming in hate and she says:
“You know, I’ve been reading up on this and I’ve realised you’re a very controlling and manipulative person. Soon I’ll have to walk around staring at the fucking ground. You’re actually abusive.”
“What the hell?? I am not abusive” I say crumpling into tears. “How can you even say that?”
“See? This is you being manipulative. You need to accept this is all your fault.”
A little voice inside of me pipes up, no, no, no it isn’t.
It carries on, the accusations and the fury. She twists everything I say until I have no idea what the truth is any more. Maybe I really am deeply insecure? Maybe I have become controlling? Once, she’s vibrating with so much anger I flinch and she barks: “Stop acting like I’m going to hit you.”
Eventually, worn out to my very bones, I fold.
“I’m so sorry,” I snuffle, “I’ve got you all wrong. I’ll get counselling I promise.”
She takes my hand; softens. “The problem isn’t whether I look at other girls; the problem is why you care.”
We go to bed. I lie in bed and this is what I think: love isn’t clenched fists. It isn’t a look filled with disgust. It isn’t twisting someone’s words. It isn’t guilt-tripping. It isn’t bringing someone to tears. It isn’t shouting that someone needs therapy. It isn’t making someone afraid.
This isn’t love. This is toxic.
I ask Blue Eyes to leave, shut the door; and breathe.