One of the most fundamental truths we must all learn as we cross the threshold from adolescence to adulthood is this:
Everyone has to own their own shit.
There’s this simple-yet-elusive concept called “taking responsibility” that some of us grasp sooner than later, and others, never at all. But a word to the wise: If you try to venture into a relationship with the latter, you’ll be entertaining something toxic. I promise you. People who can’t (read: won’t) take responsibility for their behavior need a scapegoat–and it will mostly likely be you, especially when said behavior goes bad.
Randy and I met online a few years ago, but not in person until a few months ago. We’d chatted on and off, but I had always shut the conversation down. Despite his attractive pictures (think tall, dark and sexy Latino) and the “sales guy” charm that oozed all over my phone (can’t help it, I dig it), my gut told me something was off.
He recently popped up on my phone–again–and asked me out–again–and this time, I had no excuse. My weekend was wide open. His face was still handsome. His charm, alluring. And I was in a serious dating dry spell. You can tell by the fact that my last blog post was three months ago.
Our first date took us to my favorite winery, then a quick dinner at a Mexican restaurant and back to his place for a steamy makeup sesh. Hella sparks, y’all–for real. Our chemistry was off the hook. This man I’d been shunning and shutting down for months swept me off my reluctant feet, and I felt like a 16-year-old with a schoolgirl crush by the time I left his place.
Our second date was just as magical: Italian food at a cozy restaurant in San Francisco followed by a blues concert. And yes, more steamy, more sparks, more kissing, more chemistry.
I was sold. After two dates. Randy and I just fit. Clearly my gut had been previously wrong, and we would live happily ever after, the end.
Until that whole “own your own shit” thing got real. Here are the steps that changed our trajectory:
- He went to San Diego the weekend after our date.
- I got scared (anxious) like I often do when I like someone, and pulled back. He got pissed, and I apologized. Profusely. I wanted this one to work so I groveled. “Not to proud to beg,” and the like.
- In the course of the apology, I mentioned having a glass of wine with another man and how bored I was and that, really, I only wanted to see him. Because, you know–the sparks and we fit and all that.
- He got pissed. Again. “You had a date?!” I think this is where the first “that’s really fucked up” entered the conversation.
- I apologized. Again. Profusely. I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong considering we’d only had two dates and were nowhere near the exclusive talk, but still, I should have kept that particular glass of wine episode to myself.
And this, my friends–THIS–is what set the tone for the rest of my short-lived relationship with Randy.
Over the next four weeks, we saw each other just one more time. I drove to his house to pamper him one night when he was sick with a sore throat and headache. Sexxxxy.
But what played out on our phones was nothing short of a toxic nightmare. Randy couldn’t let go of the fact that I’d had a platonic date. At. All. He would text me about how wrong that was and how could I do that after he’d kissed me “like that” and how he doesn’t fuck around (insinuating that I do?). He couldn’t forgive me for pulling away while he was in San Diego and didn’t I know how much that hurt him and why can’t I deal with my past and get over my fears.
Then the texts turned into phone conversations about the same shit–everything he couldn’t get over and how angry it made him and why the date and why did you pull back and why do you hurt me and why don’t you deal with your past and why, why why!?
“I don’t want to be angry, Sienna, but this shit that you do makes me so mad!”
“The Randy you met in the beginning was who I really am, but you turned me into this guy who’s now just pissed!”
“I have a wall up and it’s all because of you–because of your fears and because you disrespected me with that guy and because you, you, you!”
Lightbulb Moment. I’m not sure when it happened, but eventually it all clicked: Randy wasn’t angry because of me. Randy was angry because, well, Randy is angry. His hostility and rage was just that: His. I sure provided a nice place to hang the blame, but like I said.
Everyone has to own their own shit.
I’m not perfect. I do struggle with relationship fears–abandonment, commitment, vulnerability. Hell, yes, I’m scared. I have both childhood and adult scars that want to control my love life. But I’m working on it. I’m inching ever closer to freedom from those scars, I can feel it in my soul.
And I know this: I will own my own shit, but I don’t have to own anyone else’s.
Randy spent four weeks blaming me for his anger and pain and the wall he hid behind in order to lob fiery accusations my way. But you know what? I wasn’t responsible for his bad behavior. Period.
During our last conversation, he spent an hour raging at me about the same tired issues we’d been beating to death for a month. I was sobbing in the end. I can’t explain why I let him other than to say that I’m sometimes comfortable owning other people’s shit, too. I grew up with an alcoholic, abusive father. It’s what people like me do.
But as my scars heal and my fears weaken, my boundaries get stronger. I shut Andy down after that–for real and for good. The Sienna from five years ago would still be enmeshed in the conflict and would be losing herself in a relationship that could have no happy ending. Ever.
Today? I’m stronger, smarter and keenly aware of red flags that scream “danger.” It took me four weeks too long to pull the plug–but honestly, that’s progress in my world. So hell, I’ll drink to those four short weeks and the ability to get out relatively unscathed.
Cheers to happily ever after–with the right person, at the right time, in the right relationship–and with the right shit, placed squarely at the feet of each individual it belongs to. The end.
Categories: Hard Lessons Learned