We met in our improv for anxiety class at The Second City. I signed up on a whim and it ended up saving my current life. I was living with my long-term boyfriend. He had alcohol abuse issues and I knew I had to leave him. I didn’t quite have the strength. I felt trapped. Until now.
An older man in my ensemble caught my eye. But, I caught his eye first. He confided in me about his divorce. I confided in him about my relationship struggle. I broke up with my boyfriend. The older man and I started having sex. He started becoming emotionally abusive. I started feeling trapped. Again.
A younger man in my ensemble caught my eye. But, I caught his eye first. He confided in me about his anxiety toward women. I confided in him about my new relationship struggle. His anxiety began in college. His ex-girlfriend came out of the closet while they were dating. I broke up with the old guy. Me and the younger guy started having sex. He was leaving for the Air Force. We decided to do long distance. I started feeling insecure.
We were in a full-blown relationship for almost a year. After his basic training his personality shifted and he started showing his true colors: a narcissistic, insecure chauvinist. I ignored it. I held on to the beginning of our relationship, when we were obsessed with each other, having sex non-stop, taking exotic vacations, talking about marriage.
We would take turns visiting each other. Every other month one would fly to the other. He was stationed in Texas; I was in Chicago. He would make snide remarks like “People in the military have the best work ethic I’ve ever seen.” Or “Sometimes innocent people have to die for the greater good.” I couldn’t believe my ears, but I kept holding on to the guy I knew before he entered the military. The vulnerable guy who had to get up strength to talk to women, especially me. The guy that worked so hard on his issues to date me, who adored me, who couldn’t wait to marry me.
He loved the outdoors and athletics and was obsessed with his body. He would work very hard on building muscle mass. It made sense as he received a running scholarship to a D1 college. Athletic ability was in his blood and served as his barometer when measuring other people. The stronger, faster and more dangerous you are, the better a person you are, according to him.
I, on the other hand, have always been a gal of the arts. I did theater growing up, I take voice and acting lessons, I co-produce storytelling shows. My passion lies within this realm. I value the array of traits different people possess. To be cliché, it’s what makes the world go round. Additionally, I am not an advocate of war.
During our monthly visits, we always did some sort of athletics. It never failed and it was always something I am not good at. It’s not that I don’t want to be active—I do yoga, dance, I go for runs. I’m just not good at it. I need a little push and help. Even growing up, the thought of gym class gave me such anxiety it would keep me up at night. But partaking in these activities with him was not really an option for me. He never entertained anything other than what he wanted to do. And I obliged because, for some reason, I wanted to impress him.
He always made sure I knew I wasn’t very good. He would act annoyed that he had to slow down for me. He even told me he was worried I wasn’t active enough to stay thin forever.
We broke up.
We stayed in touch though. Somehow. We found a friendship. He became softer when he wasn’t so stressed out. Despite my anxiety-fueled relationship with him I always had an inkling we would end up together. He would grow up and come around and let his softer side out again.
Two years after we split, he came to visit me for New Year’s. We discussed getting back together. But he decided he couldn’t do long distance again. We ended amicably, and I cut contact.
But deep down, I still knew he’d come around. I had this overwhelming feeling we belonged together.
Six months later, I got an email from him. “Happy birthday, I hope you are doing well.” It wasn’t my birthday. My birthday was a few weeks away. I didn’t respond.
Two months later, I was dumped via text message from some loser who couldn’t get it up. My self-pity entered into questionable territory. I responded to the military ex. I thanked him for the birthday wishes.
He replied back with a novel. He regretted how we left things. He couldn’t stop thinking about me. He made a huge mistake. He was in Afghanistan but was returning in a few weeks. He wanted to see me. He figured I wouldn’t respond because he had been such an asshole after New Year’s but took a risk.
It was happening. What I always knew was meant to be, was happening.
I told him I would consider it. We started talking daily via Skype, Gchat, and email. He sent me flowers. He persisted on giving him another chance. He was sitting on this for nearly a year and was certain I was what he wanted. He wanted to be together forever but knew it would take a lot for me to trust him again. And that was OK. He told me to take my time, he’d be there waiting. If I gave him one iota of a chance, he’d change my mind.
He invited me to upstate New York for a week to visit his family. Coincidentally, I was starting a new job. I had two weeks off that overlapped with his two weeks off after returning from Afghanistan.
The stars were aligning.
He flew to Chicago to pick me up. We drove eight hours to his family’s house in New York. We spent the week laughing and eating good food and drinking fine wines and exploring the area and having sex in a bed and in a hot tub and in a car. Our time together was fun and sweet and hot. I was starting a new job on Monday, this getaway was a nice way to reset.
The week concluded and on Saturday we spent the day driving back to Chicago. Sunday, we went to brunch and decided to make it official and be boyfriend and girlfriend again. I gave him a chance and he didn’t disappoint. He lived up to his word and I was trusting him. He moved into a new place on his base so we were going to go couch shopping. We had one more day and night together. On Monday, the next day, he was leaving me to visit his sister in DC. On the way to couch shopping, we stopped at my apartment to drop off our leftovers.
I walked out of the kitchen. He looked at me, told me his feelings changed, there was no spark between us. And walked out the door. I opened my apartment door to find him waiting for the elevator. I asked where he was going. He said “I don’t know.”
His response summed up my feelings at that very moment. Why do I keep putting myself through this malarkey? I don’t know.
Image via shutterstock.com.
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Lauren is a co host and producer of two monthly storytelling shows: Tenx9Chicago and Do Not Submit Old Town. She is also a featured writer for “Literate Ape” online magazine. Follow her on Twitter @huffypuffy21