“He is the love of my life.”
Or so I thought at the time. You know those people that you have “forever crushes” on? The ones that you liked a lot at one point, but then you realized how dumb it was, but you continued holding onto the feelings in hopes of a someday?
That was my life for the past 3 years or so.
Aaron* was the first person who I felt was much more mature and different from all the other guys that I had liked previous. Maybe it was the fact that he was a little older that I had a different feeling about him. But of course, with him being older I had shut my own dreams down prematurely. I had already decided that he probably would want nothing to do with someone who was younger than him. After all, there were already girls his own age chasing after him, so there would be no contest: I wouldn’t win, ever.
So I gave up, but the feelings continued. There is something about “forbidden love” and admiration from afar. I dreamed at night about the day that we would finally be together and how awesome it would be. And for a while, it seemed to go my way: he began to take notice of me and we began talking and getting to know each other. It continued until we were separated, although temporarily. But despite the age difference and the separation, we made it work and son after we began hanging out with each other; not everyday or every week, but every few months. It sucked, but I saw him. And it wasn’t just one-sided: he wanted to spend time with me too.
At one point I told him that I liked him and that I wanted to pursue something more than friends. And being the rational person that he was, he said that he 1) wasn’t ready to date someone yet and 2) wasn’t sure if “us” would work out, being that we were at different stages of our lives. As much as that hurt, I understood and went along with it. It made me sad to think that he didn’t want me at the moment, but I moved on and things worked out between us… sort of.
We would see each other every so often on a very irregular basis. With each time he saw me, Aaron would get a little more adventurous. He would always tell me that what we had – our friendship – was strictly just a friendship and nothing more. He always said that he didn’t deserve someone like me and that I was too perfect/beautiful/good to date someone terrible like him. And I would tell him the opposite; that he wasn’t terrible at all. In fact, he made me happy, he listened to me whenever I was down and he supported me through a lot of hard times.
But the trouble was his “adventurous” side, which entailed hand holding, cuddling and even occasional kisses. The thing was, we weren’t together. He wasn’t my boyfriend. Neither of us were seeing anyone and both single. But deep down, something didn’t feel right.
On top of this, Aaron had very confusing mannerisms. He would want to hold hands in public, but if we walked through an area where he suspected that he would see someone he knew, he let go. If we saw his friends, he would ask me to walk away from him so that “they wouldn’t ask questions”. If we went to a restaurant or a store where his friends worked, he wouldn’t introduce me. And when he drove me home, he would always drop me off a block away from my house just so that my parents couldn’t ask him any questions.
But after all these weird things were done, he would come back to hug me, hold my hand, and lace his texts with hearts and kissing faces. Who he was in public with me was very different than who he was in private.
Despite realizing all these little nuances, I let this persist. I let him use me and I let him change his mind about different things. I would obey his command to walk ten steps behind him, get off a block away in the pouring rain, and even to kiss him. He wasn’t my boyfriend and I wasn’t his girlfriend, so in reality he doesn’t really have that kind of power over me – and yet, in some weird way, he did.
The worst part was the fact that he would always say “I love you”. After a relationship gone extremely wrong and a horrific breakup, I have always had difficulty saying that phrase. Even innocently to my friends or to my family members (whom I love so, so much), I can’t bring myself to say it out loud. So hearing him say that to me, even though I know that it means nothing to him whatsoever, hurts. And I would never say it back to him. I would only smile or nod, and then he would always say “You know what I mean… it’s so difficult to explain my appreciation for you, so I just say that I love you.”
It wasn’t until I was lying in bed the night after our most recent outing that I called bullshit. Sure, he might appreciate me and really enjoy my company, but it’s not really that difficult to explain appreciation. “Thank you” is a really good place to start.
But being manipulative and using loaded phrases like “I love you” isn’t a good way to do it, especially when you turn it into an empty phrase with no meaning whatsoever.
Of course, I know that this is not all Aaron’s fault. The fact that I bought into this the first couple times, being the naive girl that I am, is all on me. I let this persist and I let it continue to happen, so for that, I take responsibility.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens in actual relationships. If left alone and not confronted, this could lead to emotional abuse, something that is just as terrible as physical abuse.
I know that I’m not one to say how you should be in a relationship (because let’s face it, I’m still single and have been for a gazillion years!), but what I have learned from the ones I have been in and my interactions with different people is that we all have a right to feel comfortable in our own skin and be treated with respect by everyone. And especially in a relationship, you shouldn’t be hidden – you should be shown off.
My mom always told me that if you’re dating someone who is being very “shady” and doesn’t show you off to their family and friends, then you should raise a red flag. Those that truly love you will want to tell the world about you. There is a difference between waiting for the right time and perpetually evading the topic.
Essentially, someone that is hiding you from their life doesn’t truly love you. And that is the kicker. So many times we think that this is a phase that he/she will grow out of, and because you love them you agree with them and go along with it. But what about what you think? Don’t you get a say in the relationship? Why are they constantly suggesting that you don’t meet their family or don’t meet their friends, and why do they constantly get their way?
I had suggested one time that I meet Aaron’s parents, and he quickly shut it down by saying that they were extremely busy. The same went for his brother (whom I had seen around a couple times), to which he told me that he didn’t want his brother asking any questions.
I couldn’t understand what he was hiding, because I was 99% positive that I wasn’t his girlfriend.
If you’re not sure about a relationship, then don’t make any sudden moves. Don’t say misleading things and definitely don’t act like that person is under your power. All the same, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you have every right to walk out. It’s going to hurt to cut that person out of your life after a lot of invested time, but you have got to start some time.
I’m not saying that I am going to cut him, cold turkey, from my life. But I do know that I deserve more respect and that I should be putting more time into myself and surrounding myself around people that will not hide me.
And you should too.