It Wasn't Love, It Was Manipulation.

Image for post
Image for post

Heavy breathing, tears streaming down my face, I stayed in my apartment’s parking structure for hours. Though I was in my car, I hadn’t just gotten home nor was I about to go anywhere. I was paralyzed and seeking shelter from emotional abuse. The kind of argument I just endured held such a tight grip around my chest, I could barely breathe. I felt like I wanted to disappear. In that moment, I wanted to be anywhere else but in my apartment’s cold, dank parking structure. Yet, there in my car I sat until anxiety slowly released its grip and I could compose myself to go back inside.

This pattern continued for the entire year and a half that I lived in that tiny downtown LA studio apartment.

What occurred frequently in my home (or prison?) at that time was what my young self thought was love. I moved to Los Angeles at the ripe age of 19 years old. It sounds like a dream — in a city of endless possibilities, my early 20’s should've been a whirlwind of excitement and adventures.

Then came a boy. We’ll call him S.

S and I met one day at a table read for a show that my friend was producing. Looking back, I don’t remember what that show was about, seeing as it never came to fruition. What I do remember, as if every detail were etched into my brain, is the moment I first saw S walk in. At that point, I was still new to the fact that Los Angeles is a hub for very good-looking people. So when S walked in with his white wife-beater, perfectly grown 5 o’clock shadow at noon, Rayban aviators on, and James Dean-esque looks, I was already swooning. Writing this description makes him sound like a bad boy. He was a bad boy. I was looking for a bad boy. I wanted S.

The story carries on very quickly. We went on a first date, ending with an intense car make-out session in a parking structure underneath a Macy’s in Century City. He took me to meet his mom; endearingly sweet to a fault, and whom S would take every chance he got to criticize. I didn’t think too much into it though, I was too blinded by the idea of him teaching me how to surf later that day.

Surfing was hard. I was pummeled by waves and saw my life flash before my eyes as the water crashed over my head in the tumultuous surf of Huntington Beach. S helped me back up each time, laughing, showing off his goofy grin that I adored. On the third time I got back on the board, he looked at me in a way that made my stomach drop. Before I knew it, he said “I love you,” and I replied with a playful splash, saying “you don’t know what love is.” Secretly though, I wanted to say I loved him too.

Two weeks, maybe a month, into dating he found himself in a situation where he needed to find a new place to live. I quickly jumped at the idea of him moving in with me. At first, he went between my place and his friend’s place until finally, he completely moved in with me. S paid me discreet rent checks that I used for my CrossFit membership and I hid from my parents that I was living with this new actor boyfriend.

Life seemed like a fairy tale. We supported each other in our endeavors; me reading lines with him. S helping me make recipes for my then vegan food blog.

Things happened so quickly, I was blind-sided when spring of 2013 came.

The situations that prompted his behavior change were so minuscule in my mind, I didn’t fully comprehend what was going on until it was out of control. I found myself constantly being yelled at that I wasn’t good enough. Not because I was lazy; I went to school full-time, had a part-time job, and ran my food blog. Not because I didn’t work out; I was going to CrossFit five times a week. My worth seemed to be tied to mundane actions that only two people living together could critique the other on.

I was stupid for not being able to remember to put the toilet lid down because it would spread bacteria.

I was careless for not turning the kettle handle into the wall so it was out of the way.

I was using him for money because he paid 1/4 of the rent.

Then it escalated.

I wasn’t pretty enough because he deserved to be with someone who looked like the models he worked with.

I wasn’t fit enough because I held a lot of fat in my arms.

I wasn’t enough for him. And I internalized that.

On top of constantly studying for my undergrad classes, I took on a lot of pressure to constantly be better for S. I was embarrassed to tell anyone that S and I were having problems, so I had no outsider’s perspective that anything was unhealthy. Instead, we would argue, ending in me pleading for him to give me more chances and him threatening to leave forever. I would run away to ball my eyes out in my car. A moment of solace that never seemed to be the answer.

This cycle continued for a little over a year. I thought it was love. I thought he was the one and we just needed to work on what didn’t work. I needed to change myself, or at least break down so badly that he would feel a change of heart and want to see things differently.

I would love to say that I had a harrowing moment, realized my self-worth, and left that relationship. I didn’t. I tried to kick him out once but he threatened to sue me and again, being so young, I thought that was a legitimate threat. It wasn’t until I finally ran away (well, flew since I moved to China) that I rid myself of him for good. I’m not joking, it took up until he dropped me off at the airport for my flight to China that I finally was able to remove him from my life.

Maybe I was young. Maybe I have “daddy issues”. Maybe I was also part of the problem. Either way, what S and I had wasn’t true love. True love is wanting the best for the other person. Loving them no matter their flaws. Taking a look at the person as a whole and not zooming in on only the aspects you find appealing. Love is a strong bond; one you would never want to tear down. The thought of purposely hurting that person is inconceivable and unforgivable.

No, what S and I had was manipulation. I should've seen it on the day we met his mom. The way he treated her is the way he eventually treated me. When I didn’t live up to his expectations, he took that as a moment to tear down my self-esteem. At the time, I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for myself. So it worked. When the relationship was over, I was a mear shadow of my former self.

As glad as I am to have that period in my life over, I also see the years after as a life-altering period of growth. Traumatic as it was, I now know what I will never put up with being treated like that again. Manipulation and my feelings have no place for coinciding anymore.

Keep updated via my Instagram and newsletter

Dating, relationship, and self-love writer. Anxious with dating? >> // IG: @WordsWithKirstie // //

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store