I started dating C immediately after B (aka Boyfriend #1, read the previous post for the full story). C was nicer, which I now see is an incredibly low bar. I considered myself the luckiest girl. We laughed and spent a lot of time together. He didn’t make me feel small or try to push me away after sex. I remember being insecure nonetheless; I really wanted to be liked, to be loved.
When we first started dating, a girl in his class was jealous of us. She told C that I was a slut for wearing short skirts and had no respect for myself. He told her that I was my own woman and could do what I want. I was proud that he stood up for me, #feminism.
Over the many years we spent together, C taught me how to mow the lawn and change car tires. Together with his family, we repaired our house’s roof (I learned to use a nail gun!) and tiled our new bathroom. We played sports together like football and volleyball. He even taught me to rollerblade—I never got really good at it. C wasn’t afraid to learn how to cook and take tips from me. He did the dishes better than I ever could and we cleared the house together. We were a team. Yet, we fell apart. Let’s find out why together.
C abruptly broke up with his ex-girlfriend when we met and that left his family confused. Instead of sharing his feelings with his mom, he copped-out and told her that the reason he got a new girlfriend was: “this one swallows, the previous one didn’t.” I only found out about this conversation years later. Why would he do that you ask? Because society tells men that they shouldn’t have feelings. So he made a “joke” at my expense.
When I first met his parents, we went to the video store to rent a few DVDs. His mom pointed to a film called “Sex Addict” and said, “Hey, Roxanne. Look, that’s you!” I was confused. I faked a laugh and walked away. That night, I asked C why she would say that. He brushed it off. It took over three years for his mother to accept me.
A few months into the relationship, C asked me to stop laughing because his older brother found it annoying. I found it annoying that he would even dare say that to me. I protested, but he said the walls in the apartment were thin. So, I conceded and tried to be quieter.
Our first two summers as a couple were spent apart. We went back home to our families, an 11-hour drive away from one another. In July, someone offered me a ride to go visit him. He said, no. It was too much effort to make time to see me. I cried. Why didn’t he want to spend time with me? He told me I was clingy. I was confused.
A year into our relationship, I found out he put a photo of my breasts on a porn website. He told me, “this girl wants to have sex with us!” I was furious. His response to my anger: “I cropped your face off.” Oh, well that makes it okay. My mistake.
In time, we graduated and got jobs in our respective fields. He immediately wanted to buy a house. I said that I didn’t want a house. He replied that if we were to stay together, we were buying a house and that he got to decide since he was the one paying our rent. (I was paying my school debt, he had no debt.) Ultimately, we co-purchased the house because I had better credit (ironically thanks to the debt). I also bought a car, for independence, but also because the new house was 50 km away from my new office.
My job brought me to the US and Europe, where I met many new people. The first conference I attended opened my eyes. I could be myself, Roxanne in full colour. She had been hiding inside this entire time, but she still had a voice!
Whenever I travelled for work, I asked C to come with me, but he always declined. So I went to Paris, San Francisco, Boston, etc. without him. At home, I asked him to cuddle when we watched TV, but he said no. So we claimed our new respective couches and stayed there.
In the end, he said I was annoying for taking too many pictures. When I got new tastes in music, he dismissed me and said, “you’ve never liked that gerne before.” One evening, we were eating dinner at our table for six. I was telling him about a new interest I had and he said, “I don’t fucking care.” Internally, I always knew something was wrong, it just took me a long time to connect the dots.
We binge watched Sex and the City and at the end of the series (spoiler alert), Carrie gives up her life in NYC and moves to Paris to be with Alexsandr Petrovsky. They have a fight when she realizes she feels alone and unhappy there with him. He dismisses her and tries to leave the room. She grabs his arm and begs him to stay and talk. He turns around and slaps her in the face. Then, apologizes immediately and says it was an accident.
This scene hit me hard. I burst into tears and bawled for over an hour. I panicked and hyperventilated. C held me. He had no idea what was going on; neither did I. That evening, I pushed the tears aside and told myself I was just tired. But now, I know why I cried that night. The scene felt too familiar. I was giving everything up for men. I made myself small to make life easier for them instead of thinking about what made me happy.
Verdict I don’t believe C is a bad person, but I do think our sexist culture allowed him to believe that it was okay to treat me that way. Being a “real man” meant bottling things up, not talking about our problems, and most importantly, not crying. He didn’t know how to voice his feelings or deal with mine. The lack of communication created a fissure that pushed us apart until we were two strangers sharing a house.
The silence created misunderstandings and erupted as misplaced anger. Six months before our break-up, my parents visited and stayed with us. C was unhappy about it, but wouldn’t tell me why. We were alone in the kitchen preparing food and he was mad at me for something insignificant. He grabbed my ass hard and squeezed until it hurt. He didn’t have the words, but he wanted to show me he had the power to harm and control me. I went to the bathroom to hide and cry. I had promised myself I would never let a man hurt me. That’s when I remembered Carrie.
That night, I told him to never do that to me again, or that I would leave him. He apologized. He never physically abused me again, but it was too late. We were over.