I had a slue of dating relationships. It’s not something I’m necessarily proud of, but it taught me what I was looking for in a long-term relationship, and equally what I wasn’t.
I remember my ah-ha moment when a very clear line was drawn between what I would take from a partner and what I wouldn’t. This relationship was….well, interesting to say the least.
I was in my twenties and (of course) thought I had everything figured out.
We met under less than favorable circumstances. I was getting a divorce and he was – well I still don’t exactly know.
Just hang tight.
This gets interesting.
He looked much older than me, but swore he was barely pushing 40. (You’d think the AMAZINGLY TIGHT SKIN around his eyes, super heavy spray tan and highlight job would have sounded LOUD alarms screaming in my head. But, NOOOO. I apparently knew everything.)
For our first date, he took me to a swanky club/restaurant in a trendy part of town and we ate French food and laughed over dinner.
I’m not gonna lie, people. It was an impressive start.
One date led to another and before long, I was introducing him to my friends.
We were full on dating.
Throughout the course of our relationship, he made a habit to somehow always include shopping in our evening. Now, don’t get me wrong, this girl LOVES to shop just as much as the next. But, what was interesting was the longer we dated, the more extravagant the gifts became.
Almost uncomfortably so.
The gifts eventually evolved into trips and hotel stays and beautiful vacations.
Which all needed shopping beforehand!!!
It was fun.
It was expensive.
Did I mention it was fun?
Yeah. It was really fun.
But, like any relationship, over time his true colors showed. And they weren’t always pretty.
Like the time he got really controlling over the way I parented. Or the time he wouldn’t let me to go out “without him”. Or when he made me feel like he didn’t trust my friends and acted like he was “better” than my family. Or when he HIRED A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR TO FREAKING FOLLOW ME.
(Yes, this really did happen)
Although the veneer smile and shady birthday on his driver’s license didn’t grab my attention, those things did.
I didn’t like it.
And I no longer liked him.
When any relationship hits a breaking point, one person must do the inevitable and break it off.
Seems easy enough, right?
Like, yeah, just tell him good-bye and be done with it.
Not when you’ve been bought.
It doesn’t work like that.
Let me explain:
I tried to break it off. I even forgave the private investigator thing and offered to just part ways peacefully.
That didn’t go over so well.
It ended in him crying (sobbing actually) in the middle of a restaurant and me painfully trying to comfort him. Somehow, in the middle of all of that he talked me into staying with him.
Apparently I was a sucker for a kind word.
This was immediately followed by (you guessed it) MORE extravagant gifts.
Clothes, electronics, you name it.
And, at this point, I genuinely did care for him. I honestly did. I felt responsible for him emotionally (which sounds odd even as I type this, but I don’t know how else to describe it). I felt for the guy.
Not to mention, after receiving ALL the gifts, it was hard to walk away.
A few weeks passed and I just couldn’t take it. I had to break it off. I knew I didn’t care for him the way he did for me (no matter how unhealthy it was) and I had to move on.
So, I broke it off.
It went badly. Again.
But, I stuck to my guns and walked away.
I felt like I’d put on my big girl pants and had won some award or something.
It was empowering.
Until the next morning.
On my doorstep, was a pile of gifts. Not only for me, but for my daughter also. And this was when I realized what this relationship really was all about.
I had been bought.
Oh, I wouldn’t have admitted it the ENTTIRE TIME. Not at all. Not until that moment.
Because, the sick part, was in that moment I realized why I had stayed so long: I believed I owed him.
And that felt GROSS.
How did I come to a point in life where I’d allow myself to be bought? Where I’d let myself cave into money and trips and gifts? When did my value plummet so far as to accept bribery as an acceptable term for my heart and my body???
I think previous hurt had led me there. Believing lies from other not so good guys that I just wasn’t worth valuing.
They say money is the root of all evil….well, I don’t know that I believe money is actually evil. But, the love…the need and the false security it provides can be.
Although I didn’t keep his final gifts and I did walk away, the price I paid for that relationship stuck for quite some time.
He still tried to control me. YEARS LATER I continued to deal with being followed by private investigators and him trying to meddle in my personal and family affairs.
The price was high.
But, what I now see that I didn’t see then, is the true value of myself. My honor. My integrity and my character. You see, where he got it wrong, was in thinking that those could be bought.
Those should never have had a price tag.
And real love never puts one on it.