Abuse and Selfishness

Mid-March, freelance writer Richard Greenhill contacted me to discuss a Reddit post I made about my then boyfriend, as he was interested in writing about cuckolding and hotwife fetishes.

If you’ve read my blog, you already know from some of my earlier pieces that my ex of three and a half years was obsessed with sexual fantasies involving me and other men. (You can read Your Bulimic Girlfriend, Wedding Bells, and/or The Bulimic and the Sex Addict if you want more insight.) While having particular kinks is not bad by any means, my ex took things to an entirely new level, where our sexual activities included (almost from day one) demands for me to change my body (get implants, plastic surgery, dye my hair, get my nails done, do my makeup so it’s “sluttier,” and all sorts of things), as well as his articulation of strange and dangerous scenarios at gas stations, glory holes, and more. I didn’t enjoy this; we fought often about his inability to talk about any other subject. Sometimes I had the nerve to bring up how sexually unsatisfied I was, my needs and wants elided by his all-consuming fetish, only to suffer through the same one-sided sex talk later that day. To make matters worse, he never respected my boundaries, or when I told him “no.” He would continuously beg me to help him get off, whining and needling me, and not allow me to go to sleep until he got his way. Whenever I dug my heels in (which wasn’t often), he’d become increasingly manipulative. He would tell me that rejecting him made him feel unloved, especially because I was so terrible at showing my affection in any arena outside of sex.

Looking back at my Reddit post, where I asked for relationship advice and reassurance that his behavior was not OK, I cringe. Writing the above, and knowing that I endured his sex addiction despite the pain it caused me, makes me feel like a fool. My post to Reddit wasn’t even completely honest: I wrote that our relationship was fine aside from our sex life. Well, it wasn’t, even aside from the relentless sexual coercion I faced. I developed Bulimia during the course of dating him. I was financially dependent on him, having gone back to school at his urging, and was reminded every day that I should feel lucky and grateful to have his (or his family’s) roof over my head. Prior to leaving for residential treatment at Renfrew for my eating disorder, he had cheated on me. He was still talking to the girl when I came back, hiding that he had a live-in girlfriend.

Even during my time at Renfrew, when I was supposed to be healing and focusing on myself, he’d ask anytime I called him if I told my therapist about “how we are sexually.” I didn’t even tell my truth when in the best setting to do so, as I subconsciously knew that my treatment team would likely intervene. (My therapist was already concerned I wouldn’t do well in recovery, given that he was such poor support, and that was without her knowing the more gruesome details of our relationship.) Worst of all, when I left for residential treatment, we had promised we’d both work on our compulsive behaviors – and while I took the steps I needed, he spent my two weeks in a psychiatric unit for damaged girls and women watching cuckold porn and talking to the chick he cheated on me with.

These are not details I discussed with Richard. His Vice article, published earlier this month, focuses on when the cuckold and hotwife fetish puts strain on a relationship, and uses my story as one example (among a few others). After writing about my experience at Richard’s request, the part of our conversation he featured in his article is the conclusion I came to as I tried to answer some of his questions. Cuckold/hotwife fantasies differ from other fetishes because they involve the objectification of both your partner and the relationship between you. (Striped socks have nothing on this kink.) In understanding this, I also understand how many red flags I ignored as I fell deeper and deeper into a shared life with a sex addict. I could rattle off the list, but they all suggest the same thing: he didn’t see me as a person, and he was selfish.

While the men featured in Richard’s article were able to identify wrongness in their obsession (even if they couldn’t overcome it), experiencing – much like my ex – an inability to be intimate with their significant other, my boyfriend of three and a half years was unable to acknowledge the damage he inflicted. Not just on me, but also on himself. As part of his unwillingness to handle his sex addiction, he lied and cheated and manipulated. When we ultimately broke up, the story he told didn’t include three and a half years of sexual harassment. He didn’t tell people how he made me feel insecure by constantly demanding that I change my body, how I dress, and even how I do my makeup. No, the story he told was that I was a crazy girl with an eating disorder. Because disclosing my medical history (even the “crazy” part) to everyone we knew mutually (and those he met afterward) was more OK, and more socially acceptable, than acknowledging his role in destroying my sense of self.

Don’t mistake writing about my ex as dwelling on a situation I’ve left behind. While it’s only been a little over a year, I normally don’t think of him outside of trying to create a poem or some prose based on a period of my life that was emotionally rich. There are triggers, of course: I’m angered whenever I feel like someone is controlling what I can say or do, since my relationship also involved trying to control how I dressed and behaved outside of sex. There are also areas in which I’ve grown as part of my experience, as much as I hate to admit it. I’m not quiet when I feel wronged, and I’m learning how to express myself. I stand by my opinions. And I am likable this way, even if my ex made me fear that I’d have even less of a life simply by being myself, that I needed to be quiet and demure to be both loved and liked.

As much as I attempt to move on, however, I’m in recovery. It means that even if I’ve put the past behind me, I’m still dealing with how a sexually abusive relationship affected this present version of myself. Due to my abusive father, I went into my adulthood with an inability to distinguish healthy relationships from unhealthy ones. And then I stumbled into my ex after a relatively OK marriage (where the man I was involved with made me feel lovable and worthy of love for the first time in my life, even if things ultimately ended between us). My ex undid a lot of the progress I made, and he undid it gradually. So when I decided to leave him, I was somewhat lost.

Although I’ve attempted to rebuild my life instead of allowing it to fall apart, I’ve made mistakes. I thought being upfront about my past would protect me to some degree. I wanted to know what it was like to have fun, to live. I also didn’t want to get hurt. So I was fun, and I tried to weigh the risk of being vulnerable and being hurt against the reward of finding love. In the trysts I fell into since, I learned that being hurt and finding that you’re still capable of being vulnerable enough to offer your heart to another are not mutually exclusive. But it’s also scary, sometimes, to see how little progress I’ve made in identifying my own boundaries. I only see evidence that they looked at the partial picture and intentionally avoided the strokes that didn’t fit their fantasy after the fact. I’ve let the reasons they used to justify their bouts of selfishness be the seeds of doubt. I’m not good enough.

At this point, nearly fourteen months after leaving a relationship I thought would culminate in marriage, I want my core belief to be that these people were not good enough for me, leave alone worth the time I invested in them. This is the benchmark of recovery, the thought that will let me say, I’m an abuse survivor, and not an active victim.

For Readers Reading Into Things

Creative writing is about being creative, not reminiscing over or refusing to move on from the content in prose, poetry, etc. Listen to some sad boy emo shit and you’ll realize it’s fairly standard to mine the fuck out of moments or periods of time (brief or extended or something in between) to generate material. Some is good, most is shit. None of it is truly personal (to anyone except me).

“Just hate me.”

Because I wanted to see the good in him,
I forgot that liars his age
don’t relinquish their defining trait.

Not for friendship,
(not for unrequited love,)
perhaps not for anyone.

So maybe you just don’t know.
After all, I feel like a
story he left untold.

You Are (Not) the Sun

Having left the darkness, numb from its cold, I mistook you for the sun. Refrain from blaming me, if you can. I’ve been told my faults, both imagined and real, my venue for a mythological tradition that lives by my words robbed by your own. How unfair is a thought that continues to burn within me – a fire fueled by oxygen as soon as it returns to my lungs.

Because you knew, just as I did, that I was only curious to explore the ruins of a world I once yearned to leave behind. And when I discovered you at the precipice of reality, staring into an abyss of make-believe, you pulled me into space that existed in neither. You told me you embraced me out of pity. But when I found you, you were lost and you were lonely. I was a tether that kept you from escaping into the void.

And all my effort was reduced to a chapter you will tuck away. You knew earlier than I did that our time was finite, the end marked by your return to a world that always embraced you. From the start, I was invisible in your stories of experiences we shared. But even if you prefer to forget, I know my place in tales of contusions and broken bones, corners turned at the wrong time, dark theaters with the flesh of your palm pressed against mine, the parts of my home you stole, and every moment you begged me to come, to stay.

Why do I continue to waste my words on you? I wonder, until I think of the truth in simple language. It’s ugly to see and even worse to say: for you, I’m just a crazy girl, just another one you fucked. So I continue to make sense of the ending, as if our final moments were like a draft. I can’t live until I revive the capacity to love that died with you. Perhaps my hope reinforces a narrative where I am best to you buried. Still, in time, I yearn to create a new conclusion, to reduce your character as you had mine, and transform our moments shared to read like a fable.

Winners Never Quit (So I Do)

As much as I want to be OK, the reality is far different. I’m strongly considering seeking residential treatment for Bulimia Nervosa again. And this is difficult to admit, in addition to being shameful, especially in the face of trying to convince myself of my own recovery.

So much of the progress I made since the final month of 2016 was undone. When I tug, the root of reinfection seems to be the assault I experienced right before Christmas, but a number of things have occurred since that certainly made it more difficult to kill the reemergence of compulsive disordered eating patterns. On one hand, I feel like a failure. On the other, I know that BN and other eating disorders are not always conquered so quickly. Either way, it’s difficult to see the emotional resilience and tolerance I worked hard to cultivate become thin, to wane.

There’s nothing beautiful that I can write about this illness, but I can use words that bring honesty to the current state of my life.

Change

I put my change in a mason jar

A piece for every lie you told

Bar the most important one

Love’s Lessons

In our time apart, we grew closer; words eclipsed distance faster than our feet covered ground. With each infatuation, I learn something new about myself. You taught me that love, in its infancy, is easiest when miles separate the subject from the object of a verb.