No More Cool Girl BS For Me

Forgiveness is complicated. It’s not linear, it’s a path. 

It’s strange to think about in hindsight. I will admit that this all feels like a different lifetime ago and like it happened to someone else. 

While now I see the relationship for what it had been, in the middle of it no one could convince me to leave. The tumultuous, dark, draining relationship that was drowning me defined me. Partly because I was stubborn and partly because I didn’t want to feel like a failure. I didn’t want the nine years of effort I invested (I used to say ‘wasted’ but now I understand how important this life event was) to fail and in turn, make me a failure. 

Atlanta, June 2013 was the end of it. 

We had dated for eight years, and remained in some weird limbo of cordial, together, separated, friends, friends with benefits, ‘it’s complicated’ and any other combination humans who once dated can come up with to describe their manner of relation to the other said human.

The back and forth was relentless and exciting until it became exhausting and boring.

He gave me butterflies even in the end, but the true iteration of butterflies – pangs of fear, anxiety, ‘get away from this person as fast as you possibly can’ butterflies.

This isn’t the important part anymore.

The important part was the moving on. The part that seemed like years in the making, and if we are being honest, was. 

I unfriended him after weeks of debating whether I should, or not. It was that exact decision fatigue that finally decided for me. 

I sat on the hotel room bed, sixteen floors over Atlanta on a clear summer afternoon, realizing many things. 

I came to Atlanta alone to attend a convention.  A few months ago I had been brave enough to pack up and move to Chicago all alone. I had navigated NYC multiple times alone so why in the world did I feel the need to hold on to this reliance on this person whose own indecisiveness kept me in a perpetual downward spiral?

A person who with the same breath claimed to love me informed me about the relationship he started with another woman and coldly explained that this particular woman was worth it to him and I wasn’t. 

So I hit unfriend and it was done.

I waited for the eventual message, his attempt to draw me back in.

It never came.

Time passed and more time passed with no message and I finally had the space I hadn’t realized I needed to start unpacking thoughts and feelings long ignored.

As a woman, in my first serious, and only relationship up to that point, I had an unfailing drive to just ‘make it work.’ That meant ignoring red flags and warning signs and forging on with determination to hunker down and be the best girlfriend in the world. 

(Whatever that meant.)

Surely he would appreciate me then, once I was perfect. 

He used to comment on every move I’d make, clothing choices, food choices, eviscerated my pop culture love and generally had me walking on egg shells for his approval, begging for it even. 

So if I only worked harder to be more this and less that, lose weight, dye my hair, wear these clothes don’t wear makeup etc. etc. ad nauseam, then for sure he wouldn’t find any other woman more interesting than me. 

I was never going to win this game, he enjoyed the boost to his ego too much.

The saddest part to me now is that I thought this was normal. 

This was everything my late teen self ever wanted, an artists’ romance full of pain and longing and torture. Looking at it now I know that it was ugly love.

And I was tired.

And I had enough.

I couldn’t deal anymore with the late night Facebook messages about how boring his current girlfriend was, the one he left me for, the one he asked me for advice about ‘since he and I were friends now right?’

I couldn’t take any more ‘how are you, hope you’re well’ messages, which I didn’t come to understand their true purpose until much later on. I couldn’t take one more ‘like’ on a picture of me doing something super fun without him that I intentionally posted for that exact reason. The attention. Specifically from him. 

I didn’t want to play the game anymore. I wanted to live authentically. 

No more ‘cool girl’ BS for me. 

So when people ask about my past and I break it down to the 30 second TV ad version, and after all the "why did you stay"s pass and all the "what an asshole"s are said I sit with the knowledge that it had always been two sided. His game maybe a little more vicious than mine in the end, because I’ve never been very good at hurting people intentionally. I was just selfish and wanted what I thought was mine. He, however, was a master at manipulation and getting the reactions he desired.

As I sat in Atlanta, making new friends, thousands of miles away from my home, doing things alone, not thinking about him every second, or waiting for his ‘likes’ to pop up in my Instagram notifications, and getting annoyed when they eventually did, I realized I was scared, but I was over it more than anything and I was ending the cycle.

It took a newly laid foundation of self-reliance to truly move past what had transpired between us. He had torn down my self-confidence so low that it took me years to rebuild. Hell, it took me years to even understand what he had done to me. How he skillfully manipulated emotional responses out of me that left cuts and scars but excited him. How he made me feel like I was crazy when he spent the night at a female co-worker’s apartment on Valentine’s Day because she ‘needed’ him and I let him know it upset me.

I learned later on, after sitting with my feelings, while running, while cleaning, while cooking, while doing any of the things I enjoyed doing that in the end, it was never about my love for him. It was about keeping his attraction to me alive, because for some reason that I still can’t explain, and should maybe work on at some point, his attraction to me and his wanting me and only me validated me. 

Now as I sit here and type this I couldn’t care less. My current partner makes it known how much he likes me, and only wants me, never talks down to me, listens to my crappy pop music with me just because it makes me smile and makes sure to make me feel that I am just fine as I am. (Unless I need an attitude adjustment which is one of the reasons I was so drawn to him in the first place, he’s not afraid to respectfully tell me when I am being an asshole.)

Five years single taught me a lot about myself and it sounds cliché but it’s the truth. To love someone else in a way that can be built upon you have to know yourself and have the ability to rely on yourself first and understand your own motives.

Now I have found beautiful love. Love that fills the cracks, similar to the Hemingway quote, I find myself strong in the broken places now. 

But there was a lot of work that I had to do, alone, first. 

I have not forgiven him and will not, but I no longer hate him and I rarely think of him at all, and it’s always fleeting if I ever do. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness because he never apologized. His self-righteousness that Geminis hold so dear wouldn’t let him.

And that was and is fine. I didn’t and don’t need an apology and I didn’t need to forgive him to move on. I made peace with the situation on my own and now I am nothing but neutral in my feeling toward him. The true opposite of love. Once the hate dissipated, once I realized my faults in the process, I am now Switzerland when it comes to him.

And that’s my win because he will never be able to illicit the responses from me he used to get off on and I have a partner I can watch One Direction videos with and dance and sing and laugh and love beautifully and authentically. 

by: Stephanie Lynn

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