What goes around comes around

Maybe this was his plan from the start – as payback for me breaking his young heart fifteen years ago. I always knew he was smart in unconventional ways, but I never considered him to be devious. If payback was his goal, he hit is mark expertly. I fell for it. I fell for him all over again. And this time, my opressive parents weren’t in the picture to push us apart. We also weren’t the carefree teenagers we had been back then either. Life had been tough on each of us in its own way.

But when you’re nineteen years old and your high school aged girlfriend lets you touch her breasts, it’s the best feeling in the world. And the worst feeling is when she breaks up with you in a field at the end of summer. It was the very same field where she slow danced with you under the stars at the start of that same summer. The two of you had danced to the song “Hey Jude” – the very song she said played in her head throughout her graduation march. It was a song that hadn’t existed in her world until you introduced her to it through the stereo speakers in your car.

But when you’re middle-aged with grey growing into your hair, the worst feeling is knowing the kids from your first failed marriage want nothing to do with you – and fearing that maybe they never will again. The second worst feeling is seeing how your toddler from a six-year on-and-off again romance is emotionally tethered to his mother and hasn’t yet bonded with you.

And then she appears again – this beautiful swan-like woman full of grace reappears in your life, helping you forget that worst feeling… if only for a little while. She helps you forget with her smile. She massages the aches from your body. She holds you to her breasts as she hears how your heart breaks with unreturned love for your children and the hopes you once held to with their mother. And she helps you forget with her kiss.

She kisses you not only with her lips, but her whole body – perhaps even the entirety of her being. Breathing in sharply, she then slowly sighs as her arms wrap themselves around you. Her hands dig into your hair, caress your back, pull at your shirt. It must have felt so good for him to be so needed.

And that was my mistake – I allowed myself to need him. I felt safe with him. I trusted him. However, it was he who wanted (or in hindsight, maybe he only pretented to want) me to meet his children so soon. I managed to put it off and perhaps he simply let me think I was the one procrastinating as he bided his time. He was all too eager to make me into their next step-mother. But that was a role they had only ever known one woman to fill. And it was a role it did not consider lightly.

I never did meet his children. When he told me it was over between us, he explained that he had to consider what was best for them, implying that I would be dangerous to them somehow. In the span of only a week he seemed to have gone from having the belief I would make the perfect stepmother, to thinking I am some kind of monster. He told me that he would always have a relationship with his “ex” because she was the mother of his children – all of his children.

After a week of him being away for work, I had believed that we would fall back into a familiar routine.  My first clue was that he didn’t kiss me upon greeting or at any point in our time together his first day back. The last clue was that he didn’t want me to stay the night. However, it was in the middle when he said “I never stopped caring about you.” I could recognize the love light was gone from his eyes. If that were the only thing, perhaps I could have remained in denial another day or two. But one word had changed – and I could not ignore that word.

It was on a late-night drive just a week or two into our renewed relationship that I told him how serious my mental illness is – and how it affects both my life and the lives of those close to me. I tried to illustrate just how difficult it can be to have any sort of relationship with me. I told him ugly and unsettling things about myself and my behavior. After I was done, I braced myself for his response. Then he took my hand and looked at me quietlty for a moment. That’s when he said, “This doesn’t change how I feel about you. I love you – and I never stopped loving you.”

The look in his eyes seemed sincere. I believed him. I believe that look. I was foolish. His “ex” had warned me I would just be a rebound. I thought I had been clever to retort that “he loved me first.” That’s when she fired back that she was the mother of his child and that would always put her ahead of me in his heart. She was right. Once he was done needing a distraction from his pain, he threw me away.

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