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  • J.L. Whitehead

The warning signs

When I think back on the worst relationship that I wound up in, one of the things that I can clearly remember is that all the warning signs were there. They flashed like the red lights you see when you are approaching a train crossing and can see the circular lights of a train barreling down the tracks.


I went into the relationship when I was 23, still a kid really when you think about it. I was rebounding from my first relationship that ended in emotional disaster. In retrospect, I was the perfect candidate for the man/boy that I wound up with. Someone once described him as being “non-marriageable material.” Meaning, he was perfect for a one-night stand, but not someone that you can commit yourself to. I’ve come to realize that he was committed to no one except himself…at that time anyway.


He was young, the same age as me. And the first memory that I have of him cheating on me was on one of our first dates. He had invited me back to his apartment. At the time, I was still flying high on the fact that I met a brother who checked off all my boxes. He was smart, intelligent and he had a smile that made me melt. I remember it being freezing cold inside his place, but I overlooked it because I enjoyed being with him. Now when it came time for us to go to sleep and since it was too cold to sleep in his bedroom, we camped out in the living room. I was stretched out on the sofa, he on a few cushions beside me on the floor.

But he did something that should have jumped out at me immediately. He put the key that led to his apartment under a mat in the hallway explaining that he had a friend that periodically stopped by because he worked a late shift at a nearby hospital and the buses stopped running before he got off work. I, of course, believed him because, well why wouldn’t I? I had no idea that this was a lie. And I soon found out at about three in the morning when his friend came in.


The chaos that ensued blew my mind and I left abruptly thinking that that was that. Since the buses had stopped running, I had no choice but to walk the six miles home, and during that trek, I kept thinking how stupid I was for placing my hopes in a man that had hurt me from the very beginning. But a damaged person like me (and possibly you) overlooks even the glaringly obvious, so when he called the next morning and gave me an excuse about his not knowing why his friend was so upset (I don’t remember what he said) but it wasn’t long until we were dating again.


Sometimes, as broken people, we overlook the obvious. We want to believe that the person that we’re with can’t do what we may suspect. We give them credit where credit isn’t necessarily due.


Since then, we descended into a myriad of lies, disrespect, deceit and ultimately violence. This happened slowly and over a long period of time. But this isn’t about him; this is about how we as damaged people negotiate what can sometimes be rocky waters.


In my case, I kept giving him a pass. Whenever he executed a misstep or when I caught him in a lie, I would overlook it. But what he would do is make the problem about me. I was the reason for his infidelity. I was the reason why we couldn’t be together. The issues were never about him and hindsight being what it is, it never would be.


All the heartbreak could have been avoided if I listened to my common sense instead of my heart which was also damaged. I would not have listened to petty excuses that became outright lies. I would not have entertained the notion that the young man that I had just met would be true to me in any sense of the word. Five years would have been saved instead of wasted.


But I learned something in that five-year time period.


I learned what I would put up with and what I wouldn’t. I learned that despite the damage that molestation caused me, I am a survivor…just like you.


We have endured the worst to come out on the other side and be our best…even if we don’t know it. We came out with a greater sense of self-worth instead of wallowing in a pool of self-pity. Sure, we shed tears and leaned on our friends’ shoulders sharing our story to anyone that would listen.


What we didn’t realize (and I wish someone had pointed this out when I was younger) is that a damaged person (male or female) may look for healing in the unhealthiest of places. Our way of thinking has been altered. The trajectory of who we would have been is non-existent. What’s in its place is our damaged sense of self, but that sense has been altered. The part of us that houses common sense has been adjusted to accept the grand faults of others and overlook their shortcomings; shortcomings that in some cases can be deadly.


Sometimes, it takes extreme pain for us to understand what we want as well as what we don’t. This particular relationship ended with my spiraling out of control and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. There were things that I simply didn’t understand then that I do now. I think they call this emotional growth.


Now does this mean that you or I won’t make mistakes, no. But what we will do is continue to grow and get better. Our goal is to become the best version of ourselves despite our past. But becoming the best version of us requires diligence, self-evaluation, and patience.


After all, Rome was not built in a day.


~ J.L. Whitehead


NOTE: I am not a licensed therapist nor am I a doctor. All information that I am conveying is based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ from mine, however, you may see parts of yourself in my journey.



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