The Switch

“A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet. A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions and break your heart open so new light can get in.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

Many people who have been in an emotionally destructive relationship can identify the exact moment “the switch” took place. That’s when the previously subtle progression of emotional abuse takes a dramatic step forward. Mired in the deep and unsettling confusion that accompanied the one in mine, I mistook it for a massive misunderstanding.

Prior to that day, my boyfriend still found ways to make it very clear he saw me as the love of his life. Back then, I failed to see the inconsistencies between how much said he loved me and how often he chastised me. Once my denial was broken much later in our relationship, the disparity would be clear and vivid.

“If you really believe all the horrible things you just said about me, why on earth are you still with me?” I’d ask. It was a logical question with no answer.  

In the early stages, I basked in the stretches when I felt cherished and connected with my boyfriend. They were the tasty sandwich fillings of our relationship. Like a deli cutting back on the good stuff and charging the same price, they were getting slimmer. Yet they still tasted so good!

The slices of aggression that surrounded them were getting thicker. They were stale and hard to chew through. But the prospect of getting back to a phase of bliss was enough to risk losing a tooth or two. 

During the increasing periods of conflict, I yearned for the days when I felt adored and cherished. I couldn’t grasp why we couldn’t find a way to maintain that. I felt strongly that I could if he was willing to meet me halfway, but he seemed to have an issue with a discovery he’d stumbled upon. I was my own person, a woman with her own beliefs, opinions and a range of feelings that like any human being sometimes dipped into the lower realms.

I wasted a lot of energy trying to comprehend why this presented an issue for him, to no avail. Had I not started devouring books about emotional abuse after our breakup, I still wouldn’t have any clue why the man who had treated me like a Goddess began to treat me as his enemy. 

I also wouldn’t know that in order for the switch to take place, he needed to feel extremely secure in our relationship. According to verbal abuse expert Patricia Evans, this switch often begins just after marriage. But we hadn’t married. What had made him feel so safe?

I checked my journal, more grateful than ever for my daily practice of scribing my feelings, dates included. Earlier in the day I experienced this dramatic switch, I had taken him to file for divorce from his fake wife.

It was going to be an easier and quicker process than he’d ascertained and he was ecstatic on the way home. He chatted excitedly about the life we were going to build together and the possibilities that awaited us. I listened as he began to suggest big plans for the two of us, without asking how I felt about any of them.

In one scenario, we were living in Florida, where I was  helping him further his music career. In another, we were spending time in his native country. In a third, we were residing in a European country that he was also a citizen of. After we married, I could become a citizen myself and could work in any European country, perhaps as an English teacher.

Wait. What?

My spontaneous nature was loving the prospect of possibilities but it was also getting quite dizzy. I was obviously going to need to clone myself if I was going to live in three countries at once, plus visit New York often and travel for my own career.

A career which wasn’t going to entail teaching English as a second language. Where had this guy been when I’d been talking about my career and future professional aspirations?

It was too much to even process let alone respond to and it wasn’t a conversation to engage in while driving. Oblivious to my silence, he continued to plan our lives. Hoping to deter him before my head spun off, I suggested we stop for lunch.

I pulled into a parking lot of a place that sounded like the perfect spot for self medicating with carbs. Then in case I didn’t seem overwhelmed enough, he led me into the jewelry store next door and asked the saleswoman to show us engagement rings. This all but inspired the first panic attack of my life.

She stared at my face quizzically, seeming more interested in sizing up my mental state than my finger. We presented as a couple in love but I must have looked like I was going to pass out. 

Things were getting a little too real for me. A little too fast.

I told him I wasn’t a diamond girl. I’d always viewed engagement rings in a multifaceted negative light. I get that some people love them. We all have different opinions and preferences, and I respect that.

I was about to discover I was dating someone who didn’t feel the same way, at least not when it pertained to me. 


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