Tips For Guys Wearing Women’s Jeans

In a previous writing I discussed my new found interest in blending my wardrobe and wearing some pieces of women’s clothes in public. During my online searches for alternative ways of dressing I found a lot of folks asking if guys can wear women’s clothes. Now who knows what they meant by this. Some were probably interested in venturing out and expanding their self-expression. Others still, were probably trying to make their shame someone else’s problem by policing gender.

For those hoping to branch out and find women’s clothes to wear then yes, you can absolutely put on something cute and flit about town. Since I have some experience in this, I thought I was in a key position to help men out in their quest.

For those who feel the need to police how others may dress; see a therapist.

I must caution that I have resorted to generic terms of men and women, masculine and feminine, for the sake of clarity. However, make no mistake that if these labels don’t fit you, then trust me when I say that I see you.

I’m going to begin talking about pants because I think that is an easy way to introduce a piece of women’s clothing into your wardrobe in a more subtle way than a shirt or a dress would be. Because we often slowly explore things rather than jumping straight in with an entire wardrobe, this seems like a good place to dip in the proverbial painted toe. So let’s start at the top and work our way down by learning a little about women’s pants.

As you will soon find out, I will be referencing the penis and testicles fairly often as that is a chief issue with form and function when crossing clothing styles. So don’t get squeamish on me now.

Where to shop

The only way you are going to know what size works for you is to try some things on. When I started crossdressing I bought things discreetly online. I’m also on a budget so that often means getting things preowned from places like Ebay. The key here is to find sellers who actually do the measuring of their garments. If you buy new from online or even online auction sites, just go to the clothing manufacturer website of the item you are thinking of purchasing and use the size chart to your advantage.

You’ll need to pick up a clothing measuring tape (also used for body measurements) to find out what your actual measurements are. Clothing sizes are wishful thinking at best.

If you are in the store, finding your size is much easier and probably cheaper in the long run. Grab a couple of sizes that you think are approximate and head to a dressing room. 

Waist

In women’s clothes waist size is a series of numbers that has nothing to do with any real world number. I find that I may be anywhere between a size 4 and an 8 depending on which brand and style I have in my hands. It’s infuriating. It would be great if all clothing manufacturers actually used real world measurement as a size. Nothing is true in clothes anymore though and we carry shame about the actual measurements of our waist in part because clothing manufacturers are doing stupid shit like this. 

However, here we are so this means you’ll have to know your actual measurement if ordering online. Do not use the size of your men’s pants because that shit ain’t real either. The men’s jeans I buy list a 28 or 30 waist, but my actual waist measurement is closer to 32 inches.

Stretch fabrics will also measure differently than non stretch fabrics. Within the same brand you may find that a size 6 for instance will fit you in a stretch jean but will require a size 5 in regular jean fabric (or that scenario in reverse).

Some pants, generally non-jean materials, have a size of small, medium, large and so on. The manufacturer’s size chart is a good tool here if you can’t try these pants on in person.

If you’re going to try things on in a store then knowing your measurement isn’t as important as you can just try them on and go from there.

Rise

The rise in a pant is the measurement from the bottom of the crotch to the top of the waist band. There is ultra-low (rare nowadays but popular in the late 90’s), low, mid, high, ultra-high (popular as of this writing and goes by various names).

Low rise works for some guys but others will find it uncomfortable. If you are thin and a low-rise waist doesn’t create a muffin-top kinda scenario for you then you might find this style a good fit. 

An unintentional benefit of these pants is that because they have less distance between the bottom of the crotch and the top of the waistband the zipper is placed lower and takes up a greater area of the front of the pant which makes standing to pee a bit easier. However, the low rise also means it’s a short zipper so it’s still not the easiest feat when it comes time to go fishing for your penis. 

While you’re wearing low-rise pants, bend at the knees and squat to the floor. Where do the pants go? If they start to make you look like a handyman who could use suspenders then go with a pair of pants with a higher rise. You could also look for a low rise style which doesn’t fit snug on your upper thighs which can sometimes contribute to pulling your pants down during such a maneuver. However, I’m not here to yuck your yum, so you do you my dear. 

If the pants stay mostly in place and require very little repositioning when you stand up then this could be a good rise height for you. Even with little movement, I still prefer to wear a belt with low rise pants just to help keep things in place. It keeps the pants snug on my butt, which makes me look better and also gives me a way to accessorize by adding a masculine or feminine flare.

Mid rise is probably where most guys will be comfortable. Pants with this level of rise sit where most people (aside from your 90 year old uncle Harold) wear their pants. A mid rise pant will move around less when bending over as well. I’m guessing that a belt here is still most people’s friend, but you’ll know more about that when you try them on.

High rise pants are a bit of a mystery to me. I don’t have the body type to make these look good. Even if I did, my main concern would be function. Women’s high rise pants often still retain a  small zipper but it is positioned even higher than most other style pants. That means that your deliciously naughty bits sit below the zipper behind a piece of fabric generally bisected with a seam. So if the seam pushes too far up you can end up with a moose knuckle look. Now I am a fan of seeing curves in this type of scenario but it may not be your thing so just keep that in mind.

The other concern is that a higher zipper placement means nothing is lined up to pee whilst standing. You’re going to have to drop trow in order to make that happen. Welcome to a woman’s world.

The other issue with high waisted pants is that they are made for wider hips and a narrower waist. Flaunt it if you got it, but most guys are not built like this so I could see how the fit could miss the mark on multiple fronts.

Leg/Fit Style

Flexibility can be an issue for a number of the styles we are talking about here. Try a pair on, raise your legs, squat down, and just get a sense of how much flexibility you will have. I love how some jeans look but have passed on getting them due to a lack of functionality.

Skinny/Jeggings

Skinny jeans are those which generally hug your legs from start to finish. These also include jeggings which are extremely stretchy jeans that fit like leggings. Be careful with jeggings because a tight fitting ankle is often easy to slide on, but difficult to get back off when dealing with larger feet and ankles. I do not recommend a low rise in this style as crouching will always pull the pants down.

Additionally, while jeggings can be made of extremely stretchable fabric they are often too tight to allow complete free range of motion when raising your legs or bending down. I am extremely thin but even I find these uncomfortable. The flexible fabrics also double to serve the wearer with a mission impossible; positioning your genitalia in any way that could be considered aesthetically pleasing. So while these might be fun around the house (something I still don’t find to be true) they lose utility whilst going about your day.

Bootcut and Flare

These are pants which get larger towards the leg openings. Men’s pants have boot cut options so that style is not a foreign concept for most guys. Flare pants generally have a larger leg opening still and will definitely denote to others that you are wearing women’s pants. It’s a stylistic choice for both of these and some are more subtle than others. Generally these pants fit tighter on the upper leg and relax more as they go down, but each brand is different.

Wide Leg

Similar to boot cut and flare but more relaxed through the thigh and often have a flare at the bottom. Width can vary from slightly wide to extremely wide based on style preference.

Straight

Pretty simple. Just as with guys pants these are a straight shaped leg from start to finish. If you want a feminine look but still retain just a hint of that mysterious and wonderful androgyny then try these as they are also slightly relaxed.

Mom jeans

Yup, here we are. These are jeans that generally have a high waist but a more relaxed fit through the thighs and legs. Some taper toward the leg openings and others are more of a straight leg. It is a broad category and each manufacturer has their own variation on this loosely defined style.

Boyfriend jeans

Like mom jeans, this one is hard to nail down, but these generally hover around a mid-rise waist and have a more relaxed fit somewhere between straight and wide leg. However, like mom jeans, designers are mixing and matching to such an extent that it is hard to tell what you’ll end up with in terms of rise and leg style.

Leg length

Finally something we can talk about that is simple. These run the gamut of petite/short, extra/short, petite, short, regular, long, tall, x-long, and so on and so forth. The best way to find this out is to measure your inseam and use fitting charts online or try them on in the store. Interestingly, leg length is usually accurate so the inseam listed on your guy pants should transfer over to the size chart for women’s. While we are deathly afraid to know our waist size apparently we have no such qualms about the length of our appendages, well . . . most appendages.

Cautions

So here are the extra little things you should know about women’s jeans. 

The tighter the fit through the hips then the less room you will have for your genitalia. I buy pants that fit fairly snug through the hip area. While walking I do not notice anything but I am used to being cradled by brief underwear anyhow. If you wear boxers, yawn . . . sorry I drifted off there for a moment, then this will be a much different transition for you. 

Sitting down is another thing altogether. Things get a bit tight but I honestly enjoy the feeling. It’s a reminder of what I’m wearing and I’m not uncomfortable, rather I’m just getting used to a different fit. I don’t notice it much anymore but I still wouldn’t want to wear them for a 12 hour cross country drive. For most situations they work just fine. Your results will vary and there is no way to know until you give it a go.

I alluded to this but allow me to say outright that your underwear selection matters … a lot. Those boxers I mentioned before are not going to work. In fact, just throw those out all together, you’re not doing anyone any favors. In boxers you are hanging free which means that the seam in women’s pants are pretty much going to position everything to one side or another which isn’t going to look good at all. Something that holds your bits in a pouch is going to be much better as everything will stay a bit more centered. All briefs are not created equal. I have found that the tighter a pair of underwear holds me in place then the better off I am wearing them with my women’s jeans. Still, there is no ideal positioning unless you’re going to tuck entirely. Something is going to favor one side or another. For me I just try to minimize it as much as possible but then embrace whatever I can’t hide.

If you are doing a low-rise jean then some underwear may creep above the waist band. This could be a style that might work for you if your undies are fashionable and less so if your waist band says Fruit of the Loom. Luckily, briefs also come in different rises so if this is a continued problem I’d try a lower cut.

A tighter pants fit also gives a better look at your butt. The drawback here is that the lines your underwear creates can be problematic. Jock-strap underwear may create a dented line where your butt meets your legs as can some briefs. Plus if your goal is to show off your butt (and I have long thought that it should be) then, in my opinion, a thong is the way to go. The pants will be able to cradle each butt cheek without the added resistance of a full panel of fabric from conventional underwear getting in the way. This will allow your posterior to have as much definition as possible.

The other drawback is pants that make your butt look awesome are also just as form fitting in the front which leaves no room or flattering way to position a penis and however many testicles you have. It’s an unfortunate reality, but here we are nonetheless.

Women do benefit here by having seamless underwear. Unfortunately, those will not work well if you have a penis as the lack of seams just allows everything to fall out. 

If you’re going to go the full crossdressing route or are transitioning then there are what they call gaffs to help hold everything in a more concealed position, but I do not have experience with these so I cannot comment further. There is also a company called FIT4U Solutions that claims to have compression underwear without the need for tape or gaff. Again though, I have no experience with these.

The most functionally infuriating thing is pocket space. Women have been rightly complaining about this for years. This is something that you need to check out when you’re trying on pants. Some styles have so little pocket space you’ll wonder why they are even there (some pockets aren’t there). I have a small minimalist wallet the size of a debit card and I can barely fit that into my back pocket. My keys, also minimalist, occupy an entire front pocket. My phone, which is a smaller model (notice a pattern here), sticks out of the other front pocket. Admittedly, I like my phone showing on the front because it is what I’m used to seeing when women wear those pants. Therefore, it makes me feel more feminine. In reality, it’s simply a result of poor design. If I was doing anything with a lot of movement I wouldn’t feel that my phone was safe, but it’s fine for just strutting around.

Color

The last consideration is color. Conventional wisdom says that if you’re looking to conceal some of your masculine lines then dark colors will help accomplish that. I think that’s true but you also have to like how you look in them and so if you find a pair of jeans that you really like and they are in red, white, or whatever then I say just go for it. Wear what makes you feel good luv.

There you have it. I hope I have covered everything you wanted (pun partially intended). Folks with penises can absolutely wear women’s jeans. In fact, my opinion is that these bodies look all the more dreamy in femme fashion. I also vote for letting your bulge show, but given that I really need to work on controlling my drooling in public, I’ll leave that choice up to your preference and comfort level which is all that really matters anyway.

Go out, have fun with it, and let your femme flag flutter like a summer dress in the breeze.

Jettison

By Jeremy

(I wrote this article as a submission for a book which was an anthology about trauma in the punk rock community. Should it ever get published I will mention it here.)

Have you ever wished someone dead? I have. Not from spite mind you. That’s a temporary knee-jerk emotional reaction. The wish of which I speak comes from something deeper. It stems from a need of what feels like survival and a sense that you won’t be allowed to heal without the separation of six feet of dirt between you and someone else. It is derived out of helplessness rather than malice.

Two years prior to developing my morbid desire, I was blossoming full speed ahead…assuming, for a moment, that flowers can achieve speed. I was living in a new state with a new job and for the first time in my life I was openly queer. Not that any of these things feature in this story mind you. I’m just saying that it was one of the best times of my life. 

Then I started dating someone and things plummeted downward as I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship. Nowadays, I prefer to avoid talking about the abuse I experienced. It’s not that it triggers me. It’s just that my need to have others know my trauma is becoming increasingly unnecessary for me.

Nonetheless, here is a brief description of my experience with a few examples so you can better understand the type of behavior I endured and the steps in my recovery. My hope is that this will help people if they have been through this, or if they haven’t, to help them support someone who has.

The person I dated used control and emotional abuse as the cutting edge of their blade. I was kept from my friends and given the third degree if someone messaged me. My social media had to be replete with mentions of her and yet, I was absent from hers. The writings for my blog were often examined to pass her censor. Eventually, she tried to turn my friends against me. There was also the continual attempt to control me with money which she actually said entitled her to special treatment in return. She was fond of taking gifts back each time we broke up.

Our breakups, of which there were many, generally happened as the result of an emotional tantrum when things didn’t go her way. This was all my fault because as she stated “I just made her so mad sometimes.” When we were apart she would use any means she could to reunite us. Usually this consisted of letting me know there was a ticking clock, by taunting me with who she was dating or having sex with next. 

A surprising number of times she was able to get herself admitted to a hospital in order to bring me back to her side. For example, her explanation of one hospital admittance was that someone had slipped a date-rape drug into her drink, she couldn’t tell me the guy’s name and said that the police went to his house, but forgot to handcuff him so he got away. I guess he disappeared from existence after that. Sometimes she would use the truth to bring me back. Once she admitted that she broke me and put me through hell. She said that if I went through that without leaving then she could finally trust me. You know…as if I was the problem.

She was very good at claiming to be the victim of the very treatment she was administering as part of her gaslighting strategy. For instance, one morning I said I didn’t want to have sex and wanted to wait until later in the day. This upset her, as it always did, and when she didn’t relent I went ahead and had sex for the “good” of the relationship. Afterwards, she would say that she only had sex because I wanted to. This was a common tactic of hers. It didn’t make any sense, but it didn’t have to. She got the behavior she wanted and was able to cast herself as the victim. It was a win-win scenario for her, meaning it was a double loss for me.

Whenever I would stand up for myself she would tell me I was mean. I didn’t know if this was true or not. At this point, my reality had been supplanted by hers. The distortions were palpable and I just couldn’t trust my thoughts anymore.

During our penultimate breakup she used the opportunity to tear asunder anything that I had left. She had me removed from the staff of a pro-women’s cycling team, something which was near and dear to my heart. I was also pushed out of where I lived as she began dating/having sex with my roommate. At her behest, most of our “mutual friends” walked away overnight.

Searching for support, I created a social media post about what I had endured. In response, I heard that she issued her own post to insinuate that I perpetrated some type of sexual impropriety upon her. She deleted it soon thereafter, but perhaps I should have been happy to finally make it onto her Facebook page for a couple of hours.

She made her emotions my responsibility to manage correctly. If I couldn’t then there was hell to pay. It was exhausting because, whether good or bad, it was all toxic. I was on the verge of a mental breakdown from living like this. Hell, in retrospect, I was probably living in the middle of the breakdown. 

Over the course of approximately two years with her, I had experienced a gradual wearing away of my logic, goodwill, and self-respect. It was a dissolution of self that resulted in me feeling empty. I saw the shape I was supposed to recognize as my body but nothing inside felt like me anymore. Even the outside seemed changed, the shine had left my eyes and I looked worn and defeated. 

I had been gradually put in an increasingly smaller box throughout my time with her. Once we were ultimately separated, the box was gone but I didn’t know if I could bring myself to stand upright and occupy the space I needed.

The question that loomed large was, how do I come to terms with what I’ve been through and become me again?


Like a plane crash that never hits the ground. 1

The first thing that gave me some unexpected healing was a general understanding of just who the person was who abused me.

I had read about narcissists and I knew some of the traits fit her, but I still wasn’t immediately convinced. What markedly altered my thinking was an article I read about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from being in a relationship with a narcissist. Ironically, I figured I could read this without repercussions. After all, that wasn’t me. I didn’t have PTSD and she wasn’t a narcissist.

I was woefully mistaken on all fronts. I quickly realized that the article was essentially a description of how I felt and who I was at that point in time.

I don’t want to go into what a narcissist is exactly, because while it is illuminating, such a description takes me too far from the topic of healing. Suffice it to say that a narcissist is not someone who is merely arrogant. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a deep-seeded, mental condition for which there is no cure or treatment. If you’re interested, I would recommend reading a few good articles written by actual therapists, if for no other reason than to be able to identify and stay clear of folks like this, but I digress.

As I learned more about narcissists, I began to critically question what she told me versus what I had experienced – two things which were nearly always at odds. I went back through the entire relationship and reprocessed what had happened devoid of the narrative she had told about herself. 

Each time I found that her actions consistently painted a shockingly accurate picture of her identity. It turns out she was a person who was controlling, yet emotionally out of control, insecure, unreliable, untrustworthy, cruel, and so on and so forth.

I had been struggling to reconcile a construct with reality. It is no wonder that I didn’t know what was real anymore. I had been lied to from the beginning. She had mirrored my beliefs and ethos in order to attract me. I wanted to believe that fairytale so much that I refused to see the actual words on the page. Gradually, I found my mental dissonance was gone. It all finally made sense. I had been in an abusive relationship with a narcissist.

I want to iterate that I don’t think it is overly important to identify an abuser with a personality disorder to begin the healing process. Narcissist or not, it wouldn’t change what I have learned. The revelations that began my healing process weren’t about a label or a mental diagnosis specifically but from the realization that I was the recipient of toxic behavior generally.

Why someone is an abuser is their problem to figure out in therapy (not that they will genuinely seek help). It is far more important for you to realize that what you experienced constituted abuse and that you didn’t/don’t deserve it.


I don’t want to know you, I don’t think we should talk anymore 2

She wanted to remain friends, but even thinking about seeing her was a trigger. My heart would start racing, the past came rushing back and I would get a warm, flushed feeling that washed over my body. My fight or flight impulse took over and I would descend into a state of panic.

I couldn’t keep going like this. There was no chance of friendship with someone who treated me with such utter contempt. She will always seek to manipulate me. A narcissist isn’t going to change. Therefore, I have to.

I broke off all contact. I didn’t clue her in that I was going to do this or make any other pleas for space. That would have given her the opportunity to go off the emotional deep end and make my healthy decision a problem for me. I had already been through enough of that. Instead, I just checked out.

I accepted that going no contact wouldn’t stop her from violating every boundary for which I had previously asked. It was never meant to. The point of no contact isn’t to guide someone else’s actions, it is to guide my own. It was a way for me to break the cycle of abuse. It worked on all fronts.

All the letters that she mailed anonymously, taped to my vehicle during the night, or sent digitally went unread and straight into the trash. I didn’t need to read them. I had read her writings before and I knew it would be a mixture of positive and negative; something a narcissist does best. She would say, I hate you, I love you, I’m so happy without you, I miss you, you’re a liar, you were right, I never want to see you again, and oh yeah . . . we should grab a beer sometime.

Nah, I’m good. I’m actually painting my nails that night.

As it turns out, therapists recommend no contact for those who were in relationships with a narcissist. Lucky for me, I instinctively knew that no contact was the only way forward. I couldn’t be subjected to manipulation and abuse while expecting to heal. Well, perhaps that was possible but there’s no way I was going to put myself back there. Since there were no ties that needed to be kept for the good of anyone else (i.e. children or family) I severed any and all contact.

This distance also had to be permanent. Reaching out to her or returning communication is tantamount to giving her permission to treat me the same all over again. I would be implicitly saying that I put her before my mental health and safety.

As an aside, there was one unexpected outcome from this decision. Going no contact was relatively easy. Granted, it wasn’t always so. Just seeing the messages and letters she sent would trigger me and that was difficult; it was an encroachment into the mental space that I was trying to establish. It took over a year for her to stop harassing me. Even so, there wasn’t as much drama as before. Not only had most avenues of harassment been severed during previous breakups, but refusing to engage her on those that remained kept the drama lower than usual.


All I wanted was a Pepsi. 3

Since what I went through was abuse, I knew I had to answer some hard questions about myself. The red flags were numerous and furiously flapping in the wind. So why did I stay? How had I contributed to my predicament? 

I want to exercise caution here. I’m not saying that the abuse I received was my fault. It wasn’t. However, there is no denying that I should have avoided this relationship from the beginning. Yet, I failed to sidestep tragedy. I had to understand why this happened so that I could avoid making this mistake again.

I discovered two reasons. The first was that I was hopeful. When the treatment wasn’t abusive it was agreeable. I had hoped that if we could eliminate her poor behavior that we could have an amazing relationship. I could give her the steady love that she said she had never experienced. I was sure this would calm her and make her see a stable future with me. All she had to do was get past her insecurities.

What I learned from this is that I am not accountable for fixing someone else. No one is. It doesn’t matter if you are a psychologist, a romantic partner, friend, family member, or write self-help books for a living. There is no one who can heal someone else’s trauma. That work falls to the afflicted person. Trained professionals can obviously help, but ultimately the work still has to be done by the actual person seeking counsel. My narcissist wasn’t seeking help. That’s a red flag in its own right. Regardless, the takeaway is that I am not someone else’s savior. In case you need to hear it, neither are you.

Furthermore, a relationship with a narcissist is always going to fail. It’s never going to be healthy. This is because one person is looking for trust and love and the other is looking for a supply of endless attention and control. 

This realization allowed me to release any notion that somehow the relationship didn’t get to be all it could be. It actually became the only thing it could ever be and no amount of hope and stability on my part was ever going to change that.


I’ll save my best for someone else. 2

The second thing I learned about myself was the hardest truth to internalize. I valued my vulnerability and openness so much that I entered into situations where I knew I shouldn’t be. In truth, I was low-hanging fruit for the first manipulative, ego-driven maniac that wandered my way.

Verdicts seem to waver on whether narcissists pick those close to them for their positive qualities or for the ease of which they can be manipulated. I think it’s both. 

Someone who is living authentically is a beacon that others want to be around. This light will attract a narcissist just as it does anyone else. They too want to be around that energy. This energy and attention a person can give a narcissist is dubbed “the supply” and it’s all they crave from others.4

When that energy becomes too much for a narcissist, such as when a person outshines them or won’t be reduced to the capricious whims of the narcissist, they will try and find a weakness in order to reduce the other person. This means a narcissist will seek to destroy the very beauty to which they are attracted. They will then often criticize the victim for no longer being the person they once were. It’s the paradoxical world in which narcissists live and subject others to. If narcissists can’t produce the effect they want then they often dump the partner and move on to the next supply. 

As I mentioned, I valued my openness and vulnerability. I used these traits as a key vehicle for personal growth. That wasn’t the problem as much as the fact that this was all I valued for my development. I had no counterbalance and unknowingly left myself open to harm. It’s all well and good to be empathetic, compassionate, open, and vulnerable. Those are the good things about me that I treasure and I will keep those traits. What I needed was boundaries.

Being vulnerable without creating and enforcing healthy personal boundaries is a form of self-harm. Boundaries are also equally important for self-growth. It is not my responsibility to give unconditionally to those who cannot reciprocate in a respectful and self-aware manner. Setting boundaries when necessary, guides me in a way that feels more centered. I am not a customer service representative for toxic people.

This is why narcissists irrationally explode when someone they are controlling wants to set a boundary. Healthy boundaries are a form of self-care and narcissists know that this choice will automatically exclude them or seek to reign in their behavior in a way they cannot tolerate.

I was forced to pick between healthy boundaries and a relationship for far too long. The only reason that choice was presented to me over and over again was that I kept making the wrong decision. My toxic partner always required concessions to my emotional health. Conversely, me choosing a healthy boundary would have only needed doing once. The relationship would have ended over my choice and I could have gone about my life secure in knowing I had stood up for what was right.

Stated another way, when someone continually refuses to take responsibility and be accountable for their emotions and actions, there are only two ways forward. The first is to simply accept their toxicity and make the burden yours, therefore normalizing the behavior and beginning a pattern of abuse. The other is to call them out, hold them responsible, and in the absence of change, walk the fuck away (preferably in slow motion as the building explodes behind you).


All the chaos is dragging me under. 5

The discoveries I have heretofore discussed came to me fairly readily and I assumed I was on the path to being completely healed. Then something blindsided me.

I found that even two years free of abuse, I was still having some of the same thoughts and behaviors resurface that I did while in the toxic relationship. My brain had essentially been rewired in response to my past.

Allow me to give an example. A couple of years ago I began a relationship with someone which has blossomed. However, I was self-sabotaging the relationship. If you remember, I intimated that my abuser faked her way into being admitted to the hospital on numerous occasions in order to bring me back to her side, literally and figuratively.

When my current partner found themself in the hospital I became triggered and distant. Truth be told, I momentarily ended the relationship. After all, that was the pattern I was accustomed to. My partner’s legitimate hospital stay made me realize that there are going to be unexpected triggers that crop up from time to time. This is to be expected, but what I do with these thoughts and behaviors is vitally more important than the fact that I’m experiencing them.

With the narcissist, talking about difficult topics or feelings was not accepted or allowed. I would suffer some type of punishment from my desire to have a mutually introspective moment. I learned not to bring difficult topics to the forefront. Admittedly, that is the wrong way to handle key mental health moments, but at the time I was in survival mode. I demurred from having my needs met because I was trying to avoid the narcissist’s vengeance and hoping to center myself in that ever elusive moment of calm. 

Contrast this with my current partner who strives to be emotionally aware and present in our relationship. The result of this, as it turns out, is that we can talk about the most difficult topics and they do not seem difficult at all. 

Accordingly, we discussed the fact that illness and hospital stays had come to be traumatic for me. I told my partner that during my harmful relationship I was in a perpetual state of emotional exhaustion from the day to day bullshit I had to endure. On top of that, during breakups when I was still seeking calm, I would have my empathy used against me to be manipulated into the position of caregiver in order to achieve my abuser’s ulterior motives.

This ability to talk with my current partner reinforces what a positive and healthy relationship should look like. I am learning not to act upon my impulses and that in most cases, just talking about them with my partner is enough to cancel out my fears. Because of this, an illness or hospital stay no longer triggers me. I am now able to be present when I am needed.

For the first time since that traumatic relationship (and in some ways for the first time ever), I realize that love is calm, not nervous fear of losing someone. Love isn’t about shouting, or storming out of the room, or employing the silent treatment. Love isn’t about posturing and overcompensation. That’s all the result of insecurity. Love is about feeling comfortable and secure enough to sit down with someone and talk about each other’s truths and difficulties. Love is about being with someone and acting in a way that does no harm. Love is reliably showing up for each other in a way that can be counted on in the future.

I’m not saying that a relationship can heal me or that it can heal you. This is not a story about being destroyed by one person and being healed by another. As I mentioned, that healing work needs to be done by me alone. Rather, this is just a way of saying what a benefit it is to find someone who prioritizes my emotional health as much as I do theirs. This coupled with my willingness to take responsibility for my emotions has been a help in my recovery.

As an important aside: people are fond of saying that a person has to love themself and heal themself before another person will love them. I think when people have been through an abusive situation they might have a tendency to believe this. I’m here to tell you, as English punks may say, that this notion is complete bollocks. 

I think the intention here is probably well meaning. I hope what these people are trying to say is that self-worth comes from within. That isn’t what is happening though. They are saying that you, me, and everyone else cannot be loved until we love ourselves. The truth is, you are worthy of love and capable of being loved despite not having every corner of your emotional house squared away.

Plus, there are some issues that can only arise from being in a relationship. I could have stayed single for 4 or 5 years until I thought I was healed and happy, but I would have never have encountered a partner going into the hospital to know that I had a hidden trigger. Trauma responses that form in a previous relationship often surface in a subsequent relationship, not while you are single. If you feel it’s important to remain single for a time then by all means do so, just do not think you cannot be loved as you are.

Ultimately, what is important is that you are willing to do the heavy lifting in order to solve your emotional difficulties and not make them the responsibility of others. If you are willing to heal then that can happen while single or while partnered. You are lovable either way.

And eternity, my friend, is a long fucking time. 6

As I sat down to write this piece, I had recently come to a conclusion that may be too soon to hear for some people affected by a narcissist and perhaps overdue for others. I had horrible things done to me. These things were done by someone who, make no mistake about it, is the personification of guiltless evil. And yet, here I am.

Why should I let someone so bereft of human decency and moral compass affect my entire life? The answer of course, is that I shouldn’t. I allowed this person into my life and they willfully and knowingly visited trauma upon me for two years. I have lived in fear for an additional three years. That is enough. They don’t get to scare me for the rest of my life. I do not give them that power. I don’t have time for childish, selfish nonsense, to derail who I am. The idea of her is approaching a state of total irrelevance. That’s exactly where I need to be.

I know what I went through is a serious matter and in a lot of ways it did temporarily destroy me. I also know that abuse is not a laughing matter. I was lucky that I did not experience physical abuse. However, there are times when I recall the outlandish meltdowns of my former partner and I have to admit that now I find it rather comical. Seeing what I went through as the product of an emotionally immature person has made me realize how silly I would be to let this affect me any longer. This too feels like healing.


I’m out of clever lines, I guess this is goodbye 7

I began by asking a very grim question about wanting someone dead. I’m thankful to say I no longer feel this way. Mine is still a story of partial recovery, but even partial healing is better than where I have been. Currently, I feel as if I’m about to break through to another level of well-being. It’s an odd feeling, kind of like a bubble that is building and about to burst.

None of what I have discussed here will resolve my past, it’s not meant to, that’s an impossible feat. I know I can never get back to exactly who I was before my trauma and anyway, I don’t want to. How I felt then was just as situational as how I feel now. I am better for having gone through it and come out the other side still full of empathy and with an improved understanding of who I am and what I deserve. I find myself in a much more centered position than I have ever been. I will take all of this and keep building the new and beautiful me. After all, I stood up for myself. I got out. I survived. I will thrive.

As we part, I want you to know that the road to recovery often seems dark because we have been driven underground. You will begin recovery within the dark tunnels of your psyche. There is nothing wrong with being here. It is where all self-searching journeys start. It allows you to see whether the foundation of everything above you is secure or if it needs rebuilding. It is work that is necessary to know who you are.

In this long dark tunnel, you can’t always see the light at the end. You may bump along the walls as you go, but it’s the going that is the most important part. Eventually, a dot appears in the black. It’s not a light at the end of the tunnel yet, but this infinitesimally small dot represents hope. As you get closer you bump into the walls fewer times and your path begins to straighten as the light becomes an increasingly blinding force. You are on the precipice of a simultaneously intimidating and exciting self-discovery.

You will emerge into the light basked in warmth with an appreciation that can only happen because of where you have been. The world now opens up before you. When you look back into the tunnel you will see black, but it is self contained. It is now the light which envelopes you. Where you venture from here is up to you. May all your dreams come true. I love you.

About the Author

Jeremy got his start writing philosophical and sociological articles which led to a desire to help others. He is currently writing at the blog Sex Love & Ire (sexloveandire.com) and working on a few books to help people live meaningful lives.

Works Cited

1 – Alkaline Trio, “Nose Over Tail,” recorded 1998, Asian Man Records,
track 4 on Goddamnit, 1998, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5FIxAb_QdhY.

2 – New Found Glory, “Happy Being Miserable,” recorded October 2016,
Hopeless Records, track 4 on Makes Me Sick, 2017,
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NLwxPReIZDw.

3 – Suicidal Tendencies, “Institutionalized,” recorded February 1983, Frontier Records,
track 6 on Suicidal Tendencies,1983,
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LoF_a0-7xVQ.

4 – Lancer, Darlene. “The Concept of Narcissistic Supply.” Psychology Today.
August 7, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/
202108/the-concept-narcissistic-supply?amp.

5 – Four Year Strong, “Brain Pain,” Pure Noise Records, track 6 on Brain Pain, 2020,
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lfjwGuRfN-A.

6 – Bad Religion, “You,” recorded June 1989, Epitaph Records,
track 10 on No Control, 1989, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2s7paN4AHpE.

7 – Face to Face, “Farewell Song,” recorded 2020, Fat Wreck Chords,
track 12 on No Way Out But Through, 2021, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/
So_Long_and_Thanks_for_All_the_Shoes.

State of the Relationship Address: Down Periscope!

Every now and then in life I bump up against people that truly help me see who I am. Sometimes it is because they compliment me in a way that surprises me. Other times it is because of the juxtaposition between who they are and who I am. This latter scenario is my focus here.

Some of these juxtaposed folks suffer from what I have dubbed Woe-is-me Syndrome (WIMS). These people manifest some type of negative attitude which pushes others away, whether it be desperation, despair, or anger. They often have also developed a type of “me against the world” mentality. Unfortunately, when the terms of their existence are that stark, the world generally wins. As a result, they begin to feel as if everyone is out to get them and their mental well-being suffers.

They can become so dedicated to their gloom and doom outlook that attempts to give them another way to view a situation are often met with their blatant refusal of said alternative, a doubling down on their original position, and in rare cases, outright hostility towards a new view.

I have a friend that is in the grips of WIMS. Seemingly, everything that happens in the world brings them down and everyone who looks at them is trying to do them harm. They are so lonely. They lament all their failed relationships, while doing nothing to make new ones or correct the destructive patterns which have led to this isolation. Their inability to control their emotions has negatively affected their career in the past and present. It has become so bad that, once, a guy gave my friend a business card for a job. Instead of thinking about the potential good fortune, my friend began to wonder if the guy was trying to somehow find out where my friend lived to do them harm.

When I broach the possibility to my friend that their view of the world, and their place in it, is causing them harm it is first met with an acknowledgement of “yeah, maybe you’re right” and then a litany of their experiences justifying why they should be like this. Most of these experiences, dare I say excuses, are borne out of no greater logic than the business card incident I just described.

The thing is, I understand this mentality well. At one point, I was clinging to an ideology that was clearly doing me no favors.

This part of our tale takes us back about 20 years. I was an emerging feminist and a trained sociologist. As such, I am very familiar with socio-economic stratification and the mechanisms which perpetuate class, gender, and racial inequality. In fact, if I were to pinpoint the moment that my WIMS kicked in it was during my time studying inequality in America during the completion of my Sociology degree.

I was also educated in the ways that numerous marginalizations can create a greater disenfranchisement of the individual, which is dubbed intersectionality. This means, for example, that a woman can, and likely will, experience different treatment than a man. This treatment disadvantages her by depriving her of the same opportunities that a man could expect to experience. Further, a woman of color can experience even more institutionalized forms of disenfranchisement than could a white woman. A woman of color who doesn’t speak English will likely experience even more. Each subsequent status of other (we could add to the list, physically impaired, homeless, queer, trans, etc) creates more obstacles for this person’s equality to those who do not embody these traits. It is basically a compounding of disadvantages based on the ideology of this person as being “other.”

While I was learning this I was also living in rural Illinois. It was clear that I had a personal growth ambition that outstripped my racist, sexist, and homophobic counterparts. That sentence is a little harsh, but I’m going to keep it.

Because of these things I felt both the ways in which I was privileged and disadvantaged. Feeling thankful and guilty for the former and rather constrained by the latter. I continually struggled with who I was compared to what everyone else expected me to be. I only fit in because I did not know how to be myself when that meant pushing against those expectations.

I couldn’t explore who I wanted to be without the disapproving comments of others. I was being policed due to their insecure need for conformity. This made it difficult to sus out if I was queer and later once I accepted it to find out what being queer meant for me. 

Once I had included myself under the umbrella of being queer, I felt marginalized due to bi-erasure (being viewed as straight if with a woman and gay when with a man) and never quite seen as the multi-dimensional person I was. Moreover, there were folks even in the queer community, my suppossed family, who would rather me not exist. My sexual orientation was a threat to them. I was hemmed in on all sides.

I pondered my gender (hell, I still do). I feel a little non-binary-ish. I like to crossdress and enjoy the pretty side of things. If I could switch between a variety of male and female forms based on my moods that would be amazing. 

There’s a good deal of folks who don’t have the space for someone like me. They don’t want me to figure out who I am if it means deviating from the behavior of which they approve. I know what these types of people say about transfolk because they think I’m a safe audience. I know that the same disapproval and scorn is also waiting for me if and when I deviate from the norm. The simple act of painting my nails elicited disgust from midwestern bigots (and others). Imagine if I showed up in women’s jeans, a cute top, and eyeliner.

I hated the stereotypes of what it meant to be a man (still do). They felt so ignorant and violent to me. It repulsed me to my core and I lamented the strictures around manhood that I felt kept me locked in place. As a thin, slight young “man” I never had the physique that I thought was masculine and I grew up thinking myself less because of it (luckily, what was a burden then looks good in a dress now).

I also struggled with my working class status and the ways middle and upper class America protected and elevated their own. I had no such footholds in life.

Religion was another way in which I felt like an outcast. I was fresh from relinquishing my priesthood position and I was a fiery, newly branded atheist. It was a view that wasn’t accepted in middle America, but I don’t think I was actually marginalized because of it. However, my determination to teach everyone about the flaws in religious thinking definitely put me at odds with folks.

So as a queer, non-binary, working class, crossdressing, atheist I was somewhere in the venn diagram of intersectionality. I felt pretty alone and isolated and didn’t see anyone living the life I wanted. I had crafted my image around these various forms of disenfranchisement. I was angry and felt as if my anger was appropriate and shouldn’t be mitigated. I felt as if viewing the situation any differently meant I was giving in to the powers that be.

During that time, if anyone tried to give me a different view of things I would tell them that they were wrong and that these things which held me back were real. I was not being a pessimist, I was being a realist.

I still hold that most of this is true. All of the marginalizations I mentioned above are in fact real and the effects of them can be pernicious, make no mistake about it. Folks have been killed just because they were living authentically and some insecure, fearful, mostly male, person couldn’t handle it. 

There will always be systemic forces at work in society and I am not likely to move the needle on those things greatly. However, one of the things holding me back was something I could completely change and that was my response to those injustices.

The “me against the world” type of thinking was not making me happy and was pushing people away. So I figured out that I could keep going down the bleak path I was traveling or stake out new ground and a new outlook.

I needed to be the best version of me in spite of those socio-economic forces. I wanted people to be attracted to my calm and positive energy. I wanted to be a source of knowledge and wisdom. Additionally, I wanted folks to be challenged by the fact that all these comforting things come from a non-binary-ish, feminist, socialist, anarchist leaning, crossdressing, big ‘ol beautiful queer. I wanted them to see that people like me are not to be feared. We are just folks trying to live our lives.

This would be my contribution to myself and to moving the inequality needle. It would help me to bring people closer and to counter their expectations of how someone like me is supposed to look or act. I would be a teaching moment by simply being myself.

Detailing how I changed my outlook would take me far from the scope of my message here. For now, I will just say that I learned how to relax a little more each day and gave myself the mental, and sometimes social, space to become who I really wanted to be. 

My endeavor has yielded results. I’m still a work in progress, I think that’s always true when self-improvement is the goal, but there are moments when I get a glimpse of how far I have come.

Recently, I began having a conversation with a person that existed within the nexus of intersectionality. Things were a little off from the very beginning. For starters, we picked out a week in which we would meet in person. They quickly put that idea on hold. Their comments indicated that they had given themselves over to the prospect of meeting too readily for comfort. It was clear that they were used to patterning their behavior from fear and were now in emotional retreat.

No matter, I had the time and mental space to see if things could progress before they torpedoed our connection in one glorious explosion.

Unfortunately, when we spoke I would ask about them and they didn’t ask about me. After a month of conversation, I can say that they literally knew nothing about who I was aside from a few identity labels and a list of hobbies I provided on our first day of chatting. Instead, we talked about what was going wrong in their life. I began to wonder if there was anything else to them. 

Then things quickly came to a head. They made yet another disparaging statement, this time about despising something. I had grown tired of the gloom and doom. I needed an extreme last ditch effort to turn this around. I was done with the dynamics that were occurring so, as imperfect as the decision may have been, I decided to call them on it. I sent two sentences saying they could continue to be angry over what they can’t control or they could take the reins and create something new and wonderful in their life. Then I retired to get a shower. 

That was pretty much all it took to flood tubes one through four. They made a number of assumptions about me and then became angry at me over those assumptions. They became angrier still that I hadn’t immediately responded back. Because of all of this, they said they didn’t want to talk for a week.

After I completed my evening ablutions I discovered the drama that had played out on my phone. I replied with the reason for my absence and that I would be around in a week if they were still up for talking. 

That was all I sent. I didn’t justify my actions or defend myself against their allegations. There was no point in trying to have a rational conversation where none had existed prior. It certainly wasn’t going to happen now that they were triggered. Perhaps a week without talking would create a little levity and we could discuss what happened and why.

Not a chance. The next morning, I awoke to a message saying that the universe had given them a sign and our connection wasn’t going to work out. They told me to stay positive because it is a beautiful thing and that this was goodbye. Compared to the last message I received they at least seemed calm.

I was perfectly fine with this outcome and I wished them a peaceful life filled with happiness. 

Their response was that they don’t get to live a happy life because society won’t let them (insert angry screed about social forces here) and that my positivity was toxic and a result of my privilege. Therefore, they are going to block my phone number. Fire all torpedoes!

Yikes. What a rollercoaster.

I can only assume that all of this was a type of posturing. After all, there is little point in blocking me after I made no attempt, nor did I show any interest, in messaging further. I suspect that calling me toxic and blocking me was meant to do me emotional harm (a one-upmanship of sorts). However, quite the opposite happened.

I’m not at all bothered by any of this. As I have written about before, I consider these occurrences to be a blessing of sorts. We are just in two very different emotional places and that is perfectly fine. If my outlook is too shiny and triggers someone with WIMS then I totally get it. 

However, I do not acquiesce to casting the outcome of my struggle to become a positive person under the generic woke nomenclature of toxic. Quite the opposite, I left that encounter feeling better about myself than I have in years.

You see, after emotionally conquering society’s downward gaze and crafting my new outlook, I ended up in an abusive relationship. Over the course of a couple of years this person systematically tried to eradicate my positivity and happiness. During my down moments (near the end that may have been all I had) they would chastise me for being unhappy. It has been a long journey to work through the PTSD that was created during that time in my life.

Since then, I have wondered if my positivity was even visible. I have been fearful that it wasn’t. I thought that I had failed to become who I wanted to be.

To have this new person try to use my positivity against me in such an erroneous way meant that I was seen. I, twice, built myself up. Once after battling systemic inequality and then after enduring the mental beatings of an abusive ex. This let me see that the good in me is still here and thriving. I felt beautiful, because I knew my past and what I had accomplished to blossom into what I am now.

I am exactly who I need to be at this moment and that is an amazing feeling.

I hope you too blossom. Be responsible, be empathetic, be lovely, and always work to build a better you. I wish you peace and happiness in your life.

Horny Hometown

They say you can never go back. Sometimes though that isn’t true. 

I’m from a small town in the middle of nowhere Illinois. When I was a child I had a crush on a fellow classmate. He didn’t know it at the time. What I didn’t know is that he also had a crush on me.

Once we were out of school, I would occasionally bump into him at the store. I would say hello, hoping he would say anything back. It never really happened. Crushes can be weird that way. 

Twenty five years later we discovered our mutual interest and discussed possibly meeting up to fulfill some part of our desire. 

The thing I didn’t mention about this small town is that it is somewhat incestous. Through social media I watch people bounce from person to person, classmate to classmate; married to one and then another. It’s like a game of romantic musical chairs and when the music stops for the final time you die with the one you’re next to. 

I often wonder if anyone imagines potential romantic partners existing outside of that two mile square radius. 

My crush messaged me to say that another classmate was in a bar and had just made a couple of moves on him. He seemed very excited about it all. Nothing against either of them but I suddenly became aware of the dynamic I was considering entering into.

I don’t think I am above anyone that lives there, it will always be a home, but I don’t want to become another townie fuck toy. Someone who is just a tidbit of conversational fodder consisting of “hey did you hear who so and so had sex with!” A coupling with my crush would initiate me into the familial order of the small town orgy. It’s not that the talk alone bothers me, I’m sure I’ve been a part of the gossip round table before. It’s that I don’t want to become part of the culture and what it represents. I do not want to shrink back down to fit in there. 

I realized that during my return trips, I visit the same place I was at during high school, the same place I was at when I married at 20, the same place I was at when I divorced years later, and the same place I left 900 miles behind me 8 years ago. 

Nothing there has changed, except for me.

You’re Woke And It’s A Huge Problem

Woke was a term that when I first heard it, I thought it was a novel way to describe oneself. By the second time I came across it, the word had already soured. I realized quickly that it would be a self congratulatory term and as liberals we do too much of that as it is. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge to any group but most certainly the liberal/left is to check your ego at the door. We like to think that our views (or perhaps our belonging to a disenfranchised group) put us above others, that we are somehow better than whatever out group we have established. The truth is, most of us are still jerks that live a very unexamined life. If that sentence pisses you off then you need to keep reading more than anyone else. 

We hide behind labels. If we are woke, feminist, liberal, and egalitarian then we can’t be sexist, racist or transphobic. We make those who are outwardly racist/sexist/queer phobic evil and so we must be by opposition, automatically good. 

If being critical of racism, sexism and heteronormativity makes you feel good about yourself then I assure you that you are doing it wrong. Why do you feel good about affording people a basic level of decency? It is because you have positioned yourself against your so-called villains that you seem so accomplished and enlightened. 

Casting ourselves as heroes shuts down our critical thought. This is why women and people of color (though by no means exempt from my criticism) lament the emotional labor they have to expend on their supposed allies and sometimes ask for spaces which exclude us. 

We are still sexist. We expect certain physical or personality traits from out partners (you must be this tall/short and masculine/feminine to ride). The idea of what male and female is has been deeply embedded in the ways we think and act. We think we choose our partners freely but that is no closer to being true than it was 50 years ago. Sure we can marry a wider breadth of people than we could then, but our stereotypes still remain as to how people must look and who they can be in relation to us.  

We have more diverse friends now but how many of those friends serve to make you feel good. I have a friend who talks about being the token black guy among his liberal friends and as much as I’d like to assure him that this isn’t true I know there is an element of truth to it. Likewise, as a queer man, who cross dresses occasionally, I watch liberal women’s faces light up when they tell me they would gladly go out on the town with me in drag. What a story that would be for them and it’s a great way to get your “woke card” stamped. 

Our privilege (ie: ignorance) surfaces when we ask someone to speak for all people of their identification or sexual persuasion. It happens when we occupy the spaces of feminists or people of color and feel resentful that our opinions aren’t weighted to the degree we are used to. It happens when we use others to atone for our “social justice sins” by hogging the spotlight for ourselves and our woes. We want to be good but not at the expense of others noticing how good we are. We languish in our selfish habits. 

Essentially, we rely on others to do the work that we should damn well be doing ourselves. No one is asking you to break down and ask forgiveness from the group (i.e. representation of the other). They are asking you to listen, then take responsibility and put your words where your mouth is. You have to do your own work. The information is out there if you look for it. I hate this term but I’m going to use it, “google it!” Alternatively, ask people what might benefit you to read or watch and then actually do it. 

For instance, I’ve been reading work by trans folks/people in an attempt to understand them as much as I can. It’s shocking how much I thought I was being an ally and yet I was still making so many assumptions that could hurt them and their cause. It’s hard to learn we are wrong but it’s absolutely necessary. Moreover, learning there may not be a correct way to view certain things, like gender, can be exciting and humbling all at once. It’s not always fun work but it’s work that needs done. 

While you’re taking in new information be so honest with yourself that you’d rather not. Then be honest even more because I guarantee you that no matter how much work you do there is still more to be done. Your job of self growth ends when you do. And for god (that I don’t believe in) sake, drop the fucking self-congratulatory labels.

Why You Should Always Share Your Herpes Status

The other day I received a message on Grindr that I found disturbing. I know what you’re thinking, “of course you did, it’s Grindr.” However it wasn’t one of those typical messages and in what I presume was a first for the app there wasn’t a penis anywhere to be seen. 

Since most seem to use the app for hookups I have listed my positive herpes status front and center. In reply to my warm greeting they wrote back, “sharing your herpes status seems extreme when there are so many treatments that make it untransmittable.” 

Abrupt? A little. My initial message said nothing about herpes. It was about relationships and the emotional aspect of waking up with someone in the morning (a response to her profile). To begin a conversation by ignoring my message and delivering a critique is a dick move for sure but that is beyond the scope of what I want to talk about. 

The key issue at hand is about revealing your positive status. You can choose to do this whenever you would like so long as it is prior to any activity that might risk transmitting herpes to someone else. Unfortunately, that means activities using your mouth for folks whose infections could surface orally and your deliciously naughty bits for those where it could surface genitally. 

So let’s get to their claim. 

To be sure, there are antiviral drugs out there but there isn’t a single company advertising anywhere that their product will render herpes noncommunicable. The only way to say that definitively is if a drug actually eliminated the virus. This would be a groundbreaking claim as nothing has been able to do anything other than manage herpes to this point in time.

Viral shedding is a possibility and so far it doesn’t seem like anyone knows definitively when this is or isn’t occurring, just that it can occur. So while the risk certainly drops when on antivirals, there is no way to say with certainty that herpes is noncommunicable in any state of activity or dormancy. 

If we look critically at someone who feels it isn’t necessary to reveal that they carry a communicable disease to an intimate or sexual partner we have to ask why. Why would someone choose not to reveal this?

After all, disclosing this status doesn’t mean you won’t find someone and it doesn’t even mean you will never have sex again. Trust me on that point. However, it does probably mean that some people will decide to skip the opportunity to date or have sex with you because of it.

It’s herein that lies the crux of hiding a positive status. People don’t want to disclose their positive status because they know that it will thin out the number of people willing to have sex with them. They want to have sex and since they already have herpes there is no further risk to them (except for other sexually transmitables). All that’s left now for them is to not care about their sexual partners. 

I can hear them now. “It’ll be okay. They won’t get it.” Allow me to say that we most certainly can get it and there are no altruistic reasons for hiding your positive status, only selfish ones. 

There’s a lot of reasons the United States is experiencing a resurgence in the reported incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. One of them is surely that someone decides it isn’t worth telling the people with whom they have sex. We are living in increasingly selfish times. 

The one thing I think about when my mind drifts through the how and why of herpes is “I wonder if the person who gifted me this wonderful little critter knew ahead of time?” I don’t regret my choices. I may have made each of them exactly the same all over again, even if I knew one or more of my partners had herpes. Herpes for me is not a life changer, it’s just something that can happen. 

However, even though I’ve made peace with it, there was a time when I would have been extremely upset to find that the person who gave me herpes knew their positive status and hid it from me. If someone suspects or knows they have herpes and conceals it from sexual partners then that is a reprehensible act. I would feel horrible if an informed partner contracted herpes while with me. The grief I would feel from giving it to an uninformed partner would be worse yet; a moral atrocity that would haunt me for the rest of my days. 

Hiding a positive status from someone where sex is eminent is violating the very notion of free and informed consent.

If you have herpes then you owe your partners the right to choose. Those of us with a positive status don’t have the right to make decisions for another person’s body and health. This is a matter of autonomy that no one should intrude upon. 

Personally, I want my partners to know that I respect them enough to help them experience the freedom, even the power, not just to choose but to walk away from the relationship if they want. If they do leave then we obviously weren’t a match. If they stay then I know I mean enough to them to be worth the chance. There is value in both outcomes. 

There’s something to be clear about at the close of this article which is that informing a partner doesn’t make you saintly. This is just what people should be doing for one another. Choosing to sidestep the act of doing another person harm is the bare minimum of what being a decent person entails. It’s just that there are so many self-absorbed folks out there that those of us with a modicum of empathy and respect shine by comparison. 

Be decent and share your status.

When Online Dating Goes Poorly

If you date long enough you are bound to have a succession of encounters that don’t go as planned. Romantic interests disappear, don’t show up, blow up over something small or just generally seem like train wrecks. Occasionally, when these occurrences stack up it can start to weigh on you. The question then becomes, what to think about these situations and how do you process what happened?

Trust me when I say that this happens to everyone. In fact, that’s what inspired this piece. I was watching my friends go through the same types of occurrences I was and it made me realize what a universal experience we were having. This was despite the fact that we were searching for vastly different types of people. Allow me to share a less than ideal week from my dating past so you can have a few examples. 

I met someone for a date that didn’t go well. Sadly, it was some of the most shallow conversations I have had on a date (I guess someone had to win that title). The one important thing we touched on was that the other people she had been out with didn’t feel as if she liked them so they quit asking her out. I also came to the conclusion that her repeated claims of independence served as a cover for her apathy and distance from others. However, since I generally give people the benefit of the doubt on first dates I decided to see her one more time. After all, maybe she was just nervous and we would have a better time the second go round.

Despite saying she would like to go out again, she would take 24 hours to return each of my messages. This meant that every day our conversation would progress one additional text. This is far from ideal and doesn’t exactly scream “I’m interested,” so I decided to make an inquiry. 

I asked if she had any interest in continuing our connection. I mentioned that the infrequent communication made me feel as if she wasn’t interested and I wanted to check in to see what she was thinking. I let her know that if she wasn’t interested in meeting up again that I would understand and there would be no hard feelings on my end. She replied quickly this time; I must be needy she said and she is no longer interested. I didn’t spend any effort trying to convince her otherwise. I thanked her for her time and wished her well. 

The second scenario involved a person who didn’t want to text except to set up a time and place of my choosing in which to meet. When I suggested we get together for a drink so we can get to know one another they ripped into me saying, “Would you approach someone you liked in public and ask to meet for a conversation?”

Since walking up to total strangers and asking for their hand in marriage has historically been fraught with problems for me, I tend to take a more cautious approach over a drink or dinner. Finding out who someone is and what they believe is important. It beats waking up one day after 20 years and saying wait, “you’re actually 30 years older than me, don’t speak any English and are running a fanzine for white supremacists?” Humph! Fool me once . . .

I tried to ascertain what this person meant as their text while full of emotion wasn’t exactly clear as to the meaning. They never messaged back. 

The final incident was with someone I enjoyed messaging. We were trading jokes and they had a sharp wit about them. Everything was going well and on day two when I went to ask them out they had removed our match and were gone. It felt unfortunate for me because I was looking forward to meeting. 

Situations such as these can be frustrating. It can be challenging to match with others and if those matches end up being the types of experiences I mentioned then it can be especially demoralizing.

So what was going on with these people and in similar situations how should you handle it? In truth, I don’t know what made them act as they did, and I don’t intend this to be dismissive, but I don’t need to know either. I also don’t think you should pay it any mind because if done properly you’re probably better off without their company. Here’s the first thing you should know. 

Be the best version of you. 

This is so vitally important. You should always be as kind, compassionate and understanding as you can. I’m operating under the premise that you want to be these things. If you’re one of those folks who wants to be a jerk all the time then be that, people will appreciate knowing to avoid you from the very start; just know the rest of this article is more about you than for you. So, if you aren’t rude, shallow, sexist, off putting, or exhibiting any other horrible traits then there’s a huge upside. 

You see, it’s worse to try and tailor yourself, however slight, to another person’s interests and then have things not work out. You will wonder “what if I was actually being true to who I am, would this still have happened?” If you’re honest and forthcoming and things go south there’s nothing to second guess. You were the good you and if they didn’t like that then it’s okay. After all, you want someone who will appreciate you for you. In situations like this, it was probably a simple mismatch in personality and not only is this common, but it’s nothing to worry about either. 

So once you’ve done some introspection and checked yourself then you’re good to implement these next ways of viewing your situation. 

It’s most likely not about you. 

I alluded to this above. Our personalities come out through any type of contact so you shouldn’t worry about a simple personality mismatch because statistically that’s going to happen most of the time. 

The other thing that happens is a lot of folks seem to get triggered nowadays and I think it’s partially because we have put dating at our fingertips. There’s nothing wrong with dating apps (in fact I think they’re great) but it does mean that more people are dating before they are ready. 

Think about the difference between dating now and 20 years ago. Back then, you had to tend to your appearance, go outside of your home, and work up the nerve to approach someone in person. This took a lot more resolve than it does now. Today you can put yourself online while laying in bed wearing your favorite crossdressing outfit (Ah come on, I know it isn’t just me). So it makes perfect sense that once folks begin messaging on dating sites/apps that they might decide they aren’t quite ready to be out there just yet. That’s perfectly understandable. 

The other thing is that it’s hard to know what’s going on in someone’s life. Everyone has their own demons and triggers and it’s not your responsibility to be accountable for them. I know that sounds harsh so allow me to expand upon that idea. Just like before, I’m not saying you can be a jerk but if you unknowingly hit on something that is upsetting someone then you aren’t to blame. 

You may text someone about a dog laying at your feet and make them realize they are too heartbroken over recently losing their pet and they aren’t in a position to be open to someone else yet. They may never respond to you again after this realization and that is their choice but it’s not your responsibility that a regular conversation triggered them. 

That was a fairy innocuous example (one which actually happened to me) but the point is, maybe they have had a horrible day, have commitment issues, an abusive relationship in their past, or any number of things. There is certainly a reason but you’ll likely never know what it is. It would be great if everyone who was triggered could have a discussion when it happens. That’s not how being triggered usually works; people tend to retreat, not open up. 

Just operate in good faith and don’t let it get under your skin. 

Try to assume the best and keep on rolling. 

I can hear you saying, “why do I assume the best?” It’s a good question and the answer is simple. You have two ways of thinking about this. You can internalize it and make it about you. This is a mindset that will eventually bring you down wondering if you’re good enough. This way of thinking can eventually become a form of self harm. Or you can say, “they must have had something going on in their life for them to act like that, I hope they find what they want.” This approach is a forgiving way to view someone who may be having a difficult time and it leaves you relatively unencumbered to venture on to someone else. 

Also keep in mind that if you date long enough then you will eventually become someone else’s mystery. Think of a time when you messed up by being triggered, didn’t text or call someone, or otherwise just dropped the ball. It’s alright. It happens, but you probably wanted the benefit of doubt in those situations so extend a few good vibes their way as well.

Ultimately, it is on them. 

Whether you know it or not, folks who respond poorly, negatively, or not at all, on a consistent basis are creating problems for themselves more than they are for you in that moment. 

For instance, remember the infrequent communicator I mentioned earlier? She said her past dates didn’t think she liked them. Given my experience, I’m pretty sure I know why. I could tell by her tone that this was causing her pain. It was much more painful for her than her seeming lack of interest was to me. 

It always sucks to have these types of things happen, but don’t let it keep you down for too long. Remember, you’re rolling on to other experiences and to find someone else. Some of these folks are likely to repeat their patterns again and again. You don’t need to be a part of that. 

Really. Count your blessings 

First off, the people I mentioned above don’t really seem like those you would want to date do they? A person who ghosts someone without a word, someone who thinks so little of another they can’t be bothered to respond for 24 hours at a time, and another person who feels it necessary to chide someone during their first interaction for following their instructions. 

If you were dating folks who react like this then things probably don’t look up from there. They are giving you their best foot forward and it badly needs some fungicide and a pedicure (because everyone looks better in nail polish). I know in my life letting these folks go has felt like stepping off the tracks in front of a screaming locomotive that is bound to derail. It’s one of those situations where I scratch my head as it passes and ask out loud, “what the heck was that all about?”

So take solace in what is probably a fact, and is certainly the main takeaway from this writing, they weren’t in the same mental space as you anyway. That’s okay. Thank your lucky talisman that you found out in the very beginning. Now you can free up that time and space for someone who can thrive with you. 

It’s okay to be upset. 

I don’t want you to think for a minute that you can’t grieve or be upset about some of the lost opportunities you’ll have while dating. Some folks you are going to become attached to quickly and your thoughts will drift to the what-if’s. When those connections sour it can make you feel as if you missed out and that can be even harder. Very few people would fault you for feeling that way. 

So by all means take some time to recover if you need. Cry if you feel it necessary as it is wonderfully restorative. Taking time to heal is what will keep you centered in the long run. 

All of this fades in time

There will be a moment when you won’t even remember most of these folks anymore. I know I wouldn’t have remembered the people I spoke of if I hadn’t started this article soon after meeting them. Don’t let the experience stick with you when the faces aren’t likely to. This is one blip in your life that you aren’t likely to remember any more than who sat behind you in second grade. So keep in mind that what bothers you today isn’t likely to do so tomorrow. 

Dating isn’t always easy and there are folks out there who seem to make it their duty to be difficult. Remember though, that things don’t always go according to plan and that’s to be expected. Know that it isn’t about you and that sooner or later you will be back to meet someone else. You’ll keep doing that until one day you’ve found someone special with whom to spend your time. Be kind, be self-aware, and keep your head up; the trains here run around the clock. 

Why I Don’t Say I Have Herpes On My Dating Profile

When I talk about my difficulties in dating one of the things I mention is having herpes. People have asked me why I don’t say I have herpes on my dating profile. This is an excellent question and whether to list a positive status is something that those with herpes often ponder. After all, if I eliminate the people who aren’t okay with this fact up front then my chances of finding a match should be better.

Everyone is going to have their own approach but here is why I do not state that I have herpes on my dating profile and why it works for me.

The first reason is that of all the things I want people to evaluate me by it’s not that I have herpes. Obviously, I’m not shy or I wouldn’t be talking about it now. Still, I want someone to know my qualities first and not the fact that I have a virus.

I believe there are good people who would rule me out if they read about herpes in my profile. I get it, herpes can be a complication that some may just simply choose to avoid entirely. So when they see it in a profile they think “well that person is a good fit but I don’t know what to do with that whole herpes thing so I’ll pass.” If I don’t list having herpes then I can disclose after a couple of dates. In essence, I’m banking on my personality and I feel much better with those odds. Now the same person may think “this is a really nice guy and we do seem to click so I’ll give him a chance.”

One of the things people ask is, “wouldn’t listing your herpes status connect you to other folks with herpes?” I think the answer to that is yes, and while I will gladly date folks with herpes, it brings me to my second reason which was a bit of an unexpected discovery for me.

I don’t want to attract extremely broken people. If that sounds harsh it probably is but here’s my reasoning. I recently joined four private Facebook groups for people with herpes. I was hoping that I might find some sort of kinship there. Instead, what I found were a bunch of sad sacks with a serious case of the poor me’s. I couldn’t handle all the negativity from these people who obviously felt like herpes made them irreparably damaged. Their anger and lack of self-worth spilled over into every conversation and what should have been simple posts became arguments and just another chance to put someone down.

Now I get it, herpes isn’t something most people choose but here we are so let’s just rock it. People generally spend so much time comparing themselves to others that they never take the time to figure out who they are. They think they have established a sense of self, but they’re far from it.

Humans have played this mental game with themselves for thousands of years and it goes something like this; these people are X and X is wrong/bad. Since I’m Y, I’m not an X, and therefore I’m right/good. If it’s not obvious the problem with this is that if someone only ever determines their worth as a product of how they deem someone else then it doesn’t take much to topple that house of cards. It’s not real self worth.

For example, if Jane thinks Ben is a dirty person because he has herpes then what will Jane think about herself when she ends up with herpes? The only thing that made her dislike Ben was a virus which she now has. Jane is going to feel like crap because her ideas of self worth were based on complete and utter bullshit.

Having contracted herpes these people have become the other (ie: the person they used to make fun of or think of as dirty) and it consumes them. They can’t get beyond how others may view them knowing what they used to think.

These folks are so beat down and fearful that many of them only want to date other folks with herpes. I really don’t want to attract someone who is scared of putting their self out there; someone who is just settling for another with the same virus.

If I date someone with herpes I want them to know they are still awesome. Keeping my status unlisted seems the best way to accomplish this. Someone will have to be bold enough to put themselves out there knowing their status and not knowing mine. I want that bravery for myself and from a partner.

Another reason I don’t give my status on my profile is that I don’t view the effort spent on someone else as a waste of time. Anyone who has ever uttered the phrase “you wasted my time” after dating someone when it didn’t work out is probably a piece of shit parading around as a human being and I put probably in there just to make me sound nicer.

Dating, hell life itself, is about taking chances and being vulnerable. If I date someone for a couple of dates (or months) and they drop some facts on me I can’t handle (like they watch the television show The Bachelor) I don’t view it as a waste of time. I took a chance and now I know we aren’t compatible. That’s good information to have. I consider information gained as a win. We didn’t work and I can look elsewhere.

The final reason I don’t list my status is that I’m perfectly comfortable talking about the fact that I have herpes so it’s not necessary for my profile to do that. I envision that dating me is a bit like blunt force trauma; someone is going to get all my truths in a very short period of time. As a result, I reveal my positive status fairly quickly so someone will know within three dates or less. By then, they have had the opportunity to briefly size me up (as I mentioned previously) and see if they view me as a potential partner.

Those are my reasons. Ultimately, I’m just a person looking for my person. In doing so, I hope to find someone who has done as much developmental work on them self as possible. Keeping my positive status off of my dating profile seems to be the best way to find a good match.

The Greatest Article I Have Ever Written: State Of The Relationship Address

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I’ve met someone recently who I have come to love. If there’s ever a reason to push yourself to get out of the house then this is one of those stories. After matching on a dating app we were scheduled to meet and I just didn’t know if I was up to it. It was nothing against her, I was just in a mood. As it turns out she was thinking something similar, but went anyway.

I’m glad we met. The person I found sitting across from me was sweet, thoughtful and intelligent. She listens with intent and speaks with wisdom and I found myself being drawn in quickly. As I’ve come to know her over these last couple of months all of those things I first thought have remained true. Those traits have been complimented by her openness, emotional awareness, creativity, humor, empathy, and compassion. Having her love and support (and giving mine in return) has been wonderfully restorative to me.

You see, there was a time when I wasn’t in a good relationship. This past had come to create trepidation for my present. I was used to the worst behavior in a relationship. The questions paraded through my mind. What will I do the first time a potentially difficult topic needs to be discussed? Will the first time spending the night with a new partner dredge up too many flashbacks for me? Basically, what damage still lurks from the past that might impinge upon the present?

With my new partner, these trepidations have been overcome so easily that our relationship flows seamlessly. I can’t describe the joy and freedom I feel when one of these milestones passes without any negative behavior. In fact, with her I feel welcomed, comforted, loved and safe.

That last word is so vitally fucking important that it deserves to be said again. I feel safe. To know that someone else will never knowingly and purposely hurt me gives me a very warm and full feeling. My heart is literally being protected and nurtured by my partner. It’s such a simple thing to say but a monumental thing to actually have. The feeling is truly indescribable. After abuse, being able to completely relax around someone is so revolutionary an act that it feels like a world has been created just for me.

Without my partner I know I would heal on my own, in fact much of that work has already been done. I’m not with her for the healing solely, my love for her runs much deeper than utility, but what she helps me do in that regard is remarkable and is part and parcel of what love entails. She has created such a safe space that it has allowed me to check a number of my reactions before I let them become a problem.

I’ve been lucky throughout my life to be able to recognize the times that I am living well. I can definitively say that this is one of the happiest and most beautiful times of my life. I find myself involved romantically with one of the most amazing people I have ever met.

This relationship in a lot of ways is the healthiest one I’ve ever been in. Our communication and willingness to be open, vulnerable and compassionate form the backbone of it. The love that this way of being has created for us is an amazing thing to have coursing through my body. It’s empowering, inspiring and secure; and it all started one day when two people stepped outside to meet over coffee.

The Hardest Article I Have Ever Written: State Of The Relationship Address

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Most of this article was created about a year prior to this publishing. I’ve written a lot of things throughout my life. I’ve written articles against the government as run by both republicans and democrats. I’ve railed against religion and the belief of god in general. As someone who is a critical theorist I have written articles wading through the topics of gender, sex and identity. When I was an animal rights activist I penned numerous articles against hunters who in turn wrote me death threats. I’m sure I’ve offended those on all sides.

I don’t say this to brag. In fact most of my work has gone largely unnoticed so I couldn’t if I wanted. Rather, I say it so you know the gravity of the statement that will follow; that I’ve never been more scared to write what comes after this sentence.

This is because over the course of two years I learned to fear someone who was also my partner. It was an emotionally abusive relationship that stemmed from her insecurities and while we had some particularly good times, in the the end those moments couldn’t overcome her unhealthy behavior and the damage I accrued.

I don’t write this to demean anyone. I mainly want people to know what this type of behavior looks like because even though I hope people don’t have to go through this, someone reading this is. I want you to know that you are not alone.

I’m also writing because, terrified as I am, I feel like publishing this is a measure of control that I need to implement in order to take back my life. I think as you read my story from over the span of two years this will begin to make more sense.

I have been writing in genderless terms as of late and I wholeheartedly love it. I’m going to place that aside for the moment because it’s important to realize that while this is a story of abuse, it’s also a story of a woman delivering abuse upon a man. This is especially important because some people seem to think this scenario isn’t possible or that when it happens that it’s not a big deal. Men are supposed to be tough and women not so much. So how could a woman pose any threat. As men we should just shrug it off and move on. This is how patriarchal ideas harm men by denying us our own individual realities.

This effect is even more amplified in my case because my abuser is charismatic, outgoing, seemingly selfless, popular, well connected and extremely short. When people see a picture of her they always say, it’s amazing that someone that small could cause so much chaos and yet every word that your about to read is true.

Overview

My relationship story begins as most do, in my case a boy meets a girl and they hit it off. As we went things progressed quickly and little did I know that the outline of my next two years had been played out in the first week we were together.

The week was a whirlwind. It started with the first four days being amazing and the last two culminating with her getting angry and breaking up. This short cycle of ups and downs was one of the overarching themes of our relationship. It was the pattern that would repeat nonstop.

As I said, there were some good times and the good times were great. In truth, these times and hope are two of the things that kept me going. During these moments I would hear that I was wonderful and that she loved me more than she had anyone else.

When the dark behavior rolled around she would say I didn’t care about her, and was using her. Sometimes she would breakup and sometimes not.

With such extreme polar opposites it became hard to believe that either state of being was true. I was the subject of her emotions during the highs and the lows. When she was down I was more of an emotional punching bag than a partner. Everything she felt, whether good or bad, by her reckoning I was the reason for it. Instead of taking responsibility for her emotions I was the one expected to work through them. I found myself in the position of always reacting to her and it was exhausting.

Isolation

One of the ways her insecurities manifested itself was to whittle down the world in which I lived. She viewed most outside people as hostile to the relationship and so would monopolize my time. I love to spend time with a partner, perhaps even more than most people do, but this was extreme.

Though we didn’t live together (at first) I would spend a week straight with her, leaving my bed with her in it and coming home after work to meet at my place. After this week I would want a little time to try and center myself and escape the emotional cycles for a day. My request would cause her to become distant or even angry. Numerous times she stormed out and went home then bombarded me with messages for the rest of the evening.

I did manage to get some nights to myself but I still couldn’t get the space I needed. Throughout the evening she would message me so often that I couldn’t focus on anything else. Generally I like a stream of messages from a romantic interest as it makes me feel connected. In this scenario though the messages were bombs waiting to detonate. If I didn’t respond quick enough or in the right way I would face her frustration and fury.

It’s not hard to see how this resulted in a fight via text. Numerous times she threatened to, or actually did, break up. Each scenario usually culminated in her calling me on the phone where we would have to hash everything out for an hour or so. The lesson for me was, if I take time to myself then I can expect tumult which will mean I won’t get the space I need. Additionally, taking time for me might possibly cause her to end the relationship.

Sometimes rather than hit me with the stick she would dangle a carrot from it. She would find an event that I might like to go to and ask me out for it. If I said yes, either to my interest in the event or from her pressure (and my fear) then my night alone was over before it began.

It should be clear from this that trying to get some space and tend to my emotions was a fruitless endeavor. I was spending so much time trying to take care of her that I couldn’t take care of myself. My emotional stability began to crack and fall away.

Even trying to spend time with her wasn’t easy. It could become quite literally absurd. For instance, one morning I said “let’s go do something together.” Her reply was that she didn’t want to. She just wanted some down time to read. I thought this was fine and said “okay, if you’re going to read I think I might go to the park down the street and do some bird photography.”  As I was packing my gear she started to get dressed and I asked what she was doing. She said, “I’m going to go out since you don’t want to do something together.” I told her that the only reason I was going out for photography was because she didn’t want to do anything. If she wanted to spend the day together then that would be great since that’s what I really wanted to do today anyhow. Somehow that wasn’t good enough. She said she would just go spend the day with her ex-boyfriend.

Getting time with my friends was a struggle as well. According to her I shouldn’t spend time with them because they were too dumb, too young, or as was often the case too female. Now . . . I choose my friends carefully, perhaps too carefully sometimes as it limits my contacts. Still, my friends are anything but stupid. They are generally emotionally and socially aware folks. As such, they are part and parcel of my well-being and help me stay in touch with reality when I get off track.

My partner knew this and successfully managed to isolate me from them all. A female friend would later say that she stopped messaging me because she knew it would create problems with my girlfriend. She wasn’t wrong. When my phone alerted me to a text (or if someone responded in some way on social media) I instantly became scared of the inevitable questions that would follow if it was a female. She wanted to know who it was, what the person wanted, when the last time I talked to them was and what about.

One day my girlfriend gave me an ultimatum. I had to renounce one of my female friends if I wanted to keep our relationship together. The reason for this was that I might fall in love with this friend despite every bit of evidence suggesting this would never happen. Case in point; shortly after this my friend got married (not surprisingly, to someone other than me). I resisted the demand at first then reasoned that the success of the relationship was worth it and that this was a good way to prove to my girlfriend what she meant to me (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).

Control

In place of my friends hers were inserted. When we would all get together it was talk of cycling and gossip with no apparent concern as to whether I was involved in the conversation or not. I’ve rarely felt so alone and unstimulated as I was in those moments. As I would later learn, those that my ex placed close to me were there for a reason. More henchmen than friends, they would be called upon at pivotal moments throughout the relationship.

For example, I was given a list of three people that I could talk to about our relationship. Her best friend was the number one person on that list. Soon after that, my two friends proved too much for her to handle. I could now only seek the council of her friend.

Once when I did go to her friend, I tried to relate what I had been going through and my attempts to understand it. Her friend replied, horrible things happen in a relationship, just move on. Perhaps it wasn’t the friends fault. She was just too close to my girlfriend to see my reality.

Social media was another pillar of independence to fall. If I posted anything (even a nice sunset pic) when we were together without tagging my girlfriend she would get mad. Accordingly, I made sure she was tagged in the things I posted. Numerous times I visited her page to see what it looked like with our events posted to it. None of them were there. I had spent the effort to make sure she was tagged in everything we did and she didn’t approve them to her page.

In fact, there was rarely an instance when someone could look at her page and tell she was in a relationship at all. It was important for her to maintain an omnipresence on my page that eclipsed everything else, but she would become very upset and claim she was a private person when I wanted some modicum of recognition on hers.

Because most of her friends on social media didn’t know she was in a relationship she would still have men flirting and asking her out regularly. Interestingly, she rarely told them outright that she had a boyfriend. I came to think that this was part of her plan. That she needed me to stay invisible should we break up so she could resume dating anyone she might have been cultivating a connection with before.

At the very end of the relationship she was using my phone and writing my Facebook posts instead of me. Seeing words on my wall that weren’t in my voice was disturbing. I tried numerous times to get a little recognition on her page or wrest control of mine from her. My attempts were met with hostility that usually ended up in her getting what she wanted.

Her control overflowed into this blog as well. If I wrote something about myself or my ideas it would be subject to criticism and so I only posted links with small bits of commentary. I even penned an article about how to look at conflict differently and while I still think it has merit as a mental exercise (in a healthy relationship) it was indicative of me trying to get a grasp on reality at the time (thanks gaslighting).

When I found out I had herpes I wanted to use this blog, as I am now, to become a voice for others. It was clear that she didn’t want this. She actually said that it would reflect poorly on her. She didn’t want people to know she was dating someone with herpes, she would seem dirty. She stayed with me mind you, but with statements like that who needs company.

Love Bomb In Reverse

It also became evident that the kindness extended to me came with strings attached. She attempted to use nearly everything as leverage at some point.

Money was the main method for her to exert control (or so she thought). As a trust fund kid (and probable millionaire) it wasn’t hard for her to come up with money. Once she told me that since she buys things for me she expects a certain kind of treatment in return. On another occasion, after one of our breakups, she bought me a pair of shoes that I didn’t really want. She insisted I have them so I could look good when we go out. Then she asked me, “you’re not going to break up with me tomorrow are you?”

I would repeatedly tell her that if I need something I’d find a way to buy it and that she was not my provider. I asked her numerous times to stop buying me things and let her know that money doesn’t buy behavior. I suggested we only do things together that we could both afford, but she didn’t want to live that kind of “limited” lifestyle. Nevertheless, I was repeatedly given things only to later have them used against me. Those items would ether be taken back when she was upset or used to remind me that she bought them for me at a later date.

She would also exert control over what was sentimental. When she was upset she would remove the meaning from our relationship tokens by saying things like songs that were special to us didn’t mean anything anymore. In the end I’m pretty sure there was nothing sentimental left that she hadn’t decided was meaningless.

Sometimes there were nice gestures that became weapons to wield against me. She threw me a surprise birthday party once and I told her how much I appreciated it. No one had done something like that before. I was extremely grateful and for one of the few times in my life felt appreciated (I struggle with this). I posted to social media of my own accord about what a wonderful night it was. Afterwards, I was scolded for not showing enough appreciation. She said it was a waste of her time and money and she will never do it again.

Gaslighting

Whenever I tried to stand up for myself I was told I was mean. By now I didn’t know if this was true or not, my reality had been supplanted by hers. The distortions were palpable and I just didn’t know if I could trust my thoughts anymore.

One of the only things we had left, which was the physical part of the relationship started to come under fire as well. We generally had sex at least once a day. If one morning, for instance, I said I didn’t want to have sex right now, let’s see about later in the day then she would get angry with me. When I would relent and have sex for the “good” of the relationship then later that night she would tell me she didn’t want to have sex and that she only did because I wanted to. The insinuation being that I had forced her.

I was also blamed for other things that I shouldn’t have been. A couple of times after huge disagreements, we made up and she said “you make me so mad sometimes.” I knew she was blaming me for her behavior, but I didn’t want to start another fight after having just ended one so I kept quiet.

Every now and then she would say something that confirmed my reality. When it looked like I might break up she would tell me that she was the reason I was broken, that she couldn’t control her emotions and that she was going to go back to therapy (she got kicked out of group for not doing the work and went a couple times to private sessions).

These admissions kept me in the relationship because it confirmed what I was feeling for once. Whether this was strictly a moment of truth or another way to keep me in the relationship I truthfully cannot say. Either way, I stayed.

Belittlement

There was subtle and outright verbal abuse as well. A pair of my friends ask me to officiate their wedding and she couldn’t wrap her head around why they would ask me to marry them. Silly me, I just figured it was because they valued me.

Once when we broke up one of her friends got ahold of her phone supposedly without her knowing and sent me a message saying “they all hated me and always had.” Obviously she had been talking negatively about me. Nothing was ever said to this person by my girlfriend because “they were going through a hard time.” If my girlfriend couldn’t protect me from herself then why would she do so from other people. It let me know my ranking in her life.

When she was happy she would say that her friends liked me and when she wanted to hurt me she would say that they didn’t.

Once when we broke up she told me that the only reason she was with me was for the sex. Dating me was like dating a homeless person she said (because I was working class and she was rich). I knew she was using this as a means to try and distance her emotions from me so I let it slide when I shouldn’t have.

Breakups

Over the course of two years we probably broke up around a dozen times, usually at her insistence. During those times I would repeatedly ask for space. Despite asking, telling, and virtually pleading for her not to, and me often getting mad over it, she would keep talking to me about the prospects of who she was dating and lining up to sleep with next (sometimes hours after we broke up).

Half the times we broke up she would end up in the hospital for various things (gastroparesis, a cold, dehydration, passing out, a seizure, and twice because she said someone drugged her on a date). I realize now that they were probably fabricated. Her extensive experience as a head trauma nurse gave her a working knowledge of illnesses and medical protocol. Nonetheless, these crises would usually draw me back to her side.

After one breakup she ended up hospitalized and they had to keep her overnight. She asked me to stay. I told her I had plans and that I just came to visit, but she pleaded for me to remain. I cancelled my plans for that evening and spent the night in the hospital with her. The next morning after we woke she told me to leave and that she never wanted me there in the first place.

After our penultimate breakup she used the opportunity to tear asunder anything that I might still find dear to my existence. It was a way to remove everything she had “given” me.

In the course of those two years I had used every day of my vacation time and more helping her to establish a new career and volunteering with her for a foundation which helped women in cycling (something that was near and dear to my heart). She became the executive director of the race team and when I refused to get back together with her she removed me from the staff. Granted, I didn’t really want to work with her anymore, but a conversation rather than an edict would have been courteous.

All of her friends with which she was so fond of me cultivating relationships walked away en masse. Overnight about 30 percent of the people on my social media unfriended me. She had one of them message me to pile on the harassment and ask for a cycling kit back that they gave me because they didn’t want me representing their team anymore.

She contacted my ex-wife and tried to plant the seeds of dissension by saying I was a downer and mean. She told my ex that all her friends saw it and she was “just trying to help the poor guy (me) out.” The picture she tried to paint of me wasn’t what my former wife had remembered or ever experienced. In some ways though she was right. I wasn’t the same person that my ex-wife knew. I had been through two years of emotional abuse and I was tattered and worn. Still, my ex-wife knew the score because she had also witnessed the ways in which I was striving to be there for my girlfriend even when I shouldn’t have.

My ex-girlfriend came into my place of work repeatedly; once she screamed at me in front of the store. Another time she walked through my area to ask me where something was in the store. I’m sure it happened to be a coincidence that she was dressed up for a date which she also used the opportunity to tell me about. I saw her staking out the coffee house I frequent and circling the employee parking at my break time to find me. She started using an app to get around the fact that I blocked her in every way I could. She also left letters on my car and mailed them to where I lived.

In a move that chased me from where I lived she began dating my roommate two weeks after our break up. She was sleeping over every night with him. I couldn’t get away from her and he was too miserably lonely to see what was really happening.

They camped out in the room right outside my door with the television blaring. The effect of which was a constant reminder of her presence. All I wanted was space. I was a hostage and boxed in on all sides. It got so bad that I started keeping a bottle in my room to pee in when they were awake so I didn’t have to use the restroom and risk seeing her. Sadly, it had come to that.

One cold rainy evening I called my parents sitting outside the house in my car afraid to go inside. I don’t know how much they understood because I was sobbing uncontrollably. I was trapped and utterly fucking miserable. It was clear that she wanted me to lose the place where I lived because she had recommended it to me. It was one more thing she had “given” me that she was determined to take away. She asked when I was moving out so that she could move her stuff in. I let her have it and took the first new place I could find.

If you haven’t wondered by now it will probably come as no surprise that she would go on to say on that breakup that I was sexually abusive to her. It was the final thing she could do. Because I’m pro-feminist and a writer/author, floating the idea that I was an abuser denies me credibility and an audience. I’m sure it was also the story she used to get her friends to run away from me.

In one way I guess I should be happy. She posted this latest “revelation” to social media and I finally made it onto her Facebook page. She also started tagging me in derogatory comments linked to my photography page on Facebook. Having pushed me out of every part of her life it was all she had left to do.

I began reaching back out to those friends that I couldn’t before. I realized what my ex was afraid of and it was their experience and judgement. One of the first things a male friend of mine said from back home was “I believe you Jeremy, I’ve been exactly where you’re at.” Time and time again nearly everyone said that I should get a restraining order (I almost did), that I was being gaslighted and that I was most certainly emotionally abused.

I cried so many times because finally someone fucking believed me and for one of the first times in a couple years I realized that I wasn’t crazy and that my experience was actually real (something I still have trouble believing). Having contact with my friends helped to recenter me and see a few things clearly. Well . . . mostly that is.

The Ultimate Breakup

I thought I could hate her forever for what she did to me. The hate felt pure, it was strong, and I was strong because of it, or so I imagined for a second. I thought that hate would be enough to keep me away from her for the rest of my life. I was wrong on all counts.

Eventually I just got tired of being angry about what happened and so . . . we got together for a beer. Then we met again the next night. She said I seemed happy again and told me she was sorry for everything she had put me through. She said she broke me and put me through hell over the last 18 months and realized if I went through that without leaving then she could finally trust me and wanted things to work out.

Then because this is what we did, we got back together. To be honest, I’m not sure why. I think it was just familiar. My friends had cautioned me about dating her again. They were right to be worried about my safety of course. The time apart had let me center myself enough that I knew I could handle one last chance. If it didn’t work or became unhealthy I could leave this time without the crushing aspect of our last breakup.

So, by the end of that second night we were together again and her boyfriend/my ex roommate was out (although it took her another 10 days to tell him that). She said she didn’t want to hang around her friends anymore; that she didn’t enjoy spending time with them because they were immature. I think her friends were easier to cast aside than to admit we were together and that she had lied about me.

A couple of weeks or so later the new place I had moved into didn’t work out as my then roommate proved to be unstable (can I pick em or what). My girlfriend said I should move in with her. It wasn’t a good decision but I had to go somewhere quick. Living together wasn’t good for us. It wasn’t our time to live together and I knew this from day one. I would need to get my own place, but she would have to realize it as well. When I suggested that it would be healthier for our relationship to each have our own places she told me that if I moved out we were done.

That ultimatum was very unfair to me. The only move that could save the relationship was the one that if I made would also end it. There was no good way forward. When I was trying to decide how to navigate this conundrum she started demanding I get out and contacted a lawyer about having me removed. I moved out once more to the first place I could find. Luckily, I landed in a good place to live this time.

Two weeks later she would tell me she was okay with us having separate places and that moving out was the right decision. She wanted to start dating again. What I told my friends was correct. I could step aside if it didn’t work that one last time. I declined, I was more than ready to move on. There were too many wrongs and too much pain that I couldn’t overlook and rightly so. To be frank, I was treated like a piece of shit she stepped in and I had been wiped off of the bottom of her shoe for the last time.

The Friendship Attempt

Even friendship was unsuccessful.

As I stated before, my repeated statements that I didn’t want to hear about her new love interests went unheeded. She would say, “but if we’re friends we should be able to talk about this.” In most situations that would have been true, but not one where we had been recently separated and that type of information had previously been (and still was being) used to hurt me.

She was also fond of telling me about all the things that we would have done together if we had remained a couple. “We would have had a race car (a mutual interest of ours) and I could have built my dream project vehicle” as if offering me things would bring me back. It was clear friendship wasn’t going to work. I decided to cut off contact.

After a month of no contact she bumped into me at a stock car race and made sure to remind me of how she bought the coat I was wearing. I guess I’m still indebted to her. She also tried to find out where my new job was with the bait of giving me sales. It’s worth noting that one of the perks to my new job was that it is 40 minutes away so she can’t just pop in to see me. She inquired as to where I lived now. Some people never change. Except that I do and I don’t want to be around that level of control and insecurity anymore.

Ten months into no contact letters still end up being mailed to me or are left taped to my truck window in the middle of the night (so much for not knowing where I live). She sent me a photo of me sitting in my truck at a stoplight, one which I had just bought and she had never seen, with the caption “I see you.” Accounts where I forget to block her have messages waiting for me. I don’t read them; I already know what they say. One of the messages would read that she has dated and no one is like I was and she compares everyone to me and they come up short. Another would say how she missed me as a friend, then it would go on to take abusive shots at me by saying it’s for the best that we’re separated because in the end she didn’t care for me anymore and was just having sex for the good of the relationship. Then she would make mention that she doesn’t want to date because she is seeing (insert new guys name here) and she’s working on building a relationship with him. She’s so happy now that she’s almost beside herself.

Even her letters follow her desperate emotional cycle from which I fought to extricate myself. They are an attempt to keep me close so that something between us can start up again. If we were to start a relationship again then that wonderful guy she was on about will end up in the trash along with those letters. I’ve seen her do it numerous times before. At least he’ll have some reading material.

Even though I don’t read these messages, seeing them has the same effect as if I did. My heart starts racing, everything comes rushing back and I get that flush feeling like after you’ve taken a hard fall and you realize you’re injured. Fight or flight takes over and though I’m gradually getting better, it still takes a toll. The letters, emails and cards regardless of what they say are a steadfast indicator that I’m still responsible for her emotions. She still won’t let me live my life and yet I’m only happy when I’m free of her.

James Baldwin said it well, “I cannot believe what you say because I see what you do.” Her words aren’t worth hearing. She has apologized for her behavior dozens of times and has said that she is the reason I’m broken. That doesn’t matter anymore because those realizations and her apologies won’t heal me and they definitely won’t stop her from turning around and abusing me tomorrow if she feels the urge.

The only thing that will stop this pattern from repeating itself is me. Happily, I have.

Out Of The Void

If you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted just from reading this then you can understand how I was on the verge of a mental breakdown from living it. Unfortunately, this was only a portion of the things I endured.

Whether knowingly or not, I think she kept me close for whatever emotional need (to love or to hurt) she had. I believe her when she said loved me and when she said she felt as if she wasn’t good enough for me. Those competing impulses: the feeling of longing and of potential loss, kept her from acting from a place of love and it put me in a dangerous and abusive place. Truth be told, I’m not really sure she knows what it is to feel love.

Prior to this my moral compass had guided my life and made me feel healthy, surefooted and steadfast. During and after the relationship though I was set askew and couldn’t trust my own thoughts. My reality had been questioned, altered and controlled.

Because I wanted to keep the relationship together I had to stop trying to establish healthy boundaries. Now that sentence is pretty messed up I realize, but true nonetheless.

I know now that I was enacting a failing strategy. No amount of care I give or well-being I sacrifice for an extremely insecure (possibly narcissistic) person will sooth their behavior. There will always be some other concession they need to be made and I will always be the one making it. Here’s a life tip: when someone in a relationship continually refuses to take responsibility and be accountable for their emotions then you either respond as if the burden is yours (normalizing the behavior) and begin the cycle of codependency and potentially abuse or you call them out, and in the absence of change walk away.

Her insecurity manifested itself in a need for total hegemonic control of the relationship. I went into this relationship the happiest I had ever been. I came out a nervous and shattered individual with some symptoms of PTSD. Putting myself back together again has been real work but it has certainly been work worth doing.

The Takeaway

I’m a believer that there is no such thing as a wasted experience. If I learn something from less than ideal circumstances then it can guide my behavior in a way to make a better life.

In my case I was open to abuse because I believe in being vulnerable. I also critically examine my behavior and seriously consider the critique of my partner. I want to be there for my partner and that trait was wielded against me in the most pernicious of ways. I still strongly value vulnerability and openness but have learned that those traits without healthy boundaries are a recipe for abuse. I can still be open and loving and expect something similar in return. I’ve already used this lesson to side step what would probably have been a few dating/relationship disasters.

Certainly I can’t go back to the happy me before I met this person. That exact time has passed and I can never return. However, I am becoming happy again and I will continue to do so with new experiences under my belt. It will be a new, even better, version of me with the my past as a guide.

After all, I have learned that there are far worse things than being single.

 

Postscript: Since these events I have reassembled myself into something very much like I was before this trauma. Recently I have been spending time with someone who has been doting on me in a way people used to. Not only that but she is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. She and my friends have helped me realize that all of the good in me is still present. I don’t feel like a pile of ashes on the ground anymore. I’m the nourished sapling that has sprung from ruin. Knowing that makes me very happy. May you also rise from your ashes.