“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)
October 15, 2009 – It was my 27th birthday. I had been settled in my new apartment in Wyomissing for nearly three weeks. The Phillies were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS that evening, so I decided to invite a group of people down to my place to watch the game and celebrate my birthday. About 20 or so of my friends showed up…it was a great time. And adding to it, the Phillies took down the Dodgers 8-6 en route to a 2-0 series lead.
A week or so prior to my birthday, a good friend of mine mentioned that she thought that I should get to know her friend…she seemed to be my type, perhaps we could date? I was definitely open to the idea, so I told my friend that she should bring her over to my place for my birthday get-together.
I remember every detail about her from that evening. When we introduced ourselves for the first time in the parking lot outside of my building, she gave me a hug, and I immediately found myself with that feeling…you know it…the butterflies in the stomach “there is something special about this one” feeling. I did my best to entertain everyone else that night, but I was having a hard time taking my eyes off of her. It reminded me of that day from orientation at UNC in 2003 when I caught the first glance of my future fiance. I hadn’t found myself with this feeling in years.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to speak to each other very much that evening. I was nervous about approaching her, and quite honestly she hadn’t been showing a lot of interest in me, so I thought that perhaps I didn’t have much of a chance. But a a day or two after the party we connected on Facebook and messaged each other a couple of times. We exchanged numbers and shortly after we were planning our first dinner date. I was so anxious to see her and get to know her better.
Our first date went really well. We had a good conversation, and I really felt like there was a strong mutual attraction between us. At least I know there was from my end. I was completely falling from her from the moment that I saw her that night. I can’t necessarily even describe what it was exactly…it was a lot of things. She was just so adorable to me. Beautiful, sweet, soft spoken, and seemingly innocent and somewhat sheltered. Everything that she embodied made me want her more – I felt like I had so much to offer her…I couldn’t believe that she was single…I felt like the luckiest man in the world. And later that night when we first kissed, it was perfect. I was going to be in deep with this one. I knew it immediately.
The next six months were filled with some of the best times that I had spent with anyone in a long, long time. We did a lot together. I knew that there were lots of things that she hadn’t experienced in previous relationships, and I wanted to give her everything. I intended to make every effort sweep her completely off of her feet and show her a love that she never knew or even thought was possible. For Christmas, I planned a “12 days of” theme which resulted in a unique gift every day coupled with a question/answer aspect that allowed me to get to know her better, ultimately determining her preferences for a final gift. She really seemed to enjoy it. It helped to make the holidays fun…it was as if we were kids again. And that’s how it felt for me in my heart as well. I was young and innocent again…I felt alive. And I was pretty sure that I had surrendered the ability to feel that way several years prior. But she fueled all of my desires. We traveled, and we did lots of romantic things with one another. I couldn’t see myself living without her. I was completely in love.
She was not without flaws, but let’s be honest, neither was I. If you’ve spent any time at all reading this blog than that’s one statement that you know to be the absolute truth. I loved her for her flaws. In a way, they made me feel more comfortable about being myself in the relationship. They made me feel stronger, and they made made want to hold her tighter. And with that being the case, much of my own personal anxiety and panic remained completely dormant during the early part of our time with one another.
I did have questions about her personal living situation and her ability to be independent. Those were legit concerns. She had been living at home since graduating college and she acted somewhat ignorant about real world responsibilities at times. It appeared to me that she seemed to have a very difficult time being on her own. And there were other things, but those aren’t really important…my purpose is not to put her down at all. In fact, I’m regretful now that I gave her so much grief about those things. I pressured her to be something that she wasn’t capable of or ready for, and that was not fair of me.
Due largely in part to my persistence, she eventually agreed that she wanted to try to take the next step in our relationship. So in late August of 2010, about 10 months after we began dating, we moved her things to my place, about 10 miles from her parents’ home. I remember that move very well, and not really for all of the positive reasons you’d expect. Her demeanor was actually quite discouraging. She didn’t appear to be excited or feeling good about moving in with the love of her life. Instead it seemed to me that she was overwhelmed with feelings of panic and uncertainty. And those were feelings I could recognize immediately…after all, I had spent several years of my life suppressing those emotions myself. I sensed that she was not comfortable at all. And that hurt me. I thought we had a great thing…why would she be feeling that way?
When I asked her about it, there were always a million reasons for why she felt she was having a hard time getting settled. She was good at distributing the blame elsewhere. The place wasn’t big enough…there wasn’t enough space for her things…we didn’t have a yard…the apartment made her feel very closed in…she didn’t like the area where we were living…and on and on. And all of that negative energy wore on me quickly. I was very proud of my place prior to her arrival, and everyone who visited seem to think that it was great as well. I worked hard to be able to afford it, and it was something that I held in high regard. And now, I was being forced to question its value. Instead of sharing in the good, it felt as though she was working to break me down. It was as if she wanted to keep me feeling on edge…as though she had one foot out the door the entire time. And that motive appeared clearly evident by the fact that it took her more than two months to change her mailing address. I began to have my doubts about her commitment to our relationship.
The fall of 2010 was an interesting time. It was really then that our troubles began to manifest themselves. There was a lot going on in our lives personally. I was getting extremely busy at work, and I began to find myself needing to arrange for a lot of business travel. I was often finding myself in different parts of the country during the week, and on the weekends I was still attempting to visit UNC on a regular basis for football games. I was embracing the travel and spontaneity of the lifestyle that I was being afforded, but I’m sure that she felt she was being thrown a complete curve ball. There wasn’t much stability. And her life had always been so routine and predictable…now it was spinning somewhat out of control. I would be gone for several days at a time, and this forced her into situations that were far outside of her comfort zone. She’d be expected to hold down the fort while I was out of town…and I’m not sure she was ready for that. And I really wanted her to be able to handle it. So I’m certain that she felt the the pressure to be strong and independent…admittedly, I had put it on her. With a fear of letting me down weighing heavily on her mind, she decided to hide her apprehension about being alone in our place…and in turn she began to act dishonestly.
In spite of those challenges, we were still able to share in some amazing times together that fall. She visited UNC with me a couple of times, and we always had a great time together. Chapel Hill seemed to be the spot where it always clicked for us 100 percent. We both enjoyed those visits and she felt completely comfortable in the welcoming arms of the South. We often contemplated a potential move there someday.
And we had some good times around the apartment as well. I give her a ton of credit…she made an exceptional effort to be a good partner to me, and for the most part she was absolutely that. She took an interest in responsibilities around our place and she was always involved with cooking and cleaning. She made me feel well taken care of every evening. We really enjoyed spending time with each other relaxing, snuggled up on the couch together. There was something about the simplicity of a night in together that we both embraced. I often look back on those times and smile…they were always very intimate and sweet…I loved them, and I loved her. I remember spending time decorating for the holidays with her and thinking that I could see myself doing it forever…she could be a lot of fun…and always adorable.
But there was something developing inside of her that was slowly working its way to the surface. Many days she seemed depressed, and I found myself wondering what had happened to the person that I had met a year earlier? She seemed to exemplifying the complete opposite demeanor and personality now. I tried for quite some time to reason with her, cater to her needs, and pick her up when she was down. I really did attempt to make my best effort at that. But her lack of commitment to working on things began to bother me inside…my concern turned to frustration. She would not often acknowledge that there was any problem…in fact she would make every effort to deny it. I would beg and plead with her to talk to me, confide in me, let me be there to support her…but those efforts only made her resent me more. So in the face of the denial I found myself continually convincing her that her behaviors were not normal or welcomed in a relationship…and I pushed her farther away. I wasn’t helping…I was adding to the pressure that she was already feeling inside. And I am very sorry for that.
As days went by, she seemed to be distancing herself from me. Our relationship was not nearly as strong as it had been initially. We both began to feel a bit alienated by each other, and as a result we found ourselves overly defensive and on edge. We began to argue on a regular basis, and it appeared to be only a matter of time until there would be a serious explosion…one of us just needed to light the fuse…
And then in Mid-January while traveling to Nebraska to visit our production facility with one of my clients, disaster ensued. Out of respect for her, I’d really rather not go too far into the details. But I returned to Pennsylvania feeling very unsure about things…she had been dishonest with me while I was out of town, and this wasn’t the first time. And when I arrived home, feeling very upset and betrayed, she flipped the situation on me and made it out to be my own personal trust issue. She proceeded to pack a bag and leave our apartment for several days and returned only as a result of my full apology and willingness to take complete responsibility for the situation.
We never really made a full recovery from that incident. And an old monster from my past was now present in my life again. I suffered with so much anxiety on that trip to Nebraska that I was a volatile mess for weeks after my return. I was about to have a nervous breakdown. And on Super Bowl Sunday while driving home from my parents’ house with my girlfriend…that’s about exactly what took place. We found ourselves in a disagreement in the car, and I lost total control of myself. I had to pull over. I shook repeatedly almost as if in convulsions, for what seemed like an hour. I tried walking, taking deep breaths, drinking water, everything I knew…nothing could hold back the emotional and psychological panic that had set in. It was by far the most terrifying experience that I’ve ever dealt with. I didn’t think it would ever pass. But in time, I gathered myself, and somehow I drove us home.
A week later we went to Philadelphia for Valentine’s Day weekend. I was a complete wreck. It seemed like it took us days to get to the city and back because I needed to pull off of the highway so many times to gather myself. The sight of halted traffic repeatedly served up vicious panic attacks…I had to escape the situation. I felt as though I was on the cusp of another major breakdown. But in time, we made it back to Wyomissing safely. I don’t know how I got through it…it must have been with the guidance of the Lord.
The next day, as I found myself at the lowest point I had been in 8 years with anxiety, she hit me right between the eyes. I was still attempting to recover from the day before, but she had things she wanted to put on the table…immediately. So for the next six or seven hours, she hammered me. She literally told me that I was responsible for everything that went wrong in our relationship. She made me out to be a horrible person, and in my weakness, I honestly believed it. I felt horrible. I never wanted to be the person she was describing. I loved her and was feeling overwhelmed with regret. She maintained that she had zero responsibility – EVERYTHING had been my fault. She threatened to leave over and over again that afternoon…only choosing to remain as a result of my persistent pleas for her to stay. Apparently, she had reached her breaking point.
And then in the evening, everything calmed. It seemed as if we had weathered the storm. I gave her a hug and told her I was sorry for everything that I had done to her. I would do my best to be a much better partner to her in the future. We’d get through it.
As we left the apartment to grab dinner together, I saw her tear up multiple times…when I asked her why she was crying, she said that she felt awful about some of things that she had said to me because she had been so mean and unfair. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. That seemed to be real…
And then less than 24 hours later on Valentine’s Day, wearing a red sweater similar to the one from our first date, she decided that she had enough, and walked out of my life forever…