To The Boy I Thought I Loved

Dear John,

No, your name isn’t John. This is just me protecting you one last time as I have done countless times before. Only a handful of people really know about you and what you did to me, but it’s about time I tell my story since I have had this locked away inside of me for way too long. You’re not in my life anymore, but the pain you so willingly gifted remains.

I was just an innocent, naive little freshman in high school when I first met you.

I was so excited to start this new chapter in my life, and I couldnt wait to make new friends. I decided to join the chorus, even though I was very shy and had never done any prior singing. I quickly found my love for the singing as soon as classes started. I met so many people.

I never imagined that we would ever end up dating. But still, I carried on with my little school girl crush. My friend and I would walk down the hallway by your locker every morning just to see you, but thats all I did. I never spoke to you. I was a shy, awkward, little freshman with braces. I mean, why would you like me? I thought you were way out of my league.

However, I didnt realize you had a dark side. I didn’t realize that you would take me to such a low point in my own self-worth, happiness and confidence. From a young age, girls are taught to watch for signs of physical and sexual abuse. No one ever told me how to look out for signs of emotional and verbal abuse.

At the start of my sophomore year, I told my best friend, who was very good friends with of your best friend, that I had a crush on you. She got so excited and quickly wanted to set us up. She thought we would be the perfect homecoming couple. She planned a big date night with her friends, including you and me. We went bowling, but I was too shy to even speak to you. I was too focused on not being so awkward in a room full of upperclassmen. By the end of the night, however, I was sharing the same seat as you, and you had your arm around me. It was literally like the Taylor Swift song Enchanted.

Everything just felt so right, so magical. I thought you were the one.

I later found out that you had already asked a girl to the homecoming dance. I was a little disappointed, but I didnt let it ruin my homecoming night. So, I went with one of my other friends. The next day, however, you officially asked me to be your girlfriend.

You were my first boyfriend.

I didnt think things could get any more perfect. I felt so lucky to be dating such a popular guy. At times I wondered, out of all the girls, why you would pick me. The first month of our relationship was like a dream. You’d walk me to class, wed go to movies together, and you’d hold my hand at rehearsals for the spring musical.

You gave me my first kiss.

I was just so in love with you, that I didnt even realize that the relationship was beginning to turn abusive. Looking back now, I hated that I couldnt be myself around you. When I was with you, I felt weak, vulnerable and naive.

Our relationship started going sour the day you demanded me to do things: things that I was not ready for, things I was definitely not comfortable doing. And when I refused, you dumped me… in a text message. I went home and cried myself to sleep because I thought I did something wrong.

I kept asking myself over and over again in my head, What did I do wrong? Why doesnt he like me anymore?

The next day at school, you came up to me and apologized for acting like a complete idiot the night before. I forgave you in an instant and took you back.

My first mistake.

I thought that day you pressured me would be a one-time incident, and that you would never put pressure on me like that again. I was wrong.

It got worse.

Every single time we would have date nights, you would pressure me and use ultimatums in order to try and force me to do something. I thought this was normal in a relationship. Perhaps, I was too new at this whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing. You were my first boyfriend, after all. So I didnt want to dump you over something silly like that, even though you made me flinch every time you pressured me.

You began to belittle me and call me disgusting names whenever I said no to you; names such as ugly, bitch , dumbass, slut and other foul names that I knew no boy should ever call a girl.

But soon, I began to believe you; that I really was ugly and dumb. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells around you. If I tiptoed in just the right pattern and watched my steps carefully, everything was beautiful. But sometimes, the eggshells cracked even if the wind just blew the wrong way.

But still, I carried on and pretended I was okay through a very forced smile.

In a place full of people, I felt so alone. It was like you dropped me in a cage and secluded me from the rest of the world. I couldn’t talk to anyone about what you were putting me through; I didn’t think anyone would care. You had me wrapped around your little finger, and you knew it. You just dragged me along as if I was a dog tied to a leash.

It hurt me every day. I wanted to end things, but I just didnt know how to say goodbye to the boy I had pined over for the past year. I felt conflicted because I wanted to leave you, but I also felt like I was protecting you from the darkness that engulfed your life. I was afraid of what you might do to yourself if I ever left you. Its really painful to let go of someone that you dont fully want to let go of, but its even more painful to hold on to him if he never truly wanted to stay in the first place. I was just a zombie, going through the motions of everyday life in high school with no purpose.

The night before my 16th birthday, I decided to give you one of the many things that you had pressured me into doing for the past several months of our relationship: a French kiss. Sure, a French kiss may not seem like such a big deal to you, but to me, a little 15-year-old girl, I was terrified. I had never done anything like it before, so I plucked up the courage and went for it.

However, after you dropped me off at my house that night, you broke up with me. I felt so disgusted and used. On my 16th birthday, the day that I was supposed to be happy and celebrating a milestone in my life, I locked myself in my bedroom all day. I wouldnt leave my bed, and I shut out the rest of the world.

I realized that I wasnt being a bad girlfriend; you were the one in the wrong. But, I was too blinded by love at first to realize it. But still, no matter how much you hurt me verbally and emotionally, I couldnt let you go. I accepted the love I thought I deserved. I didnt think any other boy would love me or date me, so I wanted to stick with you. I kept telling myself, You’ll get better. You’ll be nicer, eventually. You’ll change. This is just a weird phase.

But you never did.

Soon, it got to the point where you would dump me whenever you didnt get what you wanted. You’d make up an excuse and say, Oh, I like another girl, or, We need to take a break. But I knew why you really dumped me.

Because I disappointed you.

We were constantly off and on between dating and not dating to the point that I didnt even know if we were a couple or not.

He asked another girl to prom just now.

I couldnt believe it. I didnt want to believe it. I called you that night, and you confirmed the rumor. You were taking another girl to prom.

The night that I finally ended things with you was a warm summer night after junior year. You took me out for ice cream. My mom and older brother were also coming, but they were following in another car. Things were going great, and I thought this could be another fresh start with you.

That was until you pulled off into a side street and stopped the car on the side of the road. I looked at you puzzled and said, What are you doing? You just looked at me and smiled just as mischievously as the Chesire cat.

Kiss me, you said leaning in towards me. Im not driving away until you kiss me.

I refused at first. I was still upset about prom and the fact that you had taken another girl to a concert that I was dying to go to. I felt so stupid, so vulnerable for how weak I was in your presence.

But finally, I rolled my eyes and kissed you.

My second mistake.

You unexpectedly grabbed me and forced your hand down my shirt without my consent. I slapped your hand away to which you called me a nasty name. I wanted to get out of your car; in fact, I wanted to run away and never have to see your face again, but my legs wouldnt move.

I was so disgusted with you and myself, for letting myself sink so low as to even consider giving you another chance with me. I was done with you. You messed with my confidence, my emotions, my self-esteem, and my brain, and I was done with it.

I never thought that I would get out of that depressing funk you put me in for my entire junior year. It was like this constant cold and dark cloud hanging over me – as if I would never see a blue sky or sunny day again – as if all the happiness had been sucked out of me, and all I was left with was this cold, empty feeling inside.

I wanted to start senior with a fresh beginning without you.

It took me almost three years of a miserable relationship to realize what had happened with you was very wrong. I didnt realize I was in a very manipulative and abusive relationship until I was out of it. Your treatment of me hadn’t registered in my head as abuse, despite the constant bullying, shaming, hurtful words and demeaning comments.

Emotional abuse erodes at the spirit without hardly being seen, slowly tearing away at the seams until you find yourself swallowed in self-doubt, lack of worth and unhappiness in the shadow of someone else’s controlling and dominating nature.

I am not the same innocent and naive little freshman girl I was, thanks to you.

And those words you said to me and those names you called me still hurt me. You probably think the terms manipulator or abuser are dramatic, but just labeling you as a person who used to say mean things to me doesnt fit the bill. While you may not have physically hurt me, the emotional scars left on me were utterly damaging to my self-esteem and made it almost impossible to love again.

At the age of 20 you came back into my life and got me pregnant. You got me pregnant then told me to terminate the pregnancy. When I said no you slapped me a few times and broke it off again. I went to friends and they said “Hayley you need to stop seeing him” all I could say was that I loved you and that you would change. After mean and horrible names you called me I finally broke it off, blocked your number, and haven’t talked to you since. You still don’t know that I lost the baby to a miscarriage almost a month ago.

So, John, I would like to thank you.

Thanks to you, I have a hard time opening up and trusting other guys. Thanks to you, I am trying to learn to love myself before I can even think about loving another guy. Thanks to you, I have perfected the art of hiding my feelings behind a fake smile. Thanks to you, I constantly overthink everything and grow anxious that I did something wrong or made a mistake. Thanks to you, I spend hours in my room fixing my hair and clothes in hopes that I will feel less insecure about myself. Thanks to you, I know the signs to look for in a toxic relationship. Thanks to you, I have set high standards for myself because I’m not afraid to wait until someone better shows up.

You put me through hell, but I came back stronger than ever.

I pray that I will someday find a guy who gives me butterflies like you once did, but will calmly talk to me with gentle words rather than the arrogant and vulgar words you spoke to me. I hope to find a guy who likes me for who I am; someone who doesn’t pick at my every flaw or put me down.

Honestly, I want to forget this, all of it. I do. But its hard. Do you understand how hard it is to forget the boy I thought I loved? The boy that used to give me butterflies in my stomach every time he smiled at me? Maybe I should treat you the same way you treated me. Maybe then youll realize how much it hurts, but I can’t do that. The damage is done. Its over and I’ve moved on.

But, I could never hate you. You were my first real emotional attachment. I wish I could hate you because everything would be so much easier. But John, you could break my heart over and over, and I still wouldnt be able to hate you.

You hurt me in more ways than you know, but despite everything, I truly hope you’re happy. I hope you’ve learned the proper way to treat a woman.

I forgive you.

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