One of the biggest lessons of my life was learned in a parking lot with no bra on.
Let’s back up, shall we?
I was a broke 20 year old, working full-time and going to school full-time, taking out extra student loans just to cover the bills because my live-in boyfriend at the time was a total loser. Disclaimer: He may not still be a total loser today, and for his sake, I hope not. I hope he is successful, happy, and reformed from his lying ways. However, it is 100% undeniable that he was a total loser back then, sorry not sorry. For the protection of his privacy, we will refer to him as Mr. Loser.
Mr. Loser had a gambling problem, and while I understand and have compassion for the struggle with all sorts of addictions, Mr. Loser was, in general, a big fat liar in all areas of his life. He was the type of person who would tell you he had a turkey sandwich for lunch when he really had ham. Maybe this insanely annoying habit was to practice his lying skills, I have no idea.
Of course, the young, naive version of me had no idea there were any issues until I had already signed the lease and put all of the utilities into my name. Before the day we moved in together, he was a hard-working, honest (to my knowledge), successful for his age, kind and charming guy. This is how they get ya ladies.
I quickly came upon a tough reality when we moved in together: dude was a liar, he was broker than broke and making it worse daily. His paychecks were being garnished because he had opted not to pay his student loans for years, he frequently called in sick to work when his only sickness was acute laziness, and every time he got a paycheck it was gone within hours.
So what did I try to do? What any young, hopeless romantic, love-story addict would do: I tried to fix him. I mean, I knew I could, because duh… love stories in the movies. In the meantime, I was careful to protect his image. Ya know, so once I succeeded at “fixing him”, everyone would still love him, believe I had any self-respect, and my parents would still allow him to attend family dinners. In my mind, if I just covered up all of the real issues for long enough, I could make them go away.
This screwed up plan led to several nights alone, crying in a condo that was way too big and expensive for us, while he was completely MIA. Meanwhile, I was taking out extra student loans and working overtime hours on top of going to night school so the bills could still be paid. This was especially important to me because he had conveniently convinced me to put a car in my name for him when he couldn’t get one (hello, red flag I ignored), as well as all of our utilities, while I was paying my own student loans and our rent. If the bills didn’t get paid he didn’t really care, because it only damaged my credit and pride, not his.
It took about 6 trips to the local dog track (where he played poker) to stop him from gambling away his entire paycheck, 5 completely drained bank account incidents, 10 nights of having zero idea where he was, and I finally proclaimed in the strongest voice I could muster: “If you EVER gamble again, I am LEAVING.”
I meant it. Ya know, in the way you really mean it when you are just squeezing so hard to hope that you choke it to death, but deep inside you have no idea if you really mean it or not. What I really should have focused on was the fact that outside of the gambling I just couldn’t trust him, he had zero respect for me, and he was ruining my life. But hey, I had to pick one thing in the moment I guess.
Then he tested me. It was time for one of the biggest life lessons I have ever learned. He came home from work one day, a Friday, his pay day. He told me he wanted to take me to dinner and I should get ready. Well, this was a nice surprise cause this happened ehhh…never. Me and my naive little heart jumped into the shower so excited. See, self, you’ve done it, you’re changing him!! Things are going to turn out perfect and then you’ll magically forget about all the hell he’s put you through and live happily ever after. Shower fast before he changes his mind!
And then I heard it: the front door shut. In that moment all the hope went down the drain so fast you could almost hear the suction. I knew exactly what was happening. I just knew. And by the way, where the heck was this wise inner voice for the past 2 years since I met Mr. Loser? Thanks for showing up now, inner voice!
I jumped out of the shower, half dried off my body, and threw on some clothes. And by some clothes I literally mean some. Home girl didn’t even think to put on a bra. Just a t-shirt and shorts, nope, no underwear. I was a woman on a mission. I only stopped long enough to notice that Mr. Loser had confiscated my debit card and left my purse and wallet open, lying there as if they had been ransacked by a criminal, and well, they basically had.
I ran down the outside steps, jumped into my car and sped off to exactly where I knew he would be: the bank. Sure enough, as I was pulling in, he was pulling out. Here’s where things got interesting. He didn’t stop. Mr. Loser took me on a car chase!! Can you believe it?
This is one of those times where I was really kicking myself for running my car right to the E all the time. I was going back and forth between screaming at him to stop the car, and screaming at myself for not filling up with gas. If I had run out of gas and lost him, this story could have ended a lot differently.
In what felt like a hot police pursuit, I trailed his bumper all across town, in circles, until finally he stopped. He pulled over into a parking lot, we both got out of the car and as you can imagine, the yelling ensued. Turns out, Mr. Loser had already gambled away his entire paycheck he received that day, and for whatever reason he actually believed me when I told him that I would leave if he ever did it again. (I’m not sure why he believed me, I didn’t even believe me.)
So, thinking he would be totally screwed with the condo and all the bills if I left, he decided to steal my debit card, withdraw all of my money from the bank, and get a plane ticket to his hometown in NY to live with his mom, ya know… before I had the chance to leave him with any sort of actual adult responsibility. I’m actually pretty certain that this post-car-chase parking lot confession was the first time he had actually ever been honest with me since we met.
Side note: When I say all my money, let me not over exaggerate and ruin someone’s character, there was $6 left… because the ATM only gives out increments of 10 or 20. He also let the ATM eat my debit card since he didn’t need it after taking all of my money.
Sometimes, I want to thank Mr. Loser for taking things to such an absurd extreme. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think that the sensitive, people-pleasing, naive 20 year old me would have actually left if he had simply come home and told me that he did it again. Maybe I would have, but chances are I would have stayed and made some other un-threatening threat. See, he lied to me a lot, but he wasn’t the only liar in our relationship. I lied to myself just about every other second. I lied to my friends, co-workers, and family about the perfection of our relationship. I lied to him every time I threatened to leave, because I knew I wouldn’t.
This time though, Mr. Loser made things very easy for me. He left me. He literally laid it all out for me. He couldn’t have made it more clear. This person cared so little about me that he not only disrespected me and broke his promise, but when he did he decided the best course of action was to leave me with no money, a condo and all of the utilities to pay, and two car payments. He had used me up as much as he could and had no use for me anymore.
In that moment, standing in the parking lot, I found out for the first time that I actually do have a backbone. I don’t know how, because I literally had on no underwear. I looked more like I was there for a wet t-shirt contest. Nevertheless, I got strong in that moment. I told him to give me my money, and not to come home for a while because I was moving out. I took my cash away from him, drove home, called my parents, and they quickly came to my rescue. (Side-note: I regret never properly thanking them for this. They never even questioned me once, they just helped.)
That night they helped me move all of my stuff out in a hurry, and into their place. Over the next couple of weeks I shut off the utilities that were in my name, gave notice to the landlord that I wanted off the lease, paid my final part to be done with it, and then repossessed my car from him so I wouldn’t have to communicate with him any further. I was left with a mess of debt, two cars in my name, and serious trust issues, but it was so freeing.
I was surprised to find that once I was out of that relationship I felt an overwhelming since of relief. I wasn’t sad, I didn’t miss him. I didn’t even care about the debt I had incurred on his behalf. Education is expensive, my friends, and I learned some very valuable lessons that cost me a lot. They were so very worth it though. Our relationship wasn’t a real relationship, it was more like a game, a challenge. It was an unhealthy goal of mine to “fix him”, and I was an awful crutch for his addiction. We were never, ever meant to be together, only to teach each other some lessons. Well, truth be told, I have no idea if he learned anything from our relationship. The entire thing was like a roller-coaster that you get on and quickly realize that you want off of, but you have to wait for the thing to come to a stop before you can free yourself. And then since you’re still alive you sort of think you want to do it again, even though it made you sick. Yeah, you get it.
I learned so many lessons though, about myself, about others, about how I let people treat me, about how to enter relationships from the start. Looking back, I often think about sending Mr. Loser a thank you card. If I hadn’t gone through what I did with him, I wouldn’t have been led to where I am now. I would never do that though, because Mr. Loser proceeded to stalk me after that, and I had to get a restraining order. He drove past my parents house daily, called and texted me literally hundreds of times per day, emailed me pictures of my things that he had smashed into pieces, threatened to do crazy things (even crazier than the smashed stuff pictures), created a Facebook page with pictures of us together all over it, and showed up at the places I went.
Still, I never once for a second thought about going back. A flip had finally switched. Finally. I realized that I was strong, and capable. I learned that if someone didn’t care about me, the 100% real me, and make my life better in some way, they had no place in it.
So why, after 12 years, am I sharing this story with you? Because I know I am not the only person who has ever been there. You may be there right now. You may find yourself there in the future. While I feel like we all have to learn our own life lessons through our own experiences, I also want to shout from the rooftops for all young women to hear:
Please, please, please do not waste a second of your life on someone who damages your heart, disrespects you, and makes you feel less than you really are. If he truly cares about you, he will never try to make you feel crazy, lie to you, disrespect you, or hold you back in life. That is not love, that is manipulation. If you have to hide dark secrets about your relationship from your family, you are in the wrong relationship. You can’t fix people by enabling them, so if you want to cling to the hope that you’ll fix them, leave. That is the only way they might change. You are the only person who can truly stand up for you.
I guess, in a way, this is that unsent thank you card to Mr. Loser. I hope you are a changed man. Heck, I hope you became a man. I wish no ill will towards you. I simply think we served our purpose in each other’s lives and there is no need for us to communicate past that point. I learned an amazing lesson, which changed me forever, and made me who I needed to be when I met my person, the one who I was meant to be with, Chris.
If I could share one last piece of advice to young women who are like I was once, it would be not to be so afraid of letting people go. Don’t hold on too tight to anyone, especially someone who doesn’t better your life. You really won’t die without them, you’ll actually live the way you are supposed to. Most of the time, separating yourself from someone is the exact thing you need to do so see clearly what you want, and what you deserve.
Be strong girls, we all have it in us.
wishing you all the moxie,
Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and our silver lab pup, Maui. We are expecting baby #3 right now, and excited to become a family of 5! I am a freelance website & blog developer, Co-Founder of Moxie Girl Fit Club, and aspiring author. I share about everything from parenting, how to make money from home, tutorials for my fellow bloggers, fitness and being a new homeschool family. Learn more about me here.