On Dating After Abuse

I have no answers, and I am not sure how much I can disclose about dating after abuse without sabotaging myself because no one wants to date someone who discloses everything, and I still want to date.


I do want to date.

I don’t want to date.

I do want to date.

I don’t want to date.


I want to not want to date.


I have done a good job of finding men who aren’t available to me.

I am a genius at that.


A while ago, a friend of mine who is a counselor recommended to me that I make a list of everything I want in a man. She recommended that I make it as specific as possible. I included such things as, “Likes television” and “Doesn’t mind when I sleep in.”

But the first thing on my list was, “Available.”

My best friend, Kelly Morse , joked to me when I told her that. She said, “Sundberg, your ball is rolling on the floor.”


But let’s be honest–my ball has been rolling on the floor for a long time.


I spoke today with someone important at my publishing company who had read my book. She said that, as a reader, she had kept wanting to say to me (the narrator of the book) “Why don’t you see this?”

But also that, as a reader, she was right there with the version of me who didn’t see it.

I think this means that, as a writer, I accomplished my goal, but as a person, it is hard to separate these identities from one another.


I don’t know how to write if I’m not writing honestly.


I want to tell you all about the man I’m involved with, but I can’t because that wouldn’t be fair to him.


I want to tell you all about the man I ran into while I was walking up the sidewalk to the man I’m involved with’s house, and how the man I ran into was someone I had previously had a crush on, and that was obvious to all of us.


I want to tell you all about how I recently wrote an essay about hooking up with a younger-than-me firefighter, and about how I sent the essay to him and asked if he would have a problem with it being published somewhere prominent, and he said that he wouldn’t, but if it was, he was going to share it with everyone he knew and tell them that he had hooked up with a writer.


I want to tell you all about how that firefighter has been nothing but a positive experience for me.

The night that we “hooked up,” he looked at me and said, “I like your body. You have a good body.”


My body feels like ruins.


I want to tell you all what it feels like to be ruins.


I want to tell you all what it feels like to be rubble.


I want to tell you all how it feels when someone who I thought only saw me as a potential hookup says to me, quite earnestly, “Kelly, I don’t think of you as a hookup. I think of you as someone I could be serious about.”

Then says, “I know that we have hung out at night, but you’re someone I’d like to do daytime things with too.”


I want to tell you all how getting what I want is such a double-edged sword because what I want is not really what I want.


I want to tell you all how I don’t even know which of my wants is the real want.


I want to tell you all how this man articulates to me that he is afraid of fucking things up with me, and all I can think is, “You have no idea how gloriously I can fuck things up.”


I want to tell you all how I know that I am fucking things up right now. That this, right here, is me fucking things up.


I want to tell you all how scared I am–not of this man, but of myself. Of my history. Of all of the ways in which I can gloriously fuck things up.

At this point, I know that I can handle a man. I am no longer scared of a man.

But how do I handle myself? My own ghosts?


I want to tell you all how I had to review my correspondences with Caleb yesterday–how I had to re-read email threads that included his messages and my replies.

I want to tell you all how present-day Kelly can see what a mind-fuck Caleb was always presenting me with.

I want to tell you all how abused-Kelly couldn’t see the mind-fuckery.


I want to tell you all how present-day Kelly is always terrified that she is still just abused-Kelly.


I want to tell you all how the mind-fuckery was not temporary.

I want to tell you all how the mind-fuckery has altered the way I see the world. The way I see other people.


More than anything, I want to tell you all how the mind-fuckery has altered the way I see myself.


But I also want to tell you all about how my friend says to me, “Look how far you’ve come.”

I want to tell you all about how I pursue this man who doesn’t see me as a hookup because I like myself, and all along, I think, “If he’s not interested in me, then it’s his loss.”

I want to tell you all about how I can hook up with a younger firefighter, and it’s fun, and we become friends.

I want to tell you all about how I tell my friend at dinner tonight that I’m worried I’ll get into a relationship and discover that I haven’t really grown in the ways I’ve thought I have, and she says, “No, that’s not how growth works. You will not just lose all of the progress you’ve made when you’re in a relationship.”


I want to tell you all how Caleb is remarried and has another child, but Reed tells me that they argue, and the new wife says, “Stop treating me like a kid.”

I want to tell you all that the argument Reed describes to me sounds pretty harmless, that Caleb and his new wife don’t appear to fight like Caleb and I did.

I want to tell you all that Caleb never treated me like a kid. He always treated me like his equal.

He always treated me like a woman.

I want to tell you all that I think that was the problem.


I want to tell you all how I need a man who is okay being with a woman.

I want to tell you all how I need a man who is okay being with a force.


I want to tell you all so much, but I guess I just did.

Most of all, I want to tell you all that I don’t have any answers, that dating after abuse is hard. I am fucking terrified, and I should be.


Caleb is remarried and has a new baby because he didn’t do any work. He didn’t try to change. He didn’t need to. Why should he have to change?

Abuse only benefits the perpetrator.


And it sucks that I’m in this situation, that I’m the one who has to heal, who has to try and move forward, who has to change.

But I will not let him destroy me. I will change in the ways that I need to change. I will move on. I believe that I will love someone in healthy ways, and maybe that person will only be myself, but I also believe that there is a person out there who will love me in all of my brokenness, as well as all of my togetherness.


 Most of all, this is what I have to say about Caleb: I will not let him break me.

I am not broken.

Also, FUCK HIM SO HARD.

2 thoughts on “On Dating After Abuse

  1. Laurie Granieri

    As always, Kelly, brave and bracing stuff scooped from your gut. Everyone will tell you to “trust” yourself, or some people will, right? But what they don’t understand is that I’ll bet being with Caleb, at some point, felt RIGHT. And when RIGHT (your gut) betrays you, that’s a mind fuck. You will fuck up. But it’s so clear that you’ll be ok. Because you already are. There are some beautiful ruins out there. Thank you, as always.

    Like

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