“One morning I woke up and I had it. I told him I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Enough was enough.”
At the time, I wasn’t willing to admit it, partly because I loved him the only way I knew how to love—by giving all of myself—and partly because I couldn’t bring myself to attribute such a negative label to someone who had me the way he did. Looking back, I can see what I didn’t see before.
I see myself ignoring the obvious:
Peeling myself out of bed at 4:00 in the morning to go rescue him, again and again…
Spiritualizing the whole thing…
He would disappear for days at a time which broke my heart, not because it was unfair to me, his girlfriend, but because it made me wonder if I had done something wrong. “He needs me,” I would tell myself, reaching out further and faster and stronger next time because what I’d done in the past hadn’t been enough to reel him back in.
I worried a lot about what he needed, but not very much about what I needed.
My faith in God was a distant memory at best, a relic from my childhood tucked away in a drawer somewhere, not even important enough to wear around my neck, but still—I used it against myself, quoting Bible verses I barely remembered, in my own confused context and version, in the back of my head.
Whatever you do for the least of these brothers you do for me.
Put aside your own interests for the interests of others.
Blessed are the brokenhearted.
Never once did it occur to me that God didn’t want me to save him. Never once did it occur to me that I was the one who needed saving.
He wasn’t very nice to me when he was drinking. He would say things about the weight I had put on from all the drinking and eating macaroni and cheese and whole rolls of cookie dough, raw, after smoking pot with his friends. His words were unfair and poorly delivered, but I received them the way I received him—in all their fractured and fissured pieces, like razors into and through my skin. They scraped every part of me and I bled a long, slow, miserable death.
He slept with other girls, and I let him, because even though I saw the text messages and the eyes those girls would give him from across the room—the eyes they would give me—I never had enough courage to confront him.
One day, I did. His roommate told me it was true and I didn’t see why his roommate would lie to me about something like that, so I asked for an explanation. He yelled and threw things and told me I was going crazy, so I stood like a deer in headlights and listened.
I didn’t want to be a “crazy” girlfriend.
It took a long time for everything to rise to the surface. Not because truth isn’t buoyant, but because every time it started to bubble up, I would push it back down. The truth was so much more painful and embarrassing than the lies I was telling myself.
The lie said I was a victim to this terrible circumstance.
The truth was, all along, I had the power to say: enough is enough.
Four years after we started dating, I finally left. The last day of our relationship wasn’t different from any other day. It wasn’t more dramatic, or more emotional. There wasn’t some critical event that tipped me over the edge. It was just this sense of resolve. One morning I woke up and I had it. I told him I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Enough was enough. He tried to talk me out of it, told me tomorrow would be different, that it wasn’t his fault.
Any other day, I would have listened. But not today.
Today, I put on my shoes and packed my bag.
Later friends would ask what made me decide to leave after all that time, and I would tell them I wasn’t sure. In a way, it didn’t feel like me at all. It felt like some new version of me that laced up my shoes and said, calmly, over and over again, “I know, but I just can’t.” It was that new version of me who silenced the old version of me while she looked around and said things like, “what about the printer and the microwave?”
The new version of me looked at the old version of me and said: You’re worth more than that.
And then that new version of me picked us both up and walked us out of the house. She put one foot in front of the other and walked us right down the block, right into the arms of people who took us in and helped us figure out that the “new version” of me was the “me” I was supposed to be all along.
My relationship status wasn’t the most important thing that changed that day, although that was part of it. The most important thing that changed was me.
I learned you don’t have to clean up other people’s messes. It is possible to care too much.
I learned how to say: Enough is enough.
Allison is a writer, managing editor of Prodigal Magazine and author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Darrell. You can follow her daily on Twitter or Facebook.
Image credit: Sars Richardson