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I observed the many men who passed through my life, from family members to guy friends, friends’ boyfriends to work acquaintances.
I have noted every time my dad gets the car door for my mom, 30 years into their marriage.
I was sitting at the prettiest date restaurant, out with a guy I’d met several days before at a mixer.
He was sweet and upbeat, talkative and seemingly driven.
Maybe relationships weren’t about fixing a person at all. So with the dawn of 2016, I actually started to think about what I needed in a relationship—not what I wanted or was instantly drawn toward, but the qualities that would make me feel safe and supported.
I recall a series of ups and downs, in which I felt completely inadequate as a relationship partner. He always made me believe in his intentions, before retracting his words and making me feel crazy for believing his previous sentiments would hold weight.
If you’ve ever dated a manipulator, you know what it’s like after you finally pull the plug.
You hemorrhage emotionally, both from the wounds of a breakup and the wounds he created during your time together. My ex would approach me whenever he saw me around—in a coffee shop, in a parking lot. He’d ask how I was, tell me “a lot had changed for him,” or that I met him “at a strange time in his life.” He would ask me to meet him again sometime, start over with purpose. But after months of false promises, I knew not to go down that road with my ex.
As I mentally leafed through the pages of that dating history, reflecting on the type of guys that I had chosen, a frightening pattern of similarities emerged.
They’d all pursued me with strong initial interest.