I had to go home because of covid. And when I say, “go home”, I mean that I had to go back to living in Ohio with my parents all the way from Honduras where I was teaching at a bilingual school. It was okay at first, but then after 2 months the anxiety and uncertainty of when I would be able to get back to my life all began creeping in.
I started to get lonely. I was dating a man back in Honduras at the time who said he would wait for me, but my feelings had changed. I didn’t want to be with him, but I couldn’t break up with him. I started to get depressed…How was I allowing myself to stay with someone who I didn’t love? Why couldn’t I just do it! After a couple months, and many long talks with my friends, it finally happened. I was so proud of myself! I had never broken up with anyone before. At the time, I didn’t realize how my journey to finding self-awareness back in the states had just begun.
I was single for once! But, it didn’t last long…I got lonely. I wanted someone to want me. Before long, I was on Tinder. I didn’t think anything would come of it except that I would get attention from men…I wanted to be told I was beautiful. I wanted to be unique and different from all the other girls on the app. I talked to a lot of men, but none of them really impressed me, until I found him. He was handsome, from Nicaragua, and immediately wrote me in Spanish. I was so excited to find someone to speak Spanish with again! He charmed me, called me “hermosa’ and “linda”. I impressed him with my Spanish. I used slang and talked about things from Latin American culture that we could connect on. After about 2 weeks I met him at a restaurant for our first date, and we hit it off right away.
I had been to my best friend’s house earlier that week. She knows me better than anyone. She gave me some advice and said, “Don’t fall in love with him”, which I responded, “Of course I won’t, it’s just a date”. I can still remember how her voice sounded saying those 6 words to this day..
When I was with this man, I felt at home, and by “at home” I mean Honduras. His house was 45 minutes away from mine and he lived with 3 other men, 2 from El Salvador and 1 from Guatemala. I would walk in and smell the same types smells from Honduras. I would hear the same kind music. I would only speak in Spanglish with them…it felt so right! I was so happy. And even better than that, I was away from my family. His house was my sanctuary.
But, as time went on, his jealousy and judgement became overwhelming. He didn’t like the stories I had told him about my past. Stories about my travels, exciting and fun things I had done, past relationships, etc. He would say things like, “What do you think those stories make me think of you?” “I don’t want to hear them.” We had only been dating a few months at this point. Before knowing him, I thought it was normal to talk about your past, but apparently I was wrong. It got to the point where I could even mention certain places like countries, or even the barber shop because it would bring him back to a story I had told him, and he didn’t want to think about it.
My stories had a major effect on him, but what about the stories he told me? On the very first date, he opened up and told me much of his life’s trauma. He told me things that “[he] had never told anyone before.” The empathy I felt for him was so strong and so real. I wanted to take all of his traumatic pain and burn it for him to help him move forward. For some reason, his trauma made me more attracted to him. He had been through literal hell, and my problems, which I now know are also trauma, seemed so small compared to his. I wanted to show him what real love was. I wanted to make him feel better.
I figured out was his phone’s code…I had never suspected anything before, but something inside of me told me that he wasn’t being faithful. I didn’t want to search his phone because I told him how much I trusted him, but I did it anyway. I couldn’t breathe when I found the messages…sexting, video calls, photos…I still get anxiety thinking about it now. I called him out of the bathroom and confronted him. He got angry and asked to see my phone too…he found nothing. He gave in and said that he was wrong, but it was too late. I packed my stuff and left.
I came back the next day to end things officially…but for some reason, I instead went with him on the trip we had planned for that day. He told me that my stories had led him to believe that I was a certain type of person and that he did what he did because he thought that I had been playing a “game” the entire time. We talked things through, and it got better. But after it got better, it got worse again. He was jealous of every single male friend I had. He hated hearing me talk about Honduras because he couldn’t fathom thinking about the day I would go back…if I did. There were so many forbidden topics of conversation that when I went to his house, I felt like I was putting on a mask and faking everything until I would go back home to take my mask off and fall into a deep depression that had me crying every single night.
He told me I always lied. I valued my friends, family, and work over him. I took my phone to the bathroom too much. If I even looked at another man for too long, I wanted him instead. The list goes on…Yet even through all of that, I always tried to look at what was going well, and the happiness he still brought me. And even during the bad times, I realized that his behavior was coming from his traumatic past…I constantly forgave him in my head. “It’s not his fault, he has never experienced a healthy relationship before.” “His actions are hurtful, but he doesn’t know how to properly handle his own emotions because of what happened to him.” I constantly made excuses for him, and I was in a continuous state of confusion when he got upset at me for something in my past. Yet, I thought I could help him.
It wasn’t until the day that I woke up at his house to the news that my past student had died in a terrible accident that I realized that this relationship seriously needed to end. Instead of comforting me…instead of embracing me while I cried, he laid in bed staring at the ceiling not saying a word. I spent the whole day on the phone sobbing telling everyone how I wished I could be back in Honduras so that I could just go to his funeral, give his mom and hug, and tell my student goodbye. But instead, he said nothing. Until late at night when I asked him what was wrong…he said that he knew I wanted to be back in Honduras, and that I didn’t want to be with him anymore…He showed absolutely no form of empathy to me that entire day. He didn’t even give me a hug when that’s all I wanted from him.
But, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t break up with him. My friends and family saw how I changed, how distant I became, how I had deleted all social media. They said, “Just do it! You’re strong! Why would you stay with him when he treats you like that?” But, they didn’t understand…
I had only been dating him for a few months, yet I felt like my whole world would come crashing down if I ended things. I was feeling the anxiety and attachment from this relationship that I had felt in a past 4-year relationship…and that was not okay. It didn’t make sense that my feelings were already that strong that I felt the same way about him after only a few months that I felt about the man from my past relationship of 4 years. When I thought about ending things, it felt like I was mourning his death. The anxiety of it all kept me from doing it. I was so attached to him. Attached to the feeling of not being alone. Attached to the happiness he would give me when things were okay. Afraid of how I would hurt him if I ended things. Afraid of how breaking up would hurt me. Afraid of the loneliness that would inevitably come. This feeling went on for months until I finally got the strength the buy a plane ticket…
I’m back in Honduras now. I came here still dating him, trying out long-distance. We fought every single day until I finally had the courage to say enough is enough. I did it. I broke up with him. He tried to hurt me emotionally, but I blocked him before he could do or say anything else. I felt free. But then, he found a way to contact me, to send me long hand-written letters about how he was wrong, about how he would change. But it was too late. And I finally realized my worth. I woke up to his final voice message to me this morning. “Adios…Nunca me quisiste.” Which means “Goodbye…you never loved me.” He couldn’t be more wrong. I did love him, even if the relationship was toxic. I loved and cared for him so much. But, I know my truth, and I know my self-worth. I deserve so much better. He has been through so much trauma, but that in no way is an excuse for him to treat me the way he did.
I’m still on my journey to find self-awareness and understand why I get into these types of relationships. Therapy has helped a lot. My best friend always being there to listen has helped so much. But, I’m still learning. And at this point, I’m not even sure I know what true love feels like. What I have experienced in relationships is not how it should be…I know that now. But, at this point finding a secure relationship feels so unrealistic. I know it exists, but I don’t even know where to start to find it. I hope that someday it will find me instead.