He Lit the Match, So I Set Myself On Fire

A love story of gaslighting

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When I was 19, I was in love. Well, as in love as I could be, I would really say I was in lust. I was in love with sleeping with a man because of the enjoyment it brought me. I mean, what can I really say I knew about love? He didn’t actually teach me about it either. Our relationship existed out of the fleeting innocence I had left, and the peculiar way he was able to get me to look past his bullshit. In other words, sex kept us together, and my lack of experience in dealing with men. He was 21, and those two years were everything. I had the book smarts, and he had the street smarts, and his smarts ran me into the ground. I remember that we didn’t have that much in common, but he was slick with his mouth. He was a bad boy with tattoos and what he called a “legal hustle.” For the life of me, I never figured out what that meant, but something about it didn’t seem legal if you had to announce it. All I knew is he made me happy, and I loved him. If he asked me to jump, I would ask, “how high?” and he knew it. This type of devotion allowed him to be in control at all times.

I remember the first time I found he had someone else. My soul was crushed. He told me that he was keeping his options open and that he wasn’t sure he could see a future with us. It was my job to convince him otherwise. He told me that it was my fault for living so far. So I began to think that it was my fault and I should be happy that he still dealt with me anyway. This went on for months.

I went away to school, and my first weekend away, I invited him down. I asked him to be exclusive, and he told me that he couldn’t. He said, “you’re in college now; you’re just going to find a college boy and cheat on me.” I began to cry and beg him to understand that I would never. I wasn’t like that. I mean, he was the one with a baby. Yes, he had a baby during our time together. I must have talked to him for hours, trying to get him to understand that I could be good for him.

During this time, he spent most of it telling me that I was too much of a “good girl” to deal with him. Mind you, that confused me because his first complaint was that I’d find someone else. By the end of the conversation, I was spent. I felt like mush, wondering what mistakes I had made, and would he ever speak to me again.

He never came to revisit me, we never really talked after that except for the one time he called. It was the night of a party on campus, and I was drunk as a skunk. I answered his call, and it was him asking to see me. Something inside of me must have known it wouldn’t be a good idea. I remember him saying that “I never make time for him.” I remember hanging up the phone. I tried to call him back the next day, but he didn’t answer. It was for the best.

I would say the lesson I learned is to love yourself before attempting to love someone else, but that’s cliche.

The lesson I really learned is that people will light you on fire and ask you why you didn’t just put yourself out.

I also learned that because of this, it’s essential not to give anyone a match. At 19, I knew nothing about love and dating and had the nerve to think that could not only fix a man but that I could keep one by doing everything he asked. I think back over my life and wonder what lessons I learned along the way that made me feel I needed to give all of myself for someone to love me. Who were those key women in my life teaching me that my thoughts or feelings didn’t matter, all that mattered was keeping him happy?

This is not to blame myself (although I think were many signs along the way that he was NOT the one), but to speak in honesty. If we know nothing of love, how can we genuinely expect our vision of love to be right?

I was willing to risk sanity just to keep someone not worth keeping because I feared to be without love.

This relationship taught me to love myself and give myself the time to explore myself. It taught me about my triggers within relationships and how not to give someone free rein to use them against me. I learned of my issues with abandonment and how they pushed to define my place within this relationship. I was willing to risk sanity just to keep someone not worth keeping because I feared to be without love. But, he did not love me, and I was worth more than he could ever afford.

Anyway, I end my “love” story with this and hope it helps someone remember they deserve more: Never give up your peace for someone who uses you to create chaos and then leaves you to pick up the pieces.

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