I heard from my ex recently. He emailed and asked for a large sum of money. Not hundreds of dollars, but thousands. Mind you, we’ve been divorced for over a year. This guy exited the relationship much richer than he entered it — and me much poorer. While married, I made the error of being too nice.
Surprised, I reminded him that we had no marital or familial connection, to which he responded he needed three times the amount he just asked for.
I think he was implying I should have been grateful that he didn’t ask for more. The whole situation was ludicrous. I blocked him.
Why does he think he’s entitled to my money? What relationship dynamic would have created this expectation?
This man is a philanderer. By using that word, I’m being kind. He’s a serial cheater. He burns through women like a frat boy goes through cans of beer at a tailgate party. I have no idea the number of women he fucked during our two-year marriage. I’m guessing it was at least twenty.
Couldn’t I see this guy was trouble?
Looking back, there were subtle signs. I’m embarrassed to admit that his good looks bowled me over. I couldn’t believe someone as handsome as him would want to date someone like me. Sure, I’m talented, intelligent, driven, and well-educated, but I’m not hot. All my life I’ve heard I’m “cute” and “sweet.” Sexy, smokin’, or hot are not words used to describe me. For the most part, I’m okay with this.
Back in college, one of the girls who lived on the same dorm floor was drop-dead gorgeous. She had ash-blonde hair, long legs, slender curves, and a beautiful face. An American beauty. She rarely dated. Not because she wasn’t interested, but because guys were too scared. Yet, I’m sure there were no end to the catcalls and other shit she had to put up with. Being hot is a burden that I don’t particularly want.
Yet, I would like men to see me. All of me. Not for the size of my breasts or a number on the bathroom scale, but for me. I can’t shake the feeling like I’m still that chubby, dorky-looking twelve-year-old. When a good-looking guy notices me, I’m grateful, as if I’m undeserving of his attention.
People notice my ex. When he walks into the room, there’s a visible effect. Sometimes I ached when I looked at him. Not with sexual longing; I was moved by his beauty. I couldn’t believe he found a middle-aged, overweight woman attractive.
So, while dating, I ignored the cracks that began to appear in my ex’s image. The way he needed to be in control. His inconsistent efforts to stay in touch. Something was off. Although I couldn’t point to one specific thing, he didn’t act like someone who was all in.
Looking back, I realize he was never in love. Oh, I think he liked me enough, but he never adored me or couldn’t live without me. I don’t think he ever had that mysterious feeling you get when you know this person is the one.
Instead, I was flattered that he picked me, and I did everything I could to make him love me more. I bit my tongue and put up with shit I shouldn’t have. I went out of my way to be accommodating. I did too much, tried too hard, and looked away too often. I made myself small and unassuming, hoping he’d notice. I hoped he’d find my niceness adorable. That he’d see these sacrifices and appreciate me.
The patheticness of what I just admitted horrifies me.
I learned too late that relationships don’t operate like a math equation. People don’t respect us for giving too much of ourselves away. Just the opposite. They scoff and abuse us for being excessively compliant.
The more I gave, the more he took. Why not? I made it easy. He must have thought I was a fool.
Near the end of our relationship, we were both hungry and stopped at a store to pick up a few groceries. As we walked through the aisles, my ex found the items he wanted — soda, chips, peanuts, and a bag of snacks that I disliked. I mentioned that I preferred another flavor. He ignored this and walked to the front of the store to pay. Everything he had in the basket were his favorites, nothing for me except for some soda.
I complained again.
“Next time, we’ll look for the brand you like,” he said.
During our ten-day honeymoon trip, he was upset the resort didn’t carry the right type of popcorn. It offered theater-style, but not microwaveable. He looked everywhere for it; he spoke to the kitchen staff and the concierge. He even convinced the hotel to bring a microwave to our suite. He finally paid a private driver to take him into the nearest village. He came back upset and empty-handed.
But it was okay to leave the grocery store that day without a bag of snacks for me. My hunger didn’t matter. Now a year after our divorce, he’s still asking for more.
I’ve learned a painful lesson over the past few years. We get what we are willing to accept. I got shitty behavior because I put up with it.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be in another long-term relationship. Right now, I’m too busy for one. But I do know this: I will never again contort myself to gain or keep someone’s love.
Kerry Kerr McAvoy, a psychologist, author and writer, is in cultivating healthy relationships, deconstructing narcissism, and understanding various other mental health-related issues. Her memoir, which explores the devastating impacts of deceit and betrayal, is due out next year.