Four years ago, a man I loved broke my heart. We met as freshmen hallmates at my undergraduate college, his room at the end of the dorm and mine more toward the middle. We grew into close friends after a few intimate conversations and decided to room together our sophomore year. In the early spring semester of my sophomore year, he told me he did not want our friendship anymore, that he would never care about me as much as I cared about him. He said that I cared too much about him. He said I expected too much.
Now, I understand he took advantage of me throughout the friendship. I remember one of our conversations early freshman year, while walking down Colonial Williamsburg at night fall, the air crisp and fireflies illuminating our path. At one point he told me that he felt impressed by me because I cared so much about people, because he himself struggles to actually care about people. At the time, I found this inspiring: wow, he struggles to care about people and wants to learn how, that’s so deep and self-aware. So, over the next year and a half, I tried to teach him. He would fail and I would feel hurt. I took on the role of his therapist instead of asserting more healthful boundaries. He saw before I did that he would never meet my expectations, so he ended our friendship.
“He literally told me from the start that he doesn’t care about people, which is like, the reddest red flag that’s ever been red,” I told my therapist the other day. “I was so freaking stupid for having ever trusted him, for caring about him.”
My therapist said all the right things: that it wasn’t my fault because I didn’t know as much about abuse then, that I’m so much more empowered and self-aware now. Yet I struggled to believe her. Continue reading