He did not hit me. He was not a physically abusive boyfriend. It was his words. It was what I allowed, and what he did not. It was stalking my social media to ensure that I truly went to bed. It was refusing and crying three times when I wanted to break up. It was criticizing my morals if they did not fit with his. It was shaming my choice of friends and who I was texting, but feeling no regret when he deleted messages from female classmates. He did not hit me, but he left so many bruises.

Over a year and a half ago, my first relationship ended. He was my best friend, my knight in shining armor. My friends used to assure me, “It was a good relationship. People break up.” But they were wrong, and I never felt more alone. Just as I was blind in the relationship, all the outsiders were too. But I cannot tell you that I was the perfect girlfriend. I wanted more than 24/7. I was high maintenance, moody and developing as a human. Most of all, I was looking for a relationship that did not exist: a perfect one. But he was suffocating. I was buried underground, and by the time I realized what was happening, he had already thrown the last pile of dirt on top.

I can tell you the heavy story of our relationship, but that is not what haunts me.

He said he wanted to take a break Friday, Oct. 3, 2015. “I want to find myself,” he said. We fought for three days about this break he requested. Within two weeks, he had a new girlfriend. Our two-year relationship had been wiped from social media, camera rolls and text history. I learned quickly that it is really hard to convince yourself that someone is not prettier than you. Looking in the mirror and saying, “No, you are good enough. You are beautiful,” slowly became a dry routine and ceased to exist. To this day, I still struggle with my self-esteem, and as much as he would like to receive all of the credit for that, I will never give it to him. 

During his new relationship, he would share my flaws with his friends, encouraging that they steer clear of me. And when they did reach out, as they were once my friends too, he became psychotic. He would ask who I was texting and what we were talking about. If he heard me mention a new name, he demanded I tell him their life story.

I was never prepared for the wave of emotions that would take control of my body. That’s the funny thing about grief; it is spontaneous. I would cry every day after school, without being prompted. I would cry every time I sat behind him in secondnd period. “Stop,” he would say, as if I was embarrassing him, as if the tall, thin brunette that he carried on his arm now was not enough pain for me.

When I started my freshman year at Miami University, I learned that he had left his new girlfriend for someone else. I did not want the next girl to peel away, layer by layer, as if she were an onion being prepped for a meal. I still do not. His now ex-girlfriend called me shortly after I heard the news. The “other woman” in my life apologized. And I forgave her. To this day I keep in touch with her. In an attempt to do what? I could not tell you. 

About a year passed when he finally admitted to leaving me for her. “I wanted something new,” he said. And that something new was another girl. The pain in this truth was not a new one, but a reopened wound. I could not comprehend the lie he had told me so long ago, that he was not leaving me for someone else, that he was doing it for him, for me. How dare he, right? For me? After several weeks of pondering this lie and many others, I came to the realization that he had cheated on me.

And today, he still affects my life. It is as if he knows when my life begins to move forward, and he will poke me on Facebook or something absurd. He thinks he can control my emotions, because I used to let him. But even when he’s not messaging me on social media (because his phone number is blocked), he sits on my shoulders. He created an anxiety. Today, I ask who my boyfriend is texting, without fail. And I have asked myself, is it my fault? Did I bring his ghost upon myself? Was I the hurricane? But then I remember that hurricanes cannot form without a tropical storm first.