What Happens When You Lose Yourself to a Relationship


By Pietra Dunmore

I lost the invitation to my own wedding. It was set for December 31st 2009, in the event that neither of us were married, nor dating anyone else. I found out in August that year that my ‘fiancé’ had a child on the way. He was going to marry its mother. This little revelation was brought to me by the power of Facebook.

I wasn’t the one and in many ways, I knew it well before that day. Although we looked perfect together, it never felt right. I always felt there was a piece of myself I had to stifle if I wanted to keep him. I quieted the part of myself that liked to listen to the Doors at full volume while cooking. I hid the part of me that sits up at night with Miles Davis and writes poetry; or the part of me that likes to organize CDs by name and category. He didn’t know the side of me that can sing Alto Italian Opera, or that I knew all the words to Evita, Cabaret, and Chicago. I hid my love for art and drama, because he didn’t get it. I became beige, and I knew I would have remained beige if it meant looking good with someone, if the little girl in me who was called ugly her whole life could have a handsome man on her arm. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have much in common. I tried not to let it bother me that I was bored with driving him home from work or having to listen to certain CDs because he couldn’t stand Lenny Kravitz. It didn’t occur to me then that I might one day want to have a meaningful conversation about current events.

I fell into our falsehood and became what he wanted. I tried to embody his image of the perfect woman. I wore my hair straight and dressed in neutral colors. I wore makeup to bed so I’d look good until the very last minute. Then I got up early in the morning, washed it off and reapplied it so that I’d still be cute when he rolled over. I only ate foods that weren’t too messy to eat. I gave up eating eggs because he thought eggs were gross. I took Beano so I wouldn’t fart, ever. I made myself watch televised basketball games and listen to rap (which I hated), and drove him to and from work, so he wouldn’t have to take the bus.

I hated myself with him. I hated that he would always find the one thing wrong with me and I would jump up and change it. Like it was a tragedy for a hair to be out of place. I should have told him to go kick rocks, but I didn’t; I thought I was in love.

I was enamored with him. I was the forever doting girlfriend. My life revolved around his. I knew the NBA and NCAA basketball schedules. I knew that he couldn’t use a straight razor on his face, he needed clippers. I knew he used a hard bristle brush, then a soft bristle brush with a dab of water to get his waves to lay perfectly. I knew that he liked all his shirts ironed then sprayed with Juniper Breeze from Bath and Body Works three times on the outside, then three times on the inside. I knew he gargled with original Listerine only, not the blue or the green. I knew he could only wear ankle socks with his sneakers. There were a catalog of things I knew about him.

If you were to ask him what my favorite flower was, I guarantee you that he didn’t know. If you asked him what my goals were, he’d shrug. If you asked him my middle name or my birthday, he’d search the sky for answers. He knew nothing of my personal goals or had even read any of my poetry or short stories. He barely knew I was alive. I told myself it was okay because we looked good together.

When I couldn’t lie to myself about my feelings, I tested him to see if we were real. I cut off the long hair I knew he loved just to spite him. I hated how he would pet my hair, saying how soft it was. I secretly wondered if he only liked me because of my hair. I wondered if he would still claim to love me if I had short hair. I invited him to events that I was performing in — he couldn’t make them. I told him about my poetry, he never got around to reading it. I asked him to come to my college graduation — he never promised he’d attend.

I made myself believe that as long as it was him coming through the door, I would be happy. I was happy when we lived in his apartment with only $20 between us, eating ramen noodles and other college fare. I didn’t know what kind of life he wanted, but I told myself I’d follow suit. But we broke up.

When I thought about our relationship in its entirety, not just the parts I chose to see with my rose colored glasses, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know him the way I wanted to, and he didn’t truly know or understand me.

He had an artful way of evasive truth-telling. He would give me just enough information to be technically truthful. Once, when we briefly got back together, five years after breaking up, he strung me along all summer, visiting me at odd hours of the night because he had to work late. I looked into his big eyes and didn’t hear my friend when she asked, “Why does he have to come so late, why can’t he see you during the day?” He couldn’t because he had a girlfriend. A fact he forgot to tell me. Once I found out and asked him about it, he told me, “You didn’t ask.”

Then he moved across the country with that same girl, and legitimized the relationship by claiming that he was only with her “Because she might kill herself if I leave.” He emailed and called, told me he loved me and wanted me to move out there with him when his relationship with her was over. One day I actually sat and read all the emails we had sent each other and wondered why I refused to internalize what was going on. I noticed how my words evolved over the years, from flowery language with sweeping generalities to short, concise statements with specific lists of questions. I read his answers over the years, noting how he became more adept at avoidance and deception. He continued talking to me all those years, hiding his phone calls to me from his girlfriend, talking to me while walking his dog. Feeding me bits of his life, along with lies that I wasn’t sure even he believed anymore.

A few years and several relationships later, he came back to my home state and told me he was single. The new girl he had been dating was “acting up.” He wanted us to try again. I got dressed up, thinking we’d go somewhere nice because he mentioned a nightclub in Philly. I did my hair, bought a new summer dress and put on my makeup with an expert hand. But we spent the evening in a cheese steak joint, ordering food and going back to his parent’s place to eat it while watching TV.

I’m pissed, until I tell myself that he did this to remember the old relationship we had, and how simple we were. We’re at his parents’ house, he’s holding my hand, smiling at me and then his phone sings, Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got A Woman…” He leaves the room to answer.

The obvious was there, but still I drove him to the airport the next day, listening to his promise to call. A year later the woman he wasn’t in a relationship with is knocked up and getting married to him. One day I just texted him and asked him point blank, “When were you going to tell me you were getting married?” The phone remained silent for almost an hour, then it read, “You didn’t ask.”

writer photo

Pietra Dunmore

Pietra is the author of short stories A Rhetorical Question, Funerals and Crucifixions, published by For Harriet and Euphoria. Her poetic works have appeared in The City Key Magazine, The Journal of New Jersey Poets and Phati’tude Literary Magazine. She also writes on relationships, beauty and style for Obassema Magazine.

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