"My ex and I did E in the back of my car parked at a rest area in the mountains on the 101. I remember her saying 'No matter what happens between us, we'll always have this beautiful moment.'"
The instant I read those words in an innocuous thread on Reddit, my heart sank. I could feel every part of me deflating. I shouldn't have delved into his Reddit history, one of the most intimate and revealing of social networking accounts.
"I miss her," another post declared, sharing a similar sentiment.They glared at me from the dim glow of my laptop. Just words, I tried to tell myself.
It didn't matter that they were from three or four years ago, non-secretive, and out in the open. It still hurt.
In that moment, I didn't know who "her" was. I didn't care. She wasn't me. Not only would I never visit that same place with the love of my life, but we'd never be reckless like that. That chapter of his life (thankfully, my rational self proclaims) is over. Nevertheless, I felt a gaping hole in my chest, one that felt as though it could never be filled even with our own experiences. Or with love. Like I was part of a "new" phase that was acceptable, but nowhere near as fun as his life was before me.
This line of thinking has led to more fights than I can count on one hand. And they're all my fault.
In fact, our entire relationship has consisted of dozens of instances like these, where I compare myself to any one of the women my significant other has been with before me. And even though it's nearly torn our bond to shreds and forced us apart, for a long time I simply wasn't able to stop. In fact, on bad days, it's something I continue to struggle with.
But the pain was never so debilitating as it was back then, about six or seven months in. I collapsed onto my bed with tears streaming down my cheeks. While these Reddit comments were a couple of years old and about people he swore to me he could barely remember, they still cut right through me.
Yet I still read. I obsessed. I had to. I had to know more about him, the women he was with, what he had been through, for the good or the bad. Even when I found myself there in bed, stranded at the bottom of a pit I could barely crawl back out of, I had to continue to research. What's more, I had to be better. Better than anyone before me.
My irrational fears weren't grounded in reality. He had never done anything to lead me to believe he didn't feel for me the same way he had felt for his exes. He had never broken my trust in such a way that I should even entertain those types of thoughts. And yet, I did, because after nearly nine years with him, I simply couldn't deal with the mere possibility that someone so perfect for me, so keenly in-tune with what I needed out of life and a partner, might not see me in the same light as the women he'd had before me.
For the longest time I quietly held on to those words tightly, clinging to them because I knew there was no possible way, despite all of the lengths he had gone to that should have proved his devotion to me otherwise that he could feel the same way about me. How could he? I'd read those words and think about my body, my stretch marks, my average-at-best face, low-maintenance style of dress, and overall horrible attitude toward life itself.
I requested a photo of each ex. They were beautiful, one in particular a college student with a perfect pout and an innocent, doe-eyed stare looking at me from her Google Plus profile.I wondered if she was the ex he mentioned on Reddit.
I never asked. I never told. I just cruised along the various pages I had found when googling her, noticing she was still in his circles on the social networking page. I couldn't stop. I harbored an intense hatred for myself and the woman who had come before me. No matter how often I heard "I love you" or "You're beautiful, sexy, and you turn me on" I thought of the nubile young bodies he'd touched and how different we must have been.
In my head, they had all models' figures with adorably perky breasts and attractive laughs. They probably never worried about needing underwire. These imaginary, perfect women paraded around in my head, taunting me, teasing me, until a vile sort of anger arose like bile in my throat and forced its way out. My boyfriend and I would engage in several arguments a day. Most of them were my fault.
I tried to think of ways to resolve the issue and feel "worthy" of being his companion.
"Do the same thing with me," I had mentioned offhand one day, referring to the little rest stop on the 101 I had read about and the time he had spent with his then-girlfriend there. I don't know why. I don't want to do drugs, let alone the one he had carelessly rattled off in his Reddit post. I'm not a huge fan of California. I don't even know if either of our cars would be comfortable enough to sit in a backseat now.
"We can, if that's what you really, really want," he had remarked, though flabbergasted as to why I should want such a preposterous thing.
I sounded like a mad woman. Like a child with a "me too" mentality that wouldn't go away. When these things left my mouth, I did feel like a child. Like a spoiled brat who wanted everything and couldn't appreciate anything she had. He tried and continues to try to remind me of how much I have, how he intends to marry me. How we're going to have children.
Still I find my mind wandering, to the exes he described as brilliant and gorgeous and to the "great sex" he had with one in another Reddit comment. I think about the things I missed out on, feeling like the matron who has forced him to "settle down," even though that's not the case at all. I wonder if he ever looks at me and sees them. I wonder if he ever looks longingly at other women. I wonder if he wishes I could be different.
I wonder all of these things, and then we get in bed together. We kiss. He tells me he loves me, that he wants me to have his children. I believe him. I'm happy. I want to rid myself of these demons, and I think for the most part I have. I've slowly but surely started down a path to rebuild myself and strengthen our relationship. I know there's a road I want to go down, and things will only get better between us from here because this is it. This is for real. This is the road on which I want to travel, with him, forever.
But I'll always remember the 101.