6 relationship deal-breakers
On Living: —and how they came to be
During the last AMA (Ask Me Anything), I was asked this question: “What is a relationship deal-breaker for you, be it a romantic or other relationship?” After really sitting with the question and thinking about my life, I have a list for you. Oh, and of course, some stories. Give it a read, and if you haven’t already, ask yourself what your deal-breakers are. I’d love to hear your answers and connect with you.
Besides the man I married, everyone I have ever fallen in love with has had a substance abuse problem, including my mother—especially my mother. It is because of her addictions that this is a deal-breaker for me, and it has led me to grieve countless relationships and many friendships. Many of which I still mourn, many of which I still think about when the night is blue-black and I can hear myself say, I hope they’re okay.
I don’t know what it is about me that attracts the sort of person who needs their reality severely altered, the type of person who needs saving, mending, and the constant pouring out of love. Maybe it’s the fixer in me. Maybe they can see the pulsing hope I live from, the hope that things can change, that they can change. Maybe when they’re with me they can see themselves as I see them.
The thing is, every time I think they’re going to change, they don’t. Every time I think, well, this time it’s going to be different, it’s not. Alcohol, Adderall, cocaine—it’s all the same. Methamphetamines, opiates, opioids, I’ve been hurt by them all. And I know better, but every time, I let it go too far. Every time, I let love in, and with that comes disappointment, grief, and failure I see as my own.
There was a man I used to love and still sometimes do when I hear a particular song. The first weekend we met we drove to the coast, down Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino mountains, in his bone-white BMW. The sun streamed through the window onto my already hot thighs, and it was then that I knew the way out of this wouldn’t be easy. It was already too late.
A few months later, he rolled that same BMW with the hot imprint of my thighs through the Mojave and into a tree, five minutes from his parent's house. I was sleeping in the top bunk in my college dorm room when his mother called me.
“He’s in jail,” she said. “You’ll come to see him, won’t you? You’ll still love him, won’t you?”
I should’ve hung up the phone. I should've seen the blaring red flag and put my hands up in surrender. I should’ve given up on him, on us. But I didn’t. I didn’t say anything and I didn’t have to. She knew the answer and so did I.
I stayed with him and drove him to AA classes for a year in my shitty wine-colored Oldsmobile. I thought things would get better. They did and then they didn’t. I gave him seven years and I would’ve given him more. I would’ve given him everything. But he gave all of himself to alcohol and it took me a long time to understand that I’d only be left with the scraps of who he was, who he was meant to be.
I have a multitude of stories like this one, as many as the stars in the sky. Do you really want to hear another?
I came out of the womb being lied to. Everyone said my mother was going to be better now that I was born. She was going to stay clean. She was going to take care of me. But she wasn’t and she didn’t. I was still in diapers, drinking Coca-Cola from my bottle, and using her silky red lingerie as a security blanket when she started using again, when she started disappearing again. She made newspaper headlines for robbing over three hundred houses by the time I was three. Then our house was raided and she was pulled from the bed where we’d been curled into each other, sleeping soundly, behind blanket-covered windows.
“It’s going to be okay,” she said.
Because that’s what she always said. The first, second, third time she went to prison. The time the cops showed up at the door with charges of criminal threats. The time she broke her foot from kicking in a door to rob a house. The time the cops chased her through the streets of our shit-hole town. It’s going to be okay.
My entire childhood hinged on a lie—a lie that I was okay, that we were okay. A lie that our family mattered to her, that I mattered to her. And she’s still lying now. The lies are small compared to what she used to lie about—drug use, burglaries, affairs, coming home—but they are still lies. And I say lying is a deal-breaker, and it is, for everyone but her. If I cut the ties on lying then I wouldn’t have a mother.
But everyone else, goddamn, if I love you (especially if I love you), please don’t lie to me. Please don’t tell me that it’s going to be okay.
I have a long history of people talking down to me—mostly men, but sometimes women. Maybe it’s because
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