When the unavoidable discard was lingering in the wings, he finally told me the truth about some of his past relationships. I’m not sure if out of some rudimentary sense of fairness, or out of self-preservation. But up until that point, he had cast himself as the sad victim of all of life’s tragedies.

For an empath, there’s not a trumpet’s call that is more rousing than that one. We usually have a track record of nursing broken hearts back to health, of patching them together with liquid gold. We also have a multitude of stories of being raked over the coals and taken advantage of, but we generally know what it’s like to be misjudged. We’d rather commit the sin of loving too often than too infrequently.

As witty and charming and endearing as he was, that wasn’t what hooked me. In fact, that’s usually something I mistrust. It was the wounds, the allusions to past suicide attempts, the weary “I shouldn’t be alive” that I found impossible to resist. I’ve been given the gift of being saved from my own self-destruction, and I so longed to give it to someone else. I thought I saw a spark in him, something that could be fanned into a flame of self-preservation. I was wrong. Or maybe I was right in a way, and it was simply our definitions of self-preservation differed. I am more of a long-game girl, while he’s all immediate gratification. Maybe to him, it looked like a win, to build him up enough that he could put himself out there again, play the game and score some points.

But putting a few points up on the board was not what I wanted for him.

I wanted him to finally win the game; but lying, evading, cheating, manipulating? Those aren’t what win you the game. You can ask Lance Armstrong how that plays out in the end.

What I mistook for strength was nothing more than cowardice and false bravado. Where I thought I saw resilience, there was merely a predator who would throw anyone under the bus, friends, neighbors, coworkers, family; who would take and take from any and all, giving as little as he could in return. What first appeared to be compassion and concern was nothing more than twisted self-interest.

If you glue that back together with gold, you’ve simply created a more powerful monster.


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