This letter will surprise you. You think you were a good boyfriend. You think that you made some mistakes, that your mental health affected our relationship. But you don’t think you took advantage of me. I’m about to tell you that you did.
From the first time I met you, your mood was unstable. I always supported you emotionally. I worked very hard to get you to open up to me, to talk to me about your emotions and your past. You made some progress. I thought I could fix you, get rid of all the pain you were carrying. I thought I was the solution. But you have depression. Every year, it came back, for one or two months. And since I was the person closest to you, I was paying the price. You would get angry at me or stop talking to me. With your friends, you would pretend everything was fine, but as soon as we were back in the car, you were grumpy again. It would last for weeks. You would bring up you past trauma. I thought you were really just a victim. I wanted you to be back to your normal self so bad I was willing to do anything. I tried pretending nothing was wrong. I tried ignoring you. I tried confronting you. I tried being mad at you. I tried writing to you. My tears wouldn’t change anything. You seeing me being hurt didn’t change anything. It went to the point where you regularly left me. You made me believe there was something wrong with me, or you would self trash and tell me I didn’t deserve you. But even when we were separated, you were still texting me. You were still using me as emotional support. I was still suffering from your emotional state. I was hoping we would get back together so bad, so I kept supporting you. I thought if I showed you that I was always going to be around, you would take me back. You invited me to your house and I thought if I slept with you, you would take me back. I thought sex was a way to connect with you. You knew that you were just going to use me for sex when you invited me over, right? You knew that I was always going to be there for you, right?
I don’t know how many times I told you to take care of yourself, to get help. I was willing to support you through it. I talked to you about it when you were well, because I thought you would be more receptive. I was scared of how you would react. Do you realize that I was holding the responsibility for your mental health? I told you it was too draining for me to keep doing this emotional roller coaster every year. But you took me for granted. You thought I was never going to leave you. You ended up getting help for you mental health, but it was too late. You finally took steps to get better when you realized I was going to leave for good. Why did you have to consume everything I had to give until I had nothing left?
That’s how you manipulated me emotionally.
A big part of our relationship was spent apart. We were texting every day. We were talking on the phone everyday. Often, you asked me to send you pictures of me naked. You were asking to see specific parts of my body. I did it. Even if I was reading in bed, I undressed and took the picture you wanted. Often, you texted pornographic images or videos, sometimes up to 10 pictures at the time. Often, you were sending me sexually loaded messages of things you wanted to do to me. When I was not answering, you got annoyed. When I wasn’t answering what you wanted, you got annoyed. You wanted me to come up myself with “sexy” things to text you. “I want you to turn me on” you said. I tried but I couldn’t come up with new things to say all the time. You got annoyed. I remember looking at my phone for long minutes, not knowing what to say, but knowing if I didn’t say anything, I would get in trouble. “Use your imagination” you said. Did it ever occur to you that I didn’t want to use my imagination for your sexual benefit? Once, for a couple weeks, you were texting me all day everyday, even though I was at work, to talk about sex. Remember? I told you I wasn’t available. I told you I didn’t feel like it. You got annoyed. “You’re such a turn off” you said. I felt like I was letting you down. I had to have a serious talk with you in person for you to stop. I had to explain to you in details how draining it was for me. You agreed and apologized.
I thought you had this uncontrollable sexual desire, increased by the fact we were away from each other for long periods of time. I suggested you signed up on Tinder, just to talk to other women. I wanted to be the cool girl, not the prude. And again, I felt responsible for your sexual well-being. Now I can’t believe I would suggest such a thing. I can’t believe I thought it was ok to have other women be sexually harassed by my own boyfriend. Because that’s what you did. You sent me loads of porn without my consent. You coerced me into sending you messages about sex and pictures of me naked. You sexually harassed me our whole relationship. It’s not a right to have sex. Your girlfriend is not responsible for your sexual gratification.
I opened up to you and told you I was attracted to women. From that moment on, you were on a mission to help me have that experience. We setup a profile on an app for couples to have sex with other women. When that didn’t work and I told you I wanted to stop, you put up a profile for me on Tinder, but you were the one using it. At first I agreed. But then I realized it made me uncomfortable. How could I think it was ok for my boyfriend to talk to women through a dating app and pretending it was me? I told you to delete it. You did, but months later you reactivated the account without my permission. Do you remember how mad I was? Why was it so hard for you to respect me? Now I know why you thought you could get away with it, because you did. I forgave you. You always got away with everything. You made me believe you were doing all of this for my sexual happiness. Now I know all it did was turning you on.
When I met you, I was 20. You were 31. I thought age didn’t matter in our relationship. Now I wonder, were you sexualizing me? All those comments on my body. Were you with me because I was young?
There are so many other things you coerced me to do. It’s hurts too much to put it in writing. You know what they are.
That’s how you coerced me sexually.
You were never good with money and I was good at managing a budget. We ended up putting all our money together. I helped you pay for you to go back to school. I took out a loan in my name only so that you could get this vehicle you wanted. Every month we had fight about the next item you wanted to buy. I was worried about our financial situation. I was mostly worried that you would get angry and be depressed again. I put my needs second so you could get the material things you wanted. I did it over and over, to avoid a fight and to avoid being the difficult and controlling girlfriend.
I was the one keeping track of all our expenses so that we didn’t get in trouble or in too much debt. But throughout our relationship, your past debts kept coming back. A credit card you had many years before and stopped paying. A medical coverage debt you didn’t know you had. You made a deal with a collection agency without telling me and lied to me when I asked you about those strange payments coming out of our account for months. I forgave you. I helped reimburse your debts.
And what about the time I asked you to stop watching porn? And especially not to use my credit card to buy porn? You did it anyway. I forgave you every time. How could you not see that you on top of stealing from me, you were lying to me and ignoring my requests? Did you really think our relationship was equal?
Do you know how much time I spent worrying about our financial situation? Do you know how many hours I spent juggling numbers to make it even? Even when we broke up, you literally made me pay. You refused to pay me the money you owed me in one payment. I had to take out a loan to finance the money you owed me. You know you were unfair in how you managed our separation. I wanted to be free, but you bullied me to the last dollar. I left without any savings and with more debts. It’s not a coincidence that I managed to save more money by myself in one year that we ever did when we were together.
That’s how you were financially controlling.
It took up 2 years to realize that our 6 years relationship was full of manipulation. Some of it subtle, some of it obvious. It was full of joy and love too. That’s why I stayed for so long. It’s through radical feminism and consciousness raising with other women that it became clear. Men leave it to women to do the emotional labour. Men use porn over women. Men sexually coerce women in many ways. Men emotionally manipulate women to get what they want. Men leave it to women to take care of all the little details of the household. You are not different than other men, even though you said you were a feminist ally. When I wanted to look at the ways in which our relationship was sexist, you told me “Don’t bring your feminism between us”. Well I did. Feminism allowed me to see clearly. Feminism told me I was better off without you.
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