Photo by Dom Aguiar on Unsplash
Healthy Relationships: Why I Left – It Was Only Going To Get Worse
As told to Veronica Wells-Puoane of NoSugarNoCreamMag.com
Surprisingly, we met at a local gay bar here in St. Louis. I remember being out with friends that night. He had just gotten out of a relationship and couple of months ago and started coming back out. We actually met a couple times before then; but on the third time, there was a little flirtation and I ended up inviting him to this other bar that we usually go to.
The next day, he’d reached out to a mutual friend to get my number. My friend said, ‘He wants your number can we give it to him?’
And I was like, ‘I guess…’ I was being very coy.
He texted me that Sunday and we kind of started slowly but surely hanging out.
In the beginning of the relationship, it was good. But looking back on it, were there red flags? Yes. The reason I say that is because we talk about signs you should look out for and one of the things I recently learned, getting back in the dating scene, is if you meet someone, man or woman, and they are always talking about so negatively about every ex that they’ve had then that is a red flag. And I didn’t know that at the time.
I remember him speaking about his exes and how they were just these horrible people and how everyone always leaves him. And I felt bad. There was a part of me that was like, ‘Oh my God, you poor thing.’
There was also a lot of love-bombing at the beginning. He would bring me flowers and food to work, he’d send candy. He was just really, really putting forth the effort in the beginning.
As I progressed in my transition as a trans woman, I started to go through physical and mental changes. I needed certain things—We’d met during the summer and had gone to Pride together. And in my transition, I didn’t know any other trans people. I’d see trans people out but I never had any one-on-one relationships. So imagine how isolating that was for me. The guy I was dating was a cis male who navigates his life identifying as bisexual. I was a trans woman in cis, heteronormative relationship. So I’m acclimating to that situation, moving away from the friends that I had and making everything about him and this relationship.
Everyone always leaves him.
So I met another trans person at Pride. We met and automatically clicked. And now he’s a good friend of mine. But that was the first person that I met that was trans so I really latched on to that friendship. And I could tell from the beginning that there were going to be problems with that relationship because my partner was jealous.
I will be honest and open, that friendship did develop into a little bit more romantic than it should have been while I was in a relationship. I will not sit here and say I was with without fault. But there were a lot of things with my partner’s behavior that pushed me to the other side. My trans friend was someone who held space for my feelings and what I was going through mentally, physically, and emotionally. He welcomed me and didn’t make me feel judged for the things that I was thinking or going through.
As things started to progress and happen with me in my transition, there was just a lack of understanding from my partner. His idea of being there for me was just love bombing. But that’s not what I needed. Looking back on it, I needed professional help.
And once I realized that that love wasn’t really grounded in what I needed as his partner, things started to spin out of control. There were more arguments between us and I started to grow closer to my trans friend.
He just couldn’t show up for me the way that I needed him to show up as a lover. Instead of him trying to shower me with gifts and giving me things he thought would make me feel better, I wish that he would have gone to family, close friends or the psychologist I started seeing, sporadically. I wish he would have been more on top of it.
We talk about mental health and how hard it is for people to really sit in the mental health issues that we possess. It’s much easier if you have someone going through that with you, supporting you, holding your hand, and being there for you. That’s what I needed. I needed someone to be like, ‘No, I’m taking you to this appointment. You need to see this doctor.’ Or ‘I’m talking to your family or friends because something is off. Something is not right.’
So when I would do things or sporadic things would happen, as far as my behavior was concerned, he would always flip it and make it seem like I was a bad person instead of really saying, ‘This girl is really going through something. And yeah, what’s happening is kind of shitty but there are some deeper, underlying issues here.’
He didn’t give me that space or grace to do that. My behavior was always an attack against him. Speaking to a psychiatrist now, explaining some of the things that were going on, they say, ‘Yeah, those are cries for help.’ And those things could have been easily stopped if someone would have just taken the wheel.
He just couldn’t show up for me in the way I needed him to show up.
My ex met me when I was beginning my transition. So I didn’t know what I was going to go through. He didn’t either. I was the first trans girl he had ever dated or found himself attracted to, so he said. And so, he supported me and was all on board when I was on oral estrogen. Then a couple of months into our relationship, I got on injectable hormones. And I remember he would look forward to doing my shots for me. He was supportive in that aspect. But everything else that came with my transition, he did not understand and was not in support of. He didn’t get the mental and emotional stress that I was going through.
The relationship with my friend had become a little more romantic. And naturally, my ex was against that. But I told him, this is a relationship that I need and want. For me, there was no letting this relationship go. I still held space for my ex. I still loved him and wanted to make it work but I was also realizing that I needed so much more than I was getting at home.
I was vocal about that but there was a disconnect. He wasn’t really picking up on it. We did try to open our relationship but he said that was something he couldn’t do. I was like, ‘Cool.’ Then later he told me, ‘Do what you want to do.’
There was a lot of shame. He would shame and guilt me for the feelings I had and how close I was to this other person. And with that shame, it made it very difficult to be open and honest about my feelings and my relationship with this person. I was backed into this corner where I was forced to shield and protect myself but still longed for that emotional connection and support that I was getting from my friend.
Ultimately, he wanted me to stop talking to my friend. And this is so crazy. He would have cameras in the house. They also had audio. So he could hear conversations and he could see me on the phone.
I needed so much more than I was getting at home.
We would break up and get back together. Toxic relationship. He would throw my shit out. He’d take pictures of my stuff by the trash can and then bring it back in. He would lock me out the house.
One time, I went to go get coffee with my friend. Things had gotten bad. My ex and I were arguing a lot and I went to my friend to try and figure out what I should do. We met at a place around the corner from where me and my ex lived. When I came back, I had the coffee and I threw the cup away in the house.
At the time, my friend was working for Yelp so he would go to places and take pictures and leave comments. My ex must have started following along with my friend’s social media and his profile on Yelp and he saw the cup from the café and put two and two together, realizing that we were together.
He blew up. Yelling and screaming and was saying some very, very hurtful things.
I remember him telling me, the only reason he dated me was because I was popular in the scene. Crazy things. He said he had never been attracted to me, he was just using me.
The last straw came another night. That’s when he’d gotten violent. As a Black trans woman, I’m already seeing my sisters on tv being murdered. So I thought, this is the time to check out.
He took an Alexa that we had and threw it at me. I ducked and it shattered against the wall.
I left the house. He forced me to give him the keys to our apartment. Mind you, all I had was a bag of stuff. I stayed at a hotel after that blow up for about a week because he wouldn’t allow me to come and get my things, wouldn’t respond to me. That wasn’t the first time I’d gone to a hotel because I was frightened. But this was the last time. I knew that was when the relationship was ending. And it needed to end because things were getting crazy and out of control.
I had to get the police involved. I had to get a restraining order and help retrieving my things. It was turbulent.
This is the time to check out.
Being that this was my first relationship as a trans woman, this really opened my eyes to the reality of what I had been seeing on the news. You know, sometimes we sit back and say, ‘That will never happen to me. That will never be me.’
And I found myself in a situation where that was me. I take full responsibility. Did I do some things that could have possibly pissed him off? Absolutely. But, I think we all have the agency to say, ‘This isn’t working for me. Let’s just walk away.’ There’s a way instead of being violent, mean, hateful and hurtful to people.
After the breakup, he made very transphobic remarks about me. When the relationship ended, social media became his outlet to basically drag me. He would post some very questionable things that nobody should be saying about a trans woman, knowing that I would see it or it would get back to me.
I remember he doxed me. I had my name changed legally as of last year. It was a process but my ex posted my deadname on social media for everyone to see. It was a lot.
I look at that relationship and I think I’ve seen some of his greatest sides and some of his sweetest sides. But I’ve also seen some of the worst sides. I know both of them now. And I realize it wasn’t healthy from the gate.
I learned how important it is to put yourself first and foremost. As women and especially Black women, historically, we have always been taught that we need to be the matriarch, stick around and take care of our men no matter what happens. That is our duty. And I was really stuck in that mindset of wanting to make it work and being focused on the good things and blocking out the bad. Black women have always done that with our relationships in and around love.
That will never be me.
I’ve learned going forward that that’s not a position that I want to be in and that’s not a notion that I want to support. Not only do I not support it for myself, I also don’t support other women doing that either. If a situation gets bad, it’s only going to get worse. And the only other part of that is that I gave up so much of myself, my career…
When we met, I was working in healthcare. I was in healthcare for nine years. Granted, I had a terrible time transitioning in the workplace. So I ended up quitting. The ironic part of that was he saw it as an opportunity. He said, ‘I don’t want you to work. You don’t have to work. Just stay at home and I’ll take care of you. I’ll take care of us.’
Again, another red flag. Abuser 101. I have to depend on you for everything. Ultimately, he put me in a position where I was in a hotel because he’d put me out of an apartment that we had together.
Going forward, I know now that I never want to put my life in the hands of a man, as trustworthy as he may come off. I don’t want to do that, even in marriage. Because you just never know what could happen and who people turn into once they feel hurt and pain.
I want to make sure that I have my own and I’m staying grounded in what I’m passionate about and the work that I’m doing now.
I never want to put my life in the hands of a man.
And when it comes to mental health aspect, I would just sit in the house all day while he worked. I wasn’t doing anything. If I was doing something, he was always questioning it. ‘Where are you? When are you coming home? Who are you with?’ I don’t want to do that anymore, sitting in the house with the cameras.
Going forward, I’ll recognize the red flags and take them for what they are and not staying in a relationship that ceases to serve you and your best purpose. Once that stops, it’s probably time to go.
Those are the things I learned about Gabby.
Veronica Wells-Puoane is the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. She is the author of “Bettah Days” and You’ll Be All Write, a question and answer journal for Black women. She is also the culture editor at MadameNoire.com.
Find more of her articles by Veronica on Curlynikki.com, HERE!
Are there other red flags you think we should be looking out for? Let us know!