And So I Stayed

I am a sophomore in high school.

My best friend asks me to be his girlfriend. I’m excited to say yes, because we’re close, and I can tell him anything. I knew we would be a good match. Days go by and he brings me nothing but happiness. I love him, and he loves me.

And so I stayed.

We hang out in my basement whenever we can, talking and watching movies. Things are great. We get into little spats but nothing more than is typical of a couple. We always make up and move on. He treats me better than anyone ever has.

But after nearly a year, things change. Things get more tense between us. We argue, though never in person. Usually, it’s over text. We chalk it up to me being out of the country at this time and miscommunications. We’re sure things will be fine when I get back. After all, we love each other.

And so I stayed.

We are juniors.

Our first anniversary passes. He tells me he doesn’t like one of my friends, and that I should give them up. I push back a little, but after a few threats, I ultimately agree, because maybe he’s right. Maybe the friendship is inappropriate. Besides, what use do I have for a friend who starts becoming concerned about our relationship? It’s not worth hurting him, even if it hurts me. I give them up and gain his approval.

And so I stayed.

My other friends are worried. They watch us argue, though they don’t see it as often as it actually happens. I prefer to argue behind closed doors because I don’t want anyone to worry. Few people say much about it, and I’m okay with that. I don’t want to talk about it. After all, it’s my fault. If I could just be better, things would be okay.

And so I stayed.

He tells me I’m not allowed to hang out with my guy friends without “supervision.” After a little pushing from my friends, I confront him. I tell him I’m concerned about us, and it hurts me to argue all the time. I tell him something needs to change. He says he’s sorry, that he loves me, and that things will be better. The new year comes around a few weeks later with not much change. As the clock strikes midnight, I ask him if we can forget the year and start fresh. He says he’ll try. I believe him.

And so I stayed.

We go on a mission trip. After a day’s work, we’re hanging out by the hotel pool with another friend. He scolds me for something I had said, then gets up and walks away. Our friend asks me about it, but I brush it off as I have before, saying it’s fine and it’s just how we are. They look doubtful but accept my answer. When we return home, it’s prom season. I’m close to ending the relationship, but he talks me out of it. I feel stuck, but I love him, and he needs me. Besides, I can’t break up with someone after they ask me to prom, can I?

And so I stayed.

We are seniors.

We had chosen a lot of classes that were only offered one period a day. As a result, we have every class but one together. It’ll be good for us, he says, because I don’t give him enough of my time during the day. It would’ve been too complicated to switch my schedule around anyway since some of the classes absolutely could not be switched.

And so I stayed.

Our second anniversary passes. My friends are all upset with the way things are going. He doesn’t like them and makes me feel bad for not wanting to end the friendships. How can I be friends with people who don’t like him? I isolate myself more, still talking to them but not participating much in their activities. I start listening to different kinds of music, and he calls me names because of it. I know I’ve lied to him several times, but only because it’s easier than getting reprimanded about nothing. Maybe he doesn't hit me, but he still hurts me. We’re both unhappy, but despite getting into arguments every day, we tell each other we can work it out.

But then my friend gets angry. I’ve never seen them angry, and this is a wake-up call to me. I tell myself I need to stop pretending he and I can fix our relationship. So when I drive him home, I gather my courage and tell him this isn’t working anymore. He looks genuinely surprised and upset, and this is almost enough to break my resolve, but not quite. It needed to be done.

And so I left.

My friends celebrate, but I go home and cry myself to sleep because nothing I did was ever good enough.

In the following weeks, he and I talk. We say we can still be friends, and we try, but it’s basically the same as before. One day, we’re having lunch before I have to go to work, and he asks me to get back together with him. I panic because I can’t imagine going through it again. I tell him I have to go.

And so I left.

It’s prom season again, and another friend has asked me. I say yes, even though it occurs to me that he won’t like it. We’re still trying to be friends, but we still argue. I was right in saying he was unhappy with it. He tries to get me to tell my friend I won’t go with them, but I refuse. The whole thing is a big mess, but I go to prom with my friend anyway. I’m having a good time when he pulls me aside and begins to lecture me. I tell him I don’t want to do this right then, and that it’ll have to wait.

And so I left.

We’re about to graduate, and things have cooled off a little. We still talk. We know that we aren’t getting back together. It seems like things will be okay. Summer comes and goes, and I’m feeling better than I have in awhile. Then I start a relationship with the friend I went to prom with, and they make me happier every day. Because of that, he messages me and says that he doesn’t want me in his life anymore.

And so I left, and I’ve never looked back.

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