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Travel & Lifestyle: I Was Stuck In A Toxic Situationship.

Travel & Lifestyle: I Was Stuck In A Toxic Situationship. I Thought He Was The Problem — Until I Had A Frightening Realization.

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I was curled up on my couch. My face twisted in a grimace. One hand rested on my lower abdomen, acting as a makeshift heating pad to soothe the unending purple nurple assaulting my uterus.

Claire, this has to stop.

I felt alone and scared. That feeling started when my gynecologist, Elizabeth, called four days before. She said, “Your pap smear came back abnormal, which isn’t concerning. Every woman has an abnormal pap at least once in her life.” Elizabeth had the bubbly, positive enthusiasm of a cheerleader, pepping the crowd up for the homecoming game. I wanted to believe her, however, at 37 years old, this was my first abnormal pap smear.

I was married straight out of college and divorced nine years later. While my ex-husband and I had our issues, infidelity wasn’t one. My marriage was the tower that protected my vagina from the dangers lurking outside the castle wall. Only one prince had access. Now divorced for a year and a half, I had encountered a few wannabe princes, but mostly frogs. An abnormal pap was extremely concerning.

Elizabeth took in a sharp breath. “There was something else.”

My stomach lurched. I’ve been having lady issues (I’ll spare you the details) for the past three months. All the workups so far had been negative. There was only one stone left unturned.

“We need to bring you in for a biopsy,” Elizabeth flipped that remaining rock right over.

I took a quick inhale, choking on the now-exposed dirt. I couldn’t speak.

“I promise you don’t have cancer, though! I know you don’t,” Elizabeth explained with carefree confidence, still the optimistic cheerleader. “I know you’re worried, so I’m gonna schedule you ASAP.”

After we hung up, I was alone with my anxiety. I wanted to call someone to stop the doomsday spiral in my mind. Mom would be an obvious choice, but she had passed away 12 years ago. Given that the topic was my nether region, I wasn’t going to contact my dad or brother. I texted my two best friends. Their “of course you don’t have cancer” texts helped a little, but I needed more. Because I was single, I had no boyfriend to hold my hand, look me in the eyes and tell me everything would be OK.

The only person who remotely fit the bill of a pseudo-boyfriend was Patrick, the guy I referred to as “My F-boy.”

We met on Bumble … sort of. He “liked” me, and rather than like him back and match, I decided to scope out his IG since his handle was on his profile. Shortly after I followed him, I got a DM from him.

Haha not exactly… you liked me on Bumble, you had your insta in your bio so…🤷♀️

So you didn’t like me back but followed me on ig hmmm lol Watsuppp 🙂

Yup… the 24 hr window to start a convo is a lot of pressure. This seemed easier and it’s working out fine so far.

That exchange started almost a year and a half… something? “Relationship” implies far more of an emotional connection than we had. “Situationship” is closer ― but we didn’t have enough physical contact to even reach situationship status. We only saw each other in person three times in total. The reality was that we were sexting pen pals.

I told myself our situation was fine because it was just fun, and I had no feelings for him. Did I cry when he ghosted me? Maybe a couple of times (or every time, who’s counting?) That didn’t mean I liked him. Because I most certainly did not.

And I absolutely did not get any validation from his attention. I never posted a single picture to my Instagram story wearing an outfit he would like. Which is why I didn’t care when he responded to said stories with multiple heart-eye emojis and pleas to see me. My confidence and ego didn’t care how many times he told me I was pretty. You would never catch me smiling like an idiot at my phone reading his messages. I had full control over the situation.

And I never sent any full or partial nudity. It was no different than if someone saw me at the beach in a bikini… except for the exaggerated arch of my back to pop my butt up just the way he liked.

Occasionally, I had fleeting moments of clarity and honesty with myself. What Patrick and I were doing was weird and ridiculous. I would get bored of his dick pics and hollow promises of foreplay, especially when we’d make plans to see each other, and he would bail or completely disappear at the last minute. I’d block him, cutting him off cold. Then a day would come when I was bored or feeling extra lonely, and my thoughts would turn to Patrick.

Hmm… I wonder what he’s up to.

Within a few hours of unblocking, I’d have a message from him. He never asked why I had blocked him or was upset with me about it. He was just happy to be back. Our unspoken agreement was that we could dip in and out of each other’s lives without explanation. We both knew the other would be there when we eventually wanted to return. Patrick and I enjoyed the daily companionship of a relationship without the responsibilities or obligations of an actual relationship.

We didn’t need in-depth emotional conversations to figure each other out. The sheer volume of our communication built a bond in a slow yet imperceptible way. We both knew exactly how to get each other’s attention. I knew a Snap video of me giving a flirty wink while blowing him a kiss would always get a response, and he knew how to get me to respond when I was irritated with him.

Like the time after three days in a row with no response from me, Patrick sent a Snap video of himself singing the “Bob the Builder” theme song while assembling new furniture. I giggled and shook my head as he belted out the song and flexed his bicep. It was so cute I couldn’t not respond. I hated it when he did adorable things like that.

In the month leading up to my biopsy, Patrick and I had hardly spoken at all. At first, it seemed like one of our normal lulls. But then all my winks, booty pops, and even his favorite nickname got left on read. I suspected something was different when my usual tactics got no response.

Damn, he might be GONE gone this time. He must have started dating someone. That’s fine. Whatever.

I felt sad about the void where his texts and Snaps used to be. As I dealt with the potential of cancer, I longed to reach out to him for comfort.

Claire, do you think he’s the kind of guy who would be there for you in a time like this? He can’t even show up to have sex.

I had to ask myself: Why? Why had I not only tolerated but encouraged a connection with a guy who had shown time and time again he was utterly uninterested in a real relationship with me? The unwanted truth jarred me.

As much as I loved to tease Patrick about being a f-boy, the truth was I was just like him. I refused his attempts to get me to go on real dates with him, like the time he asked me to the airshow or the night he wanted to go to the beach together. I played games, manipulated, and treated him like shit. I took for granted he would always be my safety net when the flighty mixed signals I gave other guys resulted in yet another failed talking stage.

With Patrick as my eager and willing understudy, I didn’t have to worry about keeping a leading man. All my time playing make-believe with Patrick, I was perfecting my toxic defense mechanisms. I was getting better and better at keeping myself out of a relationship and didn’t even realize it.

Sitting on the couch alone after my biopsy, I thought about how I got to this moment. The physical pain of being scraped in the deepest and most feminine part of my body forced me to connect with the emotional pain I used Patrick to avoid that I was lonely.

By keeping a screen between us, I thought I was safe from heartbreak and manipulation — things I’ve struggled with in past relationships. Instead, I was playing “relationship” in a warped reality. I didn’t want to be someone’s online fantasy girl, nor did I want to pine after some Sim dude. At that moment, I began to make conscious decisions to become a woman worth being in an IRL relationship with. The first step was ending things with Patrick.

After my negative biopsy results came back, he did, too.

“Hey. Sorry, I haven’t been around much.” He had never apologized before. His usual playful energy was heavy with guilt, like a dog with his tail between his legs. “I met a girl, and I thought I was in love or something, but I was wrong.” We had never talked about anyone else to each other before.

I wasn’t surprised or angry about the other girl. His vulnerability was unnerving. But it was too late. “I know that feeling, and I’m sorry you’re going through that. I’m not the right person to be comforting you. Especially when I’m hurting over you.”

“I’m sorry … can I see you?”

I didn’t want to play our game anymore. “You need to forget about me. Please.”

Patrick’s idea of ignoring me was creeping on my Instagram stories. Eventually, the emojis returned, and were soon followed by the texts and the Snaps. So, I blocked him. Unlike all the times before, he remains blocked to this day, over a year later.

Now, if I see a guy’s name on my phone screen more than I see him in person, it’s time to move on.

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