fight or flight response: the body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat for survival

My initial response to Dexter’s impropriety was to flee – first to my ex, literally. The night of the final blow-up (in which I learned information from a third-party source) involved me getting drunk, confronting Dexter, and becoming so enraged, I threw whatever I could get my hands on and refusing to let him come within 3 yards of me. When he told me to get out of his house, I drove drunk and emotionally irrational to my ex boyfriend’s. *Men, when threatened, will always use fiscal power, if they have it, against a woman.

The next day I decided to move out. I went home to my family. Over the course of the next several days, I eventually talked to Dexter. He knew he fucked up. People aren’t perfect – they make mistakes. And this was what I struggled with the most – if you love someone, do you allow them to make mistakes? I loved Dexter, at least what I knew to be love at the time. The fact is, Dexter had always had an indulgent personality. I knew this from the beginning, and his excessive drinking on occasion didn’t help. I never minded the indulgence when it involved the painting or the trip or the restaurant I wanted. But this time I didn’t benefit from it. I was publicly humiliated.

When I decided to stay with Dexter, to move back in, I continued to flee. I threw myself into work. I cared about me – pursuing my interests, my career, and my security. While that worked to boost my self-confidence, it did little to address my fractured relationship with Dexter. In the ensuing months, I dropped enough weight to draw concern from my family and friends. Everytime I tried to eat, I felt nauseous. I cried a lot. I couldn’t sleep.

Finally Dexter reached his threshold for me putting up walls. When he asked me to commit to working on the relationship, I asked him to commit to me. If he loved me so much, I wanted proof…tangible evidence…an engagement ring. He agreed. But he also wanted a pre-nup.

I understood his reasoning for wanting a pre-nup and the logical me agreed to and supported it. The problem was, I was too hurt to be logical. While two of my best friends were idyllically planning their weddings, I was hashing out the terms of alimony payments, how to prove infidelity and its cost (75% of all assets), and fighting over primary custody of imaginary offspring. My attorney told me only 50% of couples who go through a pre-nup actually get married. She said it’s tantamount to getting divorced before getting married. I’m still out on pre-nups. The businesswoman in me says yes, they are a necessary. But the romantic me…

At the same time, Dexter wanted input on engagement rings. He thought it would help with our reconciliation. I didn’t want one. Partly because I don’t believe in them. Partly because I didn’t want to be married (at the time, I didn’t have the perspective to realize this). What I did want, however, was proof that Dexter loved me. And I wanted vindication – a public proclamation of Dexter’s love and dedication to me and I would take no less than 3 carats. I am not a jewelry person. I do not care for ostentatiousness. But if Dexter could drop a few thousand for a few a hours with a woman he didn’t care about, he could add a zero to that amount for a lifetime with me. That was the fighter in me – that was me swinging back.

Engagements are supposed to be a happy time. When Dexter proposed, I put on a smile and went through the motions of being excited, but I felt like a third party watching it all unfold. And I wasn’t happy. I hadn’t been happy for a while. I had lost myself and it took the attention and affection from a male colleague 7 years my junior to realize how hallowed I had become.