prologue: a cheap and easy way of outlining a backstory so as to not bog down the first chapter with too much detail

Prior to my relationship with Dexter, I had said “I love you” to two other men (besides my father). The first time was said in a state of guilt and the second was said in a state of denial.

The first was to John. I had met him at an alumni homecoming party. He was several years older than me. We were introduced by a mutual friend. We got on the topic of jobs and he said he was an attorney. I looked him over thoroughly and replied, “I don’t see any scales.”

He looked like Mr. Big. I told him he looked like Mr. Big. He laughed and asked if that was a compliment. I said “Definitely, he’s a huge hit with women my mom’s age.” We didn’t stop talking until midnight when we ended up at his hotel room. At first, he turned down my advances for sex. He said he didn’t sleep with girls he barely knew. The only men I’ve found this to be true of is by-choice virgins. Ten minutes later he was knocking on his friend’s hotel room door for condoms.

The next day he dropped me off at my hotel. I jumped out of the car and said something like, “It was fun.” A few days later I got a call from him. He got my number from his fraternity brother, who got my number from my friend. From that point onward, he was in full-on hunter mode.

One of the qualities I was initially attracted to was his ability to debate. That was also the reason I dated him for as long as I did. Over the course of 9 months, I must have tried to break up with him at least a dozen times. Somehow he always talked me out of it.

At the time I started dating him, I was 24 and very unsure about a lot of things in my life. Uncertainty is bad place to start a relationship. It makes it easy to latch onto to whatever “solid” objects appear.

I was also traveling a lot for work. He would get very upset when I didn’t “check in” with him. One weekend I decided to stay in Chicago and hole myself up in my hotel room. I was studying for the GMATs and didn’t want any distractions. He showed up at my office Friday afternoon, unannounced. He decided to fly in and “surprise me.”

There were other things he did, in the name of “love” or “concern.” I couldn’t talk to another guy without him getting jealous. I couldn’t go out and get drunk without him becoming concerned about my well-being. I couldn’t workout without him wondering who I was trying to look good for. The little things that were somewhat endearing in the beginning became more and more oppressive. Our arguments became more frequent. He was jealous of everything and everyone. The more he tried to control, the more I wanted to rebel. Finally I did. I cheated on him. I was in San Diego for work and I met a 20-year-old surf and ski instructor.

When I came back into town, he knew something was up. The fact that I hadn’t “checked in” gave him cause for concern. The interrogation began. I was sitting on the couch, with him hovering over me. I am a poor liar. I broke down and admitted I had kissed another guy. He became very angry. He turned over the coffee table and threw things against the wall. In that moment, all I felt was fear. And then he started crying. That’s when I told him I loved him.

Fear and guilt are two powerful emotions. He became very adept at employing them together. Whenever I was at his house, I felt the need to comply to his likings: to clean and maintain the house meticulously, to cook the meals he liked, to play the music he liked, to fold the towels the way he liked. A turning point was reached one night after work, after we had gone for a run. I got in the shower to wash off and a minute later he threw back the curtain.

“You’re not going to offer to make me dinner?”

“Excuse me?” I was standing there wet and naked.

“You know I’m hungry.”

I do not consider myself a pushover. Nor do I consider myself a submissive person. I would say that most people who know me consider me anything but. And yet somehow I became that. The breaking point came when we were in bed one night and my best guy friend (the second man to whom I would say “I love you”) called my cell. John became extremely angry. His hands ended up around my throat and he started to choke me. And then he let go. I was in my own version of sleeping with the enemy.

Certain things are very easy to see when you have the clarity of mind and perspective to do so. I know that jealousy is simply the expression of insecurity. And individuals who try to control and exert power over others are not powerful. My own insecurities and lack of relationship experience enabled this relationship from the beginning and it is not surprising that my next relationship would be completely opposite from this one.