This week I got to thinking about some ex-boyfriends and past relationships. And you know what? Hindsight really is 20/20. Now I can look back and see the relationship was always doomed.
The nutshell version-
Once upon a time, I dated a really great guy for over a year. For most of the relationship we went to his parents' house for Sunday dinner. Without fail the meal was always the same- a very tough pork chop, applesauce, biscuits from a can, jello salad, and a can of creamed corn.
The problem? (Besides being the most bland, boring meal ever?)
I am allergic to corn.
As in deathly allergic.
So naturally I never ate the corn. (I rarely ate the jello salad. Why? I really don't like jello "salad.") Why would I eat something that might kill me?
And every Sunday, without fail, my boyfriend's mother made a comment about how I did not eat the meal she made. And every Sunday, I would politely explain I am allergic to corn. She would sniff and dismiss the conversation.
I would remind my boyfriend in advance and ask him to remind his mother that I was allergic to corn. I offered nearly every single week for over a year to bring a side dish, specifically a vegetable. She always said no. I often did it anyway. She never once served anything I brought.
It was not uncommon for his parents (actually the whole family) to completely leave me out of the conversation. Sometimes the boyfriend attempted to include me, sometimes he was oblivious. When I would point things out to him later he would be surprised. He never noticed how rude his family was to me.
But the real kicker is how his mother would often openly suggest girls she thought he ought to "call up." After I would kick him and point out that this was the sort of thing that I thought was horribly rude on her part, he might speak up and point out he had a girlfriend. More than once she went so far as to brazenly suggest girls he should date- with me sitting beside him on the couch.
If you are wondering how/why I put up with this, the answer is both simple and complicated. I was raised to not speak back to my elders. I expected my boyfriend to stand up for me. He didn't see the point. He would just shrug it off and say that's how his mother was. She didn't think she was being offensive or rude to me. She just thought he might want to call those girls up to be nice. And she just forgot (every single week for a year) that I was allergic to corn.
The family was stubborn. I watched the way they interacted with each other. For a while I stopped going to dinner with him. I didn't want to be tortured like that every week. But for some reason he talked me into going back again, so I did. After a while I realized that with this stubborn, slightly rude, and always "in your face" family, that not going to dinner was a sign of weakness. That if I ever wanted to win their respect I just had to go and keep acting like it didn't bother me that they were so rude week after week, even if they didn't know they were being rude.
At the time I thought the relationship had a chance. I liked (maybe even loved) him, and he liked (maybe even loved) me. We really did give the relationship a chance. We didn't just give up when we had differences or problems. But we never could get over that big huge problem of me not fitting in with his family. Or that his family didn't want me in the family.
At the time I felt like he could have tried harder on my behalf, but it didn't cause fights or problems that he didn't. Now I can look back and realize that he didn't try harder because he didn't want to. He could have. He knew he should have. But he chose not to.
In hindsight I can see that the relationship was always doomed. All the patience and hard work in the world would not have changed things. I firmly believe he loved me enough. But with his family always whispering words of doubt in his ear, he never had a chance to feel sure enough in the relationship to really make it work.
What have I gained from hindsight and revisiting this memory? Not closure. I got that years ago. I'm searching for it either. No, what I have learned is that I need to stop sacrificing myself so much for others. I need to stand up for myself and walk away sooner. There is no joy or happiness in quietly and slowly being the martyr. If a relationship isn't making you happy, fighting for it is just a waste of time. Either it's good, or it isn't.