September 24, 2020

Red Flags, Secrets & Lessons Learned

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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It was 2009, and I was 20 years old. I was at an age where I had never been in a relationship before, never knew about love and had even written a Facebook status asking everyone: “What is love and how will I know if I’m in love?”. Most people described love as a beautiful feeling, and most said that I would know it.

One night, I reached out to one of my best friends and told her I was ready to come out to karaoke night. There was someone who I was originally interested in, but as I learned through another friend they didn’t feel the same way. And that’s where I met my ex, whom I didn’t expect to spend seven years of my life with.

We will call him ‘V’; he was half an inch shorter than me with dark hair, same eye color as me and olive skin like me. He was five years older than I am and he had just moved back in with his parents after losing a job and was going back to school for youth work. 

While he seemed nice, he walked me home and held my hand. We barely knew each other at the time and when we got to my house he tried to kiss me. I quickly pulled away and slapped him across the face and ran inside. My heart was racing fast and I felt uncomfortable. My friend phoned me up and confronted me about this issue.

The next time I went to karaoke he was there and he apologized to me for not calling me, saying that he had been busy. He hadn’t even cross my mind one bit to be honest. I wish I would have told him how I really felt when he did that to me. When I didn’t go out with him on a Wednesday night, I found out from a friend that V had said if I wasn’t going to have him then he was going to go for someone else. I didn’t pick up on him being interested in me.

One of his friends told me that V always had bad luck: he had lost jobs, gotten evicted from places, and a whole list of things went on like getting poured on and losing his camera at a Nickelback concert. I started getting a bad feeling and in hindsight I wish I would have listened to my gut feeling and stuck to my first reaction: he’s not my type or someone who I would date.

I remember friends said we would make a good couple. At the same time, someone else by the name of D liked me but I made it clear MULTIPLE TIMES that I only liked them as a friend and NOTHING MORE.

My friend encouraged me to make a choice, D or V  but now I wish I had chosen neither. D remains my friend to this day, but no matter what I only see him as nothing more than a family friend who has been there for me like a brother. Feelings can’t be forced like that.

Whenever I went out one on one with V, he kept suggesting a date but I didn’t pick up on the cue. I just kept going on about my business. He started getting angry and kept telling me to let him get close to me and that’s when it didn’t feel good. At the park, he tried to kiss and make out with me and I remember him telling me to just let it happen and he kept forcing himself onto me. I remember being so shook up and I told my best friend and her fiance all about it, crying. They confronted him about it at a Jays game that we were at and he got me two roses to apologize for it. I cried, and wanted to go home. I was experiencing new feelings and a friend told me that what I was feeling was love. God I couldn’t stop crying and I thought at the time, this is what someone does when they love someone. 

When I disclosed my autism diagnosis to him, he kept saying he sees beyond it. But he didn’t try to better understand me and kept brushing it off like it was nothing. Other people warned him about this and also talked to him about my diagnosis.

My mom got a good vibe when she met him. My dad and brother did not and V tole me that it was common for men not to like their daughter/sister’s boyfriends. Had I paid attention to both of the men in my life then maybe things would have been different. 

October 25th 2009, it was a happy time and we decided to make the relationship official. I remember being happy and people being happy for us. I also remember that I was ignoring other red flags like him making me pay for the first date and a lot of the other dates saying that all girlfriends do this if their boyfriends don’t have money. 

I wasn’t ready to meet his parents and he barely spoke to me about them. But yet, he forced me to meet them when I wasn’t ready. I dealt with not being right for him which hurt. I was also set up to fail not having the chance to give a better first impression. Or even the chance to educate them on autism.

As time went on, I still couldn’t let him get too close to me. However, on social media I was being all loving and posting a ton of things about our love thinking that it was okay. I was twenty acting like someone in high school who was in love for the first time. Looking back, the relationship was over-glorified on social media and now I know it’s best not to always post about the love of your life on social media. There’s boundaries on what to keep for each other and what to post online. 

More things kept coming up, and when it came to sex he was pushy to the point I felt like I had to give up my virginity to him even though I wanted to wait until the time was right. Had I stood up for myself, kept my boundaries clear and had I made it clear that I wanted to wait, then just maybe things would have been different. 

As time went on, he failed school and I kept trying to help him with it, he couldn’t hold down a job except for Wal Mart which he resented and didn’t try to at least either finish placement or work his way up with the company. He was also moving around a lot and he wanted me to move in with him. It wasn’t me holding him back. I needed stability and wanted to be sure before making a big step, I wanted to know that he was going to hold down a stable job. 

I then went to college for two years and graduated at the top of my class, made the dean’s list four times in a row and got the president’s honour roll. I had also been fortunate enough to have held a stable job in my field. Being with him taught me to make something out of myself besides doing nothing with my life or only working at a flea market for two days a week. 

Another pattern that I should have noticed was when we would go somewhere and things were good they would quickly turn south. Our first year anniversary, things were great at the restaurant until he lost something and then freaked out on the train ride home from Toronto. He also flipped out about being late and I should have picked up on this cue and my gut feeling added to this. 

As time went on, I started noticing more patterns in him and also more patterns in myself. I too was no better and I take responsibility on my end for things that I contributed to in the relationship. 

Every time things would go good for him, he would be like a famous person letting it go to his head. At that same time, things would go downhill for me for some reason. If things were going good for me, things would go downhill for him and he would end up in a deep depression. This was a pattern that I should have picked up on quickly which explains why my college graduation, or my big birthdays would end up ruined. Lifetime events that I could never get back. Even the Boots and Hearts concert, something that should have been so much fun, not only ended in a heated, controlling argument but almost ended a friendship with one of my best friends. 

There was gaslighting when I told him I had a bad feeling about his roommates, and how his family treated me – I wish I had known that term back then (read more about gaslighting HERE). I made it clear that there were NO SECRETS between us. Instead, I would find things out either down the road or I would find them out through someone else when I would be in the middle of his mess. He would blame me for HIM keeping things from ME because he was afraid of how I would react. 

Being autistic, things don’t come naturally to me and examples of whether someone is interested, taking advantage of me, if they are not interested, hinting or implying, or if they are using me — these things are learned and don’t come naturally to me. Like learning a foreign language, I am still learning and it will take a lifetime for me to learn.

It wasn’t until the Christmas holidays in 2016 that he abruptly ended things with me over the phone. I wanted him to tell me this in person so he did just that and even made me pay for the whole dinner even though I refused and wanted to go dutch. He threatened to leave without paying. 

I dodged a bullet NOT living with him. That’s ONE THING that I listened to where I trusted my intuition and my parents about. 

I kept getting led-on every time, used as a release and knowing that I was in a bad place would so often get discarded. In 2018, I finally had the courage to let go and changed my life around for the best. 

One day in 2019, he contacted me and I really tore into him. I was mentally at the point that I needed answers so I could have the closure to move forward to be at peace. We sat down at a Coffee Time, then a Subway then outside because it was night and things were closing. Things were very heated between the two of us, it was like talking in circles and pulling teeth. He kept trying to gaslight me but this time I took back the control and regained my strength. What I found out from him devastated me and made me sick to my stomach with hurt, hate and anger. He never truly loved me like he said and thought he did, he treated me badly because he wanted me out of his life, he only used me for money, sex, and a release all these years. While I was glad to get my answers and get closure, it stung to know that I wasted my time with someone who deep down never loved me. 

I’ve learned some hard and valuable lessons in this relationship. I learned some things about myself that I didn’t think I liked, wanted or even needed in someone. Here are some things that I would have done differently looking back on it:

  • TRUST YOUR INTUITION. NEVER LET ANY ONE DENY YOU OF YOUR GUT FEELINGS OR TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY. This is number one because had I trusted my gut it would have been different.
  • If you get a bad vibe from someone LISTEN TO IT. I learned that I have a strong intuition and I am no longer afraid to listen to it and I no longer disregard it. 
  • SET CLEAR AND HEALTHY BOUNDARIES IN THE BEGINNING. MAKE IT CLEAR AND FIRM ON WHAT THEY ARE. Had I clearly set the boundaries and stood up for myself before dating my ex I could have saved myself some heartache. Had I been more firm with him maybe he would have backed off. IF SOMEONE GETS UPSET WITH YOU FOR SETTING BOUNDARIES THEN THEY ARE NOT FOR YOU. 
  • BE FRIENDS FIRST, TAKE THINGS SLOW AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF EVEN IF YOU STAND ALONE. There’s nothing wrong with being friends first and seeing where things go. This is more of an opportunity to get to know each other. Sometimes people are better off as friends, and this is also a chance to see if you two are compatible with each other in a relationship or not. Now, I would rather stand alone than to let anyone walk all over me.
  • KNOW THE RED FLAGS. Had I known the red flags earlier on I would have saved myself some heartache. IF SOMETHING DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT THEN IT’S NOT RIGHT. I learned this lesson the hard way and never push your own feelings to the side for someone else. 
  • NEVER FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO STAY WITH SOMEONE AND REMEMBER TO NEVER DATE SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO. I remember feeling like I had to make it work because nobody else would want me and remember to know your worth. NEVER GET INVOLVED WITH SOMEONE OUT OF PRESSURE, PITY, AND STAY TRUE TO YOUR OWN FEELINGS. How do you feel about each other? I would have been with D only out of pity and pressure. You should be with each other because THE FEELINGS ARE MUTUAL. 
  • PAY ATTENTION TO PATTERNS & NIP IT QUICKLY. Had I done this before-hand this is something that would have saved tons of heartache and would have been addressed. 
  • NEVER LET ANYONE PRESSURE YOU TO CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS, ETHICS OR YOUR FEELINGS. My relationship was high pressure, and I learned lessons the very hard way. Being with V was high pressure to mask, to be skinny, to have money for him, to be someone I wasn’t. To change my own beliefs, values, and to be someone that I thought a girlfriend should be. 
  • DON’T BE AFRAID TO WALK AWAY and if others tell you they are getting a bad vibe from the person, always listen to them, as true friends and family have your best intentions at heart.

I know this is a long read and lots of info dumping was on this blog but I want people – especially autistic people – to learn from my experiences and not have their first relationship be a sour one. 

Lisa K.

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

Learn more

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