names have been omitted in this post
It was nearing the end of September and October would soon be here… we sat crouched together up high in his daughters new loft bed he'd built with the help of a friend from church. His daughter was at school and her upcoming birthday surprise was him building her a loft bed for her bedroom. It had been a big undertaking and yet was almost done… that afternoon I was helping him by painting the two small shelves mounted on the wall for her to store books on for nighttime reading. I finished the trim work on them with a steady hand and then carefully wiped the excess paint back into the paint can and closed the lid. He set the can aside and leaned over to kiss my forehead.
"It looks great, Jen… you did a great job on them. Thank you for your help. You're skilled at painting. I don't have that steady of a hand." He smiled at me.
I smiled back "You're welcome, I was happy to help."
We sprawled out on the towels we'd used for padding to paint as he didn't have a mattress just yet for the bed. He still had to shop for a comforter set and a few accessories to finish the room. He was really excited to have it complete and see her reaction. I admired that he had gone to so much effort for someone he loved and that he didn't mind putting in the work to do it. He stretched out on his side beside me propping up his head with one hand. His old faded college t-shirt I wore like a smock over my clothes and I looked at him as he spoke. The late afternoon sun shone in the room and soon it would be time for us to leave so he could pick up his daughter from school.
"So, listen, baby… I want to talk to you about something. I think now is a good time…."He paused as though he wanted to choose his words carefully. "This is important. I know we haven't been going out for very long… for a little while now... and I want you to know that you are precious to me. I mean… "He trailed off and gazed at me intently "I want you to know that I think the world of you already. I could see this being it for me… I could see marrying you. But with that I need to ask you something and depending on how you feel, if you aren't in agreement, as much as I'd hate it, there's no reason to keep seeing each other."
"Okay…" I replied. It wasn't quite clicking yet where he was going with this… but I was curious. I already knew neither of us wanted anymore children at this point so that wasn't it.
"My biggest worry is hurting your feelings. I want you to know that's not my intention here." He stressed to me.
I nodded with understanding so he continued "So… here's the thing… when I got divorced I realized how badly I had screwed up. I put a lot of people at risk with my family's money and my businesses. And if I was to get married again I would want to do what I can to protect those things… and those people. So my question is… would you be agreeable to signing a pre-nup?" He asked.
"I don't have a problem with pre-nups. I know some people have issue with them." I replied.
He looked relieved and like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"You don't? Oh, baby, I'm so glad. You have no idea how relieved I am… you aren't upset?" He asked me with a concerned tone and expression.
I shook my head "No, not at all. I'm open to it, especially when it comes to a second marriage." I told him.
"Well… "He added soberly, "I want you to know that God forbid if something happened to me you would be provided for. I wouldn't leave you high and dry. I just need to make sure my other things are protected and my daughter is taken care of." He explained.
I spoke "Oh, I know. No, it's fine. I was actually going to bring it up myself at some point." I told him.
He paused and looked at me.
He seemed surprised by that and then a bit of amusement creeped in his expression.
I took note of it.
And it rubbed me the wrong way. I sensed an ego that believed because perhaps my current assets paled in comparison to his that made him superior and I was merely a "little woman" to be patronized and patted on the head. That irked me. That also made me believe there was more to be discovered about him I might not like especially when it came to the long term. I believe these types of conversations are good to have and early on… as they reveal much about people and whether our values and belief systems line up… in addition any ego or superiority that may have been concealed may now be revealed to us.
"Really?" He asked appraisingly with a slight tilt of his head. He seemed so shocked little me would dare consider asking him for a pre-nup. Or anyone for that matter. I'd broached it to the first man I'd dated post divorce and he hadn't taken issue with it. He'd understood.
I nodded "Well… yes." I paused then continued. "Look, here's the thing. I walked away from my marriage, from my ex and that shocked him. He made good money and yet he never in a million years thought I'd walk away from that financial security. That shows how very little he knew about me. And my character. The truth is… no matter how much he made… I married down when it came to morals. And with that… I walked away from my dad too. I'm no kiss up. I'm not kissing anyone's ass for anything. My grandmother made promises to me and my sisters growing up that I'm sure by now have been legally overturned. So be it. I'm not after your bank account, businesses, family money, etc. That doesn't impress me. What I want money can't buy… love, loyalty, honesty, passion, commitment, a God fearing man."
He nodded "I know… and I admire that about you." He told me giving me a look of affection "One of the things I love about you is you have a servant's heart. It's in all the little things you do. Like today… offering to help paint. Those things mean a lot to me, hun" He pointed out. "And you deserve all those things. You have to know I'd never cheat on you. I'd be lucky to have you as my wife. And you've already shown you wouldn't put up with it by leaving your ex when he cheated."
His sentiment might have been reassuring to some. But it didn't make me feel any better. Instead it concerned me greatly. I kept my thoughts to myself but filed his comment away. I may have a servant's heart but we have to guard against being walked over as well. And yes, I'd leave a cheating spouse again. In a nano-second. But in that I didn't want that to be the reason someone decided to be loyal to me. It shouldn't be because they feared the consequences I'd dole out but because they wouldn't dare cheat because they loved me too much to begin with. I believed he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear and even then the words didn't console. The truth is… talk is cheap… and often those who tell you they won't cheat already are.
I studied him intently "I have my own dreams to pursue. I know I'll make it with hard work and the grace of God." I said and then continued… "The thing is, during my divorce my ex tried to come after me for financial gain over any future publishing I might do. He knew I wanted to publish a book. Which I still plan to do. I have no doubt God can continue to use my story to do good. Some might call that far fetched but I have hope for all possibilities. In that… "I paused, "I'm somewhat hesitant to re-marry on the chance that it could go to poo… and then what? I might have to shell out money to a man who turned on me after I've published a book? Texas is a community property state. I'm not thrilled with the idea of another marriage possibly going sour and a man making money off my story, off my life, my heartaches, my hard work… all my sacrifices… "I have issue with that."I stated.
He seemed to be lost in thought and weighing my words carefully. He then spoke, "Your ex really tried to come after you for money on any future book published?" He asked incredulously.
"Yes." I replied cooly. "Shows what a snake he is. He felt entitled. Here he'd co-founded his own company and made good money… and I'd supported him through the whole process. Then he cheats and wanted to swoop in and also make money off MY future dream? I don't think so." I shook my head.
"No…. I mean, I get it." He replied.
But I wasn't convinced. The truth is his bit of amusement shown earlier bothered me greatly. It showed a tiny preview of what was to come… more superior ego revealed as we dated more. I saw the sign and took note. It would turn out I'd slam the door shut on the relationship end of November because like most journeys… the signs begin small and almost indiscernible. But as you make your way along the path they get bigger and bigger until they are flashing bright in your face and you can no longer ignore them.
The thing is…. like our finances we need to do all we can to protect our hearts from possible hurt and deceit. Not everyone you meet or date will have your best interests at heart. Sometimes we get tricked and that can be very costly.
That old saying… love don't cost a thing?
That saying is so untrue. It could cost you everything.
It could cost you a lifetime of happiness and a tank of regret you drag behind you. If you marry a wolf in sheep's clothing you could lose everything you have… your house, your children, your health and your wealth. You may lose your youth, your dreams and your sweet spirit. You may lose your life. This is why it's so incredibly important for men and women to be absolutely certain that who they are marrying is really who they say they are. And if they have revealed an ugly toxic side of themselves…. if they have revealed a side of great ego and superiority or even a tone of belittlement toward you… believe it when you see it… that's who they are. Don't doubt it or yourself.
You may ask yourself… How did this happen? How did I end up dating, becoming engaged to or even married to someone not healthy for me? Or maybe it keeps happening.
Often we misinterpret what we are experiencing. We may believe the person (man or woman) were seeing to be caring, loving or even romantic. When in reality our experience is really none of those things. Maybe they appear that way initially at face value. But the truth is something much more sinister lies underneath.
3 Behaviors We May Believe Are Wonderful That Are Actually Toxic:
Beware of someone who lavishes you with generous gifts and over the top gestures. They are doing what's termed "Love Bombing"… bombing you with excessive gifts and gestures of love and adoration to make you feel extra special and unlike anyone else they've ever met… you are their chosen one, their soul mate, you are so high in the sky on the pedestal in their adoring eyes you never believe you'll ever be knocked off. But eventually you are knocked to the bottom and lying on concrete. One day you are off the pedestal much to your great despair and because you were lifted up so high initially each time he or she treated you poorly they then gave you a little lift again… much like a person who dangles a piece of addicting cheese to a mouse… only to stomp it's tail intermittently and heightening the stomp each time… alternating the sweet behavior with the cruel… this is how you're slowly morphed from a independent person to someone who feels confused, anxious, walking on eggshells and lost without them… yet WANTING it to work. This is how crazy does… what initially began as romantic is now a tool, a behavior used to keep luring you back in after treating you like yesterday's disposable newspaper.
2. Close Contact
In the beginning of a relationship we undoubtedly want to spend as much time as possible with the person were dating. But two healthy people realize that life happens. And with that it's just not practical to expect to see them all the time. And some distance is healthy; balance is necessary in our lives. The last man I dated expected every second of my time. If I was going to the grocery store he wanted to go. And it wasn't even "Can I tag along?" which would have been annoying enough… but instead it was "I'll pick you up." Before I knew it a simple chore, task, errand I would have been perfectly content doing on my own… had turned into an all day event. Someone who is healthy respects the fact that you need time on your own. They will realize that just because you have a day off work it's not automatically their day as well… they will be respectful of your time and need for self care, rest and time with other people you care about as well… and boundaries. Someone who texts, calls, comes by unannounced and expects every minute of your day, week, month and for it to be accounted for… is not going to be someone you can work well with. Even if you try to set boundaries and voice your irritation, concerns, anger, etc… it will be twisted back on you; Why don't you want to see them? What is going on? Why are you being distant? What are you hiding? Who are you seeing? Are you cheating on me? The myriad of questions will begin and escalate into accusations. It's not possible to simply share your life with someone who begins to believe they own it.
3. Privacy, Please
When someone unhealthy is in a relationship they do everything they can to isolate you. You may not even realize that this is what they're doing because it starts so subtle and innocently enough. They want to see you, they want to hog all your time and they don't want to share you with their friends, your friends, your parents, their parents, etc. Before you know it you don't see anyone else but who you're with. Yes, many couples initially may cut back some on seeing their friends when in a new relationship that seems to be clicking… but that isn't necessarily a good thing. Friends and family members can give us good constructive feedback about who were seeing. They may see things that we are completely oblivious to. One tactic of someone toxic is to systematically remove all the people who care about you from your life and make themselves the only person you have to count on. If they become the one you solely rely on for emotional support they can then take it a step further and re-create reality because you now have no one to give you objectivity. If your partner tells you the new vase you bought is hideous you may believe them if you've been programmed to rely solely on them for opinions and perspective and no one else. Saying they want privacy with you because they don't want to share you, share time with you, etc may seem romantic… but reality is it's the first step in many steps to make you become completely dependent on them. And that then sets the stage for a whole plethora of even uglier behaviors behind closed doors like gas-lighting, projection, physical abuse, financial abuse and more.