Relationships from hell

It had never occurred to me that I might be someone’s ‘relationship from hell’.

I have spoken about my own at times: in my mid-twenties, a relationship with a man who would not give an inch of ground on anything ever and into which I threw a level of rage I’d not have thought I had in me. A relationship that felt like a war zone into which I ran every day with guns blazing, wearing a deep and abiding unhappiness under my clothes, and wondering why I didn’t leave already.

It feels, almost, like a rite of passage, at least one relationship that you look back on with a kind of horror, painting it in a dull matt black when in truth there were always flashes of colour and light in it.

When you are young and searching for a match, you necessarily make mistakes. Those mistakes are how you learn what doesn’t work for you. And after you learn from them, you do something slightly differently next time, and in that slow slog, you do the painful work to figure out what you DO want from all of the times you run up against what you don’t.

And while I acknowledge out loud that I was (and am) a selfish person, I think in my younger years, I was also capable of a terrifying lack of care. Or perhaps it was a lack of empathy. Something I can’t quite articulate, but it was a combination that held the potential for a kind of cold indifference.

And yet, even knowing that, it still somehow had never occurred to me that I might well be someone’s ‘relationship from hell’. That someone might look back on their time with me and shudder, tell the story of the woman who brought out the worst in them, wonder why they stayed for so long, remembering me as the harshest lesson they ever learnt.

On that note, last week I heard from the first submissive with whom I had a serious D/s relationship. It had apparently been 15 years and 2 days since our last contact, 18 years since we were together. A lifetime ago. His second note spoke of hurt, a matter of factual history, and suddenly and for the first time I wondered if I was his ‘relationship from hell’: an unhappy and cruel lesson learnt. It was a terrifying thought and I started picking at the edges of my memory to determine if it might be true.

Which got me thinking about other relationships and brought me to the sudden and awful revelation that perhaps in one of THOSE, I was the ‘relationship from hell’. It sent me spinning down this road, trying to dissect the bodies of relationships long past, pulling the insides out to see if I had left something awful in my wake.

I like to think not, of course. I like to think of myself as someone who brought a blinding flash of hot-awesome-happiness into the lives of people I have been close to, even if they were short-lived and ultimately superficial. If I’m honest, my ego wants some of them never to be quite as crazily happy as that ever again (I mentioned ‘selfish’, right?). I also like to think of myself as someone who would see hell if it was right in front of my face, but I have to acknowledge that when we are IN something, we often don’t see it clearly. Mostly we do the best that we can to deal and manage and navigate it, and of course we are all flawed in that.

But it seems unlikely now that it’s on my mind that I wasn’t someone’s idea of hell. That there isn’t someone who looks back and wonders at how horribly unhappy they were, incredulous that they stayed so long with me. I prefer to think that if it’s there, it’s a one-off, perhaps reciprocal with the man who was MY hell. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to think that I was his also.

A few emails later with the sweet boy who was my first, and it seems I wasn’t his relationship from hell, though I suspect that after it ended the hurt made it seem like I was for a time. My relief at that was palpable: Not just because it would be such an awful thing, but also because I wasn’t sure how to own my part in it if it was true, and I was well aware that it was mine to own. The very fact that I thought it might be possible says some things about me of which I’m not proud.

Either way, I’m so very glad.

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15 Comments

  1. While it’s true that I have never had a “relationship” with you, I have gotten to know you a bit over the years and have found that my communication with you has always made me very happy. I love it when I hear from you. I simply couldn’t imagine you being anybody’s “Relationship from hell”.

    ”The very fact that I thought it might be possible says some things about me of which I’m not proud”

    We all have those traits that we aren’t proud of, but it’s those who can’t (or won’t) see them that are the ones who bring about those hellish relationships. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I, for one think that you’re lovely.

    1. *smile* Thank you, I do appreciate that kindness.

      I was a different person then, I think we all continue to grow and change and hopefully get better at dealing with things in our lives.

      I have to add the obvious though: friends only ever really see a small part of me. They never see me really angry or hurt or resentful or in any of those high-emotion states that happen in a romantic relationship where you knee-jerk into behaviours of self protection and attack.

      I think I’m better at all of that now than I was, and less callous: my introspection about hells I might have created really only considered relationships BEFORE that, not after (not least because it’s in part a numbers game).

      Ferns

  2. I had to accept some time ago that I was likely my ex-husband’s relationship from hell. Or one of them, as I was his second wife, and his first (who is very similar to me in many ways) certainly sounded like a relationship from hell as well, though they managed to heal and be friends after in a way he and I never did. I know I wasn’t alone in creating that hell–he probably lit the fires the day he started the relationship with a lie. But I was selfish, oblivious to his suffering, and acted capriciously and thoughtlessly in ways that in hindsight I know must have hurt him badly.

    My relationship from hell was the man I was unofficially married to at the same time my husband and I were married (poly triad). Sometimes I make myself feel better my saying that a great deal of the hell I created for my husband was a result of the hell I was in from my unofficial husband. But my actions, blindness, and non-actions are still my responsibility.

    1. I think it’s a testament to you that you recognise where you were the relationship from hell for your ex. I think that takes quite a bit of brutal introspection.

      I’m genuinely shocked by the fact that I have never considered that I might have been one. It was a complete blind spot for me. Shocker.

      Ferns

  3. I think any time it goes wrong it’s human nature to view the other as the villain of the piece, if it’s a relationship then it’s magnified a hundredfold. Naturally in my case clearly the other IS totally to blame ;)
    Coug

    1. I like to think of myself as taking responsibility for whatever failures happened in my relationships; As introspective and thoughtful. I tend not to demonise and I try to take responsibility for my part in whatever went wrong.

      And I think all of that is what makes it so shocking to me that it never occurred to me that I might have been someone’s nightmare. It just never occurred to me. That level of blindness is bizarre in retrospect.

      “Naturally in my case clearly the other IS totally to blame ;)”

      *laugh* Well, naturally!

      Ferns

  4. This is exactly why I truly love to read you posts, Ferns. This unflinchingly honest and self-critical sharing is so refreshing, and your ability to articulate your feelings always impresses. Sorry, I don’t mean to fawn all over you, and give you a big head or anything, so, I should probably just say “thanks for sharing” and forget all that other stuff I said…

    1. *smile* Feel free to fawn over me and give me a big head any time you like. I like it.

      “I should probably just say “thanks for sharing” and forget all that other stuff I said…”

      I will now forget all that other stuff that you said (thank you for it *smile*).

      Ferns

  5. I am sure each and everyone of us has been someone’s “relationship from hell”. Not a pleasant thought. I would think that most everyone, including myself, want to think that we have been everyone’s “heaven on earth.” Sadly, that may not be the truth.

    There are many blogs that I visit. I stay a while. Leave. Yours is the only one I come to every day. Unlike they others, I linger. I pause for more than a moment because its comfortable here. Its warm here, whereas in so many other places there is a chill.

    Your writing calls me back. Your honesty welcomes me. There is a gentleness here that is absent in the hospitals and labs and waiting rooms that have become so much a part of Bonnie’s and my life. For that, we are grateful.

    Bonnie finished the final stage of her chemo a week ago. When the last of the chemicals dripped into her, she smiled and said: “Let the hair grow!” All these years and she still makes me laugh.

    Respectfully,
    Stan

    1. “I am sure each and everyone of us has been someone’s “relationship from hell”. Not a pleasant thought.”

      I wonder if that’s true. And possibly it is. I think we are capable of being that without intent or purpose, and it’s really NOT a pleasant thought!

      “I pause for more than a moment because its comfortable here. Its warm here, whereas in so many other places there is a chill.”

      That’s so very lovely. Thank you for it.

      Bonnie finished the final stage of her chemo a week ago. When the last of the chemicals dripped into her, she smiled and said: “Let the hair grow!” All these years and she still makes me laugh.

      Congratulations to Bonnie for her last chemo session. She sounds so amazing! I’m so glad she is at the end of her treatments. I am sending positive thoughts for her continued recovery. I hope you are doing something wonderful to celebrate.

      Ferns

  6. I can completely relate to being a different person then and perhaps being in a relationship from hell or being the person who could be viewed as the relationship from hell. I think I have had both experiences where I was in the relationship from hell and I was also once the relationship from hell for someone else.

    My ex husband told me once that I had completely destroyed him. I was his relationship from hell. In his defense, I can understand this because I was very indifferent toward him and then I left him when I came out as a lesbian. I remember telling him once that I didn’t care whether he left or not because he would quickly be replaced. It was cruel and heartless of me and I regret that I was that person to him.

    On the other side as much as I loved Darksoul she was my relationship from hell. We brought out the worst in each other and times she could be very cold, manipulative, and even violent. Yes, I wondered why I stayed for as long as I did but the thing is I really did love her and that is why.

    This is the thing about relationships from hell, in my opinion, though. It didn’t start out, nor was it always, a relationship from hell. At some point, you got together or stayed together for a reason. I’ve literally had a relationship end with a knife to my throat. However, I can still think back and reflect on the things I have learned and grown from in that very same relationship.

    Respectfully,
    Mysticlez

    1. You are so right: no-one ever starts out to create a ‘relationship from hell’. Most relationships start out with such positivity and promise.

      And at a personal level, I think we all like to think that we are better than to create that for someone else. And still it happens, even to the best of us.

      And having said that, there is a world of difference between the kind of ‘relationship from hell’ where someone is terribly unhappy compared with the kind where someone has a knife to their throat.

      “I can still think back and reflect on the things I have learned and grown from in that very same relationship.”

      Yes, that. Funnily, I feel as if I have always done that, but still had a huge blind spot around the possibility that I was the ‘relationship from hell’.

      Ferns

  7. This is a really good post to ponder! Thanks for sharing it!

    I think we tend to tell ourselves internal stories about what is happening. And, of course, we tend to make ourselves the star of the story. Then we are quick to fill in the missing data of why the other person did what they did. Then we run with that narrative.

    But to really have a good relationship and to navigate the rough spots, I think it is very important to resist filling in the data gaps, and instead get feedback on why the other person did what they did. Let them fill in the data gaps. You will often find that the story you told yourself was wrong in fundamentally important ways.

    But that takes courage, to make yourself so vulnerable and to recognize that you could be the problem. A lot of courage.

    I think it is very reasonable to think we could be another person’s relationship from hell. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes, and if the tango is not working, well either party could be making missteps. Or both for that matter.

    Thanks for posting, this type of post is not easy. It reminds me of this post

    http://www.domme-chronicles.com/?s=vulnerability

    and I would say that you are doing an above average job of putting yourself out there for us to see and learn from…

    1. “I think it is very reasonable to think we could be another person’s relationship from hell. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes, and if the tango is not working, well either party could be making missteps. Or both for that matter.”

      Is it? I’m not sure about that. ‘Relationship from hell’ territory is really not the normal ‘it didn’t work out’ or ‘we make mistakes’ domain, it’s the ‘holy fuck, I got endlessly run over by a truck for the duration of this relationship’ kind of thing.

      I kind of think it’s MORE reasonable to assume that we aren’t anybody’s relationship from hell. Unless we think we are bad people.

      I think I have done my fair share of being a bad person (selfish, unkind, cold, dismissive, uncaring… all of those), so this *should* have occurred to me earlier. I really don’t know why it didn’t. But have most people? I have no idea. I guess I like to think not.

      “Thanks for posting, this type of post is not easy. It reminds me of this post
      http://www.domme-chronicles.com/?s=vulnerability

      Aw geez. That’s some sad-making stuff right there! *smile*

      Ferns

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