Not too long ago, someone who used to mean a lot to me tried unsuccessfully to re-enter my life. Though they wholly admitted to treating me horribly for the last year or so that they were previously in my life, they then tried to minimalize the pain they had caused, claiming that all the good they had done for years before that should outweigh the bad of that last year.
We talked briefly for that one night that they dropped that bombshell. I was beside myself with shock and honestly wasn’t sure even what to say to that sentiment. I knew, however, that they had become a toxic presence in my life so I chose to pull away completely, blocking them and ceasing all contact. I had begun my journey towards a healthier and happier life and refused to let them derail me. What they said, though, took up residence in my head, a little kernel bouncing around, waiting to pop and expand into something more.
As is often the case, that kernel got pushed aside to a back burner. Life happened. Family happened. Love happened. Holidays happened. But I knew that eventually, no matter how much was happening around me, that kernel would reappear. And just as expected, late this evening, it finally did, fully formed and realized.
As I sat there considering it all, that one line from that commercial with the old lady posting pictures onto the wall in her living room came to mind.
“That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!”
There was just no way that a prior decade of good times and happy memories could erase, overwrite or minimize that one final year of cruelty.
That is not to say that I was not grateful for all the good times that I shared with this person or that I didn’t value all the times they were there for me when I had no one else to lean on. I will always cherish all those memories and will truly appreciate all that they gave of themselves over the years.
That is not to say, also, that relationships aren’t comprised of ups and downs, highs and lows, good and bad. People don’t always get along. Conflicts happen. People disagree and argue. When someone truly matters, you try to take the good with the bad, for better or worse. There is a fair amount of forgive and forget in friendships and relationships. It all comes with the territory.
There are some actions that rise above and beyond the normal wear and tear of relationships, actions that exist outside the realm of random daily disagreements and headbutting. When someone, in an essence, declares war on another person’s heart, emotions and trust, disregarding their feelings and intentionally going out of their way to repeatedly, without qualms or remorse, lash out and hurt someone else, it is no longer a matter of forgive and forget, for better or worse.
All the good does not negate or erase the bad in those cases. When he made it his mission to hurt me repeatedly over the course of that last year, it forever changed things between us. There is never an excuse for intentionally lashing out, trying to damage and break someone that you supposedly love. All the good he may have done previously does not take away all the heartache in those final months. All the prior good does not excuse all the times I was ignored and mistreated, all the cruel words and actions hurled my way, and all the times I was ghosted and discarded at the end.
Though with his words he swore I meant the world to him for years, his actions over the last year spoke volumes in the opposite direction. No matter how good he used to be to me and how sweetly he used to spin his words, none of it can erase the fact that he treated me like garbage for that last year.
That’s not how it works.
If a person lays their hands on another person, they cannot then say “what about all the years before I beat you? Don’t they count for anything?”
If a person cheats on another person, they cannot then say “what about all the years I didn’t sleep around? Why aren’t you taking them into consideration?”
If a person tears you down again and again, discards you repeatedly and treats you like you’re worthless, they cannot then say “what about all those years before I showed you what you truly meant to me, before I treated you like you were nothing? Shouldn’t that balance everything out?”
If someone who claims to love you is repeatedly and systematically cruel and uncaring towards you, it does not matter whether or not they used to be sweet and loving once upon a time. A broken heart is still a broken heart just as much as a broken bone is still a broken bone and a split lip is still a split lip. Once you abuse that trust and break my heart, I cannot push it aside and pretend it did not happen. Though it does not erase all the good, it changes things irreparably.
A decade of kindness and love, no matter how wonderful, cannot erase that final year of heartache and heartbreak.
Many people preach forgiveness. I’m sure that will come in time. I can honestly say I do not hate him, nor do I wish him any ill will. But all the trust is gone. I cannot have him in my life to any extent. Walls are up. The place he used to have in my heart has been boarded up and is closed for good. I’ve reached the point of no return. There is no going back to how things used to be.
Broken trust and a shattered heart, much like a fractured bone, is not easily mended. And even when everything does eventually fuse back together, that damage beneath never disappears. It is always there, just under the surface, forever evidence to the damage that was done.
Perhaps if the order had been reversed, things might have been different. If the years of kindness had followed after the year of cruelty as a sincere attempt to make amends for prior bad acts, it probably would have counted for more. That way, at least, there would be an act of contrition and penance for being unnecessarily cruel. But to expect to be given a free pass for a year of wanton and reckless heartbreak on the basis that you used to be better to me is beyond ludicrous and unreasonable.
Actions speak louder than words and his actions over that final year he was a part of my life spoke volumes about just how low I ranked in his life and heart. Having an “Oops my bad” moment of admission, especially without any real action of remorse to back it up right after the fact, could not even come close to touching or resolving any of the pain he caused over the last couple years.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for all those years of friendship and love that were given. I’ll always cherish the times that he was there for me. It just doesn’t erase or negate any of the hurt of that final year. It doesn’t work that way, at least not for me.