I was in more trouble than I could understand at the time and I didn't know how to get out.

Dating Red Flags: No Conversation and Sharpened Sticks

Zachery was a lazy boy who didn’t have the decency to ask a girl he saw almost every day at school out in person. His conversational skills were lackluster at best and he was clingy beyond reason. It’s no surprise that, after a month of dating, I was done with the relationship.

196000_1003689610578_7377_nIf I could go back in time, this is the moment I would have changed. In that one month of dating, I had gone through a huge personal transition. When I first agreed to the label of girlfriend over MSN, I was thinking this might be my last shot. I had thought for the longest time that no one would ever show interest in me. History told me men would gladly use me for my body, but would any actually want a relationship with me? I figured Zachery was my last shot. It was him, or a life of loneliness.

A month into the relationship with Zachery, I had figured out I’d be much happier alone than I would be settling. I was done tripping over his feet when he held me so close we looked like we were in a three-legged race down the hallway. More than anything else, I was done with the non-conversations. I quickly realized he wasn’t contributing to any of our conversations and worked hard to give him opportunities to tell me something about himself.  Our typical conversations turned into this:

TK: Hey! How was your day?

Zachery: Fine.

(pause while I wait in vain to see if there’s more)

TK: What did you do?

Zachery: Nothing.

(pause while I wait in vain to see if there’s more)

TK: What are you doing tonight?

Zachery: I don’t know

(pause and eventually give up on talking all together)

I wanted to pull my hair out and scream in his face. Why don’t you talk to me!? Seriously,  aren’t there any thoughts banging around in that head of yours that deserve a voice? That would have been rude and inconsiderate, however. For better or for worse, I kept on with the idea that he should be able to tell, through my silence and body language, that something was wrong. More than anything else, he was his refusal to acknowledge what I thought were clear signs that motivated me to cut it off.

This photo, “red flag” is copyright (c) 2014 Fredrik Rubensson and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

If I would have cut it off, this would be a much shorter story, but as you well know, that’s not what happened.

My best friend was dating Zachery’s younger brother. Everything Zachery didn’t tell me was conveyed through her. When my relationship with Zachery had just started, we would joke about the possibility we could become sister-in-laws. It was in a conversation with my dear friend that I would find a reason to carry on the relationship far past its prime.

Zachery had bought me a birthday present.

It wasn’t quiet April yet (my birthday is in the beginning of April) and he had already spent money on me! I didn’t want his money to be spent in vain, so I decided I had to wait until after my birthday. Unfortunately, if I broke things off right after my birthday, I’d look greedy. Two weeks after my birthday would have worked well, except two weeks after my birthday was two weeks before prom.

I was aware that Zachery, who was a senior, hadn’t gone to prom as a junior because he had no date. Prom was something I thought everyone should experience and I certainly didn’t want to end things just two weeks prior to the dance. So, I decided, way back at the end of March, that I would carry on in this relationship until two weeks after prom.

That right there is the brilliant logic of a 16-year-old mind. Oh how ignorant my young self was.

I spent the next week or so before my birthday using my same failed tactic. Our conversations were short, as I started answering his rare inquires with words like ‘fine’ and ‘okay.’ The lack of conversation frustrated me to know end. More disturbing than that, however, was his increased handsyness.

Trying to be cute one night, I discovered that Zachery was ticklish in his sides. Upon this revelation, he decided it would be appropriate to grab my breast. Having already experienced unwanted groping, I told him to stop. He, however, seemed to think this was an appropriate reaction, even in public. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have your breast grabbed in the middle of a high school hallway? The panic that overcomes you for a few slow seconds as you wonder if anyone saw? Zachery did not understand the word ‘no.’ While I wouldn’t try to tickle him again, he would keep finding excuses to touch me.

I started to ignore him most weekends, making up excuses so we wouldn’t  have to hang out. Zachery would get a little shaky and get this angry glare in his eyes when I told him no. He was starting to scare me and I didn’t know what to do. Jokes about bringing guns to school and his swerving attempts to run over wildlife on the highway had me petrified. What would he do to me if I said no? Would he turn his anger on me, on a friend or on himself?

I was in more trouble than I could understand at the time and I didn’t know how to get out. Oh, and that birthday present I mentioned?  He gave me a sharpened oak rod and called it a sword.

At least he remembered I liked swords. Too bad a sharpened stick – with no semblance of a hilt or decoration – doesn’t qualify as a sword.

Have you ever been afraid of the person you were dating? What sort of fears keep people in these dangerous relationships? Would your high school – self have waited for your birthday if you heard the man you wanted to break up with had already bought you a gift? What do you think of the present I ended up getting?

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30 thoughts on “Dating Red Flags: No Conversation and Sharpened Sticks”

    1. My 16 year old self appreciates your sympathies. Care to join me in a time machine as I go back to tell her to break it off before prom? Now, if only I had that time machine, lol

      1. Haha if only indeed! Though you could argue that the experience has shaped who you are today so you may be stronger today because of it. That might only be a small silver lining but hey you never know!

        1. Yeah, that’s why I say I can’t regret everything up to this moment. This was how I learned how much I was really worth. I think I needed that, but I could have escaped everything else from this point on, if only I was smart enough to end things.

          1. Well that’s an excellent lesson to have learned from an unpleasant experience. I’m sorry to hear it didn’t get better at the time but I’m glad you made it out eventually and by virtue of the fact that you can write about it on a blog for complete strangers to read shows the strength of character you’ve grown to possess!

  1. A sharpened stick? Even if he saw it as a sword? Nothing says romance more than an offensive weapon. I think that is the biggest red flag in this relationship saga I’ve read so far. I’m hoping it gets no more alarming than this. And I’m very glad he’s your ex.

    1. Yeah…. my friends and family thought it was a hilarious gift. I mean, I really liked swords, I still do. But it wasn’t very romantic. He didn’t even try to make it romantic…..

      And I’m sorry to tell you that it will get much worse. At least it makes for good stories these days. It wasn’t so funny back then, though.

      1. Hindsight unfortunately allows us to beat ourselves up about things (even at 16). It’s great that you recognised that it was a bad idea, even at that age – but even better is the wisdom you’ve gained from such an experience of not having escaped.

        You now have that life knowledge that can only come from living and the best part – you’ve recognised and learned the lesson from it. It may appear like stupidity for having not escaped, but having been through it – you won’t allow yourself to not not escape when you recognise the situation again (if it happens again).

  2. unfortunately, I would’ve done the same as 16 yr old TK. I actually once timed a break up back in my middle school years because they were sick and the holidays were coming and i had to pick a time that was best to break it off but honestly I know now, break ups are tough regardless of the time and a holiday or special occasion shouldn’t determine when. But honestly, It sounds like that sword was widdled and not bought or something like that so I wouldn’t have used that as a basis for timing the break up. If anything that would’ve given me more reason to break up with him. like oh, “thanks for the stick… I don’t think its working out.”

    1. Yeah, it was widdles, or sawed…. I mean, it didn’t even have the shape of a sword. It was literally a sharpened stick. I felt like I had to stick to my plan though. I still thought I’d look greedy if I broke up right after my birthday and thought that would be worse than carrying on the relationship for a bit longer. Oh how long I was.

  3. Aw man, I started out feeling a bit sorry for the misunderstood kid because I was pretty bad with girls at that age too, but he is starting to get that dangerous-creepy vibe! I’ve never been so much scared of a girlfriend as much as scared of getting so deeply entrenched in a weird or undesirable relationship that it would be hard to get out.

    1. I’m not here to say Zachery is the scum of the earth because I can only tell you the story from my perspective. My heart went out to him back then because he was a bit of an introvert and had some social awkwardness. I understood that and sympathized with his situation.

      That only lasted for the first part of the relationship. Eventually, a person has to take ownership of their actions. Awkwardness can be forgiven, but at some point actions reach an extreme where society and/or peer pressure isn’t enough of an excuse.

  4. Past relationships are fodder for learning about ourselves. We can look back and learn from what attracted us to the person and what made us stay in the relationship. Actually, they are great opportunities for growth! For me, I had to look back at my family of origin to see why I was making particular choices. This helped me to find my husband. P.S. Thank you SOOOOO much for responding to the comments on your guest blog! Excellent responses! Best, Cate

    1. I certainly learned a lot about myself through this relationship, but, as I see my boyfriend’s nieces get ready to start high school, it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying because I don’t think my thoughts or Zachery’s actions were out of the norm and there’s only so much parents and teachers can do to protect them. Maybe my story will help someone out there avoid my same experiences…. but then, perhaps bad relationships are a part of everyone’s growth.

  5. I guarantee it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. I’ve been with men who wouldn’t stop talking, men who wouldn’t talk, men who seemed wonderful until the relationship became more series, and those who believed that women, like children, should be seen and not heard. Stalkers aren’t always in-your-face. The can be subtle. Did I learn anything from my many different experiences? Only that the guy who treats you the best isn’t the one who gives you presents on special occasions–he’s the one who is always there for you every day of your life. :-)

    1. I have to agree. At this point, I have no patience for those kinds of relationships. If I don’t mix with a guy or if he treats me poorly, I’m done.

  6. This Zachery guy seemed boring by how you wrote it and described it. wow!!! he was a nut! You don’t need guys like that around. What a complete psycho. Once, long time ago – I was dating this goth girl back in my high school days…she seemed cool at the time. But then she ended up trying to choke my neck. I was freaking out and she wouldn’t let go of me. So I kicked her in the chins and she let go. She told me how much she wanted to keep my neck. What is fucken psycho she was. I broke up with her and she get mad and furious. She told me that she would cast black magic on me. However, I found out by one of her close friends that she was cheating on me behind my back. and also, she doesn’t do witch-craft. She only said that to me so that I would be scared of her. What a total loser she was.

  7. Ugh, unwanted groping, no. The ex I wrote about in my “Cross Examination” posts had this thing he did a few times when we were in public– he would literally lift my dress up and briefly expose my ass to the world. What a shitty, shitty man. For some reason I put up with that, more than once. He thought it was adorable how angry it made me… I didn’t realize he was just wearing me down.

    1. Ew. That would have driven me nuts. Today, I would have broken up with that guy, but I’m honestly not sure about my teenage self. She was very afraid of ending up alone. People put up with stupid shit due to that fear.

  8. It’s crazy that at sixteen you thought this guy was your last chance. If anything you were probably his only chance. Sounds like he had issues. It says something about your character that you held on until after prom because you wanted him to have that experience.

    I have never been physically scared of someone I have dated, but I have dated someone I didn’t like. I used to go along with doing things he wanted to do because the agrevation of not doing it was not worth it. I had my own crazy reasons too. I had just been dumped by my long term boyfriend, and having this young good looking guy made me feel wanted again. It’s crazy the logic we have when we’re younger.

    1. Oh yeah. At least now I know I’d rather be alone than with someone who treats me like crap. It’s unfortunate I needed this experience to show me that, but at least I now know.

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