To the Girl Who Came After Me

Shortly after I finally came to terms with the reality of my previous horribly abusive relationship, I wrote an open letter to the girl who came before me. I had finally seen what she tried to warn me about. I had finally understood why she had run. I had this to say:

To the girl who came before me

I didn’t believe you. No one did. No one wanted to believe that this handsome, charming guy was capable of the things you claimed. 

He made it look so black and white – he was wronged, and you were crazy. You ran, burned your bridges, cut your ties. Without your side of the story, he was free to write history however he saw fit.

I was weak and desperately lonely when he came along. He likes girls that way, I think. It lets him set all the rules and stack the deck. Weakened girls are easily controllable. Easily manipulated. Easily used.

I should have listened better. That’s true. But trust me when I say I paid for that mistake. He used me, hurt me, lied to me, cheated on me, discarded me, and then came back later to brag to me about all of it. If you hoped I would be punished, you got your wish.

And I understand now why you didn’t try to fight back. If I could tell my side of the story to the next girl, I wouldn’t. I’m too tired. Too done. I just want him gone from my heart and mind. 

I’m sorry. You deserved better. I deserved better. And as for what he deserves, I’ll be crossing my fingers that it finds him.

There is something horrifying about having to write this kind of letter. It’s already a nightmare to step out of an abusive relationship and find your feet again, but to then look back on the way you treated your predecessor and realize that she went through that same nightmare and you blamed her, ridiculed her, and vilified her, is mortifying.

Now I’m the girl who came before. Now I’m the predecessor. And Karma is a bitch.

So here we are. And here are some things that I want the next girl to know, although I will never speak to her again if I have my way.

To the girl who came after me:

It’s important to me that we are able to acknowledge that you and I do not know each other. We have had exactly one interaction, and have never been so much as in the same room. You’ve never spoken to me in person, never seen anything about my life, never interacted with me in the flesh. You know nothing about my history. You know nothing about my family. You know nothing about my character.

What you do know – or think you know – is what a man who has a vested interest in painting me as crazy wants you to believe. I heard his words in your message, accusing me of being attention seeking. That’s his phrase, not yours, and it’s not the first time he’s weaponized it against me.

I did my best to stay as far away from you as possible. I went well out of my way to be sure we would never accidentally interact either online or in real life. But you hunted me down anyway. You have things to say, just like I did once upon a time. You have a perspective on the situation you thought was accurate, just like I did once. You feel loyalty and love and a fierce desire to protect and defend someone you believe is a victim, and I have been in those exact shoes with the exact same person. One of his biggest talents is gaining people’s loyalty, and he obviously has yours.

You spoke about my right to have an opinion, as though you believed that the claims I made about him were based on hearsay or secondhand information, rather than first-hand personal experience. I stand by what I said before. I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t owe you my story. And if I never have to tell that story from beginning to end again that will make me happy.

You’ve known him for a just over a year. I’m certain that in that year you’ve come to the conclusion that you know every part of him. I’m certain that in that year you have found a firm belief that you are closer to him than anyone. Maybe you are. But I remember that belief. I remember that feeling of knowing him better than anyone else. Convincing people to believe that they have seen a special and secret side of him is the best way for him to present anyone who offers a different perspective as being insane.

I have known him now for almost a decade. And in the nearly 10 years that we have been friends, best friends, and even dated, I have never seen him change on a fundamental level. He has always been the man I fled: manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, addicted to drama.

If he has magically done a 180° turn in the last year, wonderful. I wish you happiness. But if he hasn’t – if one day you open your eyes and find yourself in the same spot I did, that my predecessor did, that her predecessor did – know that I am here for you.

The girl who came before me has shown me grace and kindness even though I was hostile to her the way you have been hostile to me. She understands how easily people get swept up in his aura, and how deftly he can pull their strings once he has them.

You always have a space among people who understand, should you ever need it. You will always be able to find understanding and acceptance from the people who came before you, if the worst should happen. 

Until that day, the prospect of attempting to defend myself to you feels exhausting and completely pointless. For as long as he has you in his pocket you will never hear the truth without reacting with the same venom you did with me. I know this because I was you, and when I was you, no amount of reason or history was enough to break through that manipulation. 

So I won’t try. You are not my responsibility. But I do hope that you are able to see the truth before he harms you. No one deserves what he did to me, or the girl before me, or the girl before her. You certainly don’t. And I’m sorry that the wheel turns but nothing ever changes. I’m sorry that if you ever see him for how he actually is, that realization will come with pain. You deserve better.

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