A relationship so toxic it woke her demons (1)

“He was the hunter and I was the prey. He was an animal … he is an animal. Well, I am an animal too. We all are animals. I tried to tame him and naturally, I could not, but it was in that experience that I learned that you can’t turn a snake into a pet … unless it is completely rewired such that it never kills again. Or something like that.”

Never too strong
Nelly met Liam after winning several tough emotional and relational battles, so she was sure she could handle him. He seemed troubled but she was familiar with this – because of the battles she had fought and won – so she figured they could sharpen each other.

She did not mind that she would do more of the work, because it is said that we are sharpened so we can sharpen others. A snake, however, is what she likens him to as she goes over the fact that he targeted her and broke her down over and over, simply because he could.

The other woman
Nelly first noticed Liam at an organisation they both worked with. It didn’t matter that she had noticed that he spent a lot of time with another woman in the same office.

“The look we shared was … I don’t know. I still remember it. I even remember exactly how he was dressed and how he lowered his head out of shyness after a while,” she says.

She thought the connection was powerful, but just to be sure, she asked him about the other woman as soon as they exchanged phone numbers. He denied it as expected, but this was much to her delight.

Nelly had no idea just how close Liam and this woman were. She was told many stories about how they got to and left work together, but she was desperate to have faith in a man, so she ignored this sign.

Sex, but never the basics
Liam jumped right in, with a request to go to Nelly’s house for their first date. Mother said this should never happen but she was too excited. They touched and kissed and he ‘made up for it’ by rushing out when things got a little too steamy.

“He said he didn’t want to end up crossing the line because he knew I was a good girl. Back then, I thought that was sweet but it now seems that the date confirmed to him that I was naïve enough a target.”

Liam and Nelly spent many weekend nights at each other’s houses having sex but never really opening up to each other, “almost like there was a stop sign on his part”. Nelly had been told that Liam’s girlfriend cheated on him so she ‘went to the mission field’, determined to make him human. She sent many messages and called often but the desired results were not forthcoming. Meanwhile, they met and had sex. There were no stop signs when it came to that.

Blatant rejection
The sex was great but Nelly wanted a lasting connection. The first time she told him this, he said he couldn’t give her what she wanted. She didn’t listen.

The second time he said he did not want anything serious, she passionately appealed for a slot in his life, regardless of its number, because she desperately wanted to stand with him. An argument on commitment turned so heated that he said “let’s both think about it and talk later”, but this never happened. Still she didn’t listen.

Nelly decided that Liam was pushing her away but that he did not really want to end their association, ‘association’, because there was no other way to describe their relations, really.

Messages and phone calls went unanswered and he spent more time with her. Still she didn’t budge. She told herself that he was protecting their dealings because they worked together and they couldn’t afford to be the subject of gossip.

“The other woman eventually left the company so I thought I would have him all to myself, but another one stepped right into her shoes. I once caught him looking at her the way he looked at me that first time. They had waterpoint conversations, went to lunch together … I was once told they were dating.”

Nelly says she didn’t believe the rumours because “how could he sleep with all three of us?” She says she argued that humanity just did not permit this kind of heartlessness.

Attempts to end it
Nelly put up fierce defenses for Liam in her mind, in front of the mirror, before friends and colleagues and even when she started seeing signs in his house that she was ‘just another body’ to him. She asked about the black underwear and the pink towel in his bathroom. She didn’t follow up when he said they belonged to a woman from a long time ago.

“I admit that some of my actions were motivated by the desire for the great sex, which was purely experimental for me because I had never gone that far with any other man. We didn’t make love so I can’t talk about that. So after my questions those two times, I enjoyed the romp and continued to hope for an emotional breakthrough.”

When the toxicity at the office became unbearable, Nelly sent Liam messages about four times telling him she wanted to talk. He didn’t respond or talk to her in person yet he was always nearby at the workplace.

Days usually went by without responses from Liam. Frustrated, she once told him she wanted to get her items from his house. He told her they were in his car and that he would give them to her. He eventually delivered them to her house on a weekend night. He slept over and the rest was history, but still she remained hopeful.

The cycle of rumours, lack of communication, anxiety, internal noise, sex – not lovemaking – and general unhappiness continued until Liam invited Nelly to a party he had organised for his friends.

“I didn’t see why he would want to introduce me to his friends without the element of seriousness so I was elated … I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have gone to that house, or I should have at least been classy enough not to ask him if I could stay over.”

Chance findings
“She was there. My heart sank when I walked in and saw her. They held hands and she had a key to his house. I remained composed because what man would be that stupid or ballsy?”

Nelly, however, remained composed and hung on to what he told her – that they were just friends. There were more signs well into the night – as they played games, when his friends arrived and how he treated her. When she felt she was getting overwhelmed, she went to an empty balcony and stayed there for a short while, and then she went to the washroom for a while longer.

When she re-emerged, the other woman had left. Despite the little attention Liam gave, she asked him if she could sleep over. He agreed so she went to his house. She found the dress the other woman had been wearing that evening in the living room. When she asked Liam about it, he said what he always did and went back to his friends.

She went to bed and he joined her later. They had unprotected sex for the first time before he returned again to his friends. Nelly lay awake in the bed, unable to go back to sleep, wondering if she could equate this unprotected sex to lovemaking. It was while her eyes hovered that she noticed a pink wallet and a phone beside the bed.

“I knew I was about to get proof of what I had heard all along about the two of them. I got out of bed and got dressed. In the wallet were her cards and when I slid the doors of the closed wardrobe, I found out that she had her own section. I picked the clothes one by one, as if to confirm that they were hers, and noticed they even had matching outfits.”

The crash
Nelly sent Liam a message telling him what she had found and how it made her feel. He didn’t respond. The other woman walked into the house just after she had sent another message telling him she was not in a good state. Still there was no answer.

Other woman: Hi.
Nelly: Hi? What are you doing here? Why are you here?
Other woman: What’s happening?
Nelly: I have been seeing Liam for a while. He says you are just friends. So how come you are here?
Other woman: We have been dating for two years. He said you pursued him. Are you sure he said that about me?
Nelly: Why would I lie? He has been playing us both.

By this point in the conversation, Nelly was shaking, crying and very angry. The other woman placed her hand on her back to comfort her but she pushed her away and told her to leave her alone.

Then the anger took over, causing her to sweep glasses off the kitchen counter she was standing next to. The other woman ran out to call Liam and his friends, scared as Nelly swept through his house like a hurricane. The sound of the door being pushed against broken glass is what made her realise what had just happened.

Read: A relationship so toxic it woke her demons (2)