Recently I drove an hour south to visit Kelsey, my best friend from college; due to the chaos that had consumed my life, I’d not actually seen her in almost eighteen months, and in that time she’d managed to give birth to not just one, but two sons. And while we’d stayed in touch on the phone, and she’d been there for me as much as possible when I’d been going through the worst of things during and immediately after the relationship with Randall, I found that I missed her. Missed that extra ‘something special’ about physical contact with a person you care about. So I made the trek.
She and I understand each other on a level few others do. Perhaps it’s because our friendship has reached that place where we’ve now been through the ups and downs of an entire decade together, and that’s given us the chance to learn everything – good, bad, and ugly – about each other as a result. Stood by one another through glorious successes and disastrous failures; offered support and solace in the darkest times and basked together in the brightest.
Whatever the reason, being near the Pippin to my Merry was a great comfort, and I immediately found myself relaxing. The love and peace in her home seeped into my bones, healing me in places I hadn’t even realized were aching, while also dredging up things I was still compartmentalizing even from my therapist and my support groups. To my surprise while sitting on her couch, holding her three month old son as he cooed and slept, I found myself weeping over things I’d thought were safely locked away in a mental vault.
One of the things we talked about at length was a concept she ended up describing as a “hijacked heart”; a term all her own, but one I quickly understood and identified with as she explained her thinking.
It came about as I delved into the unbelievable pain I still feel any time I think about Randall; describing the overwhelming and conflicting sensations of both hating and loving him desperately. Loyalty to him still so firmly enmeshed into my psyche that even after everything he’s done – after everything he said, after all his death threats and his aggression and his deliberate attempts to hurt me and rip apart my sense of self and emotional and mental wellbeing – I still don’t have it in me to hurt him, and worse, I still have days when I miss him. I can’t seem to turn the feelings off; the apathy regarding him that I yearn for so far evading me.
It feels at times like he’s burned into me…imprinted into my very cellular makeup.
I wonder out loud if it’s because he was my first kiss and my first sexual partner. Or perhaps because I had such limited experience with men in general that I was far easier to dismantle than an experienced woman of the world would have been. Realistically it’s probably a little bit of many things…including Kelsey’s theory.
She listened to me and watched me cry and hugged me and fed me and wrapped me in blankets as I let it all out, and then in the end with a sigh she made a poignant observation: saying it was like an abuser such as Randall had the ability to tap into emotions and loyalties not meant for them, but instead are reserved for our ‘forever someone’. Our ‘soulmate’. Imprinting in a way that only the deepest, lifelong love of our lives is meant to, and ensuring that it feels like leaving them will rip us apart because leaving goes against every instinct in our bodies.
“It’s almost like Randall hijacked the part of your heart that wasn’t ever meant for him,” she said. “That special kind of intimacy that you only give to the man who is your husband, best friend and lover. That part of your heart is programmed to be loyal; programmed to be loving and supportive no matter what. So it goes against everything in you to leave. To give up. And I’m sure even more than that, the pain you feel when he betrays you is a thousand times worse…because you’re not expecting it. That part of your heart tells you this is the man who will never hurt you, so you open up and trust with all of yourself…and then you are stunned when he betrays you so deeply. You think you’ve found the love of your life, but instead you’ve let a monster in the door.”
Perhaps it was a romanticized view of the whole thing – psychologists would undoubtedly shake their heads in amusement at her “diagnosis” – but it made perfect sense to me. It resonated, because it was exactly how the whole ordeal felt: like I had found my soulmate…and then lost him. Not just lost him…been betrayed, to the point where by the end he tried to destroy me openly and with malice.
She was right…it’s such a shock when it happens you can barely breathe. You don’t know what’s happening. You don’t know how you’re going to survive it. And it throws your faith in pretty much everything around you into chaos as a result; because if this person you thought was your soulmate could do such a thing……what does that mean for the rest of the world?
Worst of all, it destroys any and all faith in yourself. After all, surely only a weak, stupid, foolish, pitiful, pathetic wisp of a human being would have been so thoroughly fooled and so poorly treated.
The hardest moments for me – the most painful – weren’t the death threats or the physical aggression. Those were frightening to be sure, and wholly unexpected because I’d never witnessed such a thing before in my entire life. But that wasn’t what hurt the most.
What hurt the most were the intimate betrayals of trust and confidence. Each time he turned to Blanche for love and support, something in me wilted as I felt it must mean I wasn’t good enough. Each time he’d tell her – the very woman who was so blatantly a rival for his affections – intimate secrets about our relationship, or intimate things about me, I’d feel betrayed and less inclined to share anything. Each time he deliberately ripped down a boundary I set, I felt like he was ripping down and invalidating me. Each time he boldly flirted with another woman or talked about a girl’s hot, tight – ahem – assets, I wanted to shrivel up inside and hide away. Each time he told me I wasn’t a good lover, I wanted to cry…feeling like I was offering him the most intimate parts of myself – parts I’d not given to anyone else – and in return instead of teaching me and supporting me, he just declared me ‘bad at it’ (I can’t even articulate the horrible damage that in particular has left on my psyche).
I loved Randall. I loved him with all my heart. And I gave all of myself to him. I was all in on that relationship; I wanted no one else. Saw no one else.
I loved him through a major infidelity (after a three month affair with Blanche, he actually left me for her for about a year before he came back).
I tolerated him staying in touch with her (for the sake of her small children who he’d grown to love, that was the justification).
I allowed him to push and poke and prod me into his desire for an open sexual relationship that I did not want, and then forgave him after he broke every rule we agreed upon (to this day I don’t know the exact number of young women he had in my home and in my bed when I was working).
I forgave him for for giving me multiple STDs from that entire debacle.
I forgave him for speaking to me cruelly on numerous occasions, for throwing a drink on me, for bringing an endless stream of teen and twenty-something people into my home because it ‘amused’ him……I forgave and loved him through all of it, and much more, because of what I thought was the good in his soul. I saw what I thought was his true essence, fighting to get out; fighting to overcome a difficult childhood and a traumatizing stint in the criminal justice system.
Except that’s the part that was most dangerous. The part that was programmed to do the hijacking, the same way bait on a hook lures a fish to its’ doom.
The part of Randall I loved most – that I thought was real, while the rest was just noise – was in fact the biggest lie of all. And it’s rocked me to my core.
At the end, when I hung up the phone for the last time and vowed I wouldn’t speak to him ever again…when his little minions started texting me, first to tell me how heartbroken he was and begging me to call him, and then when I refused, switching their tactics and instead turning on me, telling me what a horrible person I was instead…through all that, not speaking to him was the hardest thing I’d ever done. My heart was screaming for him. Aching every time he or others said he was sobbing; wanting to wipe away his tears and reassure him it would all be okay; that it was just a misunderstanding and I would never leave him.
My hijacked heart was still his in that moment; still trying to dance to his tune. And it took everything in me to not let that happen.
His greatest magic trick was accusing me in the end of never having loved him in the first place, while he’d done nothing but love me all along. It worked for about two minutes as I wondered if perhaps he was right…but through sheer force of will, I resisted, and as the fog began to clear I saw with more and more clarity just how wrong he was.
There’s probably a part of me that will always love Randall…or at least love the man I thought he was. Kelsey’s right; he hijacked the part of my heart that was never meant for him, and as a result a piece of it will always be his. But I’m learning to accept that, and instead of feeling devastated I choose to use it as proof of just how much love I am capable of. That at least is a truly beautiful thing, and while he warped and twisted it into something ugly and barely recognizable, at its core it remained a powerful, unyielding, unbreakable love that when I think about it was truly beautiful.
If I’m lucky, some day the one that part of my heart was meant for will appear, and I’ll again get to give someone the gift of that love…only this time, he’ll be worthy of it.
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.
**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities