“The patriarchy will protect him”~Kenyette Tisha Barnes
When I told my friend I was considering writing this series, that was her response and I knew she was right.
Knowing that fact is part of the reason why I have kept my silence up to now. Knowing that calling a thing a thing will place a target squarely on my back and that while there will be people who will support me, there will be as many who do not. I’m okay with that.
Patriarchy is part of what keeps women from speaking out against men who do wrong. Patriarchy is designed to uplift and protect men. Patriarchy is the water we all swim in and it seeps into our pores, infecting us to the core. It takes time, and significant effort to heal from its impact.
When I met him, I was in a solid place in my life. We connected over shared political and social interests and it wasn’t long before the connection started to feel like something more. Because I studiously try to avoid messy situations, when the sparks started to fly, I stated “I am single and available, what about you” to which he replied, “I have complications”. In retrospect, that should have been a red flag but I have a tendency to take people at their word until they give me a reason not to. I figured that “complications” could be anything from a problematic ex to a co-parent and I figured that he would tell me more when he felt ready.
It wasn’t much longer that he declared his love for me. No, we hadn’t met in person but we spoke one way or another all day long. We were collaborating on projects and sharing dreams together. Perhaps I was naive; I believed that what he said was what he meant and when he told me he wanted to build a future with me, I thought he was being honest. He still hadn’t told me what his “complications” were but I was beginning to wonder if there was more than he was telling me. I suspected there was, but when I asked for more information, there was never a straight answer. I finally figured out that he was cohabitating with someone; when I asked him what the deal was, he explained it away as a co-parenting situation with very little emotional or physical connection.
*this is where I fucked up. I should have walked away at that point. I know that and there is no excuse for it. The only explanation is that I was already balls deep in my feelings and couldn’t bring myself to walk away without seeing if what we shared was real. That’s fully my responsibility and I own my choice and the consequences 100%.I betrayed myself and the sisterhood of women by doing this.
Shortly before we were to meet in person the first time, the proverbial shit hit the fan. A woman had made some public comments about him, accusing him of misogyny, infidelity and deception. We discussed it at length and he explained that this was a person he’d chatted with professionally and that she quickly developed feelings beyond what he desired. He said she started acting out when he stopped replying to her messages. He said she was jealous of me. He made it perfectly clear that he’d been entirely appropriate and that she was over-reacting. Again, I believed him.
I flew out to meet him a couple of days later and during the 48 hours we were together, it was magic. It was also very clear to me by the end of the time that he was uncertain about what his path forward was, and I was certain that I wasn’t interested in being involved in a love triangle.
Already, I was conflicted about the situation. I believe that people have a right to have agency, and I felt that if I were to continue having illicit relationship with him, I was contributing to stealing agency from another woman. This is not aligned with my values and I was struggling with honoring my feelings, and honoring my values. It became even more difficult when I began to witness the glibness with which he would lie. There were times that I would watch him lie with a straight face, no tells and complete sincerity and all of my alarm bells would go off.
Something was deeply wrong.