In many ways, separating from my abusive and toxic mother was the best thing that ever happened to me. I think I’ve become a better and happier person out of the shadow of that relationship.
But I’m not free from her entirely, and strangely enough my internet search history is proof of that . Specifically, my Googling habit. Frantically typing in a question like “Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Want to Commit?” or “Will He Cheat on Me During our Long-Distance Relationship?” is now the only way that my mother and I get to spend quality time together.
My mother always gave fantastic, bombastic gifts. The last one she gave me was huge – I now have abandonment issues to my core.
Because of that, during times when my partner and I are at odds, Googling glittery relationship articles functions as a drug for me. The concrete numbers in the headlines—“10 Ways to Stop Him from Cheating” or “6 Ways to Get Him to Commit” are calming, assuring me that all my problems have a clear solution. They trick me into thinking that if I develop the perfect formula, if I do everything right, I won’t feel that abandonment anymore.
But the reassurance wears thin. At their core, these articles just make that abandonment seem imminent and healthy love seem impossible. They worsen whatever conflict my partner and I are facing, putting forth prescribed methods of solving things that are quite frankly, a load of BS.
Is he hesitant to move in together? Dump him immediately and find a handsome doctor who will marry you within three months.
Are you having sex less frequently? It’s your fault – stop nagging him about [insert legitimate concern here]. Oh, and buy this $200 lingerie if you don’t want to get dumped.
I feel so empty after I read this stuff. These tips and tricks don’t solve my problems. I still wake up in the night, half-unsure of whether my partner is sleeping next to me, or whether our two-year relationship was just a feverish dream.
My partner is my best friend, my family, the love of my life. Sometimes I worry that I’ll break us under the pressure of what he means to me.
Because of my estrangement from my parents, when I think of losing him, the pain I feel is not just the pain of losing a lover. It’s the pain of losing everything. When we argue and tempers rise, I can’t help but be reminded of my mother’s twisted face, calling me a bitch and telling me that I am evil, just like her.
When he doesn’t text back, I see the unanswered texts I’ve sent my father over the years, begging him to talk to me. I see the emails and letters that I’ve sent my younger siblings, communications my mother forbids them to respond to.
And once, when we came close to breaking up, I felt I could actually smell the freshly washed hair of my little brother David, who has probably forgotten both who I am, and how much I love him.
I feel it is important to stress that I’m not with my partner because I’m afraid to be alone. I’m with him because I love him. But I’ve tasted the terror of abandonment in a way he never has. Like Eve ruined paradise with her knowledge of sin, I worry that I will ruin us with my knowledge of what it feels like to be left alone by the people who are supposed to stick with you.
My mother is gone to me, but she lives on as an insidious voice inside my head, a vestigial organ from a time when I stupidly thought she loved me. That voice tells me how worthless, how invalid, how evil, how stupid, how whorish, how ugly, how fat I am.
So, I Google. Because, in those moments of self-doubt and fear, those headlines offer a lifeline. And these trashy articles both quiet and feed that internal voice, making them the perfect addiction.
I miss my siblings every day. I miss them in my dreams, when I’m at work, and every time I call my two best friends “brother” or “sister.” Sometimes, I miss my father. And even more rarely, I miss my mother – or the person I thought she was.
But more than anything, I miss living in a world where I felt like it was impossible to lose love. I never imagined that my mother and father would do this to me. But they did. And so, when my partner tells me to trust him, to trust in our love, I want to, but I’m not sure I can.
When I Google relationship articles, I am seeking to set myself on an established path that will guarantee that I don’t lose anyone else. I feel that I must have done something wrong to make my parents do this to me, so I am scouring the internet for a way to make it right – to not let it happen again.
In better moments, I know that these articles try to give us a path to happiness that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist because dismantling those evil voices in your head (whether your parents put them there or whether the patriarchy did) is much harder than simply following the rule and texting exactly three days after he gives you his number.
I know all this. I know it, and what’s more, I just wrote it for you. But my mother and I have unfinished business, and I haven’t rid myself of her voice yet. I still don’t know how to live up to my ideals of trust, self-confidence and feminism. Until I figure it out, you may find me seeking solace in a Google search bar, which offers easy answers in a world that seems devoid of them.
Nylah Burton is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. You can follow her on Twitter @yumcoconutmilk.