A Self-love Story About a Woman, a Man, and a French Bulldog Named August
By: Lisa M. Hayes: Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Maddie was one of those women that seemed to have it together all the time. She looked like she walked off the cover of a magazine most days and it didn’t require a lot of effort for her to pull that off. She was gorgeous, naturally – you know, one of those women who really did wake up that way. She’s also wicked smart. With a Ph.D. in Physics, Maddie was one of the youngest professors where she taught at the University she graduated from.
She was confident.
She’s a quiet, but masterful conversationalist, well read, and well traveled.
Her French Bulldog named August is perfectly behaved and her apartment was perfectly designed.
Maddie had a solid group of friends she got together with regularly. She was close to her family and hung out with her sisters at least once almost every week.
Maddie had it all. She had an uncommon combination of brains, beauty, and drive and her life ran like a symphony. It was a thing of beauty. However, there was a problem. Maddie didn’t see any of it.
Maddie straight up thought she was unattractive. She referred to herself as “mousy”. She felt like she should have been further along in her career than she was. She constantly felt behind. Maddie felt like she was never quite smart enough and was afraid someone would figure out she was a fraud. She joked about how August, the Frenchie, had to be her soulmate because no one else would love her.
Maddie also felt like her friends and her sisters were moving on in their lives and leaving her behind. Many of them were married. They were having kids. They were moving out of the city, leaving their apartments behind to buy houses with yards. It was all proof for her that she was failing, falling behind, and she felt unworthy.
Then Charles came along. He taught at the same University she did. He was a handsome, older man who was just finishing up the final pesky details of a messy divorce when he invited her for drinks the first time. She almost said no. She’d heard the rumors. Everyone had. But Charles was charming and he didn’t try to hide the fact that he was interested in her. So, she went on the date, and then went on another and another. Before she knew it, Maddie forgot the rumors. The warmth of his attention was a beautiful thing. It was addicting.
It was only four months after that first date when Maddie and August the Frenchie, moved out of their apartment for a house with a yard just out of the city to be with Charles. Her friends and family subtly suggested she was rushing things, but she wasn’t having it. Charles wanted it and she felt ready. Besides, he made her happy. For the first time in forever, she felt loved.
Maddie and Charles had been living together only a few days when he told her he preferred blonds. He said it jokingly but kept slipping it into conversations. He also started hinting that he’d prefer to see her in “more dresses and skirts that showed off her curves”. At first, she ignored it, but it wasn’t too long before she started shopping for new clothes and got her hair highlighted – a lot.
Charles liked to joke about her weight and the things she ate. He bought her an expensive elliptical for her birthday. At 130 pounds, Charles told her he loved her the way she was but was concerned about her health.
Charles didn’t like her friends. He didn’t even try to hide it. He thought her friends were beneath her. They weren’t sophisticated enough. He didn’t like it when she went out for girls dates with her friends, or her sisters for that matter. He complained about having to take care of August, the Frenchie when she was gone. So, she started going out less and seeing a lot less of her family. It was easier that way, partly because her parents didn’t like Charles.
Charles mentioned occasionally that he felt like the University wasn’t taking Maddie’s work seriously. He hinted it was because she wasn’t professional enough. He thought she was too friendly with her students. He also suggested her research project wasn’t going to go anywhere because her theories weren’t well thought out. Maddie dismissed that at first. Her research project had been approved by the board. They thought it was well enough thought out. However, it stuck with her. All of it. Maybe she wasn’t producing good enough work to be taken seriously.
And then after several months, he suggested she might not need to work…
In fact, he did more than suggest. Charles told Maddie that he needed a partner who could provide more support to his career. He was going places. His work was important. He needed her to get behind him.
Charles told her other professors were whispering about her behind her back saying her program wasn’t pulling its weight. She was miserable, but she felt fortunate to be living in a situation where she could take a break and regroup.
It had been months since she’d seen her friends and weeks since she’d spent time with her family. In a vacuum of support and a fog of self-doubt, Maddie notified the University she would be taking a leave of absense at the end of the semester. She didn’t recognize herself when she looked in her closet or when she looked in the mirror. She was a 112-pound blond, with dark circles under her eyes.
Three weeks after leaving her job, Maddie got a call from a former colleague. She spoke in a whisper as when she said, “Maddie, I just think you deserve to hear it from someone you know before it becomes public.”
Charles was being investigated for multiple inappropriate relationships with students. However, that was not the worst of it. He was also being investigated by the police for sexual assault after a female student reported him for groping her and threatening to fail her if she didn’t have sex with him.
Charles had an explanation for everything. He told her the University was trying to side-step his tenure because his department was too expensive. He explained this kind of thing was the very reason he needed a supportive partner at home and she might need to publicly speak out against the allegations.
Maddie didn’t believe him. But she told him she did. She cried herself to sleep every night for a week. Charles didn’t notice. He was drinking himself to sleep.
And then it happened. Charles was suspended pending the outcome of the police and University investigation. He was home all day and he vacillated between love bombing and rage – which is exactly what men who love bomb do. One moment he’d angst about how his life was over. The next moment he’d gush on and on about what a blessing it was because now he could finally work on his book and they could have so much time together.
Too much time. Maddie felt smothered. So, one afternoon she took an extended trip to the grocery store and stopped for ice cream on the way home – the first ice cream she’d had in almost a year.
When she got home, August, the Frenchie didn’t rush the door to greet her. She found him upstairs cowering in a corner, locked in a guest bedroom. Charles was fuming. August was barking at the neighbor dog while he was trying to write.
Charles told her August had to go.
He never agreed to have a pet.
Maddie didn’t feel like cooking so they ordered Chinese food. They barely spoke while they ate. Charles drank himself to sleep earlier than usual. At 1 a.m. Maddie called her sister from the backseat of an Uber. When Maddie walked into her sister’s apartment in the middle of the night, she felt completely numb. Her sister’s fiance hadn’t seen Maddie for so long he didn’t recognize her. She felt completely hollowed out.
…and there she was, thirty-four years old, no job, no apartment, no furniture, and no plan. She had a suitcase full of clothing she didn’t want anymore and she had August – which at that point was all that mattered.
Maddie’s sister made tea and they sat together in the dining room until the sun came up, looking out a window with a view of the street below. “I should have seen it. I shouldn’t have ignored the rumors or all the signs. I shouldn’t have moved in with him. Everyone knew. I just didn’t want to face it.” Then she took a breath and continued, “Maybe if I’d tried harder. Maybe if I’d talked to him and tried to help him. I should have encouraged him to stop drinking. Maybe if I had made a public statement when he asked me too…”
Her voice trailed off and her sister replied as Maddie stared at the cars on the street. “Charles is a terrible human. You and I both know he did those things. However, Madison, Charles wasn’t your mistake. Your mistake was getting into a relationship with someone who didn’t value you and that happened because you didn’t value yourself. You had no business dating and I should have stopped you. I should have done something when I realized how bad it was. No one with any kind of self-esteem would have allowed themselves to be controlled and isolated as easily and as quickly as you did.”
And there was nothing else to say because that was the truth.
Maddie was the perfect mate for a narcissistic controlling abuser. However, he could have just as easily been a serial killer. A woman who doesn’t love herself is always a great risk of falling for a man who will take advantage of her inability to value herself. That kind of vulnerability is dangerous in the wrong hands. The risk is real and the consequences are steep. The bottom line is, if you don’t feel valuable, and completely worthy of only good things, you shouldn’t be dating at all. Being alone while you’re figuring yourself out is way better than being with an abuser, no matter how long it takes to get emotionally healthy.
Update: Maddie went back to her former University and asked for her job back. They politely declined. They lost the remainder of the grant funding for her research project when she left. However, they did give her a glowing recommendation and she got a position at another school.
Maddie and August moved into a beautiful apartment overlooking a park easy walking distance to campus. She dyed her hair back to it’s former chestnut brown, refitted herself with a new wardrobe she loved, and furnished her new apartment perfectly. She ate ice cream for breakfast every morning and put on twenty glorious pounds. She never looked better.
Fifty-two therapy sessions and a full year and one week after Maddie left Charles, August had puppies and Maddie met the man she would end up marrying. August’s vet is an incredibly handsome, beautiful on the inside and out kind of man.
Charles lost his tenure because he went to prison.
More by Lisa:
Lisa is an LOA Relationship Coach. She helps clients leverage Law of Attraction to get the relationships they dream about and build the lives they want. Lisa is the author of the newly released hit book, Score Your Soulmate and How to Escape from Relationship Hell and The Passion Plan.
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