man presents woman with bouquet of flowers

Introducing: My Next Boyfriend

There is a new man in my life. I haven’t spoken of him yet, mostly because I haven’t been able to figure out how. But I’ve also been keeping quiet because I feel a great amount of shame around allowing him into my world.

His name is Dick. I’m not sure when we met or how our relationship progressed. Nor do I know when, exactly, I became aware that Dick is unbearable.

The truth is, Dick is awful. He is a caricature of toxic masculine traits. Every interaction with him is painful and infuriating.

I can’t make him go away. He won’t leave me alone. I order him out of my car. I ignore his texts and phone calls. I yell at him and tell him I want nothing to do with him and to not contact me again.

He laughs and tells me I’m being hysterical, that there’s nothing wrong. He grins and says I’ll agree with him once I calm down and can see things more clearly.

If I refuse to open my front door when Dick decides to come over, he yells and slams his hands and fists against it until I text the upstairs neighbor and he makes Dick go away for me. If he isn’t home, I have to call the police to get Dick to leave.

If god forbid, Dick is waiting for me when I get home from work, he insists on being allowed into my home. He grabs my upper arm and refuses to let me get away from him. Sometimes his fingers will leave bruises.

He appears in the passenger seat when I’m driving, laughing at me, questioning and criticizing everything I do, insisting that next time he is going to drive because I’m so terrible at it.

I have no way to get him to leave me alone. I can’t get him to go away.

I can’t get a restraining order. I wish I could, but fortunately or unfortunately, Dick doesn’t exist outside of my imagination. He’s horrible and abusive, and I know I should be able to get rid of him but somehow he keeps reappearing.

Sometimes he’s someone I’m on a first date with. Sometimes, he’s someone I’ve been getting to know for a little while. He’s in my car with me for the first time. Or, I’ve brought him to introduce him to some of my friends.

He is the only guy I can imagine being with.

The silver lining pointed out by my therapist is I behave differently with Dick than I did with the Narcissist. I implement the lessons I’ve learned since my last relationship ended. I know I deserve better. I see it when boundaries are ignored. I understand it is unacceptable.

Despite this, I can’t get rid of Dick. I get up to leave him at the restaurant, and he grabs my arm and refuses to let me go. I stop my car and pull over and tell him he needs to GTFO, and he won’t. I tell him he’s been obnoxious in front of my friends and we’re leaving, and he won’t go.

(A quick sidebar: my therapist asked if Dick physically resembles the Narcissist. The answer is no. The tenor of the interactions are similar but that’s where the resemblance ends. In fact, I’m not really sure what Dick looks like. When asked to picture him I came up with a vague impression of a sleek head of dark hair, weathered and creased light- to medium-toned skin, a striking eye color, and a chiseled jawline. Sort of a combo of Ian Somerhalder from The Vampire Diaries and Jeremy Sisto from Clueless and Waitress.)

The impact made by Dick’s presence in my life isn’t extreme. Dick is enraging, it’s true. But he only emerges when my mind is unoccupied, such as when I’m driving or washing dishes. Otherwise, I’m fine.

He is either a cause or symptom of my current feelings about romance. I’ve yet to determine which.

Throughout my life, I’ve always played out scenes such as the ones with Dick. Fantasy-land is my second home and I’m quite comfortable there.

Until getting involved with the Narcissist, though, I used to imagine beautiful romantic moments. Someone showing up with flowers. A date that was supposed to be mundane being made magical by someone who put some planning and forethought into it. A surprise appearance during an otherwise dull and dreary event or work trip. The feeling of being in strong, capable arms while executing a graceful waltz.

I miss those fantasies. In their place, I now have Dick, and Dick is the only man with whom I can imagine dating or a relationship.

I begged my therapist for something that might help me regain control of these scenes that play out x times per day. A mind game, a strategy, a trick to get rid of Dick.

He suggested a recasting. “Imagine the scene is one in a movie,” he said. “You’re in it but in a detached way. Maybe you’re the person in it, or maybe it’s someone else and you’re watching it on a screen.” I loved it.

As we continue talking we landed on a scenario that felt right to me. I am an actress playing the lead role in the scene, but I’m also the director. And, the role of the female lead’s love interest hasn’t yet been cast.

It’s brilliant. Dick isn’t someone I’m stuck with. Dick is someone who is auditioning for a part.

Since then, whenever Dick starts being Dick, I’ve mentally replaced him with someone else. Sometimes I swap him out quickly. Sometimes I verbally dismiss him.

“Thank you for coming, but we’re going in a different direction with this character. Next!”

Then I put a different imaginary person in Dick’s place. Someone else sits next to me in the car or is at a gathering with me and my friends.

Generally, it becomes a much more boring scene. Dick 2 doesn’t comment on my driving and we’ll travel in companionable silence. While with my friends, he interacts with people in a very easy, unremarkable manner. When he comes over, it’s peaceful and calming to be in his presence.

It’s quite nice.

It would be a terrible movie. There’s nothing much of interest that happens. It sounds absolutely wonderful to experience, though.

Someday, I hope to enjoy a relationship that’s as delightfully boring as the one I have with Dick 2.

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