When I was 18, I got engaged, because I was stupid. I don’t, as a rule, regret things, but there are about four years there that I badly wish I could get back. She wasn’t a bad person, just a terrible match. We were kids, playing around, and she hit a handful of buttons that I hadn’t yet figured out how to disconnect.

Four years. We got together during the first month of college. She was interested in me right away, and I… wasn’t. I liked her well enough, but wanted to be friends. We were sitting around once, talking, and got on the subject of dating. She was talking about the kind of guy she liked, and of course all of the traits were a pretty good match for me. I just indicated that I was very picky. She later told me that she felt like I was hinting that she didn’t have a chance and… I was.

But I was newly at college, and I was 18, and I was sort of surrounded by female attention to a greater extent than I’d ever been. My head got swimmy, and I didn’t know what I was doing, and she was really interested and safe, because I didn’t have to worry about whether someone was playing with my head or I was going to get rejected. Connecting with her meant that I didn’t have to figure things out.

We were together for a month or so, and I was kind of drifting. She probably knew. It was that time period in late Indiana summer when everything is wet all the time, and I’d spent one of my first evenings since we’d gotten together not paying attention to her, absorbed in a game or a book or something. It messed with her, clearly. She was Wiccan, of course; she went through some ritual or other while I wasn’t paying attention.

The next day, she informs me that she’s handfasted herself to me. Of course it’s not binding to me, but she’s now effectively “married” to me, for a year and a day. No pressure, it’s just that she felt very strongly about it and went ahead and did it.

Buttons. Like lights in my head, all going off. Alarm bells, too, but they’re nothing compared to the voices saying “If you break up with her now you’re your parents”.

So, of course, I don’t mind. It’s fine. In fact, I want to be handfasted to you, too, let’s do that, that’s how I feel also. She knew things about me that I wouldn’t figure out for a decade, but not, I think, in a conscious way. She just instinctively understood that I’m horribly vulnerable to vulnerability. It got me bad.

It goes like this for a while. I try to break up with her three or five times in the next few years, but it doesn’t stick, because there’s some new concession that she’s going to make the next morning, but that she doesn’t have to because the offer trips triggers and we just go back to the status quo. We have a handful of more serious episodes, of course, where she says something about wanting to poison me so I’ll be sick and need her, or she freaks out and ruins a party–no, every party, or something along those lines. I know. I was dumb.

This one’s fairly iconic: I said… something… that upset her. I don’t remember. She begins crying, and running away from me, because that’s the game. I’m scary when I’m angry, or she thinks I’m angry, so she runs into the next room, and waits for me, and the runs a little further, until she’s made her point and I hold her and it’s all better. This time, I must have been extra super scary, because she runs all the way outside, and then we do a circuit of the apartment building, her fleeing every time that I round a corner. I find her on the far side of the building, by a little maple sapling, crying and looking back to see if I’m coming for her, and of course I am, and it’s at this point that the patrol car pulls up, and they want to know what’s going on. I explain that it’s an argument, just an argument, and they ask her for corroboration, but she’s now too upset to even speak, and can’t talk around her suddenly uncontrollable sobs. I’m about to feel the cold metal kiss of handcuffs when she heroically swallows the tears and is able to explain that it’s all okay officers, thank you, no no, he wasn’t hurting me.

I was so angry for about four years, and never really worked out why. I was thoroughly convinced that I was horribly dangerous (button) and that she was so fragile (button) that if I ever actually got mad and stayed mad at her it would shatter her (button), and she clearly and explicitly thought that if I ever left her she could never find someone in my league again (button).

In the end, she came back from a weekend home in California, and I was a bit depressed because none of our other friends were available and it would be just the two of us. She realized that this wasn’t what she wanted, and we “mutually agreed” to split, and I was free.

Six months later, I moved in with someone new, but that’s another journal entry.