L.A. Affairs

Here are four things I learned from loving a taker

I'd tried online dating before without much luck, but this girl was somehow different. She had real potential, a vibrancy that seemed to leap off my Tinder screen.

You could call her a swipe-right-with-your-fingers-crossed kind of girl.

My phone lighted up with a ding a few hours later and sure enough, her adorable smiling face in front of her vibrant floral shower curtain was now available to receive my ever-so-casual personal sales pitch. A pizza date was arranged for the following weekend. The date led to a movie, the movie lead to a romantic walk through Old Town Pasadena, and the walk became a late night of intimate moments.

I was consumed, and she seemed to be as well, but we don't talk anymore.

Here are 4 things I learned from loving a taker.

1. They're beautiful ... in all the wrong ways

I was smitten. Never before had I felt so appreciated, so needed. She was stunning, the most physically beautiful person I had encountered. I became like clay in her hands. That is, until her affection was replaced by rage. It was a rage that I never quite understood, but it always seemed to be my fault. Or at least, it became my fault. I was always the problem, even though none of her issues had anything to do with me.

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I never pictured myself accepting this from a partner, but once it had become my reality, I seemed to have no choice but to accept it.

2. You will lose yourself in your effort to fix them

Her problems became my problems. She lived a challenging life, from a struggle with poverty and homelessness to a close relative serving a life prison sentence. I made it my mission to become her bridge to a great life, a beautiful life, a happy life.

The further into our relationship we got, the more this mission consumed me. My performance at my job as a graphic designer declined, my time with my friends evaporated, my dreams disappeared and my joy went away. The only thing I had time for was her. She was a full-time job. It seemed the only reason I worked at all was so I could afford to be with her. We talked constantly and had amazing conversations — about culture, faith, religion, politics, humanity. I valued more than anything the perspective that her unique story had given her.

I'd finish my work day and without fail would make my way from Hollywood to her parents’ house in Pasadena, or a date I'd planned around the city. I'd always bring her food or would make plans to meet her for her favorite meal of spaghetti with marinara. I'd noticed that on days when I didn't prioritize her food, she'd go the entire day without eating. She admitted to me that she was struggling with depression and had difficulty in finding meaning in her life. She neglected herself. I couldn't bear to see it and became absolutely committed to providing her with meaning in every way possible.

It took only a year before my own health became a concern. I felt myself slipping into a mental darkness.

I found myself feeling increasingly alone. Our relationship was based on the value of her needs and when my own needs began to present themselves, she would call me selfish.

Down the rabbit hole I went.…

3. They're not going to appreciate you

Some months I would break even after expenses while working full-time. But having two mouths to feed, long daily commutes to her in Los Angeles on the 210 Freeway, creating every special moment and opportunity for us to share together that I could, all came at a cost. A cost I never mentioned to her.

The greatest expressions of my love, making sacrifices to meet and exceed her needs, became things she expected. Meanwhile, I was transitioning from the safety of a 9 to 5 as a graphic designer to a dream job in marketing, something I'd been practicing on the side for many years.

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As the challenges and stresses in my professional life grew, I was less available, less able to provide for her the things she'd become used to and less bent on accommodating her every want and need. She complained that I was distancing myself, that I wasn't doing the things for her that I used to. When I told her that I wanted to give her the world but I just needed her patience she called me selfish and began to blame me exclusively for the state of her mental health.

Because she blamed me, I also blamed myself. My own mental health continued to erode.

4. They will break even the strongest of people

Eventually, it broke me.

As things got worse between us, I couldn't sleep and I was scarcely eating. I was concerned for her, I was concerned for us, but I should have been concerned for myself. I began struggling to keep up. I was working all day, staying with her until she fell asleep in the early morning and then driving home. It was exhausting, but it felt like my duty. Her mental health seemed to be getting worse and all of the pressure was on me to be the solution.

Eventually, I sat down with her and told her that I was at a tipping point. Something was going to have to give. It wasn't at all a break up, rather a much needed discussion on the realignment of expectations, I couldn't keep going without some changes.

Let’s say she didn’t see it the same way. Our relationship ended soon after.

I've come to realize that I received from her what I perceived to be love, but it was actually a sense of value. Even in her best moments she never showed the love for me that I showed for her. I was a good situation, a fun situation, honestly, probably the closest thing she's had to a healthy situation, but she didn't love me. I was just valuable for a time.

I haven't yet shaken off her grip on me.

Be careful who you love.

The author is a creative marketing consultant based in Los Angeles. His website is www.willsherrer.com

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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