The Recycle Downfall


“Don’t cry,” he told me.

A part of him sounded sincere; like he felt bad—the other half not wanting to see the aftermath of his torment. I sniffed back snot endanger of trickling down my lip but sniffed too hard. The loogie caught in my throat; resulting in a painfully loud gag. The corners of his mouth steeped into a frown.

“Sexy,” he said curtly and retracted his arm from around my shoulder.


What’s your longest cycle? And no, I don’t mean your monthly. I’m talking about an even more painful cycle—the longest reuse and recycle series you’ve been through with someone you were “dating”. Whether it was a serious relationship, an on-and-off relationship or booty call, everyone has had a relationship that they latched on to even when they knew they needed to let go.

For me, I was stuck in a never-ending tale with a boy named Matthew. After we broke up for the first time, the following events would take place in this order:

  1. He’d find someone new
  2. Break it off with them
  3. Contact me and apologize
  4. I’d play hard to get for an ineffective twenty-four hours
  5. He’d give me false hope and promises
  6. He’d choose someone else over me.

These series of events happened four times over the span of two years. Let that sink in for a moment.

Yes, I know. I openly admit that it was not all the demonic doing of Matthew. I played a part in this cluster f*ck of a relationship as well. I knew precisely how it would begin and end every time—my heart broken and uncontrollable sobbing over a box of Franzia—but I still let it happen. At every beginning of the cycle, he would tell me how much I meant to him, how badly he wanted me, and it would make me feel special. The need to be wanted and feeling desired by Matthew kept me from leaving.

My head knew that it would end in disaster, but my heart (…and other parts of my body) held on to a fraction of hope that this time it would stick—hope that he would keep wanting me. His attention and momentary affection were what I craved most. Even though he continually told me that all he wanted from me was physical and nothing more (but he also made it clear I was only allowed to be with him) while I repeatedly told him that more was exactly what I wanted.

And there I was. On the front steps, on the fourth round of our series. “You’ve always known what I wanted, and you keep coming back to me,” I said, searching for the explanation I knew I’d never get.

After a long drag from his cigarette and a crack of his knuckles, he said, “I’m sorry.” The words were hollow and meaningless. But he was familiar with our cycle and knew that the right number of apologies and telling me that he wanted me would give him exactly what he wanted.


Time after time after time, my friends were subsequently there for me, even to their greatest dismay. From across the states, my friend Tatiana would tell me men were garbage and to move on to the next one. Tatiana hardly ever flirted with the idea of going through a repeated series with a man. If I was more like her, I probably would’ve been able to cut the cord after the first breakup. And if I followed the advice of my best friend Justine, never have any contact with him ever again, then I’d be able to let go and find someone worth my time.

But we all know that advice is easier heard than practiced. I knew they were right and listening to them would help me break free of the cycle I trapped myself in, but I stayed looping through the tragedy.

So why did I stay? Why do any of us stay? It’s hard to break the bad habit of an unhealthy relationship. Even when it’s all wrong, many of us have surrendered to the comfort of being in a relationship with someone who already knows us.  Even Matthew was stuck in his own vicious cycle; always trying to fill a void of loneliness and his own need to feel wanted. Every time he came back to me, it wasn’t because he missed me or that he was sorry. The girl he actually wanted, the girl who broke his heart three years before he met me, was the black hole he selfishly needed to fill.

Frankly, it’s exhausting to start a new relationship. It takes a lot of time and effort to weed out and find a good one. Dating keeps getting harder and is polluted with men and women who feel entitled to play with someone’s emotions. The instigators of these cycles only care about what they want, and we enable them. We work our butts off to get them to want us and continue to let them be selfish.

But really think about this: if you can put all the effort of trying to make an unhealthy relationship work, then you can put in the work to find someone new who is worthy of your time and efforts.

Now, I wish that moment sitting with Matthew on my front steps ended with me telling him that enough was enough and slamming a door in his face. But I did not get that great break-free moment my friends and I always talked about.

He stomped out his cigarette and let a heavy breath out before finally looking at me. Against the sheer blue of his eyes was a flicker of something too familiar and captivating—annoyance. He looked away as I wiped away the wetness on my cheeks with my sleeve. “All I know is that I want to be with you right now. I can go if you want me to, but I want to stay.”

I could’ve told him to go, that his apology was shit, that I deserved better. I looked back at my door, knowing the regret and pain that would follow. “You can just stay for a movie or something. It’s really late, anyways. You can stay the night.”


One thing I will always give to you is my honesty and my reality. His hollow, throwaway apology brought him into my bedroom and to him waking up beside me the next morning—yes, the sex happened.

Over the next two weeks, I finished my packing for my move to a new city while he promised to visit me if I came back to see him. He swore we’d see each other before I left, but that was the last time I saw him. By the time I arrived in Philadelphia, he was blocked from my life on all counts and I’m still trying to move on from it.

I’m not here to tell you it’s as simple as never speaking to that person again—it goes beyond that. Yes, of course, delete their number and block them on all social media. It’s not just about breaking the cycle and getting over that person—its more about knowing why you deserve better. You have love and care to give to a person that will appreciate everything about you. And the first person who will appreciate you is you. Being alone sounds terrifying, but its crucial first step. By appreciating yourself, you have a clearer sight of what you deserve out of love and life.

Only then will you have your great break-free moment. I missed out on mine, but don’t miss out on yours.