Two Tinas

Life with Tina was so confusing, disorienting and confounding. It could seem like there were two Tinas or that she was in a kind-of Shrodinger’s quantum reality where she could exist in two contradictory states at once. She loved me and at the same time, she didn’t. She was somehow simultaneously faithful and disloyal. It was mind-bending, trying to reconcile the idea that these two distinct individuals could occupy the same space in one body.

It was destabilizing to me and challenging to imagine the chaos going on behind her stunning, bright hazel eyes. The webs and pathways holding her tenuous, contradictory reality together must have been a tangled complexity. I imagine only someone with Tina’s intelligence could manage a semblance of normalcy, which she often did, but as I continued to get closer, the cracks were showing. She maintained different worlds and sowed discord between to prevent them colliding. When they did occasionally, inevitably brush together, things got messy and complicated and Tina struggled. Gaslighting or ghosting, and ultimately both inevitably ensued.

Trying to reconcile Tina’s seemingly diametrical personalities into one was like trying to force the same pole of two magnets together. Ultimately, I had to realize that, of course, there were not two Tinas. There was no quantum mystery box. There was just the one damaged, destructive, emotionally stunted girl and she did all the shitty things. That same person also did all the nice things. She hid the love notes in my briefcase before I left her apartment. She flattered me, took my arm or hand when we walked, gave occasional gifts and made delicious chicken noodle soup.

The “good” side of the one Tina was not genuine, however. The woman who’d collect other guys’ phone numbers and accept the drinks they offered in bars was Tina in her natural form. The young woman who liked my old 80’s synth pop and gushed about how incalculably much she loved me several times a day was a mere facade, of no real substance. That was a mask, easily changed out for other company. It’s purpose was to keep me captive and providing what she needed: validation for her own existence, also known as narcissistic supply. She wanted me to love her, but never believed that she could be loved as she was. Perhaps I could have, but she would never have taken that chance. Instead, she adapted a persona to what she thought I would love, to create for both of us, an illusion of love.

There was just the one Tina all along: a cunning, wounded monster with many faces but only a single, blackened and insatiably empty heart; an incomplete person to whom other humans were disposable objects, kept and valued only so long as they served, without suspicion or reservation, to pour their souls into her bottomless void. A narcissist.

Read next: Trauma Bonding Explained

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