I had only been dating Palmer for a few months but I already knew I really liked him. I was twenty-one at the time and just finishing up my last year of college. Palmer avidly pursued me. I’d run into him at clubs and parties and he’d always slip away from his date and plead with me to go out with him. I thought it was exciting and romantic. I thought he was exciting and romantic. Finally after months of asking, I obliged a dinner invite and we ended up at restaurant near school. He was the perfect gentleman, opening doors and pulling out chairs. He paid for dinner and asked if he could kiss me goodnight. That date sealed the deal for me. I was falling for him.
A few months into our relationship, Palmer decided to enroll in my school. He had taken a few years off to wait tables and save money. I could tell he was nervous about his first day because he spent an extra ten minutes in the bathroom doing his hair and asked my opinion on three different shirts. When we got in the car and headed out to school Palmer was very quiet. He didn’t even turn on the radio. I reached over and rubbed back a little. “Hey,” I said. “Don’t be nervous. Everything is going to be great.” I wasn’t expecting the reaction I got.
“Get off of me,” he said with irritation.
An alarm went off in my head. I heard it. I tried to make sense of it. Why would he be upset with me? Why would he be annoyed at me for being supportive? I was confused. I looked at Palmer for a few seconds, hoping he would realize what he had said and apologize. But he didn’t. He just kept driving.
That was the moment that Palmer showed me who he really was. It was also the moment I chose to ignore it.
I continued dating Palmer for several more months and I can honestly say without a doubt it was the most emotionally exhausting, confidence wrecking relationship of my life. He was a moody, selfish person that threw anger tantrums if he didn’t get his way. He was also a womanizer that needed endless attention in order to feed his ego. At the time though, I blamed myself, thinking I was not good enough and couldn’t make him happy. That’s what happens when you don’t listen when someone tells you who they are. You get in too deep and you can no longer see them clearly. That day in the car I heard the alarm bells and knew that he had issues. But as I continued to date him, his issues disappeared and mine began to develop.
I have always loved Maya Angelou’s quote, “When someone first shows you who they are, believe them.” Over the years I’ve realized the importance of this message as it saves you wasted time believing in false hope that people will become who you want them to be. Who are we to tell them who to be anyway? All of us have been told at some point in our lives that people don’t change, so to some of you perhaps Maya Angelou’s quote may not be as profound a statement. But I think that the emphasis here is not to simply believe someone when they show you who they are, it is to believe them when they FIRST show you. That is the crux of the message. For if you ignore it the first time, you will lock yourself in for a long ride ending in disappointment. Had I gotten out of the car that day and decided that Palmer’s reaction was not normal, not nice, and not fine with me, I could have saved myself many months of heartache and many years of self-doubt.
Today I’m blessed to be happily married to my wonderful husband. I learned a great deal from my prior relationships and thankfully I was able to self-improve instead of self-destruct. But I was fortunate. I had good family, great friends, and God and the Universe somehow pulled me through the dark times unscathed. But other people have not been so lucky. So if you have been in an unsatisfying relationship because you’ve been ignoring your partners true self, open your eyes and start to see what they’ve been telling you all along.
Update: Over a decade later, Palmer is still in school, still waiting tables and still throwing anger tantrums.