Disclaimer: The stories on this blog touch on difficult issues and experiences.
CW: This week's story involves situations pertaining to domestic violence, toxic relationships, and divorce.
It was my first serious relationship, first boyfriend really. He was also the first man to ever put his hands on me. It only happened twice, so I think I just found reasons to justify why it happened. You know, I would tell myself he was just angry, or it only happened twice so it’s not a big deal. I was just always finding reasons to justify why that happened. We were only together for about two years, and I didn’t walk away from that relationship. He ended up breaking up with me my senior year of high school. And it was tough because it was my first serious relationship, but he dumped me in my senior year. And it was tough to deal with, but he only laid hands on me a couple times, so I didn’t realize what was happening.
Then fast forward to my next relationship, I met him when I came home on break from college. Everything was great, we had a few mutual friends, things were going really well. And then it happened again. And at that point I didn’t know what I was doing wrong that was causing these guys to want to be that way towards me, to lay hands on me. And I guess because it was happening again with the next boyfriend I kept thinking to myself, “What did I do to deserve that? Why do I deserve to have that happen to me?” I hate to say it, but it kind of became the norm, this relationship. After a while, you look at yourself in an unhealthy relationship and it’s like, you know it’s not good for you, you know that you should leave, but you don’t. And sometimes you have no idea why. And with this type of relationship, so many people try to say how easy it is to leave an abusive relationship, whether it’s a marriage, or this that or the other. But it’s a whole other story when you stay in a relationship because of fear. Fear of what will happen, fear of the consequences, fear of what he’ll do to you. And it’s terrifying. And it’s not that easy to just walk away. And I think unless you’ve been in a relationship like that, you couldn’t possibly understand how tough that is to walk away from. Because you’re looking at yourself in this relationship knowing that you deserve better. You’re looking at the situation knowing that you shouldn’t stay.
I was losing friends, my family wasn’t talking to me, and I still cannot tell you the reason why I stayed in that relationship. I think it was purely out of fear – fear of what he’d do to me, fear of how he’d react, just the consequences I guess. Because there were consequences to things that I did that I didn’t even think were a big deal. He was very possessive, very controlling, I wasn’t allowed to have friends, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. If I did even the slightest thing to make him angry, the overreactions that he would have, you know, over something so silly like God knows what would happen if I tried to leave or end the relationship. I don’t talk about it a lot because there’s only a few people that know about what happened with me. But I was losing friends, and it’s exhausting to live a life where you’re constantly trying to pretend that things aren’t happening, where you’re constantly trying to pretend you’re happy, or lying about things that people know are happening.
My roommates knew. Like, my roommate knew that I was being abused and she would confront me about it and I would just deny it. I would act like it wasn’t happening. And I don’t know why. I don’t know why I did that. And still, to this day, I did not leave that relationship because I was strong, my brother forced me out of the relationship. Because I tried to end things, and my ex broke into my apartment. And my brother stepped in and said, “You’re not doing this anymore. You’re not seeing this guy anymore.” And honest to God, he saved me from that. I don’t know that I would have walked away before something more serious had happened if he wouldn’t have stepped in and done something about it. And that’s really scary to think about, the fact that I didn’t have the strength myself to walk away. But it’s neither here nor there.
In the moment I would realize how bad things were, and then it’s like nine out of ten times they can be awful to you. But the one time that they apologize, and that they promise things will be different, you kind of forget that everything happened, and you start wondering, “Am I over exaggerating? Am I making it out to be worse than it actually was?” In the moment I felt that all the time. Looking back now, no. I know now that that was wrong. I know that the trauma that I still feel from it now, it was eleven years ago that it ended, so it was like 13 years ago that this started and that I dealt with this, it still traumatizes me sometimes. I never got closure with that relationship because it ended with a restraining order. I never got the closure that I felt like I needed.
I know now looking back that it was a mistake he made, and I know now that it was nothing that I did wrong. I know now that I deserve better. And I'm not sure that I'll ever fully be able to forgive what happened to me. I don't know that I can, since I never got any type of closure. Twelve years later, it's just an open book that never got closed. And there’s not like, feelings there or anything like that, it’s just when you have something traumatic like that happen, and you’re with that person for a long time, no matter what they did to you, to still not have any closure from the relationship is difficult. And then I kind of just went into the next relationship and fast forward ten years later, here we are.
Now the relationship that I was in for the last ten years was not physically abusive, it was a different kind of toxic relationship. With just two people being together that shouldn’t be together. It’s interesting how the red flags can be there, and you just choose to ignore them. It’s interesting how that can happen because they’re always there, the red flags are always there, it’s just whether or not you choose to see them. I think after getting out of such a horrible relationship, I just desperately wanted to be in something happy and healthy and with somebody who loved me and it’s just like…he did. We did love each other very much in the beginning and things were great. But over time, relationships change, and that’s okay because over time, people change. But it’s being able to recognize that it’s not right anymore. Being able to be mature enough to face that facts that sometimes you can be with someone for years and it’s just not right. And you go through the motions of life when you’ve been with somebody for so long, you get comfortable. And before you know it, you’ve got family pressuring you to get married, and then you get engaged. And then before you know it, you’re planning a wedding. And then the wedding happens and you’re planning to buy a house. And then you’re planning on having a family and it’s like….before you know it, you’ve done all of these things because you were comfortable. But were you happy?
I think when I look back I don’t know that I’ve been happy for a long time. But when you care about somebody, you do anything that you can to make it work. Even if that means losing who you are as a person, like completely losing who you are. I feel like for ten years, I forgot who I was. Because you try so hard to form and shape yourself into what this other person needs you to be but really you shouldn’t have to do that. And they shouldn’t have to do that for you either. There are always going to be things about somebody that can be improved, and there are always things about yourself that you can do better and be better. But like, you have to want that for yourself, and you have to want to do that for yourself. You can’t go into a relationship with somebody who’s not right for you and then expect them to change everything about themselves. And it was selfish for both of us to think that we could do that.
I always thought that I was crazy for thinking that I deserved a Disney fairytale relationship. I’ve always been the kind of person that’s been very open to receiving love and I love affection and attention and that doesn’t mean spending money or buying diamonds and fur, nothing silly like that. It just means I love spending time with my significant other and remembering to go on dates and to communicate and to sit and spend all night talking. And stuff like that is so important to me. Like getting flowers on a Tuesday for no reason…stuff like that. I always thought I was crazy for thinking I deserved a relationship like that. For looking at a movie like The Notebook and thinking yeah right, that does not exist. That’s not real. There’s no way that kind of love is real.
You kind of convince yourself that you’re crazy for thinking or wanting that. And then when you have somebody that makes you feel like you’re too much of something…it’s exhausting. Because you’re constantly feeling like you’re too dramatic or you’re too over the top, too emotional, that you want too much attention or too much love, and really what it comes down to is that you’re only too much when you’re with the wrong person. When you’re with someone that can’t handle what you are, and who can’t give you what you need. It’s sad that it took me that long to get there, but at the same time we both could have stayed in a relationship that was unhealthy for a lot longer.
The hardest part of everything was having to face the “D” word. Divorce. It was hard to have to face that. When somebody goes through something like that, when you know that you’re going to leave a situation like that, you kind of know for a while that you’re going to leave. It’s getting to that point. It’s figuring out how you’re going to do it, because you know that’s what you need to do. That’s also the difference between this relationship and every other one I’ve been in. Because every relationship where I knew I deserved better and that I wasn’t in the right type of relationship, I never had the strength to walk away. And this is the first time that I realized that I deserved better, and that I deserved more, and that I wasn’t crazy for thinking that.
It’s a beautiful thing. It’s also a very strong thing to realize that you can love someone, and still walk away with your head held high because you know you deserve better. And it’s hard to walk away from somebody that you love and that you care about. But you also can’t make a relationship work with just one person. You can try and try and try, but if both people aren’t trying it won’t work.
It was hard for me to face the divorce because it was going to be hard to tell my parents, and hard to admit that I made a mistake. You’ve got an ego, you know what I mean? And it’s like, I’ve made so many mistakes in my past relationships, that I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong about this one too. We both stayed a lot longer than we probably should have. But I don’t look at my divorce as a mistake because I learned so much about myself. I learned that I’m so much stronger than I thought I was. I learned that I don’t need anybody else’s validation to feel special and to feel like I am worth it. And that was the most beautiful thing about walking away, I realized that I was worth more. And to be in a relationship now with someone who appreciates me and cares about who I am and loves the crazy things about what makes me who I am, instead of trying to change those things or loving me in spite of those things, it’s awesome. It’s beautiful.
Going through a divorce was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But honestly, I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't take it back because in going through that, I found myself again. I learned so much about myself and I learned to love myself again. It makes me appreciate what I have now that much more. I gained myself worth back, and that's something I would never change.